The battle wagons got turned around and left the winery, heading for Dodge City on the dark highway. Sam was at the wheel, Erica in the passenger seat manning the target console. Garrett, Sid, Yvonne, and Clem sat in the salon.
“That was easier than I expected,” Sid said. He looked at Yvonne. “I understand why it makes you nervous.
“I wouldn’t call it that easy,” Clem said. “You notice we aren’t in our coach anymore.”
Garrett laughed. “Good point.”
“You really think it’s fixable?” Yvonne asked. “Sounded really bad when you tried to roll forward, and it wasn’t easy getting it into neutral.’
“We can change out the whole unit,” Garrett said. “I’ve got people who know how. The worst thing will be parts, I suspect. Gonna need at least four tires, too.”
“How about this coach?” Yvonne asked. “Everything okay?”
“Yep,” Sam said from the driver’s seat. “These things are built like tanks.”
“Yeah, by rights we ought to be dead after running over that mine,” Clem said.
“Interesting that it was there, and that we didn’t find others,” Garrett said.
“Yeah, that makes me wonder a little bit too,” Sam said. “Why’d they bother?”
“It would’ve stopped the older coaches,” Sid said. “I’m glad Ji-Ho didn’t come in his.”
“Heard from him?” Yvonne asked. “Everything okay at the Williams place?”
“Yeah, they’re fine,” Clem said. “I’ve been texting back and forth with him.”
“They’ve got two hundred cavalry men and two battle wagons,” Garrett said, “plus all of the people there are well armed. It’s not an easy target.”
“I’ll be nervous until we get back to Mia,” Erica said.
“She’ll be okay,” Garrett said. “If I was worried I’d be back there to get Anna.”
“Pretty sweet on her,” Yvonne said. “Better watch out or she’ll snare you.”
Garrett laughed. “She already has, I’m afraid.”
“Sarah’s sticking pretty close to Clem, I’ve noticed,” Sid said.
“That’s purely platonic,” Clem said. “I’m too old for romance.”
“One is never too old for romance,” Garrett said.
“So, what are we gonna do?” Sam asked. “Camp out for a day or two at Dodge city?”
“Only until tomorrow afternoon,” Garrett said. “Half the men from the battle tonight are going there, but it takes over an hour on horseback, and neither the men nor the horses will be ready for any action until they’ve rested a while.”
“Oh, so the other half is going back to the Williams place?” Yvonne asked.
“Yeah,” Garrett said. “We’ll be well protected in both places.”
“This the turnoff?” Sam asked. Garrett came up front. “Yeah, that’s it. Gets a little bumpy, so you’ll have to slow down.”
“How long is this dirt road?” Erica asked.
“Five miles,” Garrett said. “We’ve got sensors and cameras along the way. It’s kept us safe so far.”
“I’d be more worried about the people living there than the electronics if I was gonna attack,” Clem said.
“I think it’s good to have the electronics,” Sam said. “Somebody could sneak some mortars in there and do a lot of damage before you could shut them down.”
“That’s right,” Garrett said. “We’ve got human patrols going on 24/7 too. Large space to cover, though.”
“What are we gonna do next?” Yvonne asked. “Take on Julian?”
“Ji-Ho said there’s a large group of Islamists coming south soon,” Clem said. “Said they were going to use that winery for a base.”
“Oops,” Garrett said.
“They’ll probably join their buddies in Julian,” Sam said. “We need to cut all of the supply roads to that area.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’d suggest,” Garrett said. “Highway 78, Sweeny Pass Road, Highway 86, and a few others. We need to do more long-term damage to I-8 as well.”
“The state will be working on repairs for years after the war is over,” Sid said, “and they’ll charge us through the teeth.”
“You got that right,” Clem said.
There was a flash ahead of them, and the rumble of an explosion.
“Dammit,” Sam said. “Somebody is firing a mortar up ahead.”
“Son of a bitch,” Garrett said, getting up to the front. “See where it’s coming from?”
“That ridge over there,” Erica said, pointing out her side window.
There was a huge boom, and an explosion on the hillside.
“Holy crap, what was that?” Sid asked.
Garrett looked at him. “That’s one of our cannon.”
“Somebody shot a flare above that ridge,” Sam said. There was another boom, the round hitting higher up the hillside. “Takes a little more work to aim than a mortar.”
“That it does,” Garrett said. “Don’t worry, they’ll get it.”
“We’ve got mortars in the storage compartments, you know,” Sam said.
“Get a little closer,” Garrett said, his phone out, sending texts. “We’ve got the cavalry rushing into that area, too, so we’ll have to be careful. Don’t want to be hitting our own.”
“That’s for sure,” Yvonne said.
The coach got hit with gunfire.
“They’ve seen us,” Sam said.
“Should we stop and go into siege mode?” Yvonne asked.
“No, keep going,” Garrett said. “That main gun sight moves around in the front cab, right?”
“Yeah,” Sam said, flipping the switch to raise the weapons as more small-arms fire hit them. “Want to handle it, honey?”
Erica nodded, pushing in the small target console and pulling the main sight over. “The forward and rear guns won’t do us any good here.” She aimed, the whir of motors above them sounding. “I see where the fire is coming from.” She opened up with the mini gun, sweeping the area, then firing off several grenades. The gunfire stopped.
“Well, got those guys,” Garrett said, looking out the side window. “Won’t be the last. Be careful as we get closer. My men ought to be getting up to that hillside any minute.”
Another mortar round flew, hitting a barn in the distance. Then another, not hitting anything but dirt.
“Where’s your munitions factory?” Sam asked.
“In a mine shaft,” Garrett said. “Pretty hard to touch with outside fire, and we’ve got the entrance well-guarded.”
More machine gun fire hit the coach, on the other side. Erica swung the minigun and grenade launchers around and fired, hitting their nest, setting off their ammo. Then everybody got buzzed.
“Islamists,” Sam said. “Somebody get a good bead on where they are.”
“Roger that,” Clem said, taking a look. “Most of them are up where the mortar fire was coming from, but a few are to the right of the road.”
“I see the nest to the right,” Erica said, looking at her phone app. She set it up on the console. “Slow down a tad, honey.”
Sam nodded, taking his foot off the accelerator for a moment, and then Erica fired five grenades in rapid succession, the coaches behind her doing the same almost at the same time.
“Looks like our friends had the same idea,” Sid said.
“Yep,” Garrett said.
“Wow, see those secondary explosions?” Erica asked as the enemy nest blew.
“That took care of them,” Sam said, speeding up again. “How much further before we should stop and dig in?”
“Another mile,” Garrett said, looking at texts on his phone. “All of the men are on horseback now. The cannon fire took out that mortar emplacement. We’ve already got guys up there killing anybody who survived.”
“I don’t hear gunfire,” Yvonne said.
“They’re using their swords,” Garrett said. “We conserve ammo where we can.”
There were no further attacks before they got to the outskirts of Dodge City.
“Let’s take this coach through town and park on the far side,” Garrett said. “We’ll have the other two stay about here to guard this end.”
“Hope they don’t hit us with mortars,” Clem said. “Hate to lose more of these rigs.”
“I’ve got three hundred mounted men patrolling the area around town,” Garrett said. “I suspect we won’t have any more problems tonight.”
“Wow, this is cool,” Sam said, eyes darting around at the city street as they drove in, gaslights above the wooden sidewalks on either side of the road, people out and about, piano music drifting out of the saloon.
“That looks like a fun place,” Clem said.
“You got that right, brother,” Sid said. “Went there after a show at the opera house once. Great place.”
“We can hit it if this settles down,” Garrett said.
People stopped walking to get a look at the two battle wagons driving down the street, some waving, others cheering. They got past the main part of town and continued for another four hundred yards.
“There,” Garrett said. “See the clearings on either side of the road? Let’s have one park on the right, one on the left.”
“Got it,” Sam said, making a turn to the right as Garrett texted the rig behind them.
“Who’s behind us?” Erica asked.
“Trevor and Kaylee,” Sam said.
“Where’s Tyler?” she asked.
“Seth and Kaitlyn’s rig is on the other side of town,” Garrett said. “One of them is close to the mine where the munitions factory is. Angel and Megan are on the other side of the road from there, guarding the front door.”
Sam shut down and put the coach into siege mode.
“Are we driving the battle wagons to the Ford Dealership?” Morgan asked, sitting with Robbie and several others in the service waiting room, TV still running with the sound off.
“We’re going to have a strategy meeting in a few minutes,” Ted said, sitting next to Haley. “Ivan and Jules are having a chat about it now, I think.”
“We only need these rigs to keep the enemy from escaping,” Sparky said.
“They’re still saying that Ivan is dead,” Brianna said, watching the TV.
Stacey chuckled. “Yeah, they’ll continue to run with that story even after they know it’s not true.”
“You got that right,” Ted said.
“You guys don’t even look nervous,” Ben Dover said. “You’ve seen a lot of action, haven’t you?”
“Yep,” Ted said. “It’s been a wild ride.”
“That’s for sure,” Haley said.
“I wish it would get over,” Dana said. “It’s making me too nervous.”
“Where’s Tex and Karen?”
“Probably he’in and she’in in their rig,” Cody quipped.
“Stop,” Allison said, rolling her eyes. “Men.”
“Tex doesn’t trust that side of the building,” Ted said. “I don’t blame him.”
“We’ve got motion sensors there now,” Sparky said.
“Yeah, I’ve got those around my restaurant,” Ted said. “They don’t work half the time.”
“Then why aren’t we out there?” Haley asked.
“See where my M60 is,” he replied, nodding towards the gun, leaning against the wall next to where he was sitting.
“Oh,” Haley said. “Maybe I should have my M-16 closer.”
“Where is it?”
“Just outside the door, on that table in the hallway.”
“I’d get it,” Ted said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
The door to the manager’s office opened, and Ivan came out with Jules and Shelly. Mr. White followed them.
“News reports still run story about you, boss,” Jules said. “Look.”
“Expect that to continue until our show,” Ivan said.
“The women there yet?” Morgan asked.
“Nope, it’ll probably be the morning,” Ivan said.
“You’re all smiles,” Ted said.
“Your old friend Ji-Ho had a good night,” Ivan said.
“He pulled off that attack on the winery?”
“Yes, did,” Jules said. “Wipe out entire delegation of UN thugs.”
“They lose anybody?” Sparky asked.
“One of the battle wagons ran over a mine in the driveway,” Ivan said.
“Crap,” Sparky said.
“No worry,” Jules said. “Nobody hurt. Transaxle busted. May be fixable.”
“I don’t want them risking their lives to retrieve that,” Ivan said.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t either,” Ted said. “Nobody killed?”
“A few of Mr. Garrett’s cowboys,” Ivan said. “There was an attack at their base, too, but it was put down quickly. Sam is there now.”
“Where’s Ji-Ho?” Ted asked.
“At the home base,” Ivan said, “guarding women and children. He’s got one of the old coaches. I didn’t want him getting into a big battle in that one.”
“He’s not guarding that home base by himself, I hope,” Sparky said.
“No, no, he’s there with over two hundred mounted cavalry and one other battle wagon of the new type,” Ivan said. “They’ll be fine.”
“What are we gonna do?” Ted asked. “You work out a strategy?”
“Yeah, we aren’t just rolling up to that Ford dealership with our rigs, are we?”
“No, we’re sending a commando unit in after the women arrive,” Ivan said. “It’ll be run by Mr. Black and Mr. White. We don’t want the enemy killing the hostages this time, and if we show ourselves, that’s what will happen.”
“Good,” Morgan said.
“After the battle is over inside, we pull some battle wagons to that side of the auto mall,” Jules said, “to make sure we don’t get interrupted while we make TV show.”
“Exactly,” Ivan said. “We film TV show and send it to my people for broadcast, then get out of here. Part of the video is already in the can.”
“What part of the video?” Robbie asked.
Ivan chuckled. “We have film of the UN Peacekeepers going to my old headquarters and getting blown up.”
Ted laughed. “You son of a bitch. You just love to twist the knife, don’t you?”
“I need to have some fun from time to time,” Ivan said.
“Where’re we going after this?” Morgan asked. “If you can tell us, that is.”
“Folsom State Prison,” Ivan said.
“What, after they catch us?” Ted asked. A few people in the room laughed nervously.
“No, we’re doing a jailbreak,” Ivan said. “Almost the entire California Legislature currently resides there, as well as the acting Governor.”
“You sure we should bother?” Sparky asked. “Many of those cretins helped to put us into this position.”
“We know for a fact that they’ve seen the error in their ways,” Ivan said.
“The State Supreme Court there as well,” Jules said. “Like to cane them before we let them go.”
“Be nice, Jules,” Ivan said.
Ben Dover laughed. “They’ve gotten a front-row seat, watching the policies many of them fought for brought to their true fruition.”
Jules laughed. “You right, Mr. Dover.”
“Mr. Dover?” Justin asked, grinning. “What’s your real name, anyway?”
“I don’t recognize that name anymore,” Ben said.
“That good,” Jules said.
“Okay, I get it,” Justin said. “Well played.”
“We aren’t gonna let everybody out of Folsom, are we?” Ted asked. “There’s some people who should stay in there.”
“We’re researching that now,” Ivan said. “Political prisoners are gonna be set free. Real criminals won’t be.”
“That sounds like a dangerous mission,” Sparky said.
“We’ll have several concurrent operations going on at once,” Ivan said. “We’ve been learning about social media recruiting from General Hogan’s people. A team in Texas has brought it up to an art form.”
Mr. White jerked as his phone buzzed. He pulled it from his pocket, putting it to his ear and walking into the hallway. He was back after a moment.
“Boss, Mr. Black say the entertainment crew has arrived. Cameras are broadcasting.”
“Good,” Ivan said, pulling his phone out. He went to a URL for the video feed and then cast it to the TV set, which showed a picture divided into quarters, with the top left-hand side showing a long dark hallway, the top right showing a room with several mattresses on the floor, the bottom left hand side showing an office area with a counter manned by several UN Peacekeepers, and the bottom right showing a large holding cell with rows of cots.
“Oh no,” Katie said, turning away. “I can’t watch this.”
“That looks like where they held us,” Morgan said, Robbie putting his arm around her, pulling her close. Dana started to cry. Sparky and Morgan rushed over to comfort her.
“Are you recording this?” Robbie asked.
“Yes, are,” Mr. White said.
“I’m getting Tex,” Sparky said, rushing out of the room with Dana.
The team watched as the lights came on in the dark hallway, several armed UN Peacekeepers walking down, looking around as several other UN Peacekeepers from the office area left, meeting them in the hallway. They chatted briefly in what sounded like German, and then one of the newcomers turned and motioned. More Peacekeepers came in, leading a large group of young women, all of them with their wrists zip-tied behind their backs, their expressions making them look like zombies.
“Oh, God,” Morgan said, eyes tearing.
“You don’t have to watch this, honey,” Robbie said.
“No, I do have to watch this,” she said, “and we have to tell our story too.”
Tex and Karen rushed in with Sparky and Dana, Karen stopping as she saw the video feed, starting to tremble. Tex pulled her close. “Don’t worry, little lady, we’re gonna stop this.”
“I know,” she said. “It’s bringing back thoughts I’ve been pushing away for a while.”
The women filed into the office area, the Peacekeepers forcing them to the counter, where other Peacekeepers were taking their names and marking them off on their tablets.
“How can any of these creeps think this is okay?” Katie asked. “All of them have mothers. A lot of them have sisters, maybe even daughters.”
“At least I’m not seeing any young girls in this batch,” Haley said.
“Thank God,” Dana said, only half watching, still clutching Sparky.
“They’re dumping them into the cells,” Robbie said as the first in the stream of women were seen in the holding cell, most finding cots quickly and laying, backs to the door.
“Where’s the commando team?” Ted asked.
“Some in the underground parking area,” Ivan said. “Others in the service bays.”
“How many?” Tex asked.
“Nearly hundred,” Mr. White said.
“How about outside?” Sparky asked. “They got any Gaz Tigrs out there?”
Mr. White sauntered over and held up his phone, which showed video of the parking lot from the roof of the huge building, the picture cycling from one camera to another.
“Don’t see any,” Sparky said. “Just a lot of those white UN vans.”
“They might have armor nearby,” Jules said, coming over to look.
“Yes, they might,” Ivan said. “That’s where the battle wagons come in. You guys need to be sharp. Nail them before they can get off a shot.”
“How long do we wait before the attack?” Tex asked.
“We wait until UN Peacekeepers retire,” Ivan said. “They’ve been up for nearly twenty-four hours.”
“We aren’t going to watch them attacking the girls, are we?” Morgan asked.
“Nothing happen tonight,” Mr. White said. “They bathed and fresh for UN muckity-mucks. Off limits for UN grunts until after big arrival.”
“Which is never gonna happen,” Ben said. “The nightmare should be over for these women.”
“The nightmare is never over,” Dana said.
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