“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.”
“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…
Bug Out! Texas has just been published in the Kindle Store! This is the story of Texas Patriots and their struggle against enemies, foreign and domestic, during the Bug Out! War. Chock full of action, adventure, suspense, and romance. Pick up your copy of Bug Out! Texas Book 1 today!
The first of my full length novels has been published in the Amazon Kindle store, available now. For those of you have have been readying the Bugout! series, the story involves George and Malcolm, and is set about seven years earlier. This book R rated, instead of the PG-13 of the Bugout! Series, so be warned. Here’s the link to “Never A Loose End”
Copyright Robert Boren 2017