Bugout! California Part 124 – Mismatch

Sam was at the wheel of the battle wagon, driving northwest on Highway 94 in the darkness.

“Here’s Jamul,” Erica said. “Deserted.”

“I see lights on in buildings here and there,” Sam said.

Erica nodded. “Think the two battle wagons we left at the Williams place are enough?”

“Worried about our little girl?”

Erica looked at him, eyes misting. “That’s the first time you’ve called her that.”

“It is?”

“Yes,” Erica said. “I like it.”

“She won me over fast, that’s for sure.”

They rode silently for a few minutes.

“Our turnoff is coming up,” Erica said.

“Who’s that in front of us?” Sam asked.

“Sid, Yvonne, Clem, and Tyler,” Erica said. “They’re in the lead, because Sid and Tyler have both been here.”

“Yvonne probably has too, unless she lets Sid go drinking alone,” Sam said, glancing at her with a grin on his face.

“He might have been there with some of his guy friends, you know.”

“I’m just joking around,” Sam said. “Look, they’re making the left.”

Sam followed them onto Vista Sage Lane.

“Whoa, this is thin, with some low-hanging branches,” Erica said. They heard scraping on the roof as they went under a low tree.

“Glad we don’t have the guns out yet,” Sam said. “This wasn’t made for big RVs. Hope it doesn’t get worse ahead.”

“Wish this wasn’t so curved here. We can’t see very far.”

“They’ll hear us soon, I suspect,” Sam said.

“Sharp right-hand turn coming up.”

“We to the second street already?” Sam asked.

“No, same street, it just turns sharp.”

Sam followed Sid’s coach through the turn, branches on the side of the road scraping them. “This is tight as hell.”

“Yep,” Erica said. “If this gets bad, we need to get out with our weapons.”

“No argument here.” Sam said. “At least it’s straight now. I can see the whole way to the last street. No big problems. Looks like the other coaches are pretty tight behind us.”

Erica pulled the console out and looked with the targeting system. “Yes, we’re tight back there all right.”

“Sid’s making the final turn. Get ready.”

They rolled forward, watching the big coach ahead of them as it got onto Colina Verde Lane. Sam followed them around the tight corner.

“Won’t be long now,” Erica said.

Suddenly there was a big explosion ahead, under the coach, which stopped.

“No!” Erica cried.

“Dammit,” Sam said. His phone rang. He pulled it out and handed it to Erica. “Put it on speaker.” She nodded and did that, putting the phone on the console.

“Talk to me,” Sam said.

“We’re okay, thanks to the armor they put underneath, but the transaxle is toast,” Sid said. “I got it in neutral, and I’m putting up siege mode. Push us forward.”

“You sure?” Sam asked.

“Yeah, and hurry, because you know everybody heard that.”

“Okay,” Sam said. He flipped the switch to set up siege mode as he rolled forward.

“Why’d you do that?” Erica asked.

“Because the pushing is gonna screw up the front armor,” Sam said as he pulled forward slowly. “Watch out the targeting system. Guide me. I’ll look through mine too.” He brought down the sight for the main guns, using it like a periscope as the front of their coach touched the back of Sid’s. He gunned the engine, pushing the coach forward.

“Keep going,” Erica said as she watched. Sid opened fire on the tent as they got close, riddling it with machine gun fire and shooting several grenades into it.

“Let them have it!” Sam said.

“He’s turning onto the driveway, so you’ll have to compensate,” Erica said.

“Roger that,” Sam said, still watching through his target sight. He pushed them all the way to the main building of the winery, then pulled out of the way, the other rigs coming in, opening fire. The coach was pelted with machine gun fire.

“See where they are?” Erica asked.

“Yeah, coming out of that outbuilding to the left,” Sam said, swinging the grenade launcher in that direction and firing. The outbuilding exploded into flames, UN Peacekeepers flooding out, running for cover.

“There’s about fifty men there, see,” Erica said, firing the forward guns at them, mowing some down, others diving behind cover. Sid hit their cover with several grenades, killing all of them, as the other coaches concentrated fire on the big circus tent from up and down the road. Part of the canvas fell away, revealing rows of tables and lots of mutilated bodies. More machine gun fire hit the side of the coach.

“I think I need to get on the M60 through the side slits,” Erica said.

“Go for it,” Sam said. “Crap, two Gaz Tigrs, coming from the left.”

Sid’s mini gun started up, hitting both in the front windshield, blowing them up before they could fire.

“They get them?” Erica asked, holding the M60 to the gun slit.

“Yeah, Sid wasted both.” A hail of gunfire hit them from the main house. “Upper windows, see?”

Erica nodded and aimed in that direction with the M60, as Sam fired grenades through the windows and doors of the building, blowing the front wall off in one spot. Four other battle wagons fired, riddling the building with grenades and mini gun fire. Then they were pelted on the driver’s side with small arms fire. Sam whirled the sight around. “Crap, there’s about fifty UN Peacekeepers charging our lines.” He spun the mini gun around and opened fire, and then the smell of black powder and the sound of a thousand hoofs filled the area, a hail of lead thick in the air.

“The cavalry arrived!” Sam shouted, stopping the mini gun. Mounted men were everywhere, firing Winchesters and pistols from their saddles, more on foot rushing to each of the out buildings.

“This is gonna be over quick,” Erica said, still firing at fleeing men on the passenger side of the coach. Sam turned the grenade launcher towards another set of out-buildings, hitting one, causing secondary explosions.

“Whoa,” Sam shouted. “Found their ammo supply.”

“Hope none of our guys were close to that when it went up,” Erica said.

The cowboys were at the front building now, chasing down terrified UN Peacekeepers, some dropping their weapons and putting up their hands, only to be shot by several mounted men.

A broadcast text message hit Sam’s and Erica’s phones. Erica read it.

“Garrett,” she said. “The mounted men coming from Dodge city ran into a large force of UN Peacekeepers on the road. They defeated them and rushed back to their town to get ready for an attack. He’s wondering if we have enough ammo left to go there. He said this battle is just about over.”

“Tell him that Sid’s coach is toast and ours might be too, if we can’t get the armor plate to retract from the front windshield.”

She nodded as she sent the reply. “How are we on ammo, anyway?”

“I only used the mini gun a few times. Probably need a new belt of grenades loaded.”

The gunfire subsided and stopped outside.

“It’s over,” Erica said.

“So it would appear,” Sam said. “I’m gonna try getting out of siege mode. He flipped the switch. The electric motors started up, the armor plate lowering itself. “Hey, it still works,” Sam said. “Excellent.”

“You want to reload before we turn around and get out of here?”

“Yeah, and let’s have the folks in Sid’s coach come over with their ammo,” Sam said.

“We didn’t lose anybody,” Erica said as she typed the text message.

“The night is young,” Sam said.

“Sid’s coming over with Yvonne and Clem,” Erica said. “They’re bringing some of their ammo. Tyler’s going with Seth and Kaitlyn, with the rest of the ammo.”

“Yeah, I see them getting out now,” Sam said. “Here comes Garrett.”

There was a knock on the coach door. Sam opened it.

“Ah, you got siege mode to retract,” Garrett said, smiling.

“Yeah,” Sam said. “Surprised. How’d the front of the rig look from out there?”

“A little creased, but not bad,” he said. Sid came in behind him.

“Hey, thanks for the ride,” he said.

Clem followed him. “Thanks for the push too, man. Damn shame that our rig is out of order.”

“We’ll come get it after this is over,” Garrett said. “We can probably fix her.”

Yvonne came in and sat on the couch. “That was too easy.”

“We caught them by surprise,” Garrett said. “They were planning on catching us by surprise at Dodge City. Would have, too, if my men hadn’t run into them on the road.”

“You want to hitch a ride with us?” Sam asked.

“Let me see if somebody can get my horse back home,” he said. “I had him brought here.”

“Okay, we need to reload anyway, so we’ve got some time.”

“Gonna have to jockey around a little to get turned around,” Clem said.

“There’s a good place to turn around a little further towards the main building here,” Garrett said. “It’ll take a k-turn, but it’s an easy place to do it, and it’s paved. I suspect the semi-trucks use that for deliveries to the winery.”

“Great,” Sam said. “See you soon.”

Garrett left.

“I’ll help you reload,” Sid said.

“Yeah, me too,” Clem said.

“Okay, I’m going outside to check for damage,” Sam said. “Be back in a sec.”

“Who’s checking for survivors?” Clem asked.

“I saw Garrett’s men doing that,” Erica said.

“Surprised we haven’t been hearing gunshots, then,” Yvonne said.

“They’re using their knives,” Erica said, “saves ammo.”

“That’s a little grizzly,” Yvonne said.

“This is war,” Erica said.

***

Saladin was sleeping on a couch in Daan’s lounge when he heard yelling in the hallway. He got up and checked his phone. It was early morning. He was headed towards the door when it burst open, Daan rushing in with an aid, who looked scared to death.

“They’re sure?” Daan asked.

“Yeah,” the aid said. “You want us to give the info to the press?”

“What are you, stupid?” Daan asked.

“What happened?” Saladin asked.

Daan stared at him angrily for a moment, then turned back to the aid. “That’s all. Let me know if anything else comes up.”

“Yes sir. Sorry sir.”

“Not your fault,” Daan said, trying to calm himself. The aid left, and closed the door behind him. “Dammit, I miss Gunter already. I shouldn’t have sent him.”

“Something bad happened,” Saladin said. “What?”

“Ivan played us,” Daan said, heading for the bar. He poured himself a stiff belt of bourbon and tossed it back. “Want some?”

“No thanks,” Saladin said. “You okay?”

Daan poured himself another and downed it, then turned back to Saladin. “Yeah, I’m okay. That son of a bitch rubbed his DNA all over everything.”

“Ivan’s not dead, is he?”

“Nope,” Daan said. “The DNA in the flesh on the body parts didn’t match the blood that was smeared on the outside and on the clothes.”

“I had a feeling,” Saladin said, sitting on one of the stools at the bar.

Daan took another stool and had a third drink. “Guess who the body parts belonged too?”

“Someone you know?”

“Those college professors from UC Santa Cruz,” he said. “That son of a bitch.”

“We’ll be lucky if this is the only bad thing that happens,” Saladin said.

“I know,” Daan said. “I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

“Let’s think through this step by step,” Saladin said. “Where are you most vulnerable? Do you have any big plans going down?”

“We’re moving a bunch of high-ranking UN folks from SoCal up to Elk Grove.”

“Where’s Elk Grove?” Saladin asked.

“South of Sacramento,” Daan said. “They’re not supposed to be here for a couple days.”

“How are they getting here?”

“UN vans,” Daan said.

“Who’s at the Elk Grove base?”

“Just a handful of technical folks, getting it set up as a training center,” Daan said. “We took over about half of an Auto Mall that was abandoned a couple months ago. It’s got lots of space to stage vans and other vehicles from, and several large buildings.”

“Do you trust the people there?” Saladin asked.

“I don’t know them,” Daan said. “They’re low level. The facility will be run by the people who are in the south.”

“Hmmm. Doesn’t sound like a juicy target. What else?”

“Up north?” Daan asked. “Not much. We’re expecting an attack down south, but we’re dug in good.”

“Where?”

“Julian,” Daan said. “You should know that. A lot of those folks are yours. Why do you ask?”

“Just trying to brainstorm a little bit. Is that where the UN leadership folks are?”

“No,” Daan said. “They’re in Jamul. It’s way southwest of Julian. The officials came in via El Cajon a couple months ago, before we lost control of I-8.”

Saladin thought silently for a moment, watching Daan cap the bourbon and put it back on the shelf behind the bar.

“How well do you know Ivan?” Saladin asked.

“Not well at all,” Daan said. “I’ve met him, of course, in Belgium. Discussed business with him briefly. It wasn’t a cordial meeting.”

Saladin chuckled. “I can imagine.”

“He doesn’t think in a normal pattern, from what I’ve seen. Sometimes I think he does things as much for fun as anything else.”

“Fun?”

“Yeah, look at his videos,” Daan said. “I mean really. Fedora and pin-striped suit? It’s a costume.”

“He seems to take a certain glee at hitting us,” Saladin said. “Where does he get his funding? Maybe we can attack that.”

“He’s quite wealthy himself,” Daan said, “and he associates with others. Industrialist types, for the most part. Wealthy and untouchable, even by our group, for now.

“When are these high-ranking UN people leaving Southern California?”

“I’m not sure on the exact hour,” Daan said. “Sometime in the next two days. They weren’t sure. There were several people who hadn’t joined them last time I talked to the coordinator.”

“Interesting,” Saladin said. “Maybe you ought to check with them again.”

“That’s not a bad idea.” Daan walked to his phone and hit the button. The aid walked through the door after a moment.

“Yes sir,” he said.

“Get me Jonathan Geller, please, on the land line. Do you know his number?”

“I’ll check Gunter’s book,” the aid said. “It’s on his desk.”

He left the room.

“Jonathan Geller?” Saladin asked. “He’s English. I thought we lost most of those folks.”

Daan laughed. “Jonathan decided to stick with the EU after England bailed. He’s not the only one, either. Several of their intelligence officers and several high-ranking people from the House of Lords left Great Britain, remember?”

“I haven’t followed that for a while,” Saladin said. “Ever since they suspended my visa.”

The aid rushed back into the room. “Sorry sir, Jonathan Geller isn’t answering his phone.”

Saladin and Daan shot each other a glance.

“Try to get ahold of his associates,” Daan said. “You know who they are?”

“I’ll look at Gunter’s notes,” he said, leaving the room again.

“This isn’t good,” Saladin said.

“Don’t get worried yet,” Daan said. “Jonathan’s a player. He’s probably shacked up with some woman down there.”

“That should make me feel better? Remember your college professor.”

Daan snickered. “Boys will be boys.”

“We’re taking enough female prisoners,” Saladin said. “He should be using them instead of pursuing others. Too many things can go wrong if he’s out in the general population. They’re not under control. He might even run into an agent of the resistance.”

“He’s a professional,” Daan said. “I wouldn’t worry about it.”

The aid came back in again. “Sorry, sir, I’ve called the five people who Gunter had associated with Mr. Geller in his notes. None of them are answering.”

“Maybe they’re on their way north already,” Daan said, thinking out loud. He looked at the aid. “Try again a little later. It’s early yet.”

“Yes sir,” the aid said. He went back outside.

“They’re all dead,” Saladin said.

“No they’re not,” Daan said.

“We’ll see. Care to place a wager?”

Daan looked at him, his expression half amusement and half worry. “No, I don’t want to bet on this. Let’s give it some time before we go nuts, though. I’ll get us some breakfast.”

“Thank you,” Saladin said, watching Daan pick up the phone receiver.

To be continued…

 

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