Bugout! California Part 111 – Re-plan

“This technology is amazing,” Shelly said, watching the laptop screen as enemy fighters and patriots moved around the building, inside and outside.

Jules nodded as his phone dinged. He checked the text message and grinned. “Commando team at UN Regional Headquarters in place. Waiting for attack to start here.”

“Good,” Shelly said. “I think our assets outside the building are rounding up enemy fighters now. They aren’t using many UN Peacekeepers in there, are they?”

“Mostly Islamist,” Jules said. “UN slugs have rough few weeks. Short-handed. Experiment failing. Many are deserting, trying to leave state.”

“Don’t blame them,” Shelly said. “They’re probably not use to dealing with an armed population.”

“Look,” Jules said, pointing to screen. “Commandos going inside building. See?”

The headphone scratched. “Alpha one, inside main hallway, middle of target building.”

“We see you,” Shelly said. “That hallway is clear. Go past three hallways that intersect. Turn right on the fourth one, which leads to the conference room. Many Islamists in that hallway, so be ready.”

“Roger that, Alpha One. Three choppers on roof. You guys see that?”

“Crap,” Jules said. “Taken out?”

“No sir, noise would’ve spoiled the party. Our assets have them in sight, but they might be tough to disable with small arms fire. That’s mainly what we have on the roof. Will get RPGs on the roof after outside enemy fighters are neutralized.”

“They have to fly over our assets to get to UN base,” Jules said. “We have miniguns.”

“Hope it doesn’t come to that, but if it does, good backstop. Just make sure you get them.”

“If they make it to UN headquarters, they die,” Jules said.

“Going down fourth hallway,” the voice on the headset said. “Enemy fighters ahead. They’ve made us. We’re attacking now.” There was the sound of machinegun fire.

“Whoa, look at that conference room,” Shelly said. “Looks like somebody poured gasoline on an ant hill.”

“Action on roof and parking lot,” Jules said. “See that?”

“Listen,” Shelly whispered. “Hear the gunfire?”

“Yes,” Jules said. “Battle rages now.”

“Surprised we aren’t getting more vocal traffic from the headsets.”

“They busy,” Jules said. “They already know where enemy is.”

“Better tell them about that,” Shelly said, pointing at the screen. “See them? Group coming in from parking lot.”

“Headsets chasing them,” Jules said.

“Wow,” Shelly said.

The headsets scratched. “Parking lot locked down, Alpha One. Heading to roof with RPG. Heavy fighting inside building. Main room barricaded. Taking explosives in.”

“Good,” Jules said, his brow furrowed. He sent a text.

“What are you sending?” Shelly asked.

“See people heading for roof? Want our units in siege mode, ready with miniguns.”

“Oh,” Shelly said. “Yeah, I see what you’re talking about.”

He sent the text, then set up siege mode on their coach.

“That gun might stick up far enough for somebody to see it past this fence,” Shelly said.

“Yes, be ready. Keep eyes open. Get console going for forward and rear machine guns. I man minigun just in case.”

Shelly nodded, listening to the whir of motors as siege mode locked into place.

Jules’s phone dinged.

“Our people?” Shelly asked.

Jules snickered after looking at the phone. “No, report from UN assault. Done. They had ammo stored in building. Went up. Entire building in flames. Big mess.”

“If the choppers find out about it, they might go a different direction,” Shelly said.

“Maybe we should move closer,” Jules said.

Just then his phone dinged again. He looked. “Ted and Sparky. They want to move to site. Afraid choppers go other way now.”

“You think that’s a good idea? Two of our best people in an exposed tin can doesn’t thrill me.”

“It be okay, we lock down site outside now.”

Shelly looked at him nervously. “Maybe we should send more than one unit.”

“Not unless need,” Jules said, replying to the text.

“Hope this isn’t a mistake.”

“I tell them to go on other side of site and hide out,” Jules said.

The headset scratched again. “Alpha one, through doors, at least half of people inside killed by blast. Others trying to escape to roof as we suspected. RPGs up there now.”

“Listen,” Shelly whispered. “Choppers.”

“Dammit,” Jules said, getting on his minigun sight, looking around. “Enemy chopper, going to help.” He turned the minigun on, and pointed it at the sky.

“Be careful,” Shelly said.

Jules grinned. “I got you, suckers.” He fired, hitting the belly of the chopper, watching it come apart in the air.

“That’s not the only one,” Shelly said. “Listen. They’re liable to come for us.”

Jules nodded, listening and watching. A chopper appeared, heading right for them. Jules fired. “It’s coming in fast, getting ready to fire missiles.”

“Shoot it down!” Shelly shouted, panic in her eyes. Jules fired, but then there was more gunfire from the other direction, the chopper exploding overhead.

“Another coach help,” Jules said. “Brace. Debris coming down.”

There were explosions around them as pieces of chopper rained around the schoolyard they were hidden in, fires starting on some of the buildings.

“We go,” Jules said. “If that building by driveway burn, we can’t get past.” He took the rig out of siege mode and started the engine, then raced out as the rest of the school buildings went up in flames, hitting the street, making a left turn.

“Where are we going?” Shelly asked, eyes scanning the street ahead.

“Far side of site, like Ted and Sparky,” Jules said.

“We’ll be out in the open,” Shelly said.

“Trees by reservoirs,” Jules said. “I try there. Keep eyes open, man machine guns and grenade launcher.”

She nodded, fear in her eyes.

***

Ji-Ho pulled into the driveway of the Williams Place, Garrett sitting in the passenger seat next to him. Some of the coaches were already there, others behind them. Car loads of Garrett’s men were with them as well, but the cavalry was far behind, half of them going to Dodge City, the others coming to the Williams place.

“Right decision,” Garrett said.

“Yes, is,” Ji-Ho said as he backed into his spot. “Here she come.”

Garrett watched out the window as Anna ran towards the coach. “Mind?”

“Go be with woman,” Ji-Ho said. “We meet in couple hours.”

Garrett left the coach, running towards her in his boots, almost falling down. They embraced on the pasture. Garrett pulled back to look at her face, then kissed her with passion.

“Thank God you guys made it back here okay,” she said.

“You’re glad to see me, aren’t you?”

She laughed. “We’re going to be more than friends. Fair warning.”

He smiled at her and kissed her again as Ji-Ho and some of the others walked by them, heading for the house.

“We have an audience,” she whispered to Garrett.

“Don’t care,” he said, kissing her again. “We’d better settle down a little, I guess.”

“Yes, save it up for later,” she said. “I hear we have a little girl coming.”

“Mia,” Garrett said. “Such a cute little thing. She’s with Sam and Erica.”

“They’re going to raise her,” Anna said.

“I think we’re gonna try to find some relatives,” Garrett said.

“We won’t,” Anna said. “They’re all dead.”

“How do you know that?”

“I just know. I saw them with a daughter. Didn’t understand that the timing was all off. Now I get it.”

“Wait, are you some kind of witch doctor or something?” he asked, smiling at her.

“More like a medicine woman,” Anna said, “but only for certain things. Mainly relationship things.” Her brow furrowed.

“What?”

“Wish it was for more than that,” she said. “I wish I would’ve seen through the traitor.”

“That wasn’t your fault,” Garrett said. “You aren’t feeling guilty, are you?”

“No,” she said. “Still nothing on Ed, I take it.”

“Nothing,” Garrett said. “I send three of my best trackers out to look for him before the battle started, but it’ll be like looking for a needle in a haystack, I’m afraid. That damn hovercraft of his doesn’t leave much behind to track.”

They walked onto the veranda. People were starting to congregate there, as battle wagons and cars continued coming in the gate every few minutes.

“That’s almost all of them,” Seth said, walking up with Kaitlyn. Megan and Angel followed.

“Hey, mom,” Kaitlyn said.

“Hi, Kaitlyn,” she said, leaving Garrett’s side to hug her and then Seth.

“Nothing on Ed?” Megan asked.

“Nope, not yet,” Anna said. “Garrett’s got some trackers looking.”

“There’s Trevor and Kaylee,” Seth said, watching as they approached.

“When are we meeting?” Trevor asked.

“Ji-Ho said a couple hours,” Garrett said.

“You’re more anxious than I am,” Kaylee said.

“We won’t go on the attack right away, I suspect,” Angel said.

“I don’t know,” Trevor said. “If we don’t, we’re liable to see the enemy coming here.”

“They don’t have enough people,” Garrett said.

“Then why didn’t we go on to Julian?” Angel asked.

“They’re gonna be dug in,” Trevor said, “and they’re expecting us. It’s easier to defend than it is to assault.”

“Yep,” Garrett said. “We would’ve won, but the cost would’ve been too high. It was way too high as it was.”

Trevor nodded in agreement.

“Here comes Sam and Erica’s rig,” Kaitlyn said. “They’re going to keep that girl, aren’t they?”

Anna looked at her and shook her head yes.

“Huh?” Seth asked quietly.

“Later,” Kaitlyn whispered. Anna smirked.

“Look at how darling she is,” Anna said, watching them approach, Mia between Sam and Erica, holding their hands.

“Don’t get any ideas,” Garrett said. He pulled Anna close and chuckled.

Anna rolled her eyes, then walked down to greet them.

“Is this Mia?” she asked, squatting down in front of them.

“Yes,” Erica said. “Isn’t she a doll?”

“Glad you feel that way,” Anna said, glancing up at her.

“Shut up,” Erica whispered. Sam shot them a sidelong glance.

“What?”

“Nothing,” Erica whispered. They went towards the house.

“Do you like ice cream, Mia?” Anna asked.

She smiled, shaking her head yes.

“Good,” Anna said. “There’s some inside. Come on.”

Anna held out her hand, and Mia took it as Erica and Sam watched.

“We should follow,” Sam said, brow furrowed.

“You don’t trust Anna?” Erica asked.

“No, no, it’s not that,” he said. “It just makes me uncomfortable when she’s out of sight, that’s all.”

Kaitlyn snickered. Erica shot her a glance and shook her head.

“Okay, honey, let’s go. Maybe we can have some ice cream too.”

The couple went inside the house.

“What the hell?” Seth asked.

“My mom,” Kaitlyn said. “She has the sight. Sometimes I do too. I have this strong feeling that Mia is gonna stay with Sam and Erica.”

“Oh really?” Seth asked. “What else do you see? Do I get to keep you barefoot and pregnant?”

“I never go barefoot,” she said. Seth chuckled.

“When are we getting married? Seth asked.

“We’ll have to wait,” Kaitlyn said. “At least if we want Tyler involved. We’ve got James to take care of. Hopefully we don’t have Ed to take care of too. I’m scared to death for him.”

“I know, he didn’t carry that much in the way of food and water on that hovercraft.”

Ji-Ho came out of his rig, looking tired. Kaylee saw him and rushed over.

“You having that problem again, uncle?”

“No, I fine, just tired,” Ji-Ho said. “Talking to Ivan. Big deal happening now up north. Many friends involved.”

“Is it going well?” Kaylee asked.

“Sound like,” Ji-Ho said. “Still very dangerous.”

“Maybe we should have the meeting sooner rather than later, so you can relax,” Trevor said as he walked up.

“How many coach not back?”

“They’re all back,” Trevor said. “Sid and Yvonne just drove in. There’s still a few of Garrett’s people coming in, though.”

“Where Garrett?” Ji-Ho asked.

“He went into the house with Anna,” Kaylee said. “To feed Mia some ice cream.”

Ji-Ho smiled. “Good. I get ready. Pass word. Meeting in five minutes, in house. Air conditioner running?”

“Last I was in there, yes,” Kaylee said.

“Good,” Ji-Ho said, starting for the house. Trevor rushed over to Seth and Angel and talked to them for a second, and then they all started spreading the news about the meeting.

Everybody was in the house in about five minutes. Ji-Ho stood up in the front. Kaylee and Trevor rushed into the kitchen, grabbing one of the tall stools that was at the counter. Ji-Ho smiled at them and got on.

“Thanks, all,” Ji-Ho said. “We make brief, then rest up.”

Sam and Erica sat on the couch, Anna and Garrett joining them. Mia climbed onto Sam’s lap, still eating ice cream.

“All of you know we lost people,” Ji-Ho said. “Moment of silence for James and John please. They were brave, gave their lives for liberty.”

A hush came over the room, broken by sniffling and crying. Sarah left the room, not able to contain herself.

“Okay,” Ji-Ho said. “We have ceremony soon. Now let’s talk.”

“Anything on Ed?” Ryan asked.

“I’ve got men trying to track him down,” Garrett said.

“Hear from them lately?” Tyler asked.

“No,” Garrett said. “I’ll call them when we’re done here.”

“I might want to go search too,” Tyler said.

“Let’s talk first, then decide,” Ji-Ho said. “As you know, we have large group of enemy fighters in Julian. They dig in.”

“We also have UN Peacekeepers in the mix, and we can’t see them with the apps,” Clem said.

“I don’t think it worth risk to hit Julian with frontal attack,” Ji-Ho said. “There are other targets we can hit, though.”

“Do we know where the supply depot is for the Julian operation?”

“Yes, do,” Ji-Ho said. “They expect us to hit there. Dug in too. Can tell.”

“Yeah, I’m seeing that too,” Trevor said. “They’re waiting for us. You can tell by where the icons are.”

“That right,” Ji-Ho said. “I talk to Ivan a little while ago. He has new prisoners. Got information we can use.”

“Like what?” Sam asked.

“UN bring in reinforcements for Southern California. We find out where secret base is.”

“We did, huh?” Garrett asked. “Where?”

“Jamul,” Ji-Ho said. “Waiting for more intelligence from Ivan.”

“Are they there already?” Sam asked.

“Leadership and some of the peacekeepers. Might need to transfer some up north after what Ivan do today.” He laughed.

“They still mixing with the Islamists?” Garrett asked.

“Yes, are,” Ji-Ho said. “Small force of Islamists in Jamul, though. Bulk still around Julian and also northeast. Ramona and Fernbrook.”

“Hell, we chased them out of some of those locations already,” Sid said.

“Understand,” Ji-Ho said. “We can’t occupy and lock down unless robust citizenry there. The enemy still in trouble around populated areas of LA and Orange County. No need to operate there now. Citizens have control, elect local governance, organize militias.”

“Well, that’s good,” Yvonne said. “Why does this area continue to be a problem?”

“Border, I suspect,” Garrett said.

“Yes, border,” Ji-Ho said. “New UN base planned to be large. They will battle with US Armed forces for control of Route 125. Our job is to stop them from getting strong enough.”

“If they get control of that road, we’ll have a constant flow of enemy fighters coming in,” Sid said.

“Yep,” Ji-Ho said. “Very bad. Must stop.”

“What about Julian?” Garrett asked. “If we move a bunch of our people away from here to attack Jamul, the bad guys from Julian will move in and attack our loved ones here.”

“We have to move them away,” Ji-Ho said, “but no worry yet. We can leave enough here to defend for now. Should dig in, though, like they have in Julian.”

“What good is Julian doing them?” Angel asked.

“Interstate 8,” Garrett said. “It’s vulnerable. Not enough resources to protect it if they attack and take control. They want to open both I-8 and Route 125.”

“And we can’t let them do that,” Sam said. “When do you expect the info we need for the first attack?”

“Tonight or early tomorrow,” Ji-Ho said, “so relax for now. Rest up. Gonna get crazy again soon.”

There were murmurs around the room.

“When are we doing memorials for John and James?” Sarah asked, leaning against the wall by the door.

“I say we try to do them late tomorrow,” Tyler said.

“I second that,” Ryan said.

“Fine with me,” Ji-Ho said. “I’ll leave you to your planning now. Need to rest.” He struggled to get off the stool, Trevor and Kaylee rushing to help him.

“He’s not in good shape, is he?” Erica asked under her breath.

“No,” Sam said. “We need to protect him.”

***

Daan Mertins sat on a couch in the posh office of the Chancellor at UC Santa Cruz. A very uncomfortable academic sat behind the desk. Saladin sat in a chair close to the door, exasperated look on his face.

“I can’t believe you morons can’t handle a little resistance,” Saladin spat. “You guys are as bad as Sable was.”

“Zip it, skippy, or I’ll yank your leash,” Daan said, sitting up straighter. “Chancellor Wilson, did you know that Dean Lambert was dipping his wick in that damn coed?”

Chancellor Wilson loosened his tie, his double chin sagging in relief. “This specific girl? No.”

“Oh, so there’s been more, huh?” Daan asked.

“Please, let’s stop the bullshit,” Saladin said. “We heard the tape of your conversation with him. He offered her to you, and you took it to a worse level.”

“What’s he talking about?” Wilson asked.

“Daan here likes them about five years younger,” Saladin said.

“Knock it off,” Daan said. “I mean it. If we get Dean Lambert back, I’m gonna gut him for those tapes. You get all of them away from the police?”

“Yes, and we washed down the scene too,” Wilson said. “This is not what I signed up for.”

“Hope you washed the body,” Saladin said. “If his DNA is inside her, it’ll start a real mess. The press is friendly unless there’s a sex scandal they can pounce on. They just can’t help themselves.”

“We’ll deal with this ridiculous freedom of the press after we’ve consolidated our control over the population,” Daan said.

Saladin laughed again. “Yeah, I’ll believe that when I see it.”

“I’ve had enough of you,” Daan said, pulling his phone out of his pocket. He walked away, having a hushed conversation.

“Don’t you know it’s rude to talk on the phone while there are others in the meeting?” Saladin asked.

Daan slipped the phone back in his pocket. “Rank has its privileges. I was just talking to your boss.”

“About what?” Saladin asked.

“I just suggested that you need to be involved in the set-up of the new base in Capitol Reef.”

Saladin snickered. “I’ve already discussed it with him. I’m going there anyway. You had nothing to do with it.”

“True, but I got it moved up. You need to be away from here while we solve this problem. More heavy-handed crap like you pulled at that abandoned prison isn’t going to help us. Remember what that led to.”

“What are you talking about?” Wilson asked.

“Sable’s assassination,” Daan said. “This idiot took that upon himself. Didn’t know that all that data was going to get released as a result.”

“It was a minor problem,” Saladin said. “We got past it.”

“And I want to get past this one, too, so you’re out of here tomorrow morning. You might want to go pack.”

Saladin stood up, sneered at Daan, and left the room in a huff. Wilson looked like he wanted to hide under his desk.

“Relax, Henry,” Daan said. “You’re not in trouble. Neither is he, really, but we need him out of here before he pulls some stupid stunt that makes things worse.” His phone dinged. Daan looked at the incoming text message, his eyes wide.

“What?”

“My factory is under attack,” Daan said, heading for the door in a panic.

To be continued…

 

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Copyright Robert Boren 2017

Bugout! California Part 110 – Rear Fire

Sam and Erica sat in their coach with Mia, who was at the dinette eating some food. Erica had bathed her and helped her into fresh clothes.

“Clem, Sid, and Yvonne have been in Sarah’s coach for a while now,” Erica whispered. “This is horrible.”

“Yes, and it’s not the last of it,” Sam said softly. “We’re getting in deeper, and the enemy knows how much of a threat we are. More of our people are going to die.”

“They’re preparing Julian for us right now, I’m sure,” Erica whispered. “We’ll be lucky if they don’t try anything at home.”

“Home?”

“The Williams place and Dodge City,” she said. “We need intelligence on Julian before we go in there. We’ll need to send in scouts. Our best.”

“I know,” Sam said. “Damn UN. Can’t completely trust the apps because of those losers.”

“We should try to sleep,” Erica said. “I think we’d better bring Mia into bed with us.”

“I know,” Sam said. “Don’t want her waking up early and either leaving or messing with the weapons systems.”

“We really need to get her back to the Williams place,” Erica said. “This is a battle party. It’s no place for a little girl.”

“How do we do that? Take the Jeep. Leave the rig here?”

“Maybe,” Erica said. “Let’s sleep on it, okay?”

“Probably best,” Sam said. He studied her worried look. “They aren’t going to win.”

She sighed. “I know, but how many of us are gonna die before they’re defeated?”

“Look, Sid and Yvonne are leaving the coach. Maybe Clem will stay with her.”

“Sid’s typing something on his phone,” Sam whispered. His phone dinged. “Thought so.” He looked at the message.

She’s taking it hard. Clem will stay night. We should talk in the morning. Maybe we go home and regroup.

Sam showed the message to Erica. She nodded in agreement. Sam sent a response, then put his phone down.

“It’s probably for the better,” she said. “We need to plan the attack on Julian. It’s going to be huge. That town is too spread out, and there’s lots of places where they can dig in.”

“Maybe we leave them there and attack something else,” Sam said. “They’re expecting us to attack there. Even with our numbers, they’ll be ready, and they’ll kill a lot of our people. Better to draw them out. Take their strategy away from them.”

“I’m tired,” Mia said.

“I know, honey,” she said. “We’re all going to bed.”

“Protecting her is job one,” Sam whispered, tears in his eyes.

“I know, honey,” Erica said.

***

Mr. Black and Mr. White hid in the bushes by the windows of Dean Lambert’s office, watching him rise and fall on top of the pretty blonde coed.

“Wimp,” Mr. White whispered.

“Wait till he finish, then we take,” Mr. Black whispered.

“Think the old goat can?” Mr. White whispered. They both snickered. “We take her?”

Mr. Black shook his head no.

“We let go?”

Mr. Black shook his head no again.

“Oh, I get. We kill. His DNA inside.”

Mr. Black shot him a deadpan look. “Look, he finish.” They watched as Dean Lambert rolled off of the girl. “Now.”

The huge men rushed to the door, breaking it down like it was made of cardboard. Avril screamed, sitting up, covering her breasts. Mr. Black pulled his silenced handgun and shot her in the forehead.

“No!” Dean Lambert shouted. “Don’t kill me!”

“Don’t worry, we not kill you yet, scumbag,” Mr. White said, reaching down and yanking him to his feet with one hand. “Come, we leave now.” He pulled the naked Dean out the door and into a van parked in back, throwing him in with the two others.

“Hodges! Davis!” Lambert shouted. They looked back at him, duct tape covering their mouths, hands bound behind their backs, terror in their eyes. Mr. Black came into the back as Mr. White drove away.

“What are you doing? Do you know who I am?”

Mr. Black unrolled some duct tape and bound his hands behind his back, then covered his mouth. “Your wife arrives at office any minute. She thinks you have heart attack. She might have heart attack when she see.”

Dean Lambert’s eyes were wide. He struggled against the tape on his wrists. Mr. Black elbowed him hard in the face, breaking his nose, causing him to pass out. Then Mr. Black went back to the passenger seat.

“Night night?” Mr. White asked.

Mr. Black nodded yes. Several police cars and a paramedic unit flew by them in the opposite lane, sirens blaring as they made their way to Lambert’s office. Mr. White chuckled.

***

Tex was sitting next to Karen on the couch when a text came in. He looked at his phone.

“Meeting?” Karen asked.

“Yep,” Tex said. “Let’s get ready to go.”

“Maybe it’s time to attack,” she said, worried look on her face.

“Could be, little lady,” he said. They went out the door. Others were walking towards the patio behind the house. It was mid-morning, the sun burning hot already.

“Look, Ted and Haley are holding hands,” Karen whispered.

“Saw that coming,” Tex said. “Jules is already set up.”

“With Shelly,” Karen said. “Those two are peas in a pod.”

“Yep,” Tex said. They took seats towards the front as the others arrived.

Jules stood and raised his hands. “Hello all, thanks for coming.”

“We gonna attack?” Justin asked.

“Yes, and timeline short, so we need to meet quick and get on road. VIP scum attending conference at Mertins plant. We wipe out.”

Shelly nodded, and the TV screen next to Jules showed a satellite shot of the facility.

“That place is huge,” Ted said.

“Yes, is,” Jules said. “Now look.” An overlay covered the picture, showing icons in various places in the building, and some around the grounds and by the parking lots.

“That looks different than our apps,” Tex said.

“New,” Jules said. “High resolution view. Used to rescue General Hogan. We can zero in on right part of building when enemy meetings go on.”

“So we’re getting new apps?” Robbie asked.

“This PC only,” Jules said. “Takes too much power to put on iOS or Android devices.”

“What are we gonna do with that?” Ted asked. “It’s not like we have laser target designators and smart bombs.”

“We sneak in nearby, then watch where enemy personnel are using the laptops. Ivan’s commandos rush in and kill bad guys. We communicate, act as eyes. There is extra enhancement, too. Headsets visible on screen. We can see where commandos are as well as enemy.”

“Wow,” Karen whispered to Tex. He nodded, brow furrowed.

“Hope we’ve got a lot of commandos, partner,” Tex said. “Looks like a death trap.”

“We have two thousand men,” Jules said. “Another thousand in reserve. Plus us.”

“Geez,” Sparky said.

“We also on hand to prevent escape,” Jules said.

“We can use this new technology for the rescues, too, can’t we?” Morgan asked.

“Yes,” Jules said. “Laptops and headsets inside house, set up and running. For each rig. We train now. Leave in two hours.”

“Wait, honey, let’s show them where we’re parking first,” Shelly said.

“Oh, yes, sorry,” Jules said. “Area bounded by Winchester Boulevard, West Valley Freeway, San Thomas Expressway, and Los Gatos Creek.”

“What’s that water?” Ted asked. “Looks like a reservoir system.”

“Yes, prevent escape that direction,” Jules said, getting next to the screen to point. “We stop along roads off Winchester. Here, here, here, here, and here. Escape through this maze of roads.”

“What’s to prevent them from blocking our rigs in and taking us?” Ted asked.

“You let me worry about,” Jules said. “Ivan and I have something special planned for certain key roads, and attack happen on UN base of operations at same time.”

“Geez, how many people are involved with this operation?”

“More than ten thousand,” Jules said. “Including rogue law enforcement personnel who were supposed to be security for this event.”

Tex laughed. “We turned them, huh?”

Jules nodded his head yes. “We go over assignments for each specific rig. Have easy part of battle.”

“Uh huh,” Ted said. “We’d better get busy. I’m not comfortable enough with the plans.”

“Yes, I knew,” Jules said. “You help develop now. You’re on board, no?”

Ted sighed, looking at Haley. “Yeah, we’re on board.”

The group focused on where each rig would park, what the escape routes were, and how to use the headsets and app. After that was over, everybody went into the house and got training on the new apps and the headset radios.

“Wow,” Karen whispered. “This is a professional hit, isn’t it?”

Tex nodded yes. “We’re gonna cream these folks. Big time.”

“Okay, let’s get into our rigs and take off,” Shelly said. “Staggered exit. Five minutes apart.”

“There’s our cue,” Tex said, picking up the laptop and headsets for their rig. They headed out along with the others. Soon there were diesels starting, and coaches pulling away, leaving at five-minute intervals.

“Almost our turn,” Karen said as they waited at the stop sign. Tex’s phone buzzed, and he drove onto the street, making a right turn. “Glad we’re not taking Route 17 all the way in. There’s that massive interchange right by the target. Seems like we’d be too visible to anybody watching.”

“Seriously,” Tex said. “We are on it for a while, though.”

“We’re getting off at Saratoga Los Gatos,” she said. “I’ll navigate you there, honey.”

“Excellent,” Tex said. “There’s Route 17.” He turned onto it and sped up.

“We’re going to have to run our generator if the laptop battery gets too low,” Karen said.

“Hell, I doubt we’ll use up all the battery,” Tex said. “Supposed to be good for five hours.”

“Not much traffic,” Karen said.

“They’ve got everything locked down. Can’t wait for Ivan to go public with Ben Dover.”

“When are we going public. About the rapes?”

Tex looked over at her. “I wish you didn’t have to do that.”

“I want to do it. You won’t be ashamed that people know, will you?”

“No, of course not,” Tex said. “I’m proud that you’re my woman. I’ll always be proud, no matter what.”

“I like that,” Karen said. “I like being your woman. Didn’t see that coming.”

“I did,” Tex said.

“Look down there.” Karen pointed. There was a checkpoint on a major street below the freeway. UN Peacekeepers with their blue helmets were beating an old man senseless with their batons as his wife looked on.

“Bastards,” Tex said. “They’ll get theirs.”

“And then some,” Karen said. “My teachers in school always talked up the UN as the future for mankind. What morons.”

“The teachers in Texas weren’t like that, except for in places like Austin.”

“What part of Texas are you from?”

“West Texas,” he said. “Long line of cattle ranchers.”

“Which city?”

Tex chuckled. “We were between cities. I’m a country boy. The closest city was Lubbock.”

“How’d you end up in California?”

“I got caught outside of Texas after they shut down the borders,” Tex said. “Couldn’t get back in, so I figured I’d spend some time with Sparky. Didn’t expect this to be old home week.”

“Old home week?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Tex said. “I never expected to see Jules or Ted. That was a nice surprise.”

“Do you wish you were in Texas?”

“No,” Tex said.

“Why?”

“Because I wouldn’t have met you,” he said. “We getting close?”

“Oh,” she said, breaking out of her trance. “Three more miles. Sorry.”

Tex watched her red hair swaying as she looked at her phone. “You’re so gorgeous.”

“Stop,” she said, smiling at him. “Are you going back to Texas when this is over?”

“If you’ll go with me,” Tex said. “We don’t have to. I’d like to visit pretty often, though.”

“I have nothing holding me to California,” Karen said. “You’re all I have, actually. I’ll go wherever you want to go.”

“It’ll be a joint decision,” Tex said.

“There’s the off-ramp.”

Tex nodded, moving into the right lane. He took the ramp, getting onto the surface street.

“Wow, it’s even deserted down here, and this is a big street,” Karen said.

Tex was watching his rearview mirror. “Open the target console.”

“Oh, crap, what do you see?”

“UN Vehicle. They’ve noticed us. They’re getting ready to pull us over.”

“What are we gonna do?”

“Well, it’s not a van. I can see all the way inside, and there’s only two people. Think you can hit both the driver and the passenger with the rear machine guns?”

Karen had the console pulled out, and looked at the target reticle. “I see them. They need to be a little closer.”

“They just turned on their red light,” Tex said. “Good, nobody around. I don’t see anybody on the road for the next several blocks.”

“Nobody behind us either. Slow down a little bit, like you’re getting ready to pull over.”

Tex chuckled as he slowed.

“Come to papa,” Karen said. “Or should I say mama?”

“God, I love this woman,” Tex muttered.

Machine gun fire blasted out the rear of the coach, smashing through the windshield of the UN vehicle, hitting both occupants square in the face. The vehicle rolled to a stop against the curb, hitting a parked car. Tex sped back up to speed, eyes darting between the road ahead and the mirrors.

“Hope they didn’t call in a description,” Karen said. “Hey, there’s people running out to the vehicle. One of them looked at us and gave a thumb up.”

Tex laughed. “I’m telling you, the people around here don’t like this martial law garbage one bit, and they hate the UN. We’ll have plenty of help.”

“I hope you’re right about that,” Karen said. “I’m gonna leave the console out.”

“Good idea,” Tex said.

“Turn right on Daves Avenue. It’s coming up in a few blocks. We’ll follow that around until we get to our parking place.”

“Okay,” Tex said. He made the turn. “This is a nice street. Plenty of tree cover. Not much traffic. Just residential.”

“Also a hard place to escape from,” Karen said, watching out the window. “Think that church parking lot will be safe enough?”

“Yeah,” Tex said. “It’s not visible from the street.”

“We need to park so we can drive out in a hurry.”

“Don’t worry, little lady,” Tex said. “We’re holding a good hand. We’ll be fine.”

They cruised down the quiet tree-lined street as it curved to the right twice, then to the left.

“Home stretch,” Karen said.

“Nice houses back here,” Tex said. “Looks like a good place to raise a family, except for the murderous UN thugs and Islamists.”

Karen laughed. “There’s a good point. See the church up ahead?”

“Yep,” Tex said. “That’s a tight driveway.”

“I’m sure you’ll make it just fine,” Karen said, watching as he made the left turn into the long driveway. “Hopefully Ivan made arrangements for us to be here.”

“Look,” Tex said, pointing to a man looking out the back door as he pulled into the parking lot. The man waved, and then went back inside. “There’s our answer. I’m gonna make a wide turn and pull this puppy around so we have a fast shot at the exit, though, just in case. No other way out of here.”

“Okay,” Karen said, getting out of her seat. “I’ll bring the laptop out here and get her set up. Want your headphones yet?”

“Bring it up, but I won’t turn it on yet. I’d rather save the battery.”

“We can plug them in,” Karen said. “To recharge.”

“You go ahead and put yours on,” Tex said.

“Okay.” She watched as Tex parked and shut down the engine. “Should we go into siege mode?”

“Nah, not yet,” Tex said. “Right now we just look like somebody’s rich uncle. There might be people walking around.”

“Good point,” Karen said, walking to the front. She put the laptop on the center console and opened it, turning on the power. “Wonder how long till we strike?”

“Good question,” Tex said. “Look for headsets on the app.”

Karen nodded as the application opened, showing the map. She moved the view to the target complex. “Wow, there are a lot of enemy personnel in there.”

“They clumped up yet?”

“Getting there,” Karen said. “You know that we can see them moving with this, right?”

“Seriously?” Tex asked, looking closer. “I’m surprised Jules didn’t bring that up. Surprised we didn’t see it before.”

Tex sent a text to Jules asking him about it. His phone dinged right away. Tex chuckled. “He forgot to mention it.”

“But why didn’t we see it before, during the demo?”

Tex typed a message. A reply came right back. “Distance. That’s why we didn’t just do this from the base.”

“Oh,” she said, “so this has a peer to peer element like the short-range app.”

“Probably,” Tex said. “I’m not that technical. Give me something that works. I don’t need to know how.”

Karen laughed. “There’s where we differ a little. I love to know how things work. I’m gonna zoom out and look for the commandos. Maybe you should mention that UN cruiser we killed on the way in here.”

“Crap, you’re right,” Tex said, whipping his phone back out. He sent a text, the ding coming back after a few seconds.

“We’re not the only ones,” Tex said. “They tried to stop Robbie’s rig too. Same result for them. So far no indication that they’re watching for us, but we’re all pretty well out of sight from the road.”

“I can see the other battle wagons,” Karen said. “Looks like all seven are placed.”

“Good,” Tex said. “See those commandos yet?”

“Nope…wait. There are a bunch of them. They’re riding down West Valley Freeway. Some of them are already on Winchester.

“This is gonna happen fast,” Tex said. “Maybe I should put the headset on.”

“Yeah, maybe so,” she said. “Another group coming in on Camden, from the opposite direction. They’re crossing the river as we speak.”

“We’d better focus on where the enemy is,” Tex said. “This is gonna ramp up fast.”

Karen shook her head yes. “Wow. There’s about four hundred people in the same room right now. Northeast corner of the building. There are still folks streaming in, though. I see icons outside, patrolling the buildings and the parking lots.”

“So how we gonna sneak a thousand men in there, I wonder?” Tex asked.

“Oh, crap,” she said. “We’ve already got a bunch of men there. I’m seeing headsets moving around inside, and they don’t have RFID chips.

“Rogue cops,” Tex said, grinning. “That’s how the other commandos are getting in. Wait and see.”

“Aren’t the enemy VIPs going to head for the hills when they hear shooting start outside?”

“Hopefully not,” Tex said, “but since we can see them, they aren’t going anywhere.”

To be continued…

 

Bug Out! California Book 1 has just been published, and is now available in the Kindle Store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

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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!

 

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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

Bugout! California Part 109 – Children

“Should we go back right now?” Yvonne asked, looking at the ruined church before them.

“No, we need to check out the town,” Sam said. “We can’t let them shut down our resolve every time they kill one of us.”

“You’re right,” Erica said. “Let’s go into town, but nobody opens any doors, and watch the ground for trip wires too.”

“They’re watching us,” Clem said, pointing into one of the trees.

“That’s a video camera?” Yvonne asked.

“Yep,” Clem said.

Sam took aim with his pistol and shot it, the plastic exploding over their heads.

“Maybe we shouldn’t be doing that,” Sid said.

“You want them to know which direction we’re going?” Sam asked.

“Crap, didn’t think about that,” Sid said. “We ought to look for more of them.”

“Save one,” Clem said. “I might be able to figure out which IP address they’re using.”

“Okay,” Sam said. “Let’s go.”

“Your Jeep got hit, Sid,” Clem said. “We’d better take a look.”

“It did?” Sid asked. “Didn’t see it happen.”

They rushed to it, Clem using his flashlight. “There, see. Driver’s side fender.”

Sid squatted next to it as Clem brought the flashlight closer. “It’s okay, but we’re lucky. Just missed the tire. See?”

“We’d better check it over good, and then check Sam’s Jeep too,” Erica said.

“Yeah,” Clem said. They looked at both vehicles.

“I think we’re okay,” Sam said. “Let’s get going.”

“Which way?” Sid asked.

“Get to Oak Grove Drive,” Yvonne said, looking at her phone screen, the glow lighting her face. “There’s quite a few streets. We won’t be able to look at the entire town. It’s tiny but spread out.”

“Okay,” Sam said. “Let’s go.”

They got into the vehicles and took off.

“This is terrible,” Erica said as she fastened her seatbelt. “Poor Sarah.”

“I know, this is really gonna hurt. It’s hard to keep going.”

“Did you know him long?”

“Not as long as Sid,” Sam said. “Always liked him a lot.”

“He went out of his way to be nice to me.”

Sam chuckled. “Before this mess started, he had a drinking problem. I think it was on its way to ruining the marriage. He sobered up when things started to go nuts.”

“I wonder how many more of us will give up our lives?”

“I’d rather not dwell on that,” Sam said.

“It still hurts, doesn’t it? Connie.”

“Yes, it still hurts,” Sam said.

“What was she like?”

“A lot like you, actually,” Sam said. “I don’t think I can talk about her right now. You mind?”

“No, of course not.”

They rode silently for a few blocks, coming to another clump of buildings.

“Look, to the right,” Erica said. “Looks like a grocery store.”

“I see it,” Sam said. “There’s some lights on inside, but it doesn’t look open. I’m gonna park there and check it out.”

“Don’t open any doors,” she said.

He nodded as he got out. Sid pulled up next to him.

“There’s probably nobody here,” Sid said. “These businesses have lights on a timer.”

“I know, just wanted to look around.”

Erica came over. “The front is all glass. Probably hard to rig the way they did with the church.”

“Hopefully,” Sam said. They walked up to the front and peered through the glass, the others following cautiously.

Erica saw something and rushed forward.

“What?” Sam asked, running after her. “Don’t touch the door.”

“I think there’s a child in there,” she said.

A little girl peeked out from behind a shelf, then moved back behind it again. Erica started to go for the door.

“Stop!” Clem shouted. “Don’t step in front of that door. Back away.”

“There’s a child in there,” Erica said.

“I know, but if this door opens, there’s gonna be an explosion. Look.” Clem pointed at the top of the sliding door. There were wires running from there up to the ceiling.

“Dammit,” Sam said, looking at it. “Everybody back. Now!”

They rushed towards the cars.

“We can’t leave that little girl in there,” Erica said.

“I know, but we can’t go through the front door, and I don’t trust the back doors either.”

“Roof,” Sid said.

“Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking,” Sam said. “Wish we had a chain saw.”

“Maybe there’s a trap door,” Yvonne said.

“I should go see if I can get her to come out,” Erica said.

“What if she runs towards the door?” Yvonne asked.

“She won’t,” Sam said. “She’s part of the trap. I’ll bet she’s tied up so she can’t go near the trigger points herself.”

“You might be right about that,” Clem said. “Otherwise she would’ve come out that front door on her own.”

Erica nodded in agreement. “I just want to let her know we’re going to help her.”

“Okay,” Sam said. “C’mon.”

They rushed to the windows in front, avoiding the door. Erica knocked on the glass.

“Little girl! We’re here to help you. Come out where we can see you. We won’t hurt you. I promise.”

“I hope she can hear,” Sam whispered.

“She heard us out front,” Erica said. “Might have heard the Jeeps.”

“Look,” Sam said. “There she is.”

“It’s okay sweetie,” shouted Erica. “We’ll help you.”

“She’s got an ankle cuff on,” Sam said, cursing the enemy under his breath.

Sid rushed over from the side of the store. “Hey, man, there’s a ladder on the side of the building. Goes up to the roof. It’s got one of those hasps to keep people from climbing up, but it’s only got a cheapo padlock on it.”

“We can shoot it,” Sam said. “C’mon. Erica, let her know that we’re going to shoot a lock. Tell her not to be afraid.”

Erica shouted to her as Sid and Sam rushed to the ladder and looked at the lock.

“Hell, this is real cheeseball,” Sam said, looking around the delivery dock yard. There was a crowbar sitting next to a forklift. “I can probably break the damn thing with that.” He rushed over and grabbed it.

“Yeah, that ought to do it,” Sid said. He watched as Sam wedged it into the padlock and pulled. The lock snapped loose.

“Bingo,” Sam said, pulling the broken lock off the hasp and moving the barrier. He climbed up the ladder, Sid following him with the crowbar in hand.

“I see a trap door,” Sid said, pointing to the trap door towards the back of the building. “You don’t think they boobytrapped that too, do you?”

“Stay up towards the front,” Sam said. “No reason for both of us to get it.”

Sid laughed. “We’re both dead if it goes off. Make your move.”

“There’s no padlock on this side,” Sam said. He pulled up on the trap door, and it creaked open. “No bomb here, but we do have one problem.”

“What’s that?”

“No ladder. I can see one, leaning up against the wall by the back of the receiving dock. Over there.”

Sid looked. “Yeah. Maybe if we had a rope.”

“Don’t know if I’m in good enough shape to climb down a rope,” Sam said. “Been a long time.”

Sid chuckled. “You’re still in good shape. You got a rope?”

“There’s one in my Jeep,” Sam said. He rushed to the front of the building. “Erica, could you grab the rope out of the back of the Jeep? It’s in the storage compartment. Just move the carpet piece, undo the latch, and lift.”

“Got it,” she yelled, then rushed over to the Jeep’s tailgate.

“Hopefully there’s a door somewhere that doesn’t have a charge,” Sam said to Sid.

“Clem’s good at recognizing that stuff, but he’s not going down that rope.”

“Hey, he’s got an iPhone, right? We could Facetime it.”

Sid chuckled. “Yeah, we could at that.”

They heard huffing and puffing behind them. Erica appeared at the top of the ladder, climbing over, the rope on one arm. “Here you go, sweetie.”

“Perfect, thanks,” he said.

“Tie her off on this sewage vent pipe here,” Sid said.

“It strong enough?” Sam asked.

Sid pushed on it. “Yeah, it’s plenty strong.”

Sam tied one end of the rope to it and then fed the other end into the trap door. It made it within two feet of the floor.

“You sure you can do this?” Erica asked.

“Hell, if I fell half way I’d live through it,” Sam said. “Here goes nothing.” He started his climb, wishing he had gloves, but making it to the floor. The stock room was dark. He pulled his cellphone out and turned on the flashlight, looking for a light switch. He found it, by the back door, which was wired with plastic explosives. “Not getting out that way.”

“You okay?” Erica shouted down.

“Yeah, he said. “The back door is wired. Can’t go out that way. I’m gonna go get the girl.”

He pushed through the swinging doors into the store, rushing to the spot where the girl was. She sat on the floor trembling, her long red hair matted to her head from sweat, her pants soiled with urine.

“Hi, honey,” Sam said softly. “We’re gonna save you. Don’t be afraid.”

She eyed him with terror, then rushed around the shelving until the chain was taught. Sam peeked around the shelves at her, then got on his hands and knees and crawled over. “What’s your name, honey?”

She looked at him, trying to figure out if he was safe or not. “I’m Mia,” she said softly.

“What a pretty name,” Sam said. “I’m going to get the chain off. Don’t run away, okay? The doors have explosives on them. We can’t go out that way.”

“I won’t,” she said. “I have to go to the bathroom again.”

“Okay,” Sam said. He looked at the chain. It was bolted onto a hole in the bottom of the shelf. “Just a sec.” He ran into the stock room and found some pliers, then rushed back and undid the bolt, getting the chain off. Then he looked at her ankle, which was raw and bloody from her struggles, his anger flaring.

“You aren’t going to hit me are you?” she asked, eyeing him.

“Oh, no, honey,” Sam said. “I’m mad at the people who did this to you. Hold still while I get the nuts off. It might hurt a little if it twists.”

She nodded yes. Sam worked on the nut, getting it loose easier than he expected, and carefully pulled the ankle piece off. “C’mon, there’s a bathroom over here. He rushed her over and held the door open while she used it.

“My pants are wet,” she said.

“Don’t worry, we’ll take care of that after we find a way out,” Sam said.

She came back out and they walked into the back part of the stockroom. Sam pointed to the back door. “Don’t touch that. See that thing over the door, on the wall, with the wires coming out of it?”

She looked at it, then shook her head yes at him.

“If we try to open that door, it’ll blow up. Do you understand?”

She nodded yes.

“Let’s go look at those big doors.”

“You two okay?” Erica asked from the roof.

“Yeah, just looking for a way out,” Sam shouted back. “I’m going to check out the roll-up doors. Tell Clem to be ready for a Facetime, okay?”

“Sid already did,” Erica said. “He’s standing by.”

Sam took Mia’s hand and they walked towards the big doors. He looked all along them, not seeing any explosives or wires, but there were large padlocks on both the doors. He set up a Facetime call to Clem.

“Oh, Facetime,” Mia said. “I talked to Grandpa and Grandma with that.”

“Yes, it’s nice,” Sam said. “Hey, Clem.”

“Coming through perfect,” Clem said.

“Okay, I’m going to show you the roll-up door back here. If it’s not wired, I’ll open it.” Sam walked to one edge, focusing his phone on the right side from floor to ceiling, then across the top, then down the left side.

“I’m not seeing anything,” Clem said. “That’s a pretty big padlock on there, though. You won’t break that one with a crow bar.”

“I’m going to have to shoot it off,” Sam said. “See you soon.” He took Mia’s hand and led her into the bathroom. “Stay in here, honey. I don’t want you to get hit with anything.”

“Okay,” she said, walking in. Sam blocked the door with some crates and rushed back to the roll-up door, aiming his pistol. He fired, the sound echoing through the stockroom. The lock moved, damaged on the outside, but it wouldn’t open. He stood back and fired again, twice. The lock broke. He knocked the remains away and then pulled the chain on the right side to roll the door up. Erica, Clem, and Sid were waiting for him outside. They rushed to the bathroom, unblocking the door. Mia came out, looking scared.

“Did they come back?” she asked.

“No, I had to use my gun to open the door,” Sam said. “It’s okay. You’re safe.”

“Hi, honey,” Erica said, squatting next to her. “Do you know how to get to your home?”

She nodded yes, but her expression was full of fear. “They hurt mommy and daddy there. I heard them.”

Erica shot a glance at Sam, her brow furrowed.

“They’re liable to have booby traps like this set up all over the town,” Sid said quietly.

Sam nodded. “Let’s go.”

They left the store, heading back out to the parking lot, where Yvonne was watching, her rifle in her hands.

“We gonna blow this place?” she asked. “So nobody else gets killed?”

“There’s a lot of food in there,” Sam said. “Maybe we ought to empty it before we do that.”

“All it’s gonna take is somebody standing in front of the doorway,” Clem said.

“I’ll go shut down the power,” Sam said. “I saw the breaker box in the back. That should stop the door, right?”

“You don’t think the doors automatically open if the power is shut off, do you?” Sid asked.

“Crap,” Sam said. “Good question.”

“I could try to defuse it,” Clem said.

“You an expert?” Sam asked.

“Nope, but I’ve read some stuff.”

“No way, Clem, you’re way too valuable to lose,” Yvonne said.

“Yeah, I agree,” Sam said. “Let’s keep going for a while.”

“Should we go to the girl’s house?” Erica asked.

Mia shot her a worried glance.

“Don’t worry, honey, we won’t take you inside, but we could get some of your stuff,” Erica said.

“She’s only about seven,” Clem said. “She might not even be able to tell us how to get there.”

“I’m eight,” Mia said. “It’s right down there.” She pointed down the street.

“Maybe we should just go back to camp and come here with the main group,” Yvonne said.

“There might be other children being used for bait,” Sam said.

“Might not be able to get them all out,” Clem said. “We were lucky with this one.”

“Yeah, I know,” Sam said. “We still have to try. If we can’t save our children, what good are we?”

“Might be easier when it’s light,” Sid said.

“True,” Sam said. “Let’s at least try to get to her parent’s house. Maybe they’re alive.”

The others nodded in agreement, and they got into the Jeeps, Mia sitting on Erica’s lap.

“There it is,” Mia said, pointing to a house next to a yardage store. “That’s my mom’s store next to it.”

Sam turned into the driveway. “Wait here.” He got out and rushed to the door, Sid following him. Yvonne stood outside their Jeep with her rifle.

“Hope they watch out for booby traps in there,” Clem whispered to Yvonne.

“They know,” Yvonne said. “What are we gonna do with the girl? You know her parents are dead, right?”

“Somebody in our group is going to foster her until we can find some relatives,” Clem whispered back.

Sam and Sid walked down the hallway from the front door of the single-story house. There was blood on the wall near the door of the first bedroom.

“Smell that?” Sam whispered.

Sid nodded yes. They went inside. There were two headless corpses on the floor and blood all over the room.

“Dammit,” Sam muttered under his breath. “Look for an address book or some ID.”

Sid nodded as Sam checked the other rooms. There was a little boy dead in the next bedroom, single bullet hole in his forehead. The next room was Mia’s. Sam grabbed the pillow on the bed, yanking the pillowcase off, then filling it with clothes and other items. He came back out just as Sid was leaving the master bedroom.

“Find anything?” Sam asked.

“Nope. Let’s look in the kitchen. People keep address books in there more often than in their bedrooms.”

They walked down the hall, turning left before they got to the front door. The kitchen and connected family room were a mess, broken plates and glasses all over the floor, food laying around half eaten on counters, windows to the back yard broken. A dog’s bloody body lay on the carpet in front of the TV.

“Animals,” Sid said, going to the small hutch where the phone was. “Bingo.” He picked up an address book, taking a second to look inside.

“Look for the woman’s purse,” Sam said. “We want her driver’s license. I’ll go check the male body in the master for a wallet.”

Sid nodded, rummaging around as Sam walked away.

“There was a wallet in the back pocket,” Sam said, holding it up as he came back into the kitchen. “Jason Berliner.”

“Here’s the purse,” Sid said. “Wonder where the heads are?”

“Probably on spikes someplace. I say we take Mia back to camp. I don’t want her to see anything like that.”

“You’re right,” Sid said. “Let’s go.”

They both rushed back outside.

“We’re going to the camp,” Sam said to Erica as he got into the Jeep.

“Why?” Erica asked.

“She’s asleep?” Sam asked.

“Yep, she crashed. She’s totally exhausted.”

Sam got close and whispered about the heads to Erica, who looked down, her body shaking as she began to cry. She nodded yes. “Get us out of here.”

Sam drove back onto the highway, his heart heavy as he thought about Sarah and John. Sid and the others followed.

To be continued…

 

Bug Out! California Book 1 has just been published, and is now available in the Kindle Store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 8 – West Border Mayhem has just been published, and is now available in the Kindle Store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

 

The Plan – How the Bugout! War Started is now available in the Kindle Store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 7 – Flood of Patriots – next in the series is now available in the Kindle store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 6 – Citizen Vengeance – next in the series is now available in the Kindle store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 5 – Wave of Patriots – next in the series is now available in the Kindle store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Horror Road Book 4 – the latest in the series is now available in the Kindle store!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 4 – Texas Battle Cry is now available in the Kindle store!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 3 – Republic in Peril is now available in the Kindle store!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 2 – The New Republic is now available in the Kindle Store. Pick up your copy of this exciting thriller today!

 

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!

 

Please visit and like my author page on Facebook!

 

Here’s the series that started it all! Bug Out! Pick up your copy of book 1 for just 99 cents in the Kindle Store!

 

Horror Road – A Supernatural Thriller! Available now in the Kindle Store

 

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

Bugout! California Part 108 – Higher Education

The door opened, a pretty young woman rushing in, her long blonde hair flowing.

“You don’t knock anymore?” the old man asked, sitting behind a huge mahogany desk. His degrees and awards covered the wall behind him.

“I thought things were more casual between us now, after…”

“Stop,” the gray-haired man said, standing, his sweater a little too tight. “What are you doing here, Avril?”

“Sorry, Kelsy,” she said, hurt look on her face.

“Dean Lambert,” he said. “Don’t call me by my first name. Even in here. Want us to get caught?”

“The UN and their guests have left,” she said, walking towards the desk, making her hips sway.

“Good,” Dean Lambert said. “How did the students take to the training?”

“Most of them are fired up,” Avril said, moving next to him behind the desk, pushing his chair back. She got on his lap.

“Dammit, not now. This thing worries me. It’s liable to get totally out of control.”

“Relax,” she said, her hands going around his head, pulling it against her chest. He backed away.

“Get off me, dammit,” he said, rising out of his chair, forcing her off. “Be professional. Give me an assessment. I have to tell the Regional Governor how it’s going, and he’ll ask a lot of tough questions. Remember where our funding comes from.”

“Why do they still call him the Regional Governor? Isn’t he just the Governor? He’s been in that job since Governor Sable disappeared.”

“States are just mini nationalistic structures,” Dean Lambert said. “They must be swept away with the rest of our bankrupt Republic.”

“Oh, sorry,” she said.

“I’m busy. Tell me what I need to know and then get out of here.”

“Don’t treat me like that,” she said. “There’s no patriarchy anymore, remember?”

“Yes, I understand that, but there is still leadership, and those below leadership. You’re below leadership. Do your job.”

“Okay, okay,” she said. “The military training went well. The students know how to knock the crap out of all those retired folks with too much time on their hands who’ve been protesting the Regional Governor.”

“Do you think the students will hit them hard enough to put them into the hospital or the morgue? That’s what we need. Blocking streets and breaking windows doesn’t work anymore.”

“Yes, they showed us where to hit, and how to get around their protection,” Avril said. “Most of the students were gung-ho. A few expressed concerns about really hurting people. The UN folks removed them from the classes.”

“Good,” Dean Lambert said. “Anybody who shows reactionary tendencies needs to be dealt with.”

Avril’s look changed, her brow furrowed. “They’re just kicking them out, right?”

“They’re being sent to re-education camps, on orders of the Regional Governor,” Dean Lambert said, sitting back down behind his desk. “The authorities need to have a free hand to work the problems we have in the southern part of the region.”

“Why, that battle is already over,” Avril said. “They’ve been covering that on the news reports for a while now.”

“Yes, we’re mostly in control, but there is a stronger resistance there. Do not talk of that outside this office.”

“Why is there resistance everywhere?” Avril said. “My professors always said that once people see the truth they will follow.”

“Yes, I know what the professors say, and in most cases they’re right. We can’t stop all of the corporate agitators overnight. They’re being paid too much.”

“They go away when Capitalism is all the way gone, though, right?”

Dean Lambert smiled at her, shaking his head. “Part of your charm is your naivety, but it’s more exciting as an act than it is as the real thing. You’ve got a lot to learn. That’s why I took you under my wing.”

She giggled. “I thought it was because of these.” She raised her shirt, exposing her bra-covered breasts.

“Stop that. It’s too early. We’ll spend some time together later.”

“When’s later?” she asked.

“Do your job. What else can I say about the training?”

“Those Islamists did most of the hand-to-hand combat training. They make fun of the UN Peacekeepers whenever they aren’t around, and they mess with the women too. I think it’s unprofessional.”

“They’re just contractors,” Dean Lambert said. “We’re paying them to do a job. How do you think auto mechanics talk about women when they aren’t looking? Doesn’t mean we don’t need them.”

“I guess,” she said.

“What about the propaganda instruction?”

“The UN Peacekeepers handled that, but they aren’t all that bright, so a couple of your professors helped them out. I think some of the students were only there looking for extra credit from them, though. There was a lot of snickering going on.”

“By who?”

“Male students, mostly.”

“Names?” Dean Lambert asked.

“Oh, sorry. I’ll have to look into that. They weren’t people I knew.”

Dean Lambert’s brow furrowed. “They were students here, though, right?”

“I’m sure they were,” Avril said. “The professors spoke to them by name.”

“Which professors?”

“Hodges and Davis,” Avril said.

“Would you classify the training as successful?”

She sighed. “I guess. The students were about as serious as they usually are.”

“I don’t like the sound of that.”

“They were just joking around a lot,” Avril said. “I think they absorbed what they needed to.”

“Okay, thanks,” Dean Lambert said. “Now run along. I’ll call you later. We’ll meet here.”

“Here again?” she asked, looking disappointed. “I was hoping for more time in the hot tub.”

“My wife’s in town,” Dean Lambert said.

“Oh,” she said. “All right, see you later. Not too late, though, okay? I do actually have classes tomorrow.”

“Understand,” the dean said, focusing on the papers he was looking at when she came in, acting like she’d already left. She stared at him for a moment, then walked out the door, leaving it open. He got up after a moment and shut the door, looking at his cellphone to see the time.

“Dammit. Late again.” He hit a contact on his phone as he walked back to his seat. He set the phone on the desk and hit the speaker button.

“Dean Lambert,” the voice on the phone said.

“Daan, how are you?”

“Good,” Dean Lambert said.

“You’re late. Anything wrong?”

“Getting info out of my little chickie-poo can be like pulling teeth,” Dean Lambert said.

“She the blonde that I met when I was there? The one in those nasty photos you sent me?”

“Yes, that’s her. You can have her next time you show up, if you want.”

“Thanks, but I like them a little younger,” Daan said.

“So I’ve heard. Isn’t that why you can’t go to New York anymore?”

Daan chuckled. “No comment.”

“You think that was funny?”

“No, I think it was worth it, but enough about the sport. Do you have a report for me about the pilot program?”

“Sounds like it’s going all right,” Dean Lambert said. “There were a couple who didn’t have the stomach for it, apparently. They’ve been removed.”

“We always expect some fall-out,” Daan said. “You know that.”

“Avril said that some of the students aren’t taking it seriously.”

“Well, if that’s the case, they’ll probably get caught at the first demonstration,” Daan said. “I wouldn’t worry about it.”

“Apparently, the Islamists who are doing the military training are making fun of the UN behind their backs.”

Daan snickered. “Who doesn’t?”

“I’m serious,” Dean Lambert said. “They’ve also been getting a little aggressive with the women.”

“That is a problem with them, but we should be careful how we handle it,” Daan said. “The belief system they have is beneficial for what we want them to do, so we don’t want to temper them too much, but we also have to make sure they understand that there won’t be any Sharia Law garbage here after we’ve taken over.”

“There’s a lot more of them than there are UN Peacekeepers. We should discuss this with Saladin. I don’t want any misunderstandings. We don’t need to fight a new war the minute the first one has been won.”

“I’ll take it under advisement, but don’t worry about it now, and do not discuss it with others on your team. Understand?”

“Yes, I understand, of course,” Dean Lambert said. “Any truth to the rumors that this Ivan character is moving his operation north?”

“We’re still working that,” Daan said. “You worry about your job. I’ll worry about Ivan the Butcher.”

“He’s ruined our plans in the southern half of the state.”

“Don’t say that on the phone,” Daan said angrily. “Ever. You got that?”

“Then it’s true.”

“Like I said, you let me worry about Ivan the Butcher. We’ve got a number of tricks up our sleeve. We’ll catch him and flay him alive.”

“Okay, fair enough,” Dean Lambert said.

“Do you feel that this training program is ready for expansion to the other UC locations in the state?”

Dean Lambert was silent for a moment, his heart beating too fast.

“You still there, Lambert?”

“Yeah, I’m thinking,” he said. “I would say yes, with some reservations.”

“What reservations?”

“The ones I brought up just now. The Islamists have behavior problems that might be hard to control. If young women start to disappear or get attacked at the campuses we’re targeting, it will be counter-productive. You know that, right? Remember what happened in Sweden and Denmark six or seven years ago. Hell, it happened in France, too, a little later.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Daan said. “We’re trying to terrorize this society. As long as the general public doesn’t know that we’ve got this training program going, we won’t have any big problems, and the general unease in the society will ramp up. People will want protection.”

“How are we going to keep people from talking?”

“We might have to make a couple of people into examples,” Daan said. “By the way, the detail that was bringing that idiot from the TV show the other night is long overdue. Have you heard anything?”

“No. Not a word. I thought you guys were going to kill him anyway. Your thugs damn-near did in the theater, from what I saw on the video.”

“He’s part of a small student resistance movement,” Daan said. “That needs to be nipped in the bud before it can grow. We need to question him. It’ll probably take some torture. We’ll kill him after we’ve gotten what we want out of him.”

“I don’t want to hear about it.”

“You’re part of the team, so you’d better want to hear about it,” Daan said. “You keep your ear to the ground. If I find out that he’s being helped from your sector, you will join him on the flaying table. You got me?”

“You don’t have to be that way.”

“Sounds to me like I do,” Daan said. “Remember your place. You want a nice leadership position when this is over. You’re in line to get one. Don’t blow it now.”

“I won’t,” Dean Lambert said, his heart pounding again.

“Good, glad we cleared that up,” Daan said. “Talk to you later.”

The call ended, Dean Lambert looking at his phone for more than a minute before he moved. Should I leave now?

***

Garrett got off his horse and strode over to Sam’s rig, still parked on Wildwood Glenn Road. He reached down and pulled off his spurs, then knocked on the door. Erica opened it.

“Hi, Garrett,” she said. “The rest of your force get here?” She made room for him to climb inside.

“Yep, they’re arriving now. That area is barely large enough.”

Sam came out of the back of the coach. “Hey, Garrett, how’s it going?”

“This was a hard day,” Garrett said. “We won, but losing James was really bad.”

“I know,” Sam said. “I was just chatting with Ji-Ho. He wants to send a party into Descanso tonight, while it’s dark, to check it out. Make sure that it’s really free of the UN.”

“It’s free of Islamists, at least,” Garrett said.

“Sit down,” Erica said.

“If I do that your coach is going to smell like a stable,” he said, smiling. “I’m only here to check in and see what’s next. Want me going into town with that detail?”

“You’ve been up too long,” Sam said. “You and your men need to rest. Get some shuteye.”

“Hoping you were gonna say that,” he said. “I’ll do that, but don’t hesitate if you need me.”

There was a knock at the door. Erica looked outside. It was John, Sid, and Clem. She let them in.

“Hey, Garrett,” Clem said. “Nice job.

“Seriously,” John said.

“Yeah,” Sid said. “What’s up, Sam?”

“Thanks for coming over. We need to scout Descanso. I was wondering if you guys are up to helping.”

“I’m game, but Yvonne will want to go along. She was over with Kaitlyn and Megan when you called. They’re pretty torn up about James.”

“I could imagine,” Sam said.

“I’m pretty torn up about it too,” Erica said, “and I’m going, by the way.” She shot a glance at Sam.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Sam asked. “We don’t want you taking un-necessary chances for revenge.”

“I’m mature enough to not do that,” Erica said.

“I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to say…”

“Sam, I get it, okay. I agree on principle, and wouldn’t suggest that either Kaitlyn or Megan go. Same for Tyler and Ryan and the others.”

“I’ll go let Sarah know,” John said. “How we going?”

My Jeep and Sid’s?” Sam asked.

“That’ll work for me,” Sid said. “I’ll go round up Yvonne and bring the Jeep over here.”

“Good,” Sam said.

“Well, I’ll be leaving you folks alone, then,” Garrett said. “Good luck. If you get pinned down, call me. We’ll send the cavalry.”

“Thanks,” Sam said.

Garrett tipped his hat at Erica and left the coach.

“I love that guy,” John said. “Thought he was a nutcase at first.”

“Yeah, we’d be dead now if not for him,” Clem said. “I’m gonna go get ready. You might want to swap places with a coach that’s going to be manned. You’re in a key position on this road.”

“Yeah, we’ll do that,” Sam said. “See you in about ten minutes.”

Sid nodded, and left with the others. Sam closed the door behind him as Erica texted.

“Who are you asking?” Sam asked.

“Zac. He agreed. He’ll be over here in a couple minutes. We’d better move out of the way.”

Sam nodded and got into the driver’s seat. He moved the coach off the road just as Zac’s rig was driving up.

“There he is already,” Erica said as she walked up to the front of the coach. “You putting this back into siege mode?”

“Yeah, might as well.” Sam parked and set up the coach. They were walking down the steps as Sid rolled up in his Jeep, Yvonne in the passenger seat, John and Clem in the back seat.

“Ready to go?” Sid asked.

“Just about. You’ve got some ordinance with you, right?”

“One of the mortars with some willie pete, a BAR, an M60, and all of our M-16s,” Clem said from the back. “Oh, and John’s bow.”

“Good,” Sam said as he rushed back into the coach, coming out with his guns. Erica went back inside and came out with her AK-47. The two Jeeps took off on Highway 79.

“Dark road,” Erica said. “It’s not very far.”

“Hope they don’t have snipers along the side of the road. I feel like we should have our lights off, but I don’t want to drive this road in the dark.”

Erica looked at Sam’s phone, checking the apps. “There’s no Islamists anywhere near here.”

“I’m more worried about the UN. They’re easier to beat in a battle, but not being able to see them sucks big time.”

“It does,” Erica said, “but we haven’t seen much of them for a while. I believe the reports that many of them went up north. Not every single one, but most.”

“Hope you’re right. They still have Gaz Tigrs around here. I was surprised to see that.”

“Islamists have had those too, though.”

“I know,” Sam said. “I think that’s our road to the left. Riverside Drive.”

“Yeah, that’s it, and it’s a smaller road, so be careful.”

Sam made the turn, his eyes scanning ahead, searching for anything that looked like a setup. “Do we know how many citizens are left in town?”

“I heard some conversation between two of Garrett’s guys. They’ve been scouting. They said only about a quarter of the people are left. The rest split after hearing about the battle in Julian that we lost.”

“How many people would that be?”

“Let me check,” she said, moving her fingers on the phone screen. “Geez, less than four hundred people.”

“Really?”

“Yep,” she said. “There’s the bridge over the river.”

“Not much of a bridge.”

Erica laughed. “Not much of a river, either. We’ll start to see more structures now.”

“How far along is the bridge?”

“Less than a quarter of the way,” she said. “We’ve got a little time.”

“There’s some buildings off to the left. Lights aren’t on in any of them.”

“Those our mostly businesses,” she said. “There’re quite a few people living outside of town, so we should start seeing lights.”

They drove along for a few more minutes. “There’s some houses, see?”

“Dark,” Erica said. “Crap.”

“There’s a big Catholic Church to the left. See it coming up?”

“Yeah,” Erica said. “Stop!”

“What?” Sam asked, startled as he slammed on the breaks, Sid skidding to a stop behind him.

“Look,” she said, pointing.

“Oh, God,” Sam said. “Look at all of them.” He drove up the driveway and parked on the shoulder, getting out, M60 in his hand. Sid and Yvonne got out of their Jeep, followed by Clem and John.

“My Lord, no,” Clem said, looking at the bodies hanging from every tree and light post surrounding the church.

“This can’t stand,” John said, the anger in his eyes visible even in the dark.

“This is most of the people I expected to find here,” Erica said, looking around in horror.

“These bodies have been here for a little while,” Clem said. “Look at that one. The birds have been working on it for days.”

Erica looked, turning away quickly.

“I’m gonna go see if anybody is alive inside,” John said, trotting over to the church.

“Dammit, he shouldn’t go in there,” Sam said, turning to shout at him as he made it to the door. He pulled it open, and there was a flash of intense light, as the building blew up in front of him.

“Hit the deck!” Clem shouted. All of them dived to the ground as debris flew at them, damaging Sam’s Jeep. Heavy pieces fell around them for what seemed like minutes.

“Oh, no,” Erica cried. “Everybody else okay? Anybody hurt?”

“Small cut on my right arm,” Clem said.

“I’m okay,” Yvonne said.

“Yeah, me too,” Sid said. “John. Oh my God.”

“Sam!” Erica cried.

“I’m okay,” Sam said, crawling over to her. “Unhurt. I was looking for anybody running away.”

“Nobody there?” she asked.

“Not that I saw,” Sam said. “Boobytrap, just like what happened to Connie. Sick bastards.”

“We won’t even find pieces of John,” Clem said, tears running down his cheeks. “How are we gonna tell Sarah?”

To be continued…

 

Bug Out! California Book 1 has just been published, and is now available in the Kindle Store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 8 – West Border Mayhem has just been published, and is now available in the Kindle Store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

 

The Plan – How the Bugout! War Started is now available in the Kindle Store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 7 – Flood of Patriots – next in the series is now available in the Kindle store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 6 – Citizen Vengeance – next in the series is now available in the Kindle store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 5 – Wave of Patriots – next in the series is now available in the Kindle store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Horror Road Book 4 – the latest in the series is now available in the Kindle store!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 4 – Texas Battle Cry is now available in the Kindle store!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 3 – Republic in Peril is now available in the Kindle store!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 2 – The New Republic is now available in the Kindle Store. Pick up your copy of this exciting thriller today!

 

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!

 

Please visit and like my author page on Facebook!

 

Here’s the series that started it all! Bug Out! Pick up your copy of book 1 for just 99 cents in the Kindle Store!

 

Horror Road – A Supernatural Thriller! Available now in the Kindle Store

 

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

Bugout! California Part 107 – Job Offer

“Dammit,” Ryan said, looking in horror at James’s body lying on the ground before them. Shots rang out again, hitting the rocks around where they were hiding. All of them opened fire, several blue-helmeted cretins falling.

“How many are there?” one of Garrett’s men asked.

“Can’t see may of them,” Tyler said, aiming his rifle and firing, a man falling off one of the taller ridges in the area.

“Nice shot,” Garrett said. “Men, don’t just sit there. Fan out along this ridge and that one over there, and let’em have it. Our five hundred men will be here in less than ten minutes.”

“Look, on the right, somebody’s trying to set up a mortar,” Ryan said.

“Got it,” Garrett said, firing his .45-70, the massive blast echoing through the area.

“Damn, boy,” one of Garrett’s men said, chuckling.

“Shoot the mortar tube,” Ryan said.

“On it,” Garrett said, firing again, hitting the tube, sending it flying as the others fired at the team running to take over. Then there was a large chain reaction explosion, as a huge .45 caliber round hit the ammo box.

“That worked,” Ryan said. “Look, somebody’s trying to set up in that direction too, see them?” He fired several times, hitting the team that was running up with the mortar, as Garrett used his .45-70 again.

“Hear that?” Ryan asked. “Horses.”

“Yeah, here come our guys,” Garrett said. “They’re early.”

“My God, that is a thing of beauty,” one of Garrett’s men said, watching hundreds of mounted men along the ridges, rifles aimed. They fired, the air full of thunder and smoke.

“Look, the enemy is running away,” Ryan shouted.

“So let’s go get them,” Garrett said, racing towards his horse, the others following. They rode together, meeting the five hundred on the flats and chasing the panicked UN peacekeepers, killing all of them within a few minutes.

“I’m gonna go check on James,” Ryan said, turning his horse, Tyler nodding in agreement. They rode quickly, dismounting by his body and rushing over. Ryan carefully rolled him over. James smiled at him, his eyes barely open.

“About time you slugs got back here. Beat them?”

“Yeah, we beat them,” Ryan said. Tyler got down on his knees and looked for the wound, finding it on his left side, his shirt and the top of his pants soaked in blood. He shot a grim look at Ryan.

“How bad is it?” James asked quietly.

“You’ll be okay if we can get you to a doctor soon enough,” Ryan said. He looked away from James, wiping his tears away from his eyes, trying to hide it.

“I’m done, aren’t I?” James asked.

Tyler looked at him, and slowly nodded yes.

“Tyler,” Ryan said.

“Better to be honest,” Tyler said.

“Thank you,” James said, his eyes barely slits. “It’s been an honor serving with both of you.”

“It’s been an honor growing up with you, brother,” Ryan said, weeping.

“It has,” Tyler said, tears running down his cheeks.

“Tell Abby that I loved her,” James whispered, his breath faint. “Tell her I’m sor…” His breath escaped his lips and stopped.

“Oh, God,” Ryan said, breaking down, Tyler with him. Garrett rode up with several men, and he dismounted, running over.

“Oh no,” Garrett said. “I’m so sorry. He was a great warrior.”

“We can’t leave him here,” Ryan said.

“I know,” Tyler said. “We’ll pack him out.”

“There’s UN vans and a bunch of pickup trucks parked off Barrett Lake Road,” Garrett said. “We can take him there and drive him out.”

“Where are we going?” Ryan asked.

“We’re going to the camp where the rest of our people are,” Garrett said. “Probably be in Descanso tomorrow. The enemy fled that area, heading for Julian. Just got a text from Sam about it.”

“I’m worried about our base,” Tyler said. “There’s more UN thugs around than any of us expected, and the apps can’t see them.”

“I know, I had the same thought,” Garrett said. “They’re okay so far. I just got off the phone with Anna.”

“How many people we have guarding the place?”

“Six hundred there, another three thousand at Dodge City,” Garrett said. “Plus four battle wagons. I think they’ll be fine. If I didn’t think that, I’d be on my way to get Anna already.”

“Getting kinda sweet on her, aren’t you?” Tyler asked.

“Yes,” Garrett said. “We’re about the same age. Nice to have her to talk to.”

“Let’s go, okay?” Ryan asked. “Somebody needs to call Abby.”

“That’s my job,” Tyler said. “I’ll help you load James on the back of your horse, and then call her.”

Ryan nodded yes, and they picked up James’s body with Garrett’s help.

***

The bruised, beaten man woke with a start, his bandages constraining his arms and his torso, tape wrapped tightly around his broken ribs. A large man sat in a wooden chair against the wall. He casually pulled a phone out of his pocket and sent a text.

“Where am I?” the wounded man asked, catching the big man’s movement out of the corner of his eye.

“Safe, my friend,” the big man said.

“Who are you?”

“Just call me Mr. Black.”

The man tried to get up into sitting position, but fell back.

“Here, I help,” Mr. Black said, walking over to the bed. He pushed a button, and the bed slowly raised, bringing him into a position where he could see the whole room. It was industrial, with concrete walls.

“Am I in a hospital or something?”

“No, you at safe house,” Mr. Black said.

“Where are you from?”

“Bulgaria, originally,” Mr. Black said. He went back to the chair and plopped down. “Boss be here soon. He brings food and drink.”

“Am I a prisoner?”

Mr. Black chuckled. “No, you free to go as soon as you well, but boss have proposition. You should listen.”

“Who’s your boss?”

“Ivan,” Mr. Black said.

“Ivan the Butcher?” the man asked, a grin working its way onto his face.

“Oh, you heard of him?” Mr. Black asked.

“He rescued me, didn’t he?”

“Yes. Now save strength. Ivan be here soon. Relax. You safe. Trust me.”

The man tried to find a comfortable position, but his entire body ached. The door swung open, and Ivan walked in, dressed in a blue pinstriped suit, a gray fedora on his head.

“Mr. Dover, you’re awake,” he said, walking over to the side of the bed. “I’m Ivan.”

“Mr. Dover? You saw me on TV.”

“Yes, I was watching. Excellent performance. How much do you remember?”

“Nothing, after the thugs grabbed me and started hitting me with their batons.”

“It was brave what you did,” Ivan said.

“It won’t do any good. Only true believers watch that garbage. Most people know it’s propaganda.”

Ivan chuckled. “I agree, Mr. Dover.”

“My name is Kent,” he said. “Kent Garland.”

“Nice to meet you, Kent. Perhaps you should keep Ben Dover as a stage name. It works.”

Kent started to laugh, then held his sides. “Dammit. Those creeps beat me up good.”

“They won’t beat anybody else up,” Ivan said. “Isn’t that right, Mr. Black.”

Mr. Black chuckled. “Their necks crack nicely.”

“Are you working with an organization, Kent?”

“A student organization,” Kent said.

“You’re still a student?”

“Grad student,” Kent said. “Political science and econ.”

“Impressive. Which school?”

“Belly of the beast,” Kent said. “UC Santa Cruz.”

“Ah, very interesting,” Ivan said. “We were just looking into that campus. Are you aware of what is going on at Merritt College?”

Kent rolled his eyes. “Morons.”

“UN Peacekeepers and several truckloads of Islamists have been there for the last twelve hours or so,” Ivan said.

Kent chuckled, holding his sides again. “And they thought their rape rate was bad before.”

Mr. Black laughed out loud.

“You’ve heard about their antics?” Ivan asked.

“Dark web boards went nuts a month ago, after that incident in Torrance.”

“You mean the attack on the Armstrong Theater,” Ivan said.

“We know about the rape operation,” Kent said. “I hope the women got out okay. We can’t find any info.”

“Most work for us now,” Ivan said.

“You guys were involved,” Kent said. “Knew it. My friends didn’t believe me.”

“Yes, one of my teams was involved,’ Ivan said. “Mr. Black here handled the Armstrong Theater. The rest handled the rescue.”

“I had help, boss, remember? Mr. White.”

“Two guys killed all those high-ranking slugs there?” Kent asked.

“Like fish in barrel,” Mr. Black said.

“What’s going to happen now?” Kent asked. “Am I a prisoner?”

“No, not at all,” Ivan said. “We’ll nurse you back to health. We will offer you a position. It’s up to you if you accept it.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Two stage job,” Ivan said. “First we flood airwaves with TV show you were on. Then you go on live TV with me to explain further, and to rally citizens.”

Kent cracked up. “Oh, so this is my fifteen minutes, if I agree?”

“If you agree, you’ll be able to stay on, should that be your desire,” Ivan said. “That will be up to you. No pressure.”

“I think I’ll accept,” Kent said. “I know others. We’ve been fighting against the UC system even before the war and martial law started. We’ve learned a lot.”

“I was hoping,” Ivan said. “You know anything about the meetings going on now?”

“It’s training,” Kent said, “and it’s not the first time. It was part of the reason we felt we had to make a big splash on the TV show. We’re trying to wake people up.”

“Good effort,” Ivan said, “but to do this, you have to force your way in front of people who would never watch that propaganda garbage.”

“I know, that is a problem,” Kent said. “We don’t have the resources that you do, I suspect.”

“What training?” Mr. Black asked.

“Paramilitary training, as well as propaganda instruction,” Kent said. “Remember Antifa about eight years ago? Similar stuff. The state government hasn’t won over the people to martial law, even up here. People are at least passively resisting. The state thinks they need to intimidate the population. They’re stupid, though. That always backfires.”

“It sure does,” Ivan said. “It works in a society that’s never been free. Here that’s not the case, and the citizens are armed.”

“They’ve been confiscating weapons,” Kent said.

“Yes, but they’ve only gotten a small fraction. We’ve been watching that situation closely, and supplying better weapons to other groups too.”

“Well, I’m glad to be working with you,” Kent said. “We have no weapons and no training. We just see and hear things and pass them out on the dark web. I don’t really have that much to offer.”

“Not in terms of power or reach, but you have the most important things,” Ivan said. “Brains and heart. There’s food coming in a few minutes. Eat, then rest. Recover. We’ll talk later. Remember you’re free to go whenever you want to. You are also free to leave the room when you’re ready.”

“Thank you,” Kent said.

The door swung open again, and a tray of food rolled in, pushed by a Russian beauty with delicate features, long black hair, and long legs.

“Is this hero?” she asked, smiling.

“Yes,” Ivan said. “Treat him well. He might need help eating.”

“Shall I leave, boss?” Mr. Black asked.

“Yes. We have some things to discuss.”

“Okay,” Mr. Black said, his huge frame rising. “See you, Mr. Dover.” He chuckled as he followed Ivan out the door, closing it afterwards.

The woman rolled the tray closer, uncovering plates of food, which filled the room with a rich smell. “You need help? I feed you?”

“I think I’m in heaven,” Kent said, shooting her a smile.

“Hardly,” she said. “You’re in Mission District. I’m Cat.”

“We’re in Frisco?” he asked, eyes wide. “Is it safe?”

“Don’t worry,” she said, moving closer with a plate. She filled a spoon and put it to his lips. “Open wide.”

***

Seth watched as Kaitlyn was talking on her phone. She was facing the gun console, but he could see her start to shake, and rushed over, seeing that she was crying. He touched her shoulder.

“I’ve got to go,” she said softly, ending the call and getting into Seth’s arms, her head against his chest as she sobbed.

“My God, what happened?”

“James,” she said, not looking up at him.

“Oh no, he got hit?”

“He’s dead,” she said. “Poor Abby.”

“Oh, no,” Seth said, his tears coming. “Did they say how?”

“The UN laid a trap, near Barrett Lake. He was taking out sentries with his crossbow and got shot.”

“He’s a hero,” Seth said.

“Yes, I know, but it hurts so bad. I’ve known him my whole life.”

“What happened to the rest of the group?”

“They killed the UN trash,” she said. “They’re on their way here.”

“Thank God for that,” Seth said.

“I wish we could just leave.”

“I know, honey.”

“Can we?” she asked.

Seth was quiet for a moment.

“Forget I said it,” she said.

“Look,” Seth said. “You are the most important person in my life. If you want to split, we’ll split. All I ask is that you wait until the grief has died down. Okay?”

“You’d really go with me?”

“In a heartbeat,” Seth said. “I love you so much. You know that.”

She looked at him. “Yes, I know that.”

There was a knock on the door.

“It’s Megan,” Seth said. “She shouldn’t be walking around out there.”

“Let her in, honey,” Kaitlyn said. He nodded and rushed to the door, opening it. She came in, crying hard, and hugged Kaitlyn.

“Where’s Angel?” Kaitlyn asked.

“I told him to stay in the coach,” she said. “I basically ordered him to stay there. I can’t lose him.”

“Want me to slip out and be with him?” Seth asked.

“Yes, do that, honey,” Kaitlyn said, “but be careful. Stay under cover.”

“Okay,” Seth said, grabbing his Winchester. He slipped out the door and trotted away, Kaitlyn watching him until he went inside Angel’s coach.

“How’s Abby taking it?” Megan asked.

“She’s in shock,” Kaitlyn said. “So’s my mom. This is horrible.”

“Angel cried,” Megan said.

“So did Seth. I asked him if we could leave.”

“You did?” Megan asked. “What did he say?”

“He said wait until the grief dies down, and if I still want to leave, he’ll take me.”

“You wouldn’t really, would you?”

“When I said it, I thought I would,” she said, “but no, I can’t leave our people hanging. They need us.”

“He said he would, though,” Megan said. “Angel would too.”

“Did he say that?”

“No, but I know,” she said.

“We’re lucky,” Kaitlyn said, “but I’m so scared of losing him.”

“You’ve never been this much in love before,” Megan said.

“You feel the same way, don’t you?”

Megan shook her head yes, starting to cry again.

“Oh, no, what’s that?” Kaitlyn asked, watching a pickup truck drive up in the dusk.

Megan peered out the side window. “Tyler and Ryan. They’re probably bringing James here.”

“Should we go out?” Kaitlyn asked.

“No,” Megan said. “I promised Angel I wouldn’t go anywhere where he couldn’t see me. I’m keeping that promise.”

Kaitlyn nodded.

“I’m going to go back to him, okay?” Megan asked.

“Yeah, send Seth back.”

“I will,” Megan said. She slipped out the door, Megan watching as she made it to their rig. Seth bolted out and ran back, rushing through the door and closing it behind himself.

“How’s she doing?” he asked.

“About like me,” Kaitlyn said. “How’s Angel?”

Seth sat on the couch. “We talked. If you and Megan want to leave, we’ll take you.”

Kaitlyn sat next to him. “Really?”

“Yes, really,” Seth said.

“Well, don’t worry, because I wouldn’t really do that, and neither would Megan.”

“You don’t have to decide either way right now,” Seth said.

She smiled at him. “How’d we get so lucky? How’d we find each other?”

“We’ll never know,” Seth said.

***

Shelly and Jules made love feverishly until the sun rose.

“Wow,” Jules said, trying to catch his breath.

“Happy?” Shelly asked.

“You know I am,” Jules said. “You?”

“Yes,” she said. “Can’t quite believe it.”

Jules’s phone buzzed.

“Uh oh,” he said, rushing to grab it off the shelf opposite the bed, where it was charging. “Enemy. Same road as before. Looks like they’re going home from UC Santa Cruz.”

“You think it’s the same ones?”

“Same number, anyway,” Jules said. “Placement same.”

“I’ll send a text reminding everybody to sit tight, unless they pull in here,” Shelly said.

Jules nodded as he refreshed the app. “They’ve already gone by the front gate.”

“Good,” Shelly said. “Sent.”

“They just pass back gate. Gone. No problem.”

“Thank God,” Shelly said.

Jules’s phone rang, startling both.

“Dammit,” Shelly said, smiling.

Jules grinned and hit the speaker button. “Ivan, what up?”

“Hi, Jules. Sounds like I’m on speaker again.”

“Yes, Shelly here.”

“Okay, no problem. Ben Dover woke up.”

“Really? What he have to say? He join us, no?”

“Yep,” Ivan said, “and get this. He’s a student. He goes to UC Santa Cruz.”

“You joke?” Jules shot a grin over at Shelly, who stared back in disbelief.

“No joke,” Ivan said. “He knew about the enemy fighters and UN thugs working with people there.”

“What they doing?”

“Paramilitary training,” Ivan said. “They’re training themselves some thugs to push people around. It was like we figured. Most people don’t like this martial law one bit. The local media makes it sound like everybody is on board, but it’s just smoke and mirrors.”

“So, what we do?”

“I still send in Mr. White and Mr. Black to nab the corrupt UC officials,” Ivan said. “After we finish with the Mertins plant, we might just pay their training center a visit.”

“That sounds like a bad idea,” Shelly said, stopping to put her hand over her mouth. “Sorry, I should keep my mouth shut.”

“No, don’t keep your mouth shut,” Ivan said. “Why do you think it’s a bad idea?”

“It might generate sympathy for the students who’ve bought into this,” Shelly said.

“We have to kill some of them, you know,” Jules said. “No way around it.”

“I agree,” Shelly said, “but we should make sure it’s during violence driven by them.”

“Smart woman,” Ivan said.

To be continued…

 

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Copyright Robert Boren 2017

Bugout! California Part 106 – Merrill

“You get them?” Kaylee asked, sitting at the target tray in the passenger seat of the battle wagon.

“Yeah, but there’s more,” Trevor said, his eyes glued into the sight for the main guns.

“Why didn’t we get buzzed?”

“Crap. There’s why. UN Van. See it?” He fired the grenade launcher, blowing the van sky high, but another one moved up, the side door sliding open, blue-helmeted fighters rushing out. Trevor shot a grenade into the open door, blowing up the vehicle.

“Yes! They’re in front of my guns,” Kaylee said as she opened fire, killing all seven men. Then Trevor’s phone buzzed. He looked at the app in a panic. “Islamists coming in.”

“How many?”

“Looks like a couple hundred,” he said.

“Dammit, we aren’t ready,” Kaylee said.

One of the other battle wagons fired its grenade launcher, taking out another UN van.

“Should we get on the road?” Kaylee asked.

“No,” Trevor said. “We’ve got four hundred men only a few hundred yards away. You know they’ve heard this.”

Suddenly gunfire erupted from the south as more UN vans rolled up. The smell of black powder floated into the air.

“Speak of the devil,” Kaylee said, taking aim at more running UN troops, opening fire.

“I’m saving the mini-gun,” Trevor said. “We’re going to get hit with worse than these vans.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Kaylee said. “Where are the Islamists?”

Trevor refreshed his app. “Two hundred yards and closing,” he said. “Do we stay in here or go outside?”

“We’d better stay in here,” Kaylee said. “We’ve got a lot of firepower. If things turn, we can high-tail it. Just be careful not to hit any of Garrett’s men. They’re running in, see?”

“Yeah, I see them,” Trevor said. “Crap, Gaz Tigr coming in on the left.” He fired the grenade launcher, hitting the vehicle in the front, but it kept coming, so he moved to the mini-gun, firing into the windows of the vehicle, which rolled into a tree. Then he fired a grenade inside. It blew up big, spreading fire, causing some of Garrett’s men to flee.

“Wow,” Kaylee shouted. She picked up the M60 and headed for the slit on the passenger side of the coach.

“What do you see?”

“About fifty Islamists and a few UN thugs running towards us broadside. I’m gonna ruin their day.”

She slipped the M60 through the slit and opened fire, sweeping the line of men, dropping many as bullets hit the side of the coach.

“Nice,” Trevor said. “Let’s see how they like this.” He rapid fired several grenades into the fleeing men, knocking many to the ground as Kaylee continued firing. Other coaches joined in.

“Sam’s moving his coach,” Trevor said. “Getting to a better position, I hope.”

“Won’t that expose his tires and his windshield?”

“Yeah, hopefully he goes back into siege mode quickly.”

“I see why he did it,” Kaylee said. “He can use the forward guns and fire right down the road. They can’t come that way now.”

“Yeah,” Trevor said. “He just went back into siege mode.” There was a large explosion.

“He just blew up something big on the road,” Kaylee said. Several more enemy fighters rushed the side of the coach, and she opened up with the M60, dropping all of them.

“This is great,” Trevor said. “Sam’s got Wildwood Glen Lane completely blocked – he can shoot down one direction with the front guns and the other direction with the back guns.”

“Seth just did the same thing on Los Terrinitos Road,” Kaylee said. “Nobody can get in that way anymore either.”

“We should go position ourselves on Highway 79 the same way.”

“That’s a lot bigger road,” Kaylee said.

“So, we move two coaches out there. I’m texting Angel.”

“Okay,” Kaylee said nervously.

“Angel agrees. I’m taking this baby out of siege mode. You okay with handling the forward and rear guns?”

“Of course, but what about broadsides?”

“I’m on the mini-gun and the grenade launcher. If worse comes to worse, I’ll get on the other M60 and do what you were just doing.”

“Okay,” she said. Trevor took the coach out of siege mode and started the engine, moving towards the highway, getting out into the right-hand lane and stopping, setting up siege mode again. They got hit with gunfire right away.

“This was a good idea,” Kaylee said, opening fire with the forward machine guns, stopping two vans which were driving towards the turnoff onto Wildwood Glen lane. One of the vans rolled, landing on the blacktop, blocking both lanes.

Angel pulled up next to them and set back up into siege mode.

“We’ve got to clear that wreckage,” Trevor said. “It gives the enemy cover to get onto Wildwood Glen.” He fired several times with the grenade launcher, lifting the van into the air. It came down on it’s side, but still partially blocking the road. “That’s not good enough. We might have to go push it out of the way.”

“Try again,” Kaylee said.

Trevor nodded and fired several more grenades. This time it moved the van’s burning hulk out of the road. “Good, it worked.”

“There aren’t any more enemy fighters coming,” Kaylee said.

“Well, not yet, anyway,” Trevor said. “Wonder how many escaped?”

“Or how many got calls back to the others,” Kaylee said. “I’ll keep watch. Check what’s happening on the apps.”

“Yeah,” Trevor said, putting his phone in front of his face. He shook his head.

“What?”

Trevor looked over at her. “The enemy is evacuating Descanso. I don’t think they’re going to hit us here again. Nobody else is coming.”

“We can’t see the UN,” Kaylee said.

“That’s true,” Trevor said. “We should stay parked right here until the cavalry arrives.”

“I agree,” Kaylee said.

***

Sam looked over at Erica. They were still sitting on Wildwood Glen Lane, covering both directions of the road with the forward and rear machine guns. “The enemy gave up, and they’re leaving Descanso.”

“Already?” Erica asked.

“They didn’t expect these battle wagons and five hundred men,” Sam said. “We’re going to have to fight them in Julian.”

“We did badly there before,” Erica said.

“Yep, but now we’ve got a lot more fighters,” Sam said, “and better equipment too. Not to mention the apps.”

The phone rang.

“Who’s that?” Erica asked.

“Ji-Ho. I’ll put it on speaker.” He did that and set the phone on the dash. “Hi, Ji-Ho.”

“Hey, Sam, looks like they on run.”

“Saw that. We’ll fight them in Julian.”

“Yes, agree,” Ji-Ho said. “Just heard from Garrett. Large force only half hour away now.”

“Good,” Sam said. “We’ll have to let them rest before we go on. Julian is further from here than this place is from our base.”

“Yes, I know,” Ji-Ho said. “Garrett and men on way here too. Enemy fighters flee from Barrett Lake area.”

“Oh, really?” Sam asked. “Crap, that means we’ll have to fight them later.”

“Yes, true. I say we go into Descanso when main forces arrive and dig in, regroup. Then attack Julian.”

“We need a way to see the UN,” Erica said.

“They not problem,” Ji-Ho said. “Ivan tell. They only left few stragglers here. Large group in north, where Jules’s team is.”

“How are they seeing them?” Sam asked.

“Satellite,” Ji-Ho said. “Morons have UN painted on top of vans.”

Sam chuckled. “They think they are legit, and they think we think they are legit.”

Ji-Ho laughed. “Yes, true. They have nasty surprise waiting for them in north. Ivan has multitude there. Bloodbath.”

“Yeah, well I hope he’s being careful,” Erica said. “We can’t see them. That means they can spearhead attacks.”

“Yep,” Sam said. “What now?”

“Wait until Garrett’s groups arrive, then regroup in Descanso after they rest.”

“Maybe we should do that in the morning,” Erica said. “It’ll be dark in a hurry.”

“Yes, maybe. We talk later.”

“Okay, Ji-Ho, talk to you soon.”

Sam ended the call.

“Should we continue to sit in this street?” Erica asked.

“Yes,” Sam said. “With Siege mode on and parking lights too.”

“Are you convinced that the UN is really that weak down here now?”

Sam thought about it for a moment. “Not as convinced as Ji-Ho is. We need to make sure everybody watches tonight.”

Erica nodded. “Wish we knew where Ed ended up.”

“I know, honey. Me too.”

***

Shelly woke up very early in the morning, feeling for Jules. He was gone. She got up in a panic and rushed out into the salon. He was sitting at the dinette in his underwear, studying his phone, it’s glow lighting his face in the darkness.

“Hey,” Shelly asked as she approached. “It’s only four. Can’t sleep?”

“No,” Jules said.

“What are you looking for?”

“Santa Cruz,” he said, looking up at her naked form, silhouetted by the lights from outside. “That make nice picture.” He started to aim his phone.

“Don’t you dare,” she said, rushing back into the bedroom. She came back out with her long t-shirt on. “That was naughty.”

Jules looked at her and grinned, then looked back at the screen.

“What are you expecting to see?” She slid onto the dinette bench next to him and watched his screen.

“I don’t know,” Jules said. “I expected enemy to go to harbor or the beach area.”

“They didn’t, though, did they?”

“No. UC Santa Cruz,” he said. “Merrill College.”

“Why would they do that?” Shelly asked, looking at him, her eyes getting wider. “They don’t do nuclear or biological research there, do they?”

“Thought crossed mind,” Jules said. “Maybe I call Ivan when light.”

“He might be watching too, right now,” Shelly said. “Send him a text. He might answer.”

“Okay,” he said. “Can’t hurt. Won’t wake him.” He sent the text, then set his phone down for a moment. “You can’t sleep too?”

“I woke up and felt for you,” she said. “I didn’t like that you weren’t there.”

“If Ivan not respond, we go back into bedroom,” Jules said. “I try to sleep again.”

“There’s always something else we could do, you know,” Shelly said, her hand going onto his thigh. Then Jules’s phone rang, making them jump. Jules checked the number.

“Ivan,” he said, hitting the speaker button. “I not wake, I hope.”

Ivan chuckled on the line. “Good morning. I was already awake. You’re looking at apps?”

“Yes. Shelly next to me.”

“Ah, good morning, milk maid,” Ivan said. “Maybe you aren’t keeping Jules occupied enough.”

Shelly giggled. “Maybe not. Hi, Ivan.”

“Hello,” Ivan said. “You’re worried about them being at UC Santa Cruz.”

“Yes,” Jules said. “They drive inside campus, stay near place marked Merrill College. Strange, no?”

“Strange yes,” Ivan said. “The boys and I have been racking our brains on this one. The college they’re in isn’t technical, so they aren’t there to gather up weapons materials.”

“What is study there?” Jules asked.

Ivan snickered. “We read about that part of US Santa Cruz on Wikipedia. Sounds like Leftist Studies to me.”

“What mean, political science?” Jules asked.

“United States impact on the developing world,” Ivan said, sounding like he was reading. “That’s what Wikipedia says.”

“They’re there to develop propaganda,” Shelly said. “They probably want to tailor it to the people living in the bay area.”

“Bingo, milk maid gets the prize,” Ivan said. “At least that’s what we think.”

“Islamists and peace-loving hippy types? Not mix, no?”

“We got a satellite shot a little while ago from General Hogan. There’s more UN vans there than there are the phony trucks the Islamists came in. It’s like they’re having some kind of conference. They even had a stage. There was a concert going on there earlier in the evening. Lots of students attended.”

“Good Lord,” Shelly said.

“Perhaps they be including paramilitary training, no?”

“We thought that at first, two,” Ivan said. “Possible. Huey Newton came out of Santa Cruz.”

Jules looked at Shelly blankly.

“Founder of the Black Panther Party,” Shelly said. “Most people don’t realize that UC Santa Cruz is more radical than UC Berkeley.”

“What we do?” Jules asked. “Anything?”

“You mean like go in there and kill them?” Ivan asked. “No, that’ll play right into the hands of the enemy. This tells us that they are having problems winning over the bulk of the population up here. Our actions will resonate with a significant portion of the population. Enough to stop them.” He paused for a moment.

“Okay, boss?” Jules asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “Sorry. Just thinking.”

“What thinking?”

“I’m going to find out who at the University invited these cretins in. I’ll send Mister White and Mister Black in to nab them.”

“You mean murder them?” Shelly asked.

“Kidnap, for now. Find out who they know, what their plans are. You know.”

“Might have been state government,” Jules said.

“Oh, I’m sure they were involved too,” Ivan said. “Propaganda is crucial up here. We have to fight fire with fire. We’ve already laid the groundwork for that.”

“How?” Shelly asked.

“We rescued somebody who made a scene on one of their propaganda TV shows. We’re nursing him back to health after the UN thugs beat him up, live on a statewide TV show.”

“He’s going to talk for our side?” Shelly asked.

“We’re going to give him that option,” Ivan said.

“Who?” Jules asked.

“He goes by Ben Dover,” Ivan said. He and Jules laughed. Shelly rolled her eyes.

“The nature of this battle will be different than down south,” Shelly said. “You guys know that, right?”

Ivan stopped laughing. “We will expose the enemy for what they are.”

“Yes, we will, and we’re going to help, remember,” Shelly said.

“Yes, I remember,” Ivan said, “and it will help. Big time.”

“What about our problem with the three locations?” Shelly asked.

“Still working on it, but we’ll be able to cover it. We’re working on the how now. We’ve already decided to go ahead. Don’t tell the rest of your group yet.”

“Okay, boss,” Jules said. “You want us to leave Islamists in trucks alone if they go by here again? We could arrange, how you say, accident.”

“No, let’s not make martyrs out of this group. We’ll kill plenty of their kind, trust me on that. We’re going to show the public who they are, and we’re going to use their own media outlets to do it.”

“Do you know when we hit the Mertins plant?” Shelly asked.

“Day after tomorrow at the earliest,” Ivan said.

“Still planning?” Jules asked.

“No, we’re waiting for some special guests to arrive,” Ivan said. “We want them to have front-row seats.”

Jules shot a grin at Shelly. “We hurt them bad?”

“Oh yeah, we’ll hurt them bad,” Ivan said. “Now go play with your milk maid. I’ve got work to do.”

“Thanks, boss,” Jules said. He ended the call. Shelly stood up and pulled her long t-shirt over her head, tossing it on the dinette table.

“Hey, what you do?” Jules asked, smiling.

“You heard the man.”

***

“I wish we brought camping gear,” James said, weary in the saddle. “This is a long haul.”

“At least we don’t have to fight,” one of Garrett’s men said.

“Don’t be so sure about that,” Tyler said. “We’re going to approach the spot where the enemy was dug in very quietly.”

“Why?” Ryan asked.

“Because of the UN folks who showed up near Descanso,” Tyler said. “You read the texts.”

“Ji-Ho said there wasn’t a significant UN presence down here,” James said.

Garrett chuckled. “There weren’t supposed to be any of them around Descanso. Sorry, but I’m not a trusting soul. Tyler is right. When we get close, we go in as if there’s some UN folks there.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t have sent the five hundred to Descanso, then,” James said.

“I had mixed feelings about that,” Garrett said. “Still do. Glad it’ll still be dark when we get there.”

“How will we know when we’re there, now that the Islamists are gone?” James asked.

“I saved the GPS locations,” Tyler said.

“That’s why he’s chief,” Garrett said, “although I saved them too. Can’t be too careful. Even if there’s no UN folks there, they might have boobytrapped the area.”

“Dammit,” James said. “I didn’t think about that.”

“Well don’t get your panties in a bunch,” Ryan said.

Tyler grabbed his phone and checked their location. “We’re really close. I say a few of us sneak up there and take a gander.”

“I’m game,” Garrett said.

“Yeah, same crew as last time,” Ryan said. James shot him a worried glance, but nodded yes. They dismounted, Garrett taking a second to chat with his foreman, who got off his horse to help.

“Grab your long guns,” Garrett said, pulling his out of the scabbard hanging from his saddle. The others did the same, and they walked forward, trying to be as quiet as they could.

“I’m taking my crossbow,” James said. “Just in case.”

“Good idea,” Ryan said.

“We don’t have a well-defined ridge here,” Tyler whispered. “It’s a lot of big rocks and little valleys, right off the road, a few hundred yards in front of the dam. Watch yourselves. If there’s anybody here, you can bet they’re watching for us.”

The others nodded and they moved along quickly, trying to keep close to cover. The rugged, hilly dirt terrain changed to large rocks after about forty yards, and they slowed down, stopping behind rocks to take a good look, then rushing to the next cover available.

“Look,” Tyler whispered. “Cell phone. See the light?”

“That’s a sentry,” James said, pulling his crossbow off his back. He loaded an arrow and crept forward as the others watched, covering him.

Garrett texted on his phone, Tyler seeing his screen. “Careful with that. What are you doing?”

“Turning the five-hundred around,” Garrett whispered. “They’re not that far. They can be here in a hurry.”

Tyler gave him thumbs up. Then they heard the crossbow, and the sentry clutched his chest, falling. James ran in a crouch to his position, checking the body and the phone, which was still on. He began typing on the screen.

“What’s he doing?” Ryan whispered.

“Probably pretending to be the enemy,” Garrett whispered back.

“Look, here comes another one, wearing one of those stupid blue helmets,” Tyler whispered. The running man stopped, clutching his chest, falling without a sound.

“That’s two,” Tyler whispered.

“Dammit,” Ryan said, catching another UN Peacekeeper sneaking over the top of the rock James was next to. “Game over.” He aimed his rifle and fired, dropping the enemy, the sound echoing through the area.

“James, get over here,” Tyler shouted. James sprinted back towards them, but his running went wild and he fell half way back, shot through the side.

To be continued…

 

Bug Out! California Book 1 has just been published, and is now available in the Kindle Store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 8 – West Border Mayhem has just been published, and is now available in the Kindle Store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

 

The Plan – How the Bugout! War Started is now available in the Kindle Store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 7 – Flood of Patriots – next in the series is now available in the Kindle store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 6 – Citizen Vengeance – next in the series is now available in the Kindle store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 5 – Wave of Patriots – next in the series is now available in the Kindle store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Horror Road Book 4 – the latest in the series is now available in the Kindle store!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 4 – Texas Battle Cry is now available in the Kindle store!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 3 – Republic in Peril is now available in the Kindle store!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 2 – The New Republic is now available in the Kindle Store. Pick up your copy of this exciting thriller today!

 

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!

 

Please visit and like my author page on Facebook!

 

Here’s the series that started it all! Bug Out! Pick up your copy of book 1 for just 99 cents in the Kindle Store!

 

Horror Road – A Supernatural Thriller! Available now in the Kindle Store

 

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

Bugout! California Part 105 – Santa Cruz

Tyler, James, and Ryan were on horseback, with Garrett and about thirty of his men. They were on their way to intercept the four icons they saw coming south from Barrett Lake, riding through the desert with its low ridges and dry river beds. Nobody had been able to raise Ed, so they all assumed he was being held by Black Crow.

“You guys did a good job breaking these horses,” Garrett said.

“Thanks,” Ryan said. “They’re barely even winded.”

“Seriously,” James said. He glanced over at Tyler, who was looking at his phone screen as he rode, struggling to keep the horse under control. “You want us to stop for a sec, chief?”

“Chief?” Tyler asked, looking up. “I just saw what we thought we’d see. They’ve started back towards the north.”

“How fast?” Garrett asked, his horse snorting as he slowed to get next to Tyler.

“About the same speed as before,” Tyler said. “I think they’re on foot, but they’re moving pretty quickly. We’re a few miles behind them.”

“Wonder how close we have to be for them to hear us?” James asked.

“We’ll want to slow down when we get within half a mile or so,” Garrett said. “We’ll still be moving faster than they are.”

“That’s easy,” James said. “The short-range app should buzz us at that distance.”

“Roughly,” Garrett said. “Wonder if the hills out here will make any difference in range?”

“Good question,” Tyler said. “This is peer to peer, so we might have some problems. Might be line-of-sight. I think I’ll need to go by the long-range app to keep track of how close we really are, just in case.”

“If it were flat, we’d be seen,” Ryan said.

“True that,” Garrett said. “Remember they might be up high enough to see us once we get close. They could be on one of the hills.”

“And we’re taller, since we’re on horseback,” James said.

They continued at a good clip, keeping their thoughts to themselves for a while, the tension and anticipation rising.

“Wonder how far along the battle wagons are?” Ryan asked.

“They’ll beat most of my guys to Descanso,” Garrett said. “They’re going to stop outside of town and wait.”

“Good idea,” Ryan said. “Those battle wagons aren’t indestructible, and they can get overrun.”

“Yep,” Garrett said. “You been watching the Williams place too, right?”

Tyler nodded. “No enemy hits anywhere near there so far. I see some movement from Julian down to Descanso, though.”

“How much movement?” Ryan asked.

“Several hundred fighters,” Tyler said. “I already shot a text to Sam and Ji-Ho.”

“You don’t look very worried about that,” James said, looking at Garrett.

Garrett chuckled. “We’ve got two thousand men riding there, and there were only about three hundred men there to begin with. If we see a couple thousand men coming down there, I’d be worried.”

“They don’t have that many man anywhere near here,” Tyler said. “Glad we kicked the UN out of this region. They don’t have chips.”

“You sure they’re all really gone?” James asked.

“Pretty sure,” Tyler said.

Garrett had an uneasy look. “Hope that’s the case. Sam told me that they’re all up north, trying to salvage martial law in that part of the state.”

They rode silently for another hour or so, the sun beating down on them, their horses getting tired.

“There’s a stream up ahead,” Tyler said.

“Good,” Garrett said. “Let’s water the horses there. How close are the enemy now?”

Tyler looked at his phone. “Just under a mile. We don’t want to for break too long. Quick rest and drink, and then we need to get moving.”

They made it to the stream and dismounted, bringing the horses close to the water. Garrett pulled out his phone and sent a text, then read his screen, shielding it from the sun with his hat.

“Our main forces are making good time to Descanso,” he said. “And the five hundred-man group is already at Barrett Lake Road. They’re waiting for us to take the four and rescue Ed. Our scout has seen the enemy forces. They’re dug in. Good thing we sent them with some mortars.”

“I just got a reply from Sam,” Tyler said. “They’re on Japatul Road, not too far south of I-8. They’re looking for a place to park until the cavalry arrives.”

“When do your men get there, Garrett?” James asked.

“It’ll be a few hours. Wish we had enough horse trailers to move them all there.”

“Are all of them on horseback?” James asked.

“No, we’ve got about four hundred in vehicles,” Garrett said. “They’re with the battle wagons. Not enough to do the job.”

“We should get going,” Tyler said. “The horses have drunk all they’re going to.”

“Yeah, I agree,” Garrett said. The group mounted up and rode forward, Tyler riding one handed, phone in his free hand. When his phone buzzed, he held up his hand and slowed down. Garrett nodded, his own phone buzzing.

“This is pretty accurate, according to what I see on the long-range app,” Tyler whispered. They rode slowly, heading up to a ridge.

“Stop,” Tyler whispered. “Best snipers, follow me.”

Garrett nodded, sending a couple of his thirty men forward with long rifles, joining them himself. Tyler, Ryan, and James led them to the ridge. They snuck up to the edge and looked over.

“Dammit,” Tyler whispered. “There’s Black Crow and four Islamists, but Ed’s not with them.”

“Crap, man, they probably killed him already,” James said softly.

“Or something else happened to him,” one of Garrett’s men whispered. “He was blasting around in the back country on that hovercraft. He might have crashed it.”

“You’re right,” Tyler said. “Let’s take these guys out. One shot each.”

“You don’t want to question Black Crow?” James asked.

“Shoot him in the leg,” Tyler said. “We’ll see if we can get some info out of him before we gut him.”

James’s eyes opened wider as he looked at Tyler.

“What?” Tyler asked.

“That’s harsh, man.”

“He’s been responsible for the deaths of our people,” Tyler said. “He might have been the reason we got ambushed in Julian. You ever consider that?”

“He’s right, James,” Ryan whispered, aiming his rifle. “C’mon, we’ve got a job to do. I’ve got Black Crow. I’ll wound him. Kill the others.”

The men aimed, carefully, Tyler watching. “On my mark.”

They held their breaths.

“Now,” Tyler said. Five shots rang out almost in unison, all the men slumping to the ground. Black Crow screamed in pain, clutching his right shoulder.

“Why’d you shoot him there?” Garrett’s man asked.

“He’s right handed,” Ryan said. “He won’t be able to shoot.”

“Yeah, but he can run,” James said, nodding towards him as he got up and started running. Ryan fired again, hitting him in the left thigh, bringing him to the ground.

“We’d better get down there quick, before he goes into shock or bleeds out,” Tyler said.

“Yeah,” Garrett said. They rushed back down to their horses, and then all thirty-five men rode over the ridge and down to the enemy bodies. Tyler, James, and Ryan rushed over to Black Crow, who was barely conscious. Tyler frisked him for weapons, pulling a small auto pistol out of his pocket and tossing it away.

“He’s clean,” Tyler said. He turned Black Crow onto his back. “Where’s Silver Wolf?”

Black Crow grinned at him through the pain, his thin features and pockmarked skin shining with sweat. “Wouldn’t you like to know, you wannabe paleface.”

Garrett stuck his spur into Black Crows thigh wound, causing him to scream in pain. “I didn’t hear you.”

“Damn, dude,” James said. Tyler shook his head no at him, then turned back to Black Crow.

“I’ll ask you again. Where’s Silver Wolf?”

“He went to the happy hunting ground,” Black Crow said.

“Where is he?” Garrett asked, poised to dig the spur in again. Black Crow tried to spit at him, blood spewing out with the saliva, landing on his belly. Garrett dug in again, and he screamed bloody murder.

James got up and walked away. Ryan stayed there, watching, his face showing mixed emotions. Tyler glanced at him, then back at Black Crow.

“How long have you been against us?”

Black Crow laughed. “Why should I tell you anything? I’m done anyway. Unless you’ve got a chopper at your disposal, I’ll bleed out long before you can get me out of here.”

“Why’d you do this, son?” Garrett asked.

“I’m not your son,” he spat.

“No, but I’m your chief,” Tyler said. “So is Silver Wolf. At least tell us why.”

“You wouldn’t understand,” Black Crow said, his breath laboring now, sweat pouring off his face.

“Try me,” Tyler said.

“We could’ve used this opportunity to get our land back,” he said. “All of it. We could’ve teamed with the Islamists. They aren’t all that different from us, you know. We’ve both been wronged by the white man.”

Garrett laughed. “Are you kidding me? You planning on converting to Islam? Because if they win and you don’t convert, you’re dead. You’d just be changing one dominate culture for another.”

“They are warriors,” Black Crow said. “Like we used to be.”

“You are one mixed up son of a bitch,” Ryan said. “Can we shoot him and move on? We have a whole lot of Islamic warriors to kill.”

Black Crow laughed hard, turning to a cough, blood leaking from the corners of his mouth. “What do you have, about forty guys? There’s hundreds coming for you, and another thousand sitting north of there, getting ready to hit your little stronghold at the Williams place, and that stupid western town.”

Garrett laughed. “We’ve got five hundred mounted men closing on the enemy forces at the highway, and another two thousand heading for Descanso, you idiot.”

Black Crow’s eyes opened wide.

“You’re beaten,” Tyler said. “Honor your ancestors and tell us where our chief is.”

Black Crow started to cry, as his breath slowed down even more.

“C’mon,” Tyler said.

“All right, if you agree to end me quick.”

“Agreed,” Ryan said.

“We don’t know where Silver Wolf is. I never found him. He probably crashed that stupid hovercraft of his somewhere.”

“So why were those guys coming down here?”

“To pick me up,” he said. “They were going to make me a general.”

“That’s what they told you?” Ryan asked, shaking his head.

“Screw you,” Black Crow said. “Kill me. I did what you asked.”

Ryan pointed his gun at Black Crow’s head.

“No,” Tyler said. “I’ll do it. Stand back.”

The others left. Tyler pulled his pistol, as Black Crow shut his eyes and tensed up. Tyler fired.

***

Ted and Haley rushed into their coach, which was already in siege mode. Brianna had her gun in her hand, eyes wide with fear. “Thank God you’re back.”

Stacey had his gun ready to go, when all of them got buzzed with a text. Ted read his phone. “Shut down the engine. Jules thinks they might just drive by, unless they hear us.”

Stacey nodded and rushed to the driver’s seat, shutting down the engine as the other coaches around him did the same. Then it was silent.

“Turn out the lights,” Ted said. Haley got close to him, putting her arm on his back. “Don’t worry, honey. We know how many there are and we’ll see them if they make the turnoff.”

“I know,” she whispered. “Just scared.”

“Gather around and I’ll display the app,” Ted said. “I’ll have to refresh it every few seconds.”

Haley rushed over there and pulled the coffee maker away from the wall. “Here, prop it up against this.”

Ted nodded and set his phone down. All of them watched the screen, Ted hitting the refresh button every ten seconds.

“They’re passing the turnoff,” Brianna said.

“Yeah, thank God,” Haley said.

“We aren’t out of the woods yet,” Ted said. “They just went by the back entry to the winery. They might still turn in through the front.”

“There’s not that many,” Stacey said. “We could take them.”

“We could,” Ted said, “but they’d get a call out, and we’d have to leave before we’re ready to hit the Mertins plant.”

“Okay, I can see that,” Stacey said. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Ted said. “Always be thinking.”

“They’ve passed the main entrance,” Haley said.

“So it would appear,” Ted said. “We’re probably safe, but it’s going to be a long night.”

“You going to monitor them?” Haley asked.

“Damn straight,” Ted said. “We need to know where they go.”

Everybody got buzzed by a text message. Haley looked at her phone. “Jules just sent an all clear, but said we need to keep lights off, be quiet, and watch the apps.”

“Should we leave this in siege mode?” Stacey asked.

“Yes,” Ted said. “It won’t hurt anything. More headroom too.”

“Maybe we should stay here tonight, instead of going to the house,” Haley said.

Ted looked at her and nodded yes.

Brianna shot a glance at Stacey. “You two want to use the bedroom?”

“No,” Haley said. “You might as well stay in there.”

“All right,” Brianna said. “Let’s go back and get some sleep, Stacey.”

He nodded and followed her, both still carrying their guns.

“Sorry,” Haley whispered. “Hope you don’t mind.”

“It’s the right choice,” Ted said.

“We can share the convertible sofa,” Haley said softly.

“I’d like that,” Ted said. They got their bed set up in a few minutes.

“Thank you,” Haley said softly as they got undressed for bed.

“For what?”

“Everything,” she said as she climbed under the covers. He joined her after a moment, and she snuggled up close. “This okay?”

“Yes,” Ted said, putting his arm around her.

“We can, you know,” she whispered. “I can be quiet.”

“Let’s wait,” Ted said. “You mind? I’m still pretty stirred up.”

“Okay,” she said, watching him as he refreshed the screen on his phone. “Where are they now?”

“They’re almost to Santa Cruz. Now why would they be going there?” He switched to his text app and sent a message.

“What are you doing?”

“Sending a text to Jules, asking what he thinks,” Ted said. His phone buzzed.

“He got back that fast?”

Ted chuckled. “Yeah. He’s already talking to Ivan about it.”

“You don’t think they’ve got bad guys coming in from the Pacific, do you?”

Ted shot her a glance. “That’s the first thing I thought of. Not much of a harbor there. Just pleasure boats. The harbor does go some ways inland, though. Look.” He showed his phone to Haley.

“Looks like someplace they wouldn’t want to be,” Haley said. “They could get attacked from two directions in there.”

“Yeah,” Ted said. His phone buzzed again. “Jules again. Ivan got visuals via a satellite feed. It’s not military vehicles. They’re in commercial trucks. They’re trying to hide themselves.”

“Does he want us to do anything?” Haley asked.

“We’re the closest assets, so he’s putting us on alert.”

“What does that mean?” Haley asked.

“He wants my phone someplace where I can be woken up in the middle of the night,” Ted said. “Let’s try to get some shut eye.”

Haley smiled at him. “Can I have a kiss?”

“Think that’s wise?”

“I don’t care,” she said. “Come here.”

They embraced and kissed, and then it was like a damn bursting.

“Wow,” Haley said. “That was something.”

“Gonna be hard to sleep now,” Ted said, his breath coming fast.

“Then let’s stop,” she said. “We’ll just cuddle, okay?”

Ted nodded, giving her a peck on the forehead.

***

The battle wagons were parked along Los Terrinitos Road, among the trees surrounding several abandoned mini-ranches.

Sam and Erica walked over to Ji-Ho’s rig. Trevor and Kaylee were in there with Seth and Kaitlyn. Megan and Angel were walking up.

“You heard?” Sam asked Ji-Ho as he entered.

“Yeah, no Ed,” Ji-Ho said. “Hope he still alive. Be hard to find.”

“Seems pretty strange that his phone isn’t working,” Trevor said.

“I know,” Erica said. “I’m worried sick.”

“Where’s the cavalry?” Angel asked. “Getting close to dark.”

“Two hours to the south, if they can keep up the pace,” Sam said. “They’ll have to slow down when it gets dark.”

“They can’t be anywhere near the roads,” Erica said. “Too many of them. It’d raise attention for sure.”

“It might anyway,” Seth said. “We could probably take on the enemy with who we’ve already got.”

“Too risky,” Ji-Ho said. “Things go wrong. Battle Wagons not that hard to break. Only four hundred men to fall back on. They have over thousand men between Descanso and the road down from Julian.”

“Yeah, and more getting ready to leave from Julian, from what I’ve been seeing,” Sam said. “We have to wait. This is not going to be an easy battle with them, either. The enemy will have better weapons.”

“Yes yes,” Ji-Ho said. “Sam right. Wait. Make sure. Lower risk. Remember what happen in Julian.”

“That was different,” Angel said.

“Why do you say that?” Erica asked.

“I’ll lay you ten to one that Black Crow guy helped the enemy with the ambush,” Angel said. “Think about it.”

Erica looked down, then up at the others. “You’re probably right about that.”

“This was not your fault,” Sam said, “and besides, he wasn’t even with our group in Julian, remember? He was with the group you were in, off in the alternate location.”

“We all knew about the battle there,” Erica said. “He could have made phone calls.”

“Not matter now. Black Crow dead,” Ji-Ho said.

“Where’s Garrett’s guys?” Angel asked. “I thought they’d be right next to us.”

“They close,” Ji-Ho said. “In huge pasture, just before this road. Maybe four hundred yard.”

“Okay, makes sense,” Angel said. “They’ve got about seventy vehicles.”

“Seventy-two,” Megan said, smiling.

“Let’s go back to our rig,” Sam said. “We’re too close to the enemy to be far from our weapons systems.”

“Yeah, good point,” Trevor said.

Everybody but Ji-ho left the coach, heading quickly back to their rigs.

Sam opened the door to their coach and followed Erica inside. “Should we be in siege mode?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Sam said, “since we’re going to be here for a few hours. Send a broadcast text out about that, okay. I’ll get ours set up.”

She nodded and sent the text. Sam watched out the window of the rig as the electric motors in the other coaches whirred to life, armor plates moving into place, guns rising from the tops. Then there was gunfire, bouncing off the first coach in the row.

“Dammit,” Sam said, pulling down the sight and scanning, other coaches doing the same. “Where’s that coming from?”

Trevor’s coach fired a burst of fire from the mini gun.

“I feel like we’re sitting in a tin can,” Erica shouted, picking up one of the M60s. “I’ll be ready at the slits, but if it gets too crazy, I’m going out there.”

“Me too,” Sam said. “Text Garrett’s guys.”

“Doing that now,” she said.

To be continued…

 

Bug Out! California Book 1 has just been published, and is now available in the Kindle Store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 8 – West Border Mayhem has just been published, and is now available in the Kindle Store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

 

The Plan – How the Bugout! War Started is now available in the Kindle Store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 7 – Flood of Patriots – next in the series is now available in the Kindle store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 6 – Citizen Vengeance – next in the series is now available in the Kindle store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 5 – Wave of Patriots – next in the series is now available in the Kindle store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

Horror Road Book 4 – the latest in the series is now available in the Kindle store!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 4 – Texas Battle Cry is now available in the Kindle store!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 3 – Republic in Peril is now available in the Kindle store!

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 2 – The New Republic is now available in the Kindle Store. Pick up your copy of this exciting thriller today!

 

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!

 

Please visit and like my author page on Facebook!

 

Here’s the series that started it all! Bug Out! Pick up your copy of book 1 for just 99 cents in the Kindle Store!

 

Horror Road – A Supernatural Thriller! Available now in the Kindle Store

 

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

Bugout! California Part 104 – Pronouns

Ted was sitting in the coach with Brianna and Stacey, watching a local San Francisco public station on TV. There was a sleepy conversation going on about Martial Law and how to make the most of it, with an equally sleepy live studio audience there to watch and ask questions.

“These people are brain-dead,” Brianna said. “I think I’m done.” She got off the couch. “Don’t be too long, honey.”

“Okay,” Stacey said. He watched her walk into the bedroom. “Wow.”

“You like her, don’t you?” Ted asked softly.

“I love her,” he said. “She’s so far out of my league, though. Hope I don’t lose her once things settle down again. She’ll have more selection.”

“Give her some credit, Stacey.”

“You’re right,” he said. “Where’s Haley?”

“She’ll be along. Needed some time to think.”

“You like her, don’t you?” Stacey asked, then paused. “You don’t have to tell me.”

“Yes, I do like her,” Ted said. “Not sure that the feeling is mutual. I’m hoping.”

“Good,” Stacey said. “Don’t give up.”

“I won’t. Listen to these idiots.”

The panel was two women and one man, sitting at a table on stage, with a moderator at the head, who was fielding questions from the studio audience, and asking some himself.

“Kimberly, what is it about the new reality that is working best for you?” the moderator asked.

“That’s hard to say, Chuck,” she said, moving her shiny brown hair away from her face, her unisex shirt and vest looking a little too warm for the studio lights. “If I had to pick just one thing, I’d say it’s my commute time.”

“Commute time? How so?”

“When they laid out the grids, my job was seven grids away from my apartment. After about a month, they got me moved to a different job which is walking distance from my home. It’s much more environmentally sound.”

What a moron,” Stacey said. He looked at Ted, and they both snickered.

“We have a question from the front, there,” the moderator said, pointing to the man raising his hand in the audience. “Go ahead. Which pronoun would you like us to use?”

“They would be fine. Thank you for asking.”

“Sure, no problem,” the moderator said. “Go ahead, please.”

“Hi, Kimberly. Is the job that you left the same as the new job they gave you? Oh, and do you like it as much?”

“I like it about as much as my original job,” Kimberly said, “but it’s lower level. In the old patriarchy I would’ve lost money, but I’m still getting the standard livable wage now, just like everybody else.” She paused, looking at the moderator. “What was his other question?”

There was murmuring from the audience.

“Kimberly, please use they’s chosen pronoun.”

“Oh, geez, I’m so sorry,” Kimberly said, her face turning red.

“Not a problem,” the audience member said. “You basically already answered it, anyway. You said it was a lower-level job, so it’s not the same.”

“Yes, they’s right,” Kimberley said.

“Another question from the audience,” the moderator said. “This will be it, then we’ll need to move to one of the other panelists.”

A woman stood up, wearing a yoga outfit. She had tattoos going up both sides of her neck and many piercings on her face. “I’m Smith Five. Please refer to me as they as well.”

“That’s an unusual name,” the moderator said. “Does it have a meaning?”

“I’m the fifth living person in my family, whose last name is Smith. We all changed to that model, to fight the patriarchy. It kept us from having a gender tag placed on us for life.”

An older man in the audience laughed out loud. There was rustling around, and the man was dragged out of his seat by two large ushers.

“Some people still don’t get it,” Smith Five said, rolling her eyes.

“Are these idiots worth saving?” Stacey asked. Ted shot him a glance, shaking his head.

“Your question, please?” The moderator asked.

“Oh, yeah, sorry. If you’d have wanted to stay in your original job, could you have? I’m asking because I’m in a job that I love, and I’m three grids away from home. I’m being told that I’ll be moved.”

“I was told I had a choice, but when I talked to my boss, I found that wasn’t the case,” Kimberly said. “Not that I minded that much.”

“Were you given a reason?” Smith Five asked.

“We’ll have to cut this question short,” the moderator said.

Somebody else in the audience stood up. “You folks need to read the fine print.”

“Sit down, please,” the moderator said. “You haven’t been called on.”

“Whatever,” the young man said. “My name is Ben Dover. Oh, and I identify as he, since I have a penis. The employers pay a tax for any worker who lives outside of their grid. It goes up based on how many grids away the employee’s home is.”

“That will be enough,” the moderator said.

“It’s just the truth,” Ben Dover said.

The audience broke into outrage. The man laughed, and tossed something on stage. It started to emit smoke, causing somebody in the audience to scream. People started to leave their seats in a panic. Two big men rushed Ben Dover and wailed on him with batons, dropping him to his knees. Then they dragged him out as blood flowed from his head. The screen went blank.

My God,” Ted said. “This is gonna be harder than we thought.”

“Ben Dover is my hero,” Stacey said. He looked at Ted and they both cracked up.

“Yeah, maybe we can recruit him, if he lives through this.”

The door opened, Haley coming up the steps.

“I think I’ll go to bed now,” Stacey said, getting up.

“Don’t leave on my account,” Haley said.

“The show’s over anyway. Ben Dover ended it with a bang.” Stacey chuckled and walked into the bedroom, closing the door behind him.

“What was that all about?” she asked, sitting down next to Ted.

“San Francisco local TV,” Ted said. “We’re gonna have our work cut out for us. Some of these folks are beyond help.”

“What do you mean?” Haley asked.

“We just watched a panel discussion on their local public station. They were talking about the benefits of martial law. It was a politically correct hot mess.”

“What were the benefits of martial law?” she asked.

“You know how they break the cities into grids?”

“Yeah,” she said. “Didn’t pay much attention to it before I got nabbed by the UN.”

“Down south they didn’t go as far before the people ended it,” Ted said. “They laid out the grids, and made the employers pay a tax for employees who didn’t live in the same grid as their job. I was getting ready to pay a tax on Stacey, since he lived a couple grids away. Robbie was in the restaurant’s grid, so there was no tax.”

“That sounds pretty bad,” Haley said. “Are they doing that up here?”

“They’re taking it a step further,” Ted said. “To be environmentally sound, they’re forcing people into jobs closer to their homes.”

“You’re kidding,” Haley said. Then she shook her head. “I don’t’ know why I said that. They made a sex slave out of me. If you’re willing to do that, you’d be okay with just about anything.”

“We saw them beat up one person in the audience and drag another one away tonight,” Ted said. “I suspect the one they beat is in bad shape now. They hit him on the head repeatedly with their batons as they dragged him away.”

“What did they do?”

Ted stretched, yawning. “The guy they took out first laughed at something in a way that wasn’t politically correct. The guy they beat up threw a smoke bomb, after making fools out of them.”

“That must have been the one Stacey called Ben Dover.”

Ted snickered. “Yep. He told the moderator that was his name.”

“Geez,” Haley said.

“They’ve gone full Marxist up here. Everybody is getting paid the same “sustainable wage” regardless of job. One of the panel members told the crowd that she’d been moved out of her original job because it was too far from home. She was put into a lower level job, but with the same money everybody else makes.

“Well, keep one thing in mind,” Haley said. “That mindset is probably not the mindset of the majority up here. It’s propaganda. Sounds like they were unable to keep at least two dissenters out of their audience.”

“Good point,” Ted said.

“You tired yet?”

“Not really,” Ted said. “I was getting there, but the show fired me up a little.”

“Good. Let’s go for a walk.”

He looked at her, worry on his face. “You’ve been thinking about things.”

She shook her head. “What do you think I was doing out there?”

“Sorry,” he said. “Sure, I’ll go for a walk.”

“There’s a nice gazebo on the far side. We can be alone there.”

“Expecting this to get heated?” Ted asked. “I won’t be mad, no matter what you tell me. You know that, I hope.”

“If I thought you’d get mad, I wouldn’t take you off someplace where we can’t be heard, now, would I?”

He sighed. “Sorry.”

“Quit saying sorry,” she said. “Let’s go.”

They got up and left the coach, Ted closing the door as quietly as he could.

They walked into the crisp night air. Half the coaches were dark now as people were retiring for the night.

“Peaceful out here,” Ted said.

“It is,” Haley said, looking over at him in the darkness. “Do you trust Ivan?”

Ted chuckled. “Yes, I trust him, and I hope Jules is right about him.”

“What’d Jules say?”

“That the war has changed his focus, and that he might be done as a mob boss,” Ted said. “I suspect that he can’t be done being a mob boss, even if he wants to be, but we’ll see. He’s connected to a lot of people who might want him unable to talk.”

“Has he murdered people?”

“Personally? I doubt it, but I don’t know for sure. He was in Special Forces, so he can be physically dangerous. You know he’s not really Russian, right?”

“Well, he has no accent,” she said.

“Yes he does,” Ted said. “He has a Southern California accent. He grew up in Torrance.”

“That’s really true? Somebody was saying that a while back, but I didn’t believe it.”

“Yeah, it’s true,” Ted said. “Frankly, I think he’s worked with governments as much as against them over the past ten years.”

“Which governments? Russia?”

Ted laughed. “He was part of the Russian government after the USSR broke up. The mob did there what they wanted to do in Cuba, before Castro upset the apple cart.”

“Until they got a strong dictator, anyway,” Haley said.

“Yep,” Ted said. “He went to the EU mainly to mess with the globalists.”

“He was still running organized crime, though, wasn’t he?”

“Had to bring in money somehow,” Ted said. “We parted ways for a while at that time.”

“But you’re with him again now,” Haley said. “There’s the gazebo.”

“Yeah, I’m with him again now. He kinda tricked me into it, but truth be told, this is a fight I want to be in. How could I not?”

They entered the gazebo, which was dimly lit with moonlight. There were lounges and chairs in there, and a bench-seat swing. Haley sat in the swing and patted the spot next to her. Ted shot her a worried glance and sat next to her.

“I know what you are,” she said softly.

He stared at her blankly for a moment.

“You’re a patriot,” she said.

“Don’t think I totally agree, but thanks.”

“Why wouldn’t you agree?”

“I’m not selfless,” he said.

She smiled at him, her blue eyes locked with his, framed by her blond hair. “Do you think George Washington was selfless? Or Jefferson? Or Franklin?”

“I’m not like them,” Ted said. “I’m part of the resistance. That’s all.”

“So were they, but enough of this. That’s not why I brought you out here.”

Ted took a deep breath. “I know. Enough with the small talk.”

“That wasn’t small talk,” she said. “You still look afraid.”

“Of course,” he said.

“I understand,” she said. “You think you’re going to lose me. That’s not going to happen, so settle down. All right?”

“I’ll try.”

“I’ve been attracted to you since the day we met,” Haley said, watching for his reaction. “I’ve kept you at arm’s length on purpose, and it’s been hard for me.”

“Because you didn’t know how I felt?”

She laughed. “I know you’re interested. Known for a while now. I was hoping it was going to just simmer until this mess is over. You and I both know that’s not going to work anymore.”

“We can go back to how it was, for now,” Ted said.

“No, we can’t,” she said. “The cat’s out of the bag now. There’s no putting it back. I should’ve expected one of us to slip.”

“You’re sounding like you feel the way I do,” Ted said, staring at her face.

She laughed. “Hell, I’m as much in love with you as you are with me.”

“What?” he asked.

“Don’t be shocked. Who do I spend all my waking hours with?”

“So, you wanted me to make a move all this time?” Ted asked.

“No, like I said, I was hoping it would simmer until this mess is over.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m a coward,” she said. “I knew that when we got started, it would become the most important part of our world. Make plans and the devil laughs.”

Ted shook his head. “We were both separately in the same place, weren’t we?”

“So it would appear.”

“Why can’t we just put the cat back in the bag for a while, and be friends?”

“You broke the ice,” she said. “There’s no going back. Not that I want to now. That would’ve only worked if we both would have preserved it.”

“Then you’re upset with me?”

“Upset? No, that’s not the right word,” she said. “I was hoping our timing would be different, but truth be told, I couldn’t have held back much longer anyway. One of us was going to do it. Turned out to be you, but it could’ve just as easily been me.”

“You’re awful calm about this,” Ted said.

“No I’m not. I’m going crazy inside. Both of us are like that, you know. We’ll have to work on that if this is going to last.”

“You’ll be with me? You want that too?”

“Yes, but we need to work a few things out,” she said. “And you have to keep your mouth shut about some things. Do you promise?”

“Yes,” he said, brow furrowed. “Is this gonna be something bad?”

“I don’t want to be pregnant,” she said. “Not during this mess. Later, maybe, but not now. We have to use birth control. You gonna be okay with that?”

“I have no problem with that at all,” Ted said. “It’s too dangerous to be pregnant right now. Surprised we haven’t had problems already.”

“What makes you think we haven’t?”

“Uh oh,” Ted said. “That look on your face scares me a little bit.”

“Some of us got pregnant during captivity,” she whispered. “I was one of them.”

“Oh no,” Ted said. “I’m so sorry. You’re not pregnant now, though. You’d be showing.”

“Remember Audrey?”

“The doctor,” Ted said. “Losing her was really bad.”

“She was able to hook us up with something.”

“When?” Ted asked.

“At the Volvo dealership. We got a delivery that none of you noticed. It was risky. Didn’t work with all of us.”

“I thought those pills were only effective for seventy-two hours afterwards,” Ted said.

“You know more than most men,” she said. “It can be up to five days, but it doesn’t always work.”

“How did you know you were pregnant? It was so early.”

“I know when I ovulate, and I know the feeling when it takes,” she said, looking down.

“That’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Ted said.

“I know, but it still hurts. It worked with all but one of us.”

“Who?” Ted asked. “Never mind, that question was out of line.”

“It was Lily,” she said, tears filling her eyes.

“Oh,” Ted said, looking at her. “Oh God.”

“Yeah,” she said. “Don’t tell anybody. I mean it.”

“I won’t. I promise.”

“We’ll have to get something soon,” she said. “Pills make me blow up like a balloon, and women in my family have a hard time with IUDs. You know what that leaves.”

“No problem. Wonder what the other couples are using?”

She laughed. “Some aren’t using anything. There are a couple who are already pregnant.”

“Are they gonna take care of it?”

“They want it,” Haley said. “Won’t make much difference for six months or so. Assuming the stress doesn’t cause them to miscarry.”

“This conflict will still be going for six months, at least.”

“I know, I’ve seen the icons on the maps. Rooting these creeps out is gonna be a big deal. If I thought it were only six months, I wouldn’t worry.”

He looked at her face, passion rising fast. “You’d want to?”

“Yes,” she said, her breath coming a little quicker.

“Wow,” Ted said, moving closer to her. “You’re getting worked up.” He slipped his arms around her, but she leaned away.

“Wait, we’re not done talking yet.”

He froze. “Sorry. Go ahead.”

“When I commit, I do it intensely. Think you can handle that?”

“Yes,” Ted said.

“You don’t want to know what I mean by that?”

“We understand each other,” Ted said.

“What do you think I mean?”

“You mate for life,” Ted said. “I demand the same thing.”

“Oh, yes,” she said, pulling him close. They kissed, long and deep, both trembling. They broke it, and she stood up.

“Want to go back?”

“We could, but don’t you want to see me naked?”

“Oh yeah,” he said, starting to get up.

“No, sit,” she said, starting to unbutton her blouse.

“We don’t have anything,” he whispered.

“It’ll be okay for a couple days,” she said, a twinkle in her eye as she shrugged out of her top, her white bra showing in the moonlight. “You like so far?”

Ted couldn’t even speak, and then his phone buzzed, startling him.

She froze. “What’s wrong?”

“Hopefully this is just a text,” he said, fishing the phone out of his pocket. “Crap. It’s the short range app. Enemy fighters coming in from the north. Half a mile away and closing fast.”

“Oh no,” she said. “They’ve found us.”

“I left my gun in the rig. We’re gonna have to run back.”

“Let’s go,” Haley said as she buttoned her blouse. They sprinted towards the row of battle wagons, some already going into siege mode, some starting their engines.

To be continued…

 

Bug Out! California Book 1 has just been published, and is now available in the Kindle Store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

 

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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!

 

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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

Bugout! California Part 103 – Hit the Trail

Jules and Tex messed with the laptop, getting ready for their conference call with Ivan.

“You hear back from him yet, partner?” Tex asked.

“No, but will soon,” Jules said.

Stacey came up to them. “Want to feed that into the TV? I know how.”

“Yes, that good,” Jules said. “Be my guest.”

Stacey smiled proudly and got to work on that, Jules and Tex standing back to watch. Jules felt his phone buzz and pulled it out of his pocket.

“He’s good,” Jules said. “Will be on.”

“Great,” Tex said. “How do you think he’ll react?”

“He won’t tell answer tonight, but he’ll think about and let us know soon.”

“Hope you’re right,” Tex said.

“Okay, this is set up, but we’ll still have to use the camera in the laptop for Ivan to see us,” Stacey said.

“Great, thank much,” Jules said. “I grab barstool and bring out. Higher, give better look to Ivan.”

“I’ve got it,” Stacey said, rushing into the other room.

“That kid’s trying to make points,” Tex said.

“He solid,” Jules said. “I know. Watching.”

Ted walked over. “Looks like we’re almost ready.”

“Yes,” Jules said.

“Everything okay, partner?” Tex asked.

Ted looked at him and shrugged.

“What?” Jules said.

“I’ll tell you later, boss,” Ted said.

Jules chuckled. “Woman problem.”

“Later,” Ted said, glancing around to see where Haley was.

“Don’t worry, I zip it,” Jules said. His phone buzzed again. “Ivan ready.”

Stacey was back with the bar stool, which he placed next to the TV and put the laptop onto.

“Shelly, ready,” Jules said. She rushed over and got onto the laptop, loading the video conference software and then sending request to Ivan’s number. His face showed up on the screen, smiling under his fedora, a flashy tie with a diamond stick-pin on his chest.

“Milk maid?” he asked. “I see why Jules is smitten.”

“Thanks, I think,” Shelly said, smiling. She backed away from the laptop so he could see the whole room. “Sorry we don’t have a better camera.”

Ivan laughed. “It’s better than mine. Good evening to all. Pleasure to see you. My, so many beautiful women.”

Jules chuckled. “No flirting.”

“Don’t worry,” Ivan said. “What’s on your mind?”

“Morgan, would you explain?” Jules asked.

She flashed him a nervous smile and nodded, then approached the front of the room. Robbie came up with her, and sat as she stood.

“Don’t be nervous,” Ivan said. “Take your time.”

“I’m okay,” Morgan said.

“Is that Robbie next to you?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said proudly.

“Your father,” Ivan said, starting to choke up.

“Oh, no, did something bad happen to him?” Robbie asked.

“No, no, I’m just emotional,” Ivan said. “He’s an inspiration. A great man, who will be remembered for years.”

“Thank you,” Robbie said, feeling himself tear up.

“Go ahead, Morgan,” Ivan said. “Sorry.”

“Okay,” Morgan said, taking a deep breath. “We have two proposals for you, which go together.”

“I’m all ears,” he said.

“Good,” Morgan said, fidgeting. Robbie put his hand on her back, encouraging her. She looked at him and smiled, then looked back at the laptop. “After we do the rescues, we’d like to come on the air with you and tell our story.”

“Your story? Of the captivity? Won’t that be very difficult?”

“Of course it will be, but people need to know what the UN is doing. It should help us win the war.”

Ivan was silent for a moment, thinking, wiping his eyes. “Your bravery. All of you. Wow. Yes, I’ll do that with you.”

“Thank you,” Morgan said.

“What’s the second part?”

“We’d like to hit all three locations at once,” Morgan said.

Ivan was quiet for moment, his eyes reading the room. “You think after the first rescue is done, the enemy will kill the women in the other two locations, or move them somewhere else,” Ivan muttered.

“Or fortify their other locations,” Morgan said. “Make a play for killing us all.”

“This will be difficult,” Ivan said, looking down, the top of his fedora hiding his face for a moment. He looked back up. “Difficult, but not impossible, and it might win the war for us. It should at least shorten it.”

“Then you’ll help us?” Morgan asked.

“I’ll confer with my team,” Ivan said. “It’ll take a few days to work out the details and the logistics. Fair enough?”

“Yes,” Morgan said. “Thank you.”

“Did you lead this effort?” Ivan asked.

“I pushed the idea, and brought it to the other women,” Morgan said. “I got the idea from a comment that Justin made, about using the rescues for recruitment of citizens.”

“Where’s Justin?” Ivan asked.

“Right here,” Justin said, standing up.

“Kudos to you,” Ivan said. “Must have taken a lot of courage to bring that up.”

“I blurted it out, then wished I could take it back right away,” Justin said with a sheepish grin.

Ivan chuckled. “You sound like me. You can’t make that choice for the victims at these three locations…although I suspect some of them might want to join in with their comments.”

“That thought crossed mind,” Jules said. “Would not pressure them, but perhaps they pressure us.”

“Okay, I understand what you want and agree with you in principal,” Ivan said. “I’ll get back to you. Thanks very much for bringing these proposals to me. I’m impressed, and proud to have people with so much courage on our side.”

“Thank you, boss,” Jules said.

“Talk to you soon,” Ivan said. His video stopped.

“Wow,” Robbie said. “He’s so personable. Not at all what I expected.”

Well, he is that, but he’s also a dangerous person,” Ted said. “Good to remember that.”

“Yes, Ted, he dangerous, but war affect him,” Jules said. “I see change. Slowly at first. He great General now. Probably never mobster again.”

“I still wouldn’t want to work for him,” Morgan said.

Sparky and Tex laughed.

“What’s so funny?” Morgan asked.

“He’s your senior management,” Sparky said. “The card club. That’s his operation. You know that, right?”

She looked shocked for a moment. “I thought he was just using it to help with money laundering. You know, as a third party.”

“He owns it,” Sparky said. “Yeah, he’s used it to launder money, but he owns it because he likes poker, and he’s making a tidy profit beyond the other benefits.”

“Oh my God, you’ve been working for the mob,” Robbie said, laughing.

Morgan punched him in the arm, laughing. “Be nice.”

“I think we should get shut eye now,” Jules said. “Late. It’s possible Mertins attack happen tomorrow.”

Morgan nodded, and stood, facing the others. “Thanks for this.”

The crowd gave her a round of applause, turning her face red.

***

Sparky watched as the crowd dispersed, looking for Dana. She was chatting with Karen and Allison.

“Hey, Sparky,” Dana said as he walked up. “What do you think?”

“I think it’s noble and brave,” Sparky said. “Want to take a walk?”

She looked him up and down, brow furrowed.

“Go ahead,” Karen said. “Be with your man. We’ll chat later.”

She shrugged, her face showing hurt for a split second, then forming a smile. “Yes, we’ll talk more tomorrow.”

Sparky started walking toward the door, Dana following behind. He looked back, stopping until she caught up.

“We can just go into the bedroom, you know,” she said. “I’ll treat you right.”

“We need to talk,” Sparky said, not looking at her when he said it. They went out the door and walked silently to the path, near the border of the property.

“It’s okay,” Dana said, hurrying to catch up. “Can we slow down a little?”

“Oh, sorry. I tend to walk fast when I’m nervous.”

They went a little further away from the house, the conversation of the crowd fading into the background.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I understand. I can probably bunk with Cody and Allison.”

Sparky stopped. She kept walking a few steps, and then stopped, turning back to him.

“You’ve got the wrong idea,” Sparky said softly. “Hell, it’s probably my fault, and for that I’m sorry.”

“I have those episodes. I might have them forever. People get tired. People leave. There’s no shame in it. We aren’t married.”

“How do you feel about me?” Sparky asked, trying to read her eyes. “Really?”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Why prolong this? I’ll get my stuff.” She started walking back towards the house, Sparky grabbing her hand and pulling her back.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“Let go.”

“No, we need to talk. Now. I’ve put it off for far too long.”

She sighed, looking at him, tears running down her cheeks. “So talk.”

Sparky looked at her, his heart speeding up as her soft eyes studied him.

“You look like a schoolboy who is about to get a whipping,” she said softly. “I told you that I understand. I won’t make a fuss. Really.”

“Will you stop that,” Sparky said. “I’m in love with you.”

She froze, staring at him in shock. “That’s what you wanted to say?”

“How can you be surprised?”

“You’ve never said it,” she said.

“Neither have you,” he said softly, approaching her.

“Oh, God,” she said, starting to tremble. “Really? Are you sure?”

“Oh, yeah, I’m sure,” Sparky said, moving closer to her. “If you don’t feel like that about me, I need to know.”

“Yes,” she said quickly, staring into his eyes as she moved into his arms. “Yes, I love you. So much that I can hardly stand it.”

“Good,” he said, hugging her tight. “I was afraid you didn’t.”

“Neither one of us are very good at non-verbal communication, I guess,” she said, a soft smile on her face. “Is this going to change anything?”

His face got serious again. “Only one thing. Don’t feel like you have to please me to keep me around. I’m not going anywhere. We’ll deal with your problems when things get a little back to normal.” They started walking again.

“You think I was making love with you to hold onto you?”

“No, not totally,” he said. “That probably sounded terrible, but I’ve got to muddle through this conversation, so hear me out, okay?”

“Okay,” she said.

“I know we enjoy each other,” he said, “and it’s heaven when it goes well. I don’t want it to end, but I want you to understand that I’ll love you even if we back off for now. Do you understand me?”

“Do you feel the urge to leave me when I have an episode?” she asked.

“No, never,” he said. “I feel guilty. Ashamed, even.”

“Why would you feel that way?”

“You’re doing it to make me happy, and it can be so hard on you.”

Dana stopped walking. Sparky stopped after a couple steps and turned back towards her.

“Sweetie, you don’t understand this,” Dana said. “I’m making love with you because I want to. I need it, just like you do.”

“And yet you thought I didn’t love you, and was ready to leave you,” Sparky said.

“Men are different about sex than women are sometimes,” Dana said. “It doesn’t always mean the same thing.”

“That’s never been true for me,” Sparky said.

“So, you’ve been in love with me all along?” she asked.

“Well, almost,” he said.

“You’ve been standoffish sometimes. I picked up on that.”

“I didn’t want to take advantage after what you’ve been through,” Sparky said. “Sorry. Seems pretty stupid now.”

“I wouldn’t use the word stupid,” she said. “We just didn’t understand each other. Like I said, we’ve got bad non-verbal communication.”

“I’m sorry.”

“So where do we go from here?” she asked.

“We don’t have to change anything unless you want to,” Sparky said. “Just know this. I’ll never leave you, unless you want me to. Do you understand?”

“What happens after the war?” she asked.

“Hopefully we get married and make babies together,” he said. “What do you want?”

“That,” she said. “I won’t leave you either. If I have an episode, it’s because of what was done to me, not because of what we’re doing. Having you there afterwards is crucial, though. You’ve been very good about that. Makes me love you even more.”

“Want to go back?” he asked.

“In a minute.” She got back into his arms, getting on her tiptoes to kiss him. It was passionate, both breathing hard when it was finally over.

“Geez,” Sparky said. “I’m so much in love with you.”

“I love you too, honey,” she said. “Thank you.”

“For loving you?”

She smiled at him. “For bringing this out in the open. I was afraid it would be the end if I brought it up.”

“Oh,” Sparky said. “Sorry I was such a bonehead.”

She giggled. “Let’s go to our room.”

They hurried back to the house.

***

Sam got a text back from Garrett, while sitting in Trevor and Kaylee’s rig, looking at the apps.

“Garrett wants to get together. He’s coming over to the house. We should round up the others and meet him there.”

“What others?” Trevor asked.

“Ryan, Zac, and Ji-Ho, for starters,” Sam said.

“I agree,” Sid said. “I want Yvonne there too.”

“Yeah, and I’ll call Erica,” Sam said. “But really, I think anybody interested should be able to come.”

“I’m gonna text Seth and Angel,” Trevor said. “I’ll tell them to bring Kaitlyn and Megan too.”

“All right,” Tyler said. “Meet you guys there.” He left with James.

Trevor unplugged his phone. “Got enough of a charge for now.” He slipped it into his pocket as the rest of the folks left the coach. He looked over at Kaylee. “You okay?”

“No,” Kaylee said. “They know we can see them, I suspect.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Black Crow probably told them. At the very least, they know we know about the chips, since we removed the one from Hasan.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” Trevor said. “Hasan told us to remove it. They probably figured that out. They have no idea how much Hasan told us about them.”

“We’d better give them more credit than that, or we’ll get caught with our pants down,” Kaylee said, picking up her phone. “Let’s go.”

They left their coach, walking towards the house. Trevor texted Seth and Angel on the way.

“There’s my uncle,” Kaylee said, pointing.

“Hi,” Ji-Ho said. “Notice trickle of enemy fighters?”

“Well, I saw a group of four heading south from Lake Barrett.”

“More coming down from Descanso. Not bunching up. Staying under cover.”

“Uh oh,” Kaylee said.

“You don’t think they know we can see their RFID chips, do you?” Trevor asked.

“No,” Ji-Ho said. “They act like they are seen from above. Maybe drone or satellite. Go out of way to stay in areas with trees, except for the four that are the furthest out.”

They climbed the steps of the veranda and went into the living room. Quite a few people were already there. Seth and Angel rushed over, Kaitlyn and Megan with them.

“You think they really have Ed?” Angel asked.

“We have to allow for that possibility,” Trevor said.

Garrett strode inside, his cowboy boots clopping on the hardwood floor. Anna rushed down the stairs and straight to him, hugging him.

“Wow, look at that,” Megan whispered to Kaitlyn, who shot her a worried glance.

“Here comes Sam with Erica,” Seth said.

Ji-Ho walked over to Trevor and held out his phone. “Look. Building up by highway entrance to trail area. They think they ambush us.” He grinned. “Maybe we ought to turn tables.”

“Crap, you’re right,” Trevor said. “Look at this, honey.”

Kaylee looked at it. “I think you’re right. They’re setting up for our arrival.”

“Let’s get this show on the road,” Garrett said. “We’ve been watching the apps too. Large concentration in Descanso, but not large enough to survive an assault from us. You guys see that?”

“Yes, do,” Ji-Ho said. “You see group staying under cover, gathering around highway entrance to trail?”

“No,” Garrett said, eyes wider. “Show me.” He walked over and looked at Ji-Ho’s phone, a smile washing over his face. “They think they’re going to ambush us, don’t they?”

“Looks like to me,” Ji-Ho said.

“Let’s see that,” Sam said, walking over. “Yep. They don’t know we can see their chips, but they obviously think we can see them from above. Otherwise they wouldn’t go out of their way to stay in these trees, here, and here.” His finger pointed to clumps on both sides of the trail, near the highway.

“What about Ed?” Anna asked, brow furrowed. “What if they have him?”

“If they do, there’s not a lot we can do about it directly,” Seth said.

“He’s probably being held by Black Crow,” Tyler said. “Somebody we could take down easy, but we’d need to get to him before those four marks make it there.”

“We’re all over the place here,” Sam said. “We need to focus on what we know for sure and plan by that.”

“We’re listening,” Garrett said.

“We have to assume that Black Crow has Ed,” Sam said.

“Why?” Tyler asked.

“Because they’re setting up this ambush. They know we’ll try to get him back.”

“Hey, Garrett, you think you could beat those four icons to the trail on horseback?” Trevor asked.

“Nope, but I could beat that larger group there, by the highway, assuming they’re coming that way.”

“They won’t,” Sid said. “The four will bring Black Crow and Ed to them, I suspect.”

“This isn’t going to be as hard as you guys think,” Garrett said. “When those four icons start heading north again, it’s better than an even shot that they’ve nabbed Ed and are heading back. We can intercept them before they get there if we leave in a hurry.”

Ji-Ho was silently manipulating his phone, not interacting with the conversation. Trevor noticed it. “Ji-Ho, you’re seeing something, aren’t you?”

“I see same thing as you,” Ji-Ho said, looking up. “I’m planning what to do about it. I have suggestion.”

“Let’s have it,” Garrett said, “but make it quick. I’ve got to get my men on the trail with our horses right away.”

“Yes, agree,” Ji-Ho said. “In fact, you should text and get first group on way now.”

“Good idea,” Garrett said, pulling his phone out. He took a couple minutes to send the text. “Okay, go ahead.”

“I suggest we screw them good. Send battle wagons and several hundred fighters to Descanso. Wipe them out. At same time, send large group of cowboys into wilderness to intercept the four with Black Crow and Ed.”

“We don’t need a large group to do that,” Garrett said. “I could send a small group for the interception.”

“You need large group to attack enemy by highway while we kill force in Descanso,” Ji-Ho said.

Garrett was silent for a moment, thinking. Sam chuckled. Garrett flashed him a look. “What?”

“This is beautiful. Your group gets to the four bad guys. If they’re careful about it, they can take them out before they can warn the enemy fighters along the highway. We drag the bodies towards them. They think it’s their folks…but it’s really their dead folks and several hundred well-armed cowboys on horseback.”

Garrett laughed. “I like it. Need to send another text. Got to get on the trail right away if this is gonna work. Talk to you guys later. We can keep in touch via texts.”

He left, Anna rushing after him, kissing him as they stood on the veranda. Then Anna came back in.

“Mom, you okay?” Kaitlyn asked, seeing the tears in her eyes.

“My warrior is going into battle,” she said.

“Oh, he’s your warrior now, huh?” Kaitlyn asked softly. “So quickly?”

“How long did you know Seth before you felt that way.”

She looked at her for a moment. “Okay, forget I said anything.”

Anna smiled at her, then gave her a hug. “You’d best saddle up with your man. He’s going to need you. We’re all going to need you.”

“Let’s get into battle wagons and head out now,” Ji-Ho shouted. “We on strict timetable. Long drive.”

“All of them?” Seth asked.

“Two thirds,” Ji-Ho said. “Ought to be enough to protect here. Garrett just texted. Two thousand cowboys will meet us at Descanso.”

“Let’s go,” Sam said.

Everybody left the house except Anna, who sat down on the stairs and wept.

To be continued…

 

Bug Out! Texas Book 8 – West Border Mayhem has just been published, and is now available in the Kindle Store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

 

The Plan – How the Bugout! War Started is now available in the Kindle Store, free in Kindle Unlimited!

 

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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!

 

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Horror Road – A Supernatural Thriller! Available now in the Kindle Store

 

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