Tex drove the rig, following Jules, the rest of the rigs behind him. Karen was in the passenger seat.
“Jules is getting off here,” Karen said.
“Yeah, North Shingle Road,” Tex said. “We’ll have to go over the freeway to get on it.”
“Wonder how safe this place is gonna be?” Karen asked.
“We’ll see,” Tex said. “Ivan and Jules say it’s safe. They’re usually right.”
“Except at the communications installation that we hit,” Karen said.
“What happened there?” asked Samantha, walking to the front of the coach.
“Hold on, little lady,” Tex said, “making a turn and it’s sharp.” He took the off ramp, following the curves and getting onto the bridge over Highway 50. Samantha held onto the backs of the two seats.
“There’s your road, honey,” Karen said, pointing.
“Right turn,” Tex said. “Hold on again. Then it should be better for a while.”
Samantha nodded, her blonde hair swaying as she braced herself. Tex made the turn and slowly sped up on North Shingle.
“There we go,” Karen said. “This goes up into the hills, huh?”
“Looks that way,” Tex said.
“What were you talking about again?” Samantha asked. “The communications system?”
“That was an earlier mission,” Karen said. “We went into a remote area to take out an enemy communications center.”
“It went badly?”
“We lost a couple people there due to some tanks we didn’t know about,” Tex said. “It was a tough day.”
“Oh,” Samantha said. “You mostly survived, though, from the look of it.”
“Yeah, we were able to knock out the tanks with TOW missiles,” Tex said. “We were lucky.”
“Ivan didn’t know the tanks were there, did he?” Samantha asked.
“Nope,” Tex said, “but I wouldn’t be too hard on him for that. The tanks had been placed there a couple months before we knew about the target, and they were well hidden. We didn’t have good enough assets on the ground to find them.”
“What about this place we’re going to?” Samantha asked. “Should we be worried.”
“This is war, so we always have to be worried,” Tex said, “but this is a different situation entirely.”
Karen looked back at Samantha. “We’re going to a rebel base, not an enemy base, for one thing.”
“Oh,” she said. “Okay, but what if the enemy knows about this place?”
“We’ll fight them,” Tex said. “We hurt them badly over the last twenty-four hours, though. They don’t have the resources to find us easily, without a real lucky break.”
“These rigs and all those armed off-roaders are gonna be seen. It’s almost light.”
“Yeah, but we’d have to be seen by people who are siding with the UN and the Islamists, and there aren’t many of those.”
“Wait till our TV show gets on air,” Karen said.
“It was broadcast late last night,” Tex said.
“It was?” Samantha asked.
“Yeah, that’s why Ivan went to a different spot,” Tex said. “We’ve got these creeps on the run.”
Karen picked up her phone and checked the internet. “Wow, it’s viral.”
“Really?” Samantha asked.
“Ivan’s got a pretty big following, plus he always busts onto all channels when he first does these,” Karen said.
Tex watched the dark terrain ahead of the coach. “Gets remote on this road pretty fast.”
“Lots of roads going off on either side, though,” Karen said. “I’ll bet there’s lots of rich people living around here. Lots of compounds.”
“That’s where we’re going, I suspect,” Tex said.
“You haven’t been told exactly where yet?” Samantha asked.
“Loose lips sink ships,” Tex said. “If somebody breaks down or gets captured, we don’t want them to know our next destination.”
“Oh, I get it,” Samantha said.
Tex and Karen’s phones dinged.
“What’s that?” Samantha asked. “Text messages?”
“Probably a broadcast, little lady. Next turn, or even destination.”
Karen read the message. “From Shelly. Shingle Springs road turns into Green Valley at a curve to the right. Keep on it. Then there’s a slight curve to the left, and Green Valley makes a sharp right turn. Don’t take that right turn. Keep going straight. The road turns into Lotus Road. We’ll take Lotus to Lisa Lane, which is to the right.”
“That’s the destination?” Tex asked.
“Sounds like it,” she said, bringing up her map app. “Hmmm. Large compound in front of a massive rock quarry.”
“Interesting,” Tex said. “I don’t think we’ll be there long. Sounds like Ivan wants to hit Folsom while the iron is hot.”
“Yeah,” Karen said.
“When do I find out if I can join up?” Samantha asked.
“That’ll be up to Jules, I suspect,” Tex said.
“Did all the women who were rescued from the Torrance location join?”
Karen looked back at her. “No, but most did. I was surprised.”
“How many didn’t?” Samantha asked.
“Shoot, I’ll have to think about that a little,” Karen said. “Seems like eons ago.”
“We got the under-age girls back to their relatives,” Tex said.
“There were under-age girls at your detention center?” Samantha asked, shooting a shocked look at Karen.
“These people are pigs,” Karen said, “but you already knew that. There weren’t under-aged captives where you were?”
“They just grabbed me about two weeks ago. I was with a group of six women that got nabbed from a shopping center.”
“You were shopping there?” Tex asked.
“No, I was a clerk in the anchor department store. They lined us all up. Took the pretty women. Left the rest. Killed the men working there.”
“I’m surprised they didn’t kill the women they left behind too,” Tex said.
“The men were killed because they tried to protect us,” Samantha said as she fought back tears. “One of them was my boyfriend.”
“I’m so sorry,” Karen said softly.
“You went through worse,” she said. “They killed your parents in front of you.”
“We’ve all been through bad stuff,” Karen said. “Focus on survival and victory. That’s what keeps me going. That and this big lug in the driver’s seat.”
“You’ve been together for a while?”
Karen chuckled. “I played hard to get. Didn’t last long.”
“Oh, it lasted a while,” Tex said.
“You were persistent,” Karen said. “You won me over.’
“Most of the women are paired up,” Samantha said. “That’s kinda weird.”
“Not really, when you think about it,” Karen said.
“The war?” Samantha asked.
“Yeah, that’s part of it,” Karen said. “I wouldn’t have spent enough time with Tex for him to win me over if we weren’t kinda forced together.”
Tex chuckled. “Don’t underestimate me. I would have been after you no matter the situation.”
“Oh, you’re probably right, I guess,” Karen said. “You are my type, but I didn’t recognize it at first. I thought you were nuts when I first met you.”
“I am a little nuts,” Tex said, shooting her a grin.
“Yeah, but in a good way,” Karen said.
“Wonder how many of these wartime romances will last after the war’s over?” Samantha asked.
“Who knows,” Karen said. “I think Tex and I will be together forever, but people usually think that. I’m hopeful. I’m very much in love with him.”
“Likewise, honey,” Tex said.
“Nobody’s broken up since you’ve been a team?” Samantha asked.
“Nope,” Tex said. “Two of the couples just recently got together.”
“Two? I thought it was only Ted and Haley. Everybody else has been together for a while.”
“Sparky and Dana,” Tex said. “Sparky resisted. Dana was clingy, and he wasn’t sure if she was really in love with him or not. They worked through that, about the same time that Ted and Haley got together.”
“I don’t look at it that way exactly,” Karen said, “after talking to Dana a lot. She’s got problems, though.”
“Problems?” Samantha asked.
“PTSD,” Karen said, “night terrors.”
“Oh. Surprised all of you don’t have that.”
“How about you?” Karen asked Samantha. “Having problems?”
“I have no idea,” she said. “Remember that I just got out of captivity. My mind is still focused on survival. My mind keeps telling me I’ll be dragged back there any second.”
“I went through that for a while,” Karen said. “These are strong people, though. I had to get myself out of the victim mindset. It was hard, but I’m mostly past it now.”
“Mostly?” Tex asked. “You’re strong. I’ve been so proud of you.”
“I know, sweetie, but I’ll be sitting here and suddenly I’m being raped by those monsters again. It’s like flashbacks. I come out of them fast, and it’s less and less often. You’re helping a lot with that.”
“I’m glad,” Tex said. “Here’s Green Valley Road.”
“How are the others that were with you?” Karen asked.
“Most are strong like me,” Samantha said. “A few had a really hard time, and I’m worried about them. The smallest of us has me worried the most. Her name is Kendall. She looks underage, but she’s not.”
“What happened to her?”
“She couldn’t control her body,” Samantha said. “She responded, even though she didn’t want to. The animals liked it so they used her more often, which made things even worse for her.”
“Oh, God,” Karen said, tears coming fast. “Lily.”
“Don’t torture yourself, sweetie,” Tex said.
“What about Lily?” Samantha asked.
“Let’s just drop that one,” Tex said, shooting a worried glance at Karen. She made eye contact with him.
“It’s okay, Tex,” she said. “It’s better if I talk about it, frankly.” She turned to Samantha. “Lily responded like that, and got the same result from the captors. She shot herself as soon as she was alone with access to a gun.”
“Oh, no,” Samantha said. “I’m so sorry. Was she a close friend?”
“No, not really,” Karen said. “None of us knew each other, except for Morgan and Katie. We’re all thick as thieves now, of course.”
“All of us knew each other,” Samantha said. “That made it even worse in some ways.”
“Here comes Lotus road,” Tex said, looking relieved. “We’re almost there.”
“This conversation is bothering you, isn’t it?” Samantha asked.
“I have this huge problem with women being abused,” Tex said. “It makes my blood boil. I wish we were gonna kill some more of that trash tonight.”
Karen and Samantha shot each other a glance.
“You’re lucky to have him,” Samantha whispered. Karen looked her in the eye and shook her head yes.
“There’s our turn,” Tex said, watching Jules make the sharp right turn. “Hold on, little lady.”
Samantha grabbed the backs of the seats again as they turned.
“Wow, this looks like a quarry, doesn’t it?” Karen asked. “Or a mine.”
“Is that a big wall over there?” Samantha asked.
“Looks like an equipment compound,” Tex said. They slowed to a stop behind Jules’s rig as a massive gate slid to one side. “That wall is about fifteen feet tall.”
Jules drove forward slowly, Tex and the other coaches following, along with the first batch of off-roaders.
“Look, there’s spaces towards the back,” Karen said, watching Jules do a K-turn and back into the first one. “There’s a roof over them?”
Tex laughed. “Beautiful. We aren’t visible from the air here.” He followed Jules’s lead and made the K-turn, backing into the space next to Jules.
“Want me to get out and guide you?” Karen asked.
“Nah, little lady. The rear camera will do the job for me.”
“There’s hookups,” Karen said.
“Why would this be here?” Samantha asked.
“Probably to keep that earth-moving equipment over there out of the elements,” Tex said. He shut down the engine and got out of the driver’s seat, stretching his legs and extending a hand to Karen, who took it. He pulled her into an embrace. “I’ve been waiting to do that.”
“We’re here?” asked one of the three women in the back.
“Yes, Traci, we’re here,” Samantha said.
“We almost ready to go?” Garrett asked as he stepped through the front door of the house.
“We’re ready for the first trip,” Sam said. “We’ll need one more, but probably only with half as many vehicles.”
“What was the final tally that we lost?” Tyler asked.
Garrett looked at him, trying to hold back tears. “Forty-three.”
“Oh God,” Erica said.
“On the good side, we killed more than three hundred of them,” Garrett said.
“You still thinking about booby trapping this place?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, but not till we’re all safe and sound at Dodge City,” Garrett said. “I’ve got some guys working on the plan. It’ll probably happen at about two am tomorrow.”
“Okay, let’s saddle up,” Sam said in a loud voice.
“I’m sending a broadcast text,” Erica said.
Everybody rushed to their vehicles, which had been parked in a line on the way out the front gate, two of the battle wagons still outside of the gate to guard against problems.
“You riding with us, Garrett?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, with Anna, if you don’t mind.”
“I’d love it,” Erica said.
“It’s not a long trip, at least,” Sam said. “Let’s go.”
They left the house, walking across the veranda and getting into Sam’s rig, which was still parked right in front of the house. They loaded up – Sam, Mia, and Erica, Garrett and Anna, and six more tribe’s people. Sam fired up the engine and pulled away from the house, getting in line behind the other vehicles, more queueing up behind them. The caravan started moving.
“Here, you ride shotgun,” Erica said, looking at Garrett. “I’ll sit with Anna and the others.”
Garrett tipped his hat and got into the passenger seat.
“Sorry you lost so many folks,” Sam said, glancing at him as they moved towards Highway 94.
“The tribe lost five,” Garrett said. “From a percentage standpoint, that’s worse than what we suffered.”
“We need to recruit more people.”
“Yep, been thinking about that,” Garrett said. “There’s a lot of people still living out in the boonies here. Maybe we can bring them in.”
“We don’t even have to make space for them to live with us,” Sam said. “We just have to get them to show up at battles. That’s what the social media team has been doing in Texas. Ji-Ho told me about it earlier.”
“That’s what it’s gonna take,” Garrett said. “You believe what Ji-Ho was saying about the ratio of UN to Islamists heading more in favor of the Islamists?”
Sam thought silently for a moment. “I believe that’s what they were considering, but I think the damage we’ve inflicted, both here and up north, might either slow that down or stop it. I believe we do have them on the run. That’s why it’s so vital to shut down their remaining routes north from the Mexican border. If they can replenish men and equipment like they were doing before, we’ll have a hard time.”
“We’ll still win,” Garrett said. “You know that, right?”
“Why do you think that?”
“There are over forty million people in this state,” Garrett said. “Most of those people are on our side.”
“You think so?”
Garrett smiled. “I was listening to some of the younger guys while we were cleaning the scene. Social media is ablaze with talk of chasing the UN out of the state, and nobody wanted the Islamists here in the first place. The tide will turn, my friend, but we need to limit the game by blocking the enemy down here.”
“You sure most are on our side? I mean, look at the idiots that have held elective office here since the late 1970s.”
“Exposing the globalists as bringing in Islamists to bully the population has taken a lot of that support away,” Garrett said. “Add to that the video that Ivan did, with all of the women testifying about their experiences on the rape farms. Trust me, most people think that’s bad, regardless of if they’re on the right or on the left.”
They got to the Highway and sped up. “Checked the apps lately?” Sam asked.
Garrett lifted his cell phone up to his face. “I’ll do it now.”
They rode along silently for a few minutes, the road on either side becoming denser with structures as they neared Dulzura.
“Nobody close by,” Garrett said. “Still bad in Julian. Wonder where the slugs that hit us came from?”
“Probably Julian,” Sam said. “Wish we had some historical data we could look at.”
“Yeah, like enemy troop counts by area and by date,” Sam said.
“Oh,” Garrett said. “That would be a good thing. Maybe we ought to put some of the kids on it. Didn’t Seth have some experience with that sort of thing?”
“Yeah, come to think of it. I’ll talk to him when we get to Dodge City. After that last batch gets there, of course.”
“That will be faster than you think,” Garrett said. “One of my guys had a good idea. Rent trucks, and take them down there. We cleaned out the two rental places we have nearby. We ought to be seeing trucks go by any minute.”
“What about escorts?”
“We’re still using the 75 vehicles we have,” Garrett said. “They’ll drop off their load of souls and high-tail it back there. Look! There’s some of the rental trucks.”
Several large bobtail trucks raced by, honking their horns. Many of the caravan honked back at them.
“How about the cavalry? When will they make it back?”
“They should be getting close as we speak,” Garrett said. “I let them go a little earlier, and they’re riding as the crow flies. Makes some difference.”
“Good,” Sam said.
“Here’s the town,” Garrett said. “Still deadsville.”
“At least it didn’t get overrun like Julian and Descanso.”
“Don’t say that too loud,” Sam said. “Mia gets scared when Descanso is even mentioned.”
“Oh, sorry,” Garrett said. “I’ll keep that in mind. She’s a nice little girl.”
“She is,” Sam said.
“You guys want a soft drink or anything?” Erica asked.
“Not here,” Sam said. “Thanks.”
“We’ll be on the dirt road into Dodge City in less than ten minutes,” Garrett said. “It’ll get a little bouncy to drink soda.”
“Oh, didn’t think about that,” Erica said. “I’ll hold off.”
Garrett watched her walk back into the salon, then turned to Sam. “You two are gonna get hitched pretty soon, right?”
“I’m pushing for it,” Sam said. “Mia is helping my argument.”
“Erica doesn’t want that?”
“She does now, I think,” Sam said. “How about you?”
Garrett chuckled. “I’m pretty fond of Anna. Doubt I’ll be able to talk her into it, though. At least not near term. It’s too early in our relationship.”
Sam chuckled. “Yeah, I’ve known Erica a couple weeks longer than you’ve known Anna.”
Both men cracked up.
“What a crazy world we’re living in,” Garrett said. He lifted his phone back up and checked the apps.
“You see something?” Sam asked, watching Garrett’s expression change.
“Some hits coming south from Julian,” Garrett said.
“A lot of hits?”
“Thirty or so,” Garrett said. “Well spaced out. On Highway 79.”
“We’ll have to watch them,” Sam said. “Dammit. Hope we get time to prepare before we’re in the thick of it again.”
“They’re a long way away.”
“I know, Garrett, but we can’t see the UN guys.”
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