Bugout! California Part 123 – Big Tent

Tyler snuck down Vista Sage Lane, staying in the bushes. Kenny and Will followed him.

“Hope they don’t find the Jeep,” Kenny whispered.

“Don’t worry,” Tyler said. “It’s well hidden. Stay sharp. They’ve probably got sentries all over the place.”

“We should’ve brought our bows,” Will said.

“We don’t want to start anything,” Tyler said. “They’ll take off if we do. These are leadership folks. Not fighters.”

“They’ve got protection, though, right?” Will said. “We’ll run into fighters. Probably some of their best.”

“You can bet on that,” Kenny said.

“Quiet,” Ryan said. “There’s Colina Verde.”

“Dammit, there’s no cover,” Will said. “They’ve got the brush cleared by the road.”

“Geez, there’s houses on either side,” Kenny whispered.

“Stop,” Tyler said, eyeing both, wishing it was Ryan and Zac. “Look to the right. See that dirt road? We’re going that way, along these bushes. We’ll head in from the back of the Winery. Keep your wits about you.”

They took the dirt road, staying in the brush on the right side. They could hear music playing, and muffled voices.

“Sounds like a party,” Kenny whispered.

“Perfect,” Tyler said as they snuck along. “That house probably belongs to the owner of the winery.” They passed it. There were lights in two of the upstairs windows, but the rest of the house was dark.

“Look, there’s bushes between the house and the winery,” Will said. “We just have to make it past about thirty yards of bare ground. We can probably do that.”

“Now you’re thinking,” Tyler said, shooting him a glance. “I don’t think anybody’s hanging out in the back end of that house. Let’s go.”

They sprinted across the dirt road and through the back part of the houses yard. A dog barked. The hackles on Tyler’s back rose, near panic hitting him. Keep it together. They made it to the thick bushes and stopped, checking both directions.

“Where’s that dog?” Kenny whispered.

“In the house, I think,” Will replied. “Quiet. There’s somebody pushing a cart from the main winery building.”

They crept forward. “Circus tent,” Kenny whispered.

Tyler nodded as he looked at it. The waiter pushed the cart through an opening on the north side of it. “That’s a big shindig. You see all the wine on that cart?”

“Looked like deserts, too,” Kenny whispered. “Makes me hungry.”

Tyler shot him a glance and shook his head. They crept further, to the end of the cover. “Well, we either try to rush across that open ground to the next clump of cover, or we go back right now.”

“Stop,” Will nodded. A UN Peacekeeper walked by the outside of the tent on their side, cigarette hanging from his mouth, his assault weapon slung over his shoulder.

“We’ve seen enough,” Tyler said. “If they’re having desert, the party might not go on much longer.”

“That was a lot of wine,” Kenny said. “They’ll hang for a while.”

“Still,” Tyler said. “Let’s go now. We need to start the attack in an hour or less.”

They snuck back to where they came from, sprinting across the open ground next to the house, the dog barking again.

“Shut up, Fritz,” said a German-accented man from inside the house.

“Crap,” Will said under his breath as they made it to cover beside the dirt road.

“The battle wagons will have a hard time turning around once they’re in there,” Kenny said. “If we take them in, we’d better win.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” Tyler said. “C’mon, let’s haul ass.”

They rushed back to their Jeep and took off for the Williams place.


Tex and Karen sat outside their rig, watching through the windows of the Jeep show room.

“This really makes you nervous, doesn’t it?” Karen asked.

“I’m okay, little lady,” he said, shooting her a grin, taking in the vivid red hair laying around her shoulders. “You’re a vision.”

“Stop,” she said. “Well, maybe don’t stop completely.”

He chuckled. “You don’t have to worry about that.”

Ted walked over with Haley. “He’s gonna be here soon.”

“I know,” Tex said. “Hope he didn’t get followed.”

Haley smirked. “They’re still reporting on his death. It’s all over the news.”

“They’ll figure out it was a setup,” Ted said. “They probably know already.”

“They’ll keep reporting on it anyway, just for propaganda value,” Haley said. “We won’t know when they figure out what Ivan did.”

“Yeah, this media is even more corrupt than they were in the mid-teens,” Tex said. “And don’t forget the Russia connection.” He laughed.

Ted snickered. “Yeah, I remember that witch hunt. Didn’t work.”

“But the damn globalists took him out eventually,” Tex said. “He could’ve stopped what’s going on now, if he’d been there longer.”

“Everybody in the establishment was against him,” Ted said. “This mess we’re in now has been coming for a long time. He was too little, too late.”

“You think so?” Haley asked.

“In our society, the constitution should be paramount, but it’s not anymore. When it’s not, you must worry about who gets elected president, because you know if it’s the wrong person, your liberty and your property are in danger. The constitution is supposed to guarantee that no elected leader can reduce the rights of law-abiding citizens for any reason. Our system has morphed into a hybrid where the protections of the constitution are ignored or interpreted away.”

“I never paid much attention to politics,” Karen said. “Wish I would have. I made some bad choices, when I bothered to vote.”

“Don’t beat yourself up for that,” Tex said.

“But don’t forget about it, either,” Ted said. “Why did you make the choices you did?”

“Constant ridicule of the leaders my parents liked from entertainers,” Karen said. “So there was some rebellion, and some peer pressure too.”

“Don’t forget the news media,” Haley said.

“I never watched the news,” Karen said.

“A lot of it was free stuff,” Tex said.

“Not for me,” Karen said. “Guilt, maybe. I grew up without want of any kind. My parents owned a company. They were rolling in dough before the state finally ruined the business climate and choked them with stupid regulations. The last few years they barely survived, but we had investments.”

“That was the business that Gil worked at, right?” Haley asked.

“Oh, God, don’t bring him up, or I’ll start crying again,” Karen said.

“That was a bad loss,” Tex said. “He was a good man.”

“Tisha was strong, too,” Ted said. “I saw her in action. She was a natural.”

“My dad was so desperate for good help that he forced Gil to come back after he quit,” Karen said. “Used the government that he hated to do it, too. The state broke him.”

“If we win, what’s to stop our society from getting right back on the brink in a few short years?” Haley asked.

“We need to get involved,” Tex said. “No more sitting on the sidelines. No more moly-coddling stupid celebrities while they rail against our liberty and our free markets.”

“It’s the schools,” Ted said. “We can’t let them continue as they have.”

“We need to have free and open debate from both sides,” Karen said.

“True,” Ted said, “but the choices should always be between two different points of view that are inside our basic system. When one of the major factions decides it’s time to wipe away the system completely, we have a problem. I don’t know how you stop attempts at that in a free society, but unless we figure out some way to handle it, we’re going down this road again. The founders attempted to protect us from this problem with the Bill of Rights. It failed badly. Any politician who wants to break down those protections needs to be shunned.”

“Yeah, imagine if they would’ve been successful in shutting down the First and Second Amendments,” Tex said. “We’d all be slaves right now. At least we were left with a fighting chance.”

Jules and Sparky came out. “Oh, there you are,” Sparky said. “You get enough to eat?”

“Yeah, partner,” Tex said. “Mighty good, too.”

“Worried about exposure?” Jules asked.

“Just a tad,” Ted said.

Jules’s phone dinged. “Bet that Ivan.” He read the screen. “Yep, going into underground parking with crew. Come, we go meet. Stairwell next to room where food is.”

“Shouldn’t somebody be here to watch?” Karen asked.

“We just put motion detectors on the roof, pointing down in front of the showroom,” Sparky said. “Somebody shows up, we’ll know. Don’t worry.”

Tex and Ted looked at each other, then shrugged.

“I’ll stay here if you’d feel better,” Karen said.

“No way,” Tex said. “I’m not leaving you alone.”

She smiled at him. “I was hoping you’d say that.”

“We meet for few minutes, then you come back,” Jules said. “No problem.”

“Okay, partner,” Tex said, standing. He held out a hand to Karen. Ted and Haley got up too. They made their way back into the office area.

Ivan and his core team were coming out of the stairwell by the time Jules and the others made it back to the waiting lounge. The TVs were still going, media people basking in the relief that Ivan was dead, all of them beaming.

“Hey, boss, you dead,” Jules said as Ivan walked up. The two men embraced.

“Jules, my friend, how are you?” Ivan asked.

“Good as can be,” Jules said. “Come, eat.”

“Hey, it’s Ben Dover,” Tex said, smiling. “I’m Tex.”

“Hello,” he said, eyeing Tex and the others. “Heard a lot about you guys.”

Jules introduced Ivan and the others to the entire team, who had assembled in the lounge.

“Have some food,” Shelly said to Ivan as he walked towards her with Jules.

“In a moment,” Ivan said, looking her over. “Nice, Jules. Your milk maid is even more beautiful in person.

“Yes, is,” Jules said proudly.

“Thank you, I think,” Shelly said. “Have any new intelligence on the operation?”

Ivan looked at Jules and smiled. “Keep her. She’s all business.”

“Well, not all business,” Shelly said, face turning red.

Ivan chuckled. “I can imagine.”

“Don’t imagine too much, boss,” Jules said with a smile.

“Of course not, old friend,” Ivan said. “Here’s what we know. There’s an advance team going to the facility. They’ll be there tomorrow to set up a short-term replacement of the communications system you took down, and to ready the facility for the delegation of high-ranking officials coming in the next two days.”

“If there’s a big delegation coming, shouldn’t we wait till they get here?” Shelly asked.

Ivan smiled. “They’ll be dead within the next couple hours. The Dulzura team will see to that.”

“Ji-Ho,” Jules said, smiling.

“How important are the people we hit here, then?” Shelly asked.

“They are lackeys, but they’re bringing in entertainment. Human entertainment.

“This truly is a rescue mission, then,” Shelly said, eyes tearing up. “Are they over there right now?”

“No, they’ll arrive either later tonight or early tomorrow morning,” Ivan said. “Mr. Black and Mr. White will notify me when they get here.”

“We’ll have to set up cameras for TV appearance, no?”

“No, Jules, they’re already installed around the facility. We only have to uncover them.”

Jules smiled. “Figures. Everything set, but what happen with tanks at communications center?”

“I’m truly sorry about that,” Ivan said. “I had my people investigate. Those tanks had been there for more than a month. We didn’t start watching until last week. They were well hidden.”

“There’s nothing like that we need to worry about here?” Shelly asked.

“No,” Ivan said.

“How about Ji-Ho target?” Jules asked.

“We’ve done our best to check that out,” Ivan said. “We don’t think so, and we’ve been watching that facility closely since we got the tip about it.”

“Where’d you get the tip,” Shelly asked.

Jules shot her a worried glance. Ivan chuckled.

“No problem, old friend. Remember those professors we grabbed from UC Santa Cruz?”

“Yes, do,” Jules said.

“We found out from them. Took a little torture.”

“Torture?” Shelly asked.

“We’re in a war, Shelly,” Ivan said. “We do what we must.”

“Where are those professors now?” Shelly asked.

“Pieces of one of them are at the morgue in San Francisco, labeled with my name,” Ivan said with a sly grin.

Jules broke out laughing, loud enough that others in the room noticed.

“I figured you’d like that, Jules.”

Shelly wasn’t sure how to react. Ivan watched her for a moment.

“You disapprove?” he asked.

“Not really,” Shelly said. “Remember what they did to us. I hate them with a passion. That doesn’t mean that I’m not bothered by the tough things that are going on.”

“Good, you should be bothered by them,” Ivan said. “We’re fighting to give the country back to the citizens. We need to make sure that society settles into a place where these kinds of actions are unthinkable.”

“Here here,” Jules said. “You should eat.”

Ivan nodded. “Yes. Please excuse me.” He walked to the line, getting behind Ben Dover.

“He’s an interesting mix of personalities,” Shelly said. “With loads of charisma.”

“Yes,” Jules said.

“Is he going back to his underworld career after this?”

“He retired for several years,” Jules said quietly, “until this mess start up. I doubt he goes back, but predicting what Ivan will do is difficult.”

“You won’t get involved, though, I hope?”

Jules laughed, taking her into his arms. “I was done more than ten years ago. Rebelled against father, but grown up now. You can tell, no?”

“Yes, I can tell,” she said.


Seth woke from his nap. He checked out the window. It was dark. His phone alarm went off. Kaitlyn stirred next to him, rolling in his direction.

“Is it time already?” she asked.

“Yep,” Seth said as he sat up. “Nine thirty. We’ll be leaving soon.”

She got out of bed and pulled on a robe.

“Wish we had more time,” Seth said, watching her as he stood.

“We will later,” she said. “My blood is always up after these. You’ll get your reward.”

He smiled at her as he put on his pants. Kaitlyn got dressed quickly, then went into the salon and checked out the kitchen window.

“Lots of people already on the veranda,” she said. “We’d better hurry.”

“I’m ready,” Seth said. They left the coach, heading to the big house.

“Hey, man,” Angel said, arms locked with Megan as they joined them.

“Hey,” Seth said. “Get any sleep?”

“I did,” Megan said.

“Only a little,” Angel said. “Pre-battle jitters, plus I slept a lot of hours the previous night. You guys?”

“Slept like a baby,” Seth said.

“Me too,” Kaitlyn said.

“There’s Ji-Ho,” Angel said.

“We’ll have to listen from the lawn in front of the veranda,” Seth said.

“Hey, Ed’s on his feet again,” Kaitlyn said. “Good.”

“He’s not going into battle, I hope,” Megan said.

“Nah,” Angel said. “I’m sure he’s helped with the planning, though. Him and Tyler.”

“Everybody here?” Ji-Ho asked, speaking loudly so everybody could hear.

“Erica will be here in a sec,” Sam said. “She’s handing Mia off to Anna and the others.”

“I’m here,” Erica said, coming out of the front door. “Go ahead.”

“Wait for us,” Clem said, rushing towards the veranda with Sarah, Sid, and Yvonne.

“Okay, that good enough,” Ji-Ho said. “UN base on west side of Jamul, in abandoned winery.”

“Which one?” Erica asked.

“The one on Colina Verde Lane,” Ed said.

“The town only fifteen minutes away,” Ji-Ho said. “Have to drive past, make left from Highway 94 to Vista Sage Lane, then wind through small roads to site.”

“Twenty minutes to a half hour,” Sid said. “I’ve been to that winery before. They used to put out a nice spread. Hope all the people there didn’t get killed.”

“We don’t know what happened to them,” Garrett said. “I fear the worst.”

“Hopefully they just closed up and split when things got bad,” Clem said.

“How are we going in?” Sam asked.

“There’s only one road in and out,” Ed said. “The battle wagons and other vehicles will go that way. Vista Sage Lane to Colina Verde Lane. Both of those roads dead-end not far from the site.”

“I scouted it earlier,” Tyler said. “There were twelve UN vans in the parking lot. Lots of people around. We’ll need to be careful.”

“You guys go in there and make a good diversion on the road,” Garrett said. “I’ll bring a three-hundred-man cavalry in from the hills to the west. Most of them are already back there, hiding out. Sent them direct from Dodge City.”

“That big meeting still happening?” Trevor asked. “Should we wait until they arrive?”

“They’re already there,” Tyler said. “They’ve got a huge circus tent set up to the right of the driveway.”

“Circus tent?” Sid asked.

“You know, like they put up for big events,” Tyler said. “They were serving wine and deserts twenty minutes ago, so we’d better get moving.”

“Tell them about the access road,” Will said. Kenny nodded in agreement.

“It’s one way in, and it won’t be easy to turn around and flee if things go south,” Tyler said.

“So if we’re going in there, we’re totally committed,” Sam said. “You get a feel for the numbers they have there?”

“It’s hard to tell,” Tyler said. “There’s a lot of people inside that tent, but I doubt that many of those folks are combatants.”

“We saw UN Peacekeepers there, patrolling with assault rifles,” Will said.

“Yeah, they know they’ve got some vulnerability.”

“See any Gaz Tigrs?” Sam asked. “Or any other military weapons, like artillery pieces?”

“Nope,” Tyler said, “but there are a lot of out buildings at that facility. Could be some hiding out that weren’t visible.”

“My men have been looking around too,” Garrett said. “Nothing so far. No tracks, nobody maneuvering in anything like that.”

“You look a little nervous,” Sam said.

“Think this place will be safe with a hundred of my men here?” he asked.

“Why?” Ji-Ho asked.

“I’m tempted to take the other hundred there, as a second wave, just in case.”

“Will you get there before it’s over?” Seth asked.

“We can go as the crow flies,” he said.

“That won’t buy you much,” Sid said. “Highway 94 is almost like the crow flies.”

“He’s right,” one of Garett’s men said. “We’ve still got three hundred men at Dodge City. Break off a hundred from there. They’ll get there half an hour after we arrive.”

Garrett thought about it for a moment. “Okay, Chauncey, I see your point. If we do that, though, I want to send some of the folks here to Dodge City, just in case. It’s harder to protect than this place is.”

“Send the guys in the vehicles,” Chauncey said. “We’ve got seventy-five, give or take.”

“I like that idea,” Garrett said, taking his phone out of his pocket. He sent texts out. “Consider it done.”

“Okay, I say we get moving,” Tyler said. “Before they decide to retire for the night.”

“Yes, we should leave now,” Ji-Ho said.

The group dispersed to their vehicles.

“Well, here we go again,” Kaitlyn said. “You think we’ll get stuck? I won’t stay in this tin can if it looks too dicey.”

“We’ll have to play it by ear,” Seth said as he opened the door to the coach. Engines were starting all around the pasture in front of the house.

To be continued…


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