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…

 

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Copyright Robert Boren 2017

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