Ryan struggled with the tourniquet, holding one end with his good hand and the other in his teeth, pulling it as hard as he could. He couldn’t see the Jeep anymore, but made note of the direction. He was sweating like crazy, the hot sun beating down on him with no mercy. Can I make it back down? He started, using his feet and one hand, the bullet wound in his shoulder now just a dull ache.
Down. Slip a few feet. Grab. Slow down. Slip a little more. He was exhausted when he hit the bottom, looking around for a shady spot to rest. Nothing. He was thirsty, and remembered the water bottle he had in the bottom pocket of his cargo shorts. He pulled it out. Only a third left. He took a small sip and put it away, then got up and walked to the road. There was shade under the hovercraft, which was still propped up. He sat under it for a few minutes, catching his breath as he cooled down slightly, noticing the parts and tools on the sand where the Jeep had been. Can I fix this thing? He turned towards the spot where the transfer case attached. The bad one was already off. Four studs were there. He looked around on the ground. The four nuts were sitting next to him. Can I lift the new one? He got out from under the hovercraft and walked to the pile of parts and tools, picking up the transfer case. It was heavy, but he could lift it with is good arm. He wrestled it over to the Hovercraft, dreading the point where he had to pick it up and fit the splined shaft and the holes for the nuts against the bottom of the engine. Here goes.
He lifted it, his shoulder burning with pain as he made a shove, losing his grip, the heavy transfer case falling onto the ground beside him. He picked it up, rotating the shaft so the splines would align closer with the mounting holes, and then tried again, his shoulder going numb. The part slipped in. He scrunched up so his good shoulder was holding it in place, the sharp angles of the transfer case biting into his skin. The first bolt. Once that’s on, the others will be easy. He reached for it, feeling the transfer case slip down slightly when he moved, grabbing the nut in a panic, twisting it on the closest bolt, getting a few threads engaged, then turning it harder, getting it as tight as he could with his fingers. He was right, the other three were easy. He had them all finger tight, then looked at the pile of tools, seeing the wrench. He couldn’t reach it, so he crawled out from under the craft, into the blaring sun again, picking up the tool, dropping it as it burned his hand, then grabbing it again and tossing it into the shade under the propped-up vehicle. He looked at the tools, picked out a couple more he thought he might need, and tossed them into the shade too, then crawled back underneath. Water. He took out the bottle and had a sip, then put it in the shade next to him. The wrench was cool enough to hold now, so he tightened the four bolts, stopping when the hovercraft started to shift on the angle iron pieces that were propping it up.
Propeller. He glanced around. It was sitting in front of the hovercraft. He could reach it from underneath, and pulled it into the shade, letting it cool for a few minutes. His phone dinged. He pulled it out and looked. It was from Ed.
Posse on the way. Stay put.
Ryan typed a reply. No, hovercraft almost fixed. Not enough water left to wait for horses.
Ed sent a reply. If you leave, will you remember which way they were taken?
Ryan typed Yes and went back to work.
The propeller was cool enough now. He lifted it into place and then remembered that he needed the nuts to fasten it. He started searching, finding them under the front of the hovercraft, realizing that his crawling around almost buried them in the sand. He picked them up, then lifted the propeller again and got all the nuts started, then tightened them down.
“Now, will it start?” he asked himself, sliding out from the shade and looking at the angle irons. He moved one, and the hovercraft shifted, creaking as the frame twisted. Dammit. Slow down. Think. He took another drink of water, eyeing the amount left with worry.
He positioned himself between the angle irons, trying to reach both, his wounded shoulder burning with pain. He could just do it, and started rocking back and forth, working the pieces out slowly, the hovercraft finally falling down onto its skids. “Good thing this is sandy,” he said to himself as he looked at it. “Wonder how much gas I have?”
His phone dinged again. He looked at it. Ed. Big water jug rolled down hill. Was at least half-full. Check. He walked to the edge of the road and looked down. The clear plastic jug was there, caught by some brush, but it wasn’t an easy climb. Loose rocks and sand, then a steeper drop to the river bed about twenty feet below. Not enough to kill him, but enough to hurt him badly. Wait. That chain. He turned, looking for it, seeing it still attached to the back end of the hovercraft. He hobbled over to it and undid the bolt holding it on. Too short. Dammit. I need to get out of here. He tossed the tools into the back of the craft, and noticed another half-full bottle of water on the floor in front of the back seat, but it was only a small bottle. He reached for it, putting it in the cup holder next to the driver’s seat, then climbed in and started the engine. It started easily, settling into a purring idle. Gas. The gauge said half a tank. Ed always left cans along the way. Did he take this road the whole way out? Hopefully. The cans were red. Easy to spot. What if the enemy got them? He shrugged, then engaged the clutch for the bottom propeller, the hovercraft lifting off the ground. He pushed the throttle forward and drove towards home.
Ed sent a message to Tyler from his bed. He arrived in a few minutes.
“What’s up?” he asked as he sat down in a chair by the bed.
“Ryan got the hovercraft fixed,” Ed said, his expression showing a mixture of pride and worry.
“The cretins must have thrown the parts and the tools out of the Jeep to make room,” Ed said. “Or Zac and Bradley were a lot further along when they got snatched than I was thinking.”
“He texted you about this?”
“Yep,” Ed said. “He replied about it when I texted him to stay put.”
Tyler chuckled. “Sounds like Ryan. How are we gonna figure out where to start with the posse?”
“He said he knows which way they went,” Ed said.
“Maybe we should text him now and get the information, just in case.”
“He won’t hear it,” Ed said. “That hovercraft is loud. I usually wear ear plugs now. It was taking too much of a toll.”
“Crap, I don’t like this,” Tyler said.
There was a knock on the door.
“Come on,” Ed said. The door opened, Anna and Garrett walking in.
“We’re just about ready to take off,” Garrett said. “Think a hundred men is enough?”
“You probably won’t catch them,” Ed said. “They have a Jeep and a head start.”
“Jeeps leave tracks,” Garrett said. “Unlike that hovercraft of yours. We’ll at least figure out the general direction. Anything on Ryan?”
“That’s what we were just talking about,” Tyler said. “He got the hovercraft running again. He’s on his way back here.”
“Good,” Garrett said. “Hope he’s not going in the same direction as the enemy. He’ll erase the tracks.”
“He’s not,” Ed said. “I’m sure of it.”
“How?” Garrett asked.
“I just am,” Ed said. “Trust me on this.”
“Okay,” Garrett said.
“He’s gonna run out of gas before he gets here, isn’t he?” Anna asked.
“No, he knows that I stash gas cans along the way,” Ed said. “He’ll find the first of them before he’s down to a quarter of a tank. Hope he was able to get that water jug.”
“That went down the side of the hill, didn’t it?” Tyler asked.
“Yeah,” Ed said. “There was a little in another bottle, on the floor in the back seat. Hopefully it’s still there.”
“All right, I’m leaving,” Garrett said. “Wish me luck.”
“Thanks,” Ed said. “Good luck.”
“Yeah,” Tyler said. “Wish I was going with you.”
“Better that you don’t,” Garrett said. “They’re liable to hit us here or at Dodge City.”
“I know,” Tyler said. He watched as Anna and Garrett went out hand in hand, then turned back to Ed.
“Those two will marry,” Ed said quietly.
“She’s still married, remember?” Tyler asked.
“That’s over,” Ed said. “I’m happy about this, by the way.”
“I know, I am too, both for them and for us.”
“Yes,” Ed said. “It will cement our peoples together.”
Jules looked at his phone as Sparky drove the battle wagon down Ygnacio Valley Road, a smile washing over his face. “Front of roadblock under attack with small force, most held in reserve. Diversion.”
“Where do we turn?” Sparky asked.
“Meadow Lane,” Shelly said. “It’s coming up fast. Follow that around and get on the northbound 680 going the wrong way. They’re about to have a very bad day.”
“This fun,” Jules said.
“Don’t get overconfident,” Sparky said. “This could go a lot of ways.”
“I not,” Jules said. “We need to run this by numbers. They have several Gaz Tigrs. Take them first, before they get off shots.”
“There’s Meadow Lane,” Sparky said, making a left turn. “Another deserted street.”
“Hope we don’t run into any checkpoints,” Dana said. Jules snickered.
“It won’t be good for them if do,” Jules said.
“I can see three battle wagons behind us,” Sparky said, watching his rear-view mirrors. “No, four.”
“Rest be along soon,” Jules said, watching the texts flow on his phone. “Good firefight going on in front of roadblock. They bring in chopper. Our folks shoot down.”
“Now I see six back there,” Sparky said. “That’s all of us.”
“Excellent,” Jules said. “Slow down so they get close. We need united front when we get on road.”
“Will they be able to see us?” Shelly asked.
“If they look, yes,” Jules said. “Right now they worried about what’s to south, not what’s to north.”
“Listen,” Dana said. “Automatic fire.”
“Yeah, there’s a lot of smoke, too,” Shelly said. “Off to the side of the road.”
“Probably the chopper,” Sparky said, taking the final curve before the freeway on-ramp.
“Raise guns right before we go up off-ramp,” Jules said. “I text others with same.”
“Yeah, we need to be ready to fire,” Dana said. “This isn’t just UN folks. I see Islamist hits up there with them. They aren’t hiding the fact they’re together anymore, are they?”
“Yes and no,” Jules said. “They got exposed by Ivan’s TV show.”
“We’re gonna need to be careful where we fire these mini-guns,” Sparky said. “We don’t want to kill our own people on the other side of their position.”
“Yes, use mini-guns for Gaz Tigrs, grenades for UN Vans and the roadblock itself.” Jules said. “I text that. Thanks.”
“There’s the off-ramp,” Sparky said, making the turn and raising the mini-gun and the grenade launcher as the massive coach climbed the ramp.
“I can see them,” Shelly said, looking out the windshield. “Four hundred yards, give or take.
“The Gaz Tigrs see us,” Dana said.
“On it,” Sparky said, opening fire, hitting one and then a second one. Then another coach was next to them, firing at the other two, stopping both of them. Grenades began flying, hitting the UN Vans as the enemy ran for cover, some trying to jump off the elevated freeway.
“That’s too far to jump,” Shelly said, watching them.
“Use front machine guns,” Jules said. She nodded, eye on the reticle, sweeping lead into the mass of panicked UN Peacekeepers and Islamists as more of the battle wagons got up onto the road and joined in.
Jules laughed. “Look! They run.”
“Watch the back,” Dana said, looking at the console that Shelly was using. “More vehicles getting on behind us. Better fire.”
“I’ll hit our folks,” Shelly said. They could hear bullets hitting the armor and the rear of the coach, then explosions and mini-gun fire behind them.
“That’s Tex,” Jules said, smiling. “and Robbie.”
“Maybe we ought to have a few assets placed there to guard our retreat,” Sparky said.
“Look, enemy done,” Jules said. “Our forces rushing forward. Turn around. We take this road. I text others.”
Sparky nodded and made a wide turn, the other coaches following his lead, and soon they were all racing up the freeway.
“Should I keep the guns out?” Sparky asked.
“Yes, do,” Jules said, watching his phone. “Good thing that Islamists are joining with UN. We can see. Another group on way to road, closer to Concord. We blast. More Ivan people on way too.”
“How are we gonna hide when this is over?” Shelly asked.
“We on attack, not retreat,” Jules said. “Ivan have trap set. Follow road. Changes to 242. Then take Highway 4 west. I guide from there.”
“Hope you guys know what you’re doing,” Sparky said. “They’re probably watching us with satellite right now.”
“Nope,” Jules said. “Same people who help Ivan with TV broadcast jam satellite. Planes grounded too. US Airforce help.”
“They’re not on the side of the Feds?” Dana asked.
“No, not,” Jules said. “Feds don’t know yet. They get education.”
“We’re gonna hit a roadblock,” Shelly said. “I can see the Islamists moving around up ahead. Right after the road changes to 242.”
“They probably be gone before we get there, but if not, we blast,” Jules said.
“We’ll find out quick,” Sparky said. “The sign for 242 says two miles.”
“This is scary as hell,” Dana said.
“It be okay,” Jules said.
“Yeah, honey, we’ll do fine,” Sparky said.
Shelly laughed. “Those Islamists are fleeing to the west. Somebody’s chasing them.”
“You see? I say, no?” Jules said.
“Look, they didn’t even get the barricades set up,” Sparky said.
“Stop! Tack strips,” Dana shouted.
“Son of a bitch!” Sparky yelled, slamming on the breaks, tires screeching. The other coaches got the message and stopped too. Jules grabbed one of the M60s. “I go.”
“Me too,” Sparky said.
“No, you stay behind the wheel,” Shelly said. “I’ll go.” She picked up her M-16 and followed Jules out the door. Machinegun fire started up, and they both hit the dirt.
“Dammit,’ Shelly said. “See where it’s coming from?” They heard the motor of the mini gun turning, then the gun fired, sweeping along the edge of the road to screams in Arabic.
“C’mon,” Jules shouted. They ran over to the tack strip, grabbing it and pulling it out of the way of the vehicles, tossing it over the side. Jules looked over the edge, seeing a group of Islamists running in their direction from below, and opened fire with the M60, mowing down the first row and causing the others to flee in a panic.
Coaches started rolling past the spot where the tack strip was.
“Jules, let’s go now!” Shelly cried.
He nodded and they ran back to the coach, getting safely inside.
“Hit it!” Jules said. Sparky hit the gas and they rolled forward, following the last of the coaches through the area.
“No more hits up ahead,” Dana said, “so if there’s more action coming, it’ll just be the UN.”
“Thanks for saving us, Dana,” Jules said. “We are in your debt.”
She nodded, looking scared but happy.
“There’s the turnoff for Highway 4,” Sparky said, following the other coaches on the transition.
“I sent text to watch for strips,” Jules said. “Who in lead?”
“Ted’s rig, I think,” Sparky said. “At least he was the first one to continue on after you pulled the strip out of the way. We should’ve kept that, you know.”
“Too much bother,” Jules said. “Thought about.”
They drove along, everybody watching out either the windshield or a side window. Highway 4 wove its way through residential areas. Jules sent a text with directions for their next location, then walked over to Sparky.
“Get off at Railroad Avenue coming southwest. Follow as turn to Kirker Pass Road. Then take Nortonville Road.”
“What the hell is out there?” Sparky asked.
“Nortonville, and large enemy base,” Jules said. “Action not over yet. Girls, help me reload weapons.”
Sparky gripped the wheel, eyes on the vehicles in front of him, their weapons still out. “Hey Jules, how about the weapons? In or out?”
“Out,” Jules said. “Everybody know. We not care now. On offensive.”
“What’s the target?” Shelly asked.
“Main communications facility,” Jules said. “We shut down, blind whole operation.”
“They’ve got their communications way out here?” Sparky asked.
Jules chuckled. “They think safe. Maybe not so much, no?”
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