Bugout! California Part 112 – Captives

The choppers on the roof of the Mertins Administration building started their engines as gunfire raged around them, explosions going off on the floor below them. One of the choppers leaned as the roof over the big conference room started to collapse, the chopper sliding sideways down into the building, exploding with a huge fireball. The other two choppers tried to lift off. Commandos approached from the far side of the roof, unsteady as the building shook, trying to get a bead on the closest chopper with their RPG. Then machinegun fire erupted from the third chopper, cutting down the team, the RPG falling to the composite roofing.

“Back off!” shouted the voice over the headsets. The commandos running to take the place of the first team dived behind cover as more machinegun fire came at them.

“Don’t worry about the choppers,” the voice on the headset cried. “Nobody from the building was able to get on. This is just the chopper crews trying to save themselves. Concentrate on officials running around. The routes to the roof have all been destroyed.”

“Roger that,” said the leader of the second team, who peered over the edge of the roof. “Van trying to escape below. You see it?”

“We’re heading towards it, but still a lot of snipers. Take out if you can.”

“You got it,” the Commando said, getting up, sprinting towards the RPG, picking it up. Blood dripped off it as he ran to the side of the roof. Machinegun fire started again from the chopper, the commando bobbing and weaving through what little cover there was while the other commandos fired their M-16s at the chopper, killing the pilot and copilot. The chopper went out of control, slamming into the third chopper, both of them exploding.

“Shoot that van,” shouted the man on the headset.

The commando aimed the RPG and fired, hitting the van, exploding it in front of the gate.

“Nice, that blocked their exit,” the voice over the headsets shouted.

“Glad to be of service,” the commando said. “Crap, get ready. There’s a line of vans headed our way.”

“Where they come from?” Jules asked over the headset.

“Alpha One, good to hear your voice. Nice job on those enemy choppers.”

“Where they come from,” Jules repeated.

“Oh, sorry sir. Coming on Route 17, good clip. I see about twenty of them.”

“Vans only, or military vehicles?” Jules asked.

“Vans…no, wait. I see two Gaz Tigrs.”

“Okay, we attack,” Jules said. “Everybody hear?”

“I got you, partner,” Tex said.

“Yeah, we heard you,” Robbie said. “On our way. You want us up on the freeway?”

“Yes, going wrong way,” Jules said. “I be there quick.”

“Be careful, chief,” the commando said. “We’re almost done here. Killed all of the leadership.”

“Oh, crap, more choppers,” the commando on the roof said. “Scratch that. Those are TV choppers. They’re filming.”

“Leave them be,” Jules said. “Ivan need footage for show.”

Several people on the radio chuckled.

***

Daan sat in the passenger seat of the van, at the back of the caravan, his first lieutenant driving, headset on, brow furrowed.

“We shouldn’t go in there so fast, boss,” the lieutenant said. “In fact, you shouldn’t even be here. It’s too dangerous.”

“Shut up, Hanson,” Daan said. “That’s my place.”

 

Hanson’s eyes squinted as he listened to a message coming in. Daan noticed.

“What?”

“I got intel from the lead,” Hanson said. “The entire leadership bought it.”

“What about the choppers?”

“The ones on the roof? Destroyed, but the leadership had no chance to get up there anyway.”

“And the two I sent to help?” Daan asked.

“Destroyed before they got there. Crap.”

“What?” Daan asked.

“The new UN base got destroyed,” he said. “Overwhelming force of citizen fighters aided by MERCs. The ammo storage blew. I told you we shouldn’t put it inside, even temporarily.”

“This is Ivan,” Daan said. “I’m going to skin him alive.”

Hanson looked forward, afraid to say anything, then his eyes grew wide. “What the hell is that?”

“What?” Daan asked, looking up from his cellphone screen. He froze, sweat breaking out on his forehead. “They’re coming the wrong way on the freeway? What are those things? They look like buses.”

“That one has a minigun on the roof,” Hanson cried. They both watched in horror as the two Gaz Tigrs exploded in a hail of lead.

“Dammit, all of those things have miniguns,” Daan said. “I thought that was only a prototype.”

“What? You knew about these things?”

“We nailed one in central California, remember? And that damn Ji-Ho had one in the south. Almost wasted it, but he limped away.”

“Oh, the battle in Julian,” Hanson said. “Sir, we’d better turn around now.”

“Yes, do it,” Daan said. “Go to the alternate location.”

Hanson slowed quickly as several vans in front of them blew up, then made a sweeping u-turn as machinegun fire ripped into the roof of the van, going through the driver’s seat, guts and brains slamming into the front windshield as Daan looked on, horrified. He held on tight as the van went out of control, rolling onto the driver’s side and sliding to a stop against the center divider.

“Hanson!” Daan shouted, struggling to climb out. The door was jammed. He grabbed Hanson’s rifle and shot through the passenger side window, then scrambled out and ran off the freeway as the other vans were blown to bits with minigun fire and grenades.

***

“That got them,” Robbie said, watching the UN Vans burn on the road ahead. “Should we go check them out?”

“That’s a negative,” Ted said over the headphones.

“Yes, Ted right,” Jules said. “Retract weapons. Turn around, head north on this road. I send text with GPS coordinates for each coach. All separate RV parks. We reconnect before rescue operation. Nice work, everybody. Turn off headsets when text come.”

“Wow, that was a rush,” Morgan said, her face flushed. “I could get used to this.”

Robbie glanced at her, smiling. “Yep, gets your blood up, that’s for sure.” He got the rig turned around, and retracted the weapons systems.

“I wish we could pull over right now,” Morgan said.

“Why?”

“Guess,” she said, shooting him a sexy grin.

“Oh,” he said sheepishly. “Yeah, I could really get into that now, but it’ll have to wait.” Both of their phones dinged.

“Watch the road,” Morgan said. “I’ll look up where our GPS coordinates take us and guide us there.”

“Hope we don’t run into trouble on the way.”

“Just drive casual,” Morgan said as she looked at her screen. “Ah, there we go.”

“Where?”

“Way east,” she said. “Take the 280 to the 680. I’ll guide you after that.”

“What’s it near?”

“It’s southeast of Livermore,” she said. “Looks like a pretty rustic place.”

“How long will it take?”

“Just over an hour, if we don’t run into any problems,” she said.

“I doubt we will, from what we heard about the attack on the UN Headquarters.”

Morgan snickered. “Yeah, why would those morons put so much ammo in their headquarters? Seems pretty stupid.”

“I suspect it was temporary, and we lucked out. Where’s everybody else going?”

“All over the damn place,” Morgan said. “We’re a good sixty miles from the nearest of our friends.”

“Who’s closest?”

“Cody and Allison,” she said. “Ted’s about eighty miles.”

“Where’s Jules?”

She looked at her screen for a couple minutes. “Someplace called Dublin. You aren’t still worried about him, are you?”

“No,” Robbie said. “How’s he going to handle the folks that don’t have the apps?”

“Every coach has a laptop with the new app, remember?” It’s got the normal long-range app on it too.”

“But not the short-range app,” Robbie said. “That one might be the most important, since it doesn’t require LTE.”

“I’m looking at that matrix of coaches and people that Shelly put together. There’s only two coaches that don’t have leadership people in them.”

“I know, Justin and Gil,” Robbie said. “Text one of them and see if they’ve been sent the apps. If not, I need to get on the horn with Jules.”

She nodded, moving her fingers on the screen, sending a text. “I sent a broadcast to the two of them.”

“Good,” Robbie said, hands gripping the wheel. “Here comes the 280.”

“It just turns into the 680, by the way.” Her phone dinged. “Text from Justin.” She smiled. “He got the apps.”

“Gil?”

“Not back yet,” she said. “Give it time.”

“Okay.” He made the transition to the 280. “This road is deserted.”

“Not surprising,” Morgan said. “Wonder if we’ll see any checkpoints?”

“Not on the freeway. Do we have much in the way of surface streets to deal with?”

“We go from the 680 to a much smaller road. Route 84. Looks like it goes through the residential part of Livermore.”

“Freeway or highway with stops?” Robbie asked.

“Looking.” She focused on her phone for a moment. “Crap. Big street, but there are stop signs and such.”

“Are there other ways there?”

She looked closer. “Not better than this way. There’s mountains we have to go around after we leave Livermore. No shortcut to there that I can see, at least with a road vehicle. We should trust Jules, though. I’m sure they thought through these spots.”

“Hope so,” Robbie said.

They rode silently for a while, the freeway transitioning from 280 to 680, then going into rugged terrain.

“Really deserted out here,” Morgan said.

“Yep. Wish we still were towing the Jeep. We’ll probably need to get some food.”

“There’s quite a bit of stuff in the freezer,” Morgan said. “I checked before we took off this morning. Quite a bit of food in the pantry too, but some of it might be bad now. Wouldn’t trust the loaf of bread that’s in there.”

“At least we can tell by looking.”

“It won’t be long before we hit the beginnings of Livermore,” Morgan said, looking at her phone again. “What do we do if there’s a checkpoint?”

“Fight our way through, I guess,” Robbie said. “We’re sure as hell not letting them search us.”

“We’re probably dead if it comes to that,” Morgan said. “How can we outrun anybody in this thing?”

“We have a lot of firepower,” Robbie said, “but you’re right. It’ll be tough. You know it’s possible that we’re being tracked via satellite right now. All of us.”

“I don’t think so,” Morgan said.

“Why not?”

“They would’ve found us at that winery,” she said. “Think about it.”

“Good point,” Robbie said. “Thanks, that makes me feel a little better. We’re getting into town.” He slowed as the road went from freeway to highway. The side streets were nearly empty, with only an occasional car or truck. There was a semi rig ahead of them and a couple of cars behind them. Robbie’s eyes kept darting between his mirrors and windshield, as Morgan looked nervously out the passenger side window.

“So far so good,” she muttered under her breath.

“Traffic light ahead,” Robbie said, rolling to a stop.

“Look, there used to be a checkpoint here,” Morgan whispered. “See the barricades over there?”

“So why is it not running now, I wonder?”

“Maybe because of that big shindig that we messed up in San Jose,” Morgan said.

They cruised along, going through several lights, and then Robbie’s eyes lingered more on the rearview mirror.

“What?” Morgan asked.

“We’re being followed by a cop.”

“Oh no,” Morgan said.

“Don’t get upset yet,” Robbie said. “There’s a big difference between a cop and the UN.”

***

“No luck?” Erica asked. Sam put his cellphone and the address book down on the coffee table in front of the couch. He shook his head no. Mia was sleeping next to them on the couch, her head on Sam’s lap. Most of the people had left the house after the meeting, and it was quiet.

“Should we take her home?” Sam asked.

“Home?”

“Our coach,” Sam whispered.

“Oh, let her sleep,” Erica said. “She’s still recovering from the trauma. You okay to sit there for a while?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he whispered, petting Mia’s head tenderly. “Poor girl.”

“Want a cup of coffee?” Erica asked.

“Sure, thanks,” Sam said. Erica got up carefully and walked into the kitchen. Garrett and Anna were in the kitchen with Clem and Sarah, all of them looking exhausted.

“Hey,” Erica said as she went to the coffee pot.

“It’s a little stale,” Sarah said. “There’s a smaller coffee pot in the cupboard next to the dishwasher.”

“Okay, thanks,” Erica said, retrieving it. “Any of you interested?”

“Sure, I could drink a cup,” Clem said.

“Me too, come to think of it,” Sarah said. “Thanks.”

“How are you holding up?” Erica asked her.

“I’m numb,” she said. “I can’t even cry now. It’s weird.”

“I’m so sorry,” Erica said.

“How’s Sam doing with Mia?” Anna asked.

“He’s in love with that little girl,” Erica said. “Should have known that would happen. He’s a good man. Even better than I thought when I first met him.”

“Yep, he’s good people,” Garrett said.

“So are you,” Erica said, glancing at him. Anna smiled and nuzzled up against him.

“I’ll say,” she said. “How do you feel about Mia?”

“I know what you’re gonna say,” Erica said. “You sure?”

“Yeah,” Anna said. “You couldn’t raise any of the family, could you?”

Erica stopped spooning coffee into the drip basket and looked at her, shaking her head no.

“Do you want her?” Anna asked.

Erica looked at her, starting to tremble a little, tears running down her cheeks. She nodded yes, looking embarrassed.

“What’s the matter?” Sarah asked.

“I’m afraid I can’t be a good enough mother,” she said.

“Rubbish,” Clem said. “You’ll make a fine mother.”

“And you’ll have Sam to help you,” Garrett said. “I saw how he looked at her.”

“He didn’t have any kids with is first wife,” Erica said.

“First wife?” Sarah asked. “He’s only been married once.”

“He’s married to Erica now,” Anna said. “Or as good as married.”

Erica continued making coffee, feeling a welling of pride within her. She turned and smiled. “This is weird.”

“What?” Anna asked.

“I wanted to have kids with Sam,” she said. “It struck me so fast after we met. I thought I was going nuts. It kept up, too.”

“That’s not weird,” Sarah said.

“No,” Erica said. “Now it’s not urgent anymore. Now I want Mia. I can’t explain that.”

“Biology works in strange ways,” Clem said.

“It does,” Anna said. “Have you two talked about this yet?”

Erica turned on the coffee maker and turned back towards Anna. “No, not in so many words, but we’ve definitely had some non-verbal communication about it.”

Anna chuckled. “Hell, even I picked up on that, and I barely know Sam.”

The coffee maker pulsed, coffee dripping into the pot, the room filling with the aroma. Anna looked up at Garrett. “Maybe we should be off.”

“Where are you two going?” Clem asked. “Upstairs?”

“Clem!” Sarah said. Anna laughed.

“No, he’s taking me to Dodge City, to meet his sister and some other people,” Anna said.

“Oh,” Sarah said. “Is it safe to go there?”

“Sure,” Garrett said. “Probably safer there than it is here.”

“I meant the drive,” Sarah said.

“Oh. Yeah, we’ll be fine. A few others are going with us. Most are staying here, though, at least until the cavalry gets back. They should be here in a half hour or so.”

“Okay,” Sarah said. “Just be careful? Please?”

“We will,” Anna said, getting off the stool. She walked towards the archway into the living room and stopped, turning towards Erica. “You’ve got to see this.”

Erica walked over to her and looked. Sam and Mia were both asleep, looking as peaceful as can be.

“Oh geez,” Erica said. “Guess he’ll have coffee later.”

“They won’t sleep long,” Garrett said. “Those horses will wake them up.”

“Let’s go out the back door so we don’t wake them yet,” Anna whispered. Garrett nodded, and they went through the kitchen slider into the backyard, pulling it closed behind them.

The coffee pot sputtered as it finished. Erica poured three cups, sliding one to Clem and one to Sarah, then taking a sip of hers.

“Thanks,” Clem said, taking a sip. “Wish we could have a little booze in this.”

“We have some,” Sarah said.

“I know, but I’m not comfortable,” Clem said. “I know we’re supposed to be safe and all, but I still want to be alert.”

“Good policy,” Erica said.

“You know, our marriage was having real problems before this craziness started,” Sarah said. “John had a real drinking problem.”

“I remember,” Clem said, watching her start to tear up.

“The old goat had to become such a good man,” she said. “Right before I lost him.” She broke down, Clem and Erica both rushing to hug her.

***

Dean Lambert sat in the cement room next to Hodges and Davis, their hands still bound, their mouths uncovered.

There was a clanking sound, and the heavy metal door creaked open.

“Shit, what now,” Dean Lambert muttered under his breath. Hodges looked over at him, pure hatred in his eyes.

“What are you gonna tell them this time, traitor?” he said, sweat glistening on his bald head.

“Shut the hell up,” Davis said. “Both of you. He scratched his kinky black hair on the wall behind his head.

“Gentlemen, how are you?” Ivan asked, walking in with Mr. White and Mr. Black. “Somebody wanted to see that you were really here. Come on in, Ben.”

Ben Dover walked into the room slowly, his face still battered, his head bandaged. “Hey, no fair, these creeps aren’t beat up as bad as I am.”

“Your name is Kent Garland,” Davis said. “You were in one of my classes. What are you doing with these reactionaries?”

“You don’t know what this little cretin did, do you?” Hodges asked. He spat at Ben, who leapt back to avoid it.

“We don’t need Mr. Hodges anymore,” Ivan said. Mr. Black nodded and walked towards him as his eyes grew wider, grabbing his head with both hands and twisting, a sickening crack reverberating in the cement room. Davis and Lambert both cried out, trying to scoot away from Hodges as he fell, ending up across Davis’s lap. He began to cry.

“There, there,” Ivan said. “You don’t have to suffer the same fate as your friend here. All you have to do is cooperate as well as Dean Lambert has.”

“They’ll kill me,” Davis said.

Ivan chuckled. “Your leadership is the least of your worries. Trust me on that. They’re in more danger from us than you are from them, I guarantee you.”

“What do you want?” Dean Lambert asked. “I’ve already told you everything I know.”

“If that’s the case, you won’t last much longer,” Ivan said. He turned to Ben Dover. “You might want to leave the room. This is liable to get a little intense.”

“I’d rather stay, if you don’t mind,” Ben said.

“You didn’t ask me to call you Kent again,” Ivan said.

“I think I’d rather go by Ben,” he said. “Sounds like a good name for a revolutionary. I might be able to help you steer the questioning. I know a lot of details that you might not.”

“Capitol idea,” Ivan said. “Hey, Mr. White, close the door, would you please?”

He nodded, his bulky figure moving towards the door, slamming it shut so hard the walls shook.

To be continued…

 

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Copyright Robert Boren 2017

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