Sid drove the Jeep towards the break in the fence, Clem next to him with the surveillance equipment.
“We’ll have to hurry,” Sid said. “It’ll be dark soon.”
“Yeah, I’d like to be out of here before then,” Yvonne said from the back seat, her rifle cradled in her lap. “I feel like our butts are hanging out on the line. There could be snipers on any of those ridges up there.”
“Garrett’s men are still patrolling,” Sid said.
“That’s what they’re saying, but have you seen one out here yet?” Yvonne asked.
“They’re probably on the other side of the ridges,” Sid said.
“Don’t worry,” Clem said. “This won’t take long. There’s the spot. Got here faster than I expected.”
“Helps to know where you can go fast,” Sid said, “and helps not to be worried about looking for tracks.”
“True, that slowed us way down the first time we came,” Yvonne said.
Sid parked the Jeep next to the fence, several feet to the left of the break, and hopped out, Clem following. Yvonne stayed in the back of the Jeep, putting the binoculars to her eyes and scanning the ridges.
“Something doesn’t feel right,” Sid said, slowing as he approached the fence break. “Hold it. Look at the ground there.”
Clem stopped, squinting as he looked. “What?”
“Somebody’s disturbed the dirt,” he whispered.
“Maybe it was Garrett’s patrol.”
“I don’t see any hoof prints. No foot prints either. Looks like that dirt has been brushed.”
“Maybe it was wild life,” Clem said, walking towards the break.
“Stop,” Sid said. “Stay back.” He crept up to the spot, looking down. He could see scrape marks on the dirt, fading due to the wind, but still visible.
“What do you think?” Clem asked.
“I think somebody put a land mine or two here.”
“Dammit. What should we do?”
“Get way back in the Jeep and have Yvonne fire at it with her rifle,” Sid said. “C’mon.”
They trotted back to the Jeep.
“Something’s wrong,” Yvonne said.
“Looks like there’s a mine placed in that break,” he said. “One of you text Garrett and make sure none of his men did it while I move us back.”
“I’m on it,” Clem said, taking out his phone. He sent a text as Sid started the jeep and drove back about sixty yards.
“What are we gonna do?” Yvonne asked.
“I want you to fire at the dirt once we’re back far enough, unless Garrett tells us that they set the mine there.”
“Sure it’s a mine?”
“Well, they buried something there,” Sid said. “Might take more than one shot to blow it.”
“Garrett just got back to me. It wasn’t them. I asked him why we aren’t seeing his patrols around here. He sounded real worried. There’s more folks on the way now.”
Sid stopped the Jeep. “This ought to do it. Start taking pot shots.”
“Turn around facing it so I can use the roll bar as a rest,” she said.
Sid nodded and turned the Jeep around. Yvonne rested her rifle on the roll bar and aimed, pulling the trigger. The bullet pelted the ground, but nothing happened.
“You sure it’s a mine?” Clem asked.
“Those things have a detonator button. Might take a few tries to hit it.”
“We might just break the assembly, and never touch it off,” Yvonne said. “I’ll try a few more shots. You guys keep your eyes on the ridges. There might be somebody up there.”
She fired several more times, hitting the spot, no explosion going off. Then there was the crack of a rifle shot, Yvonne dropping immediately as a bullet hit the roll bar.
“You hit?” Sid shouted.
“No,” she said. “Roll out of the Jeep. It came from the right.”
“I see where they came from,” Clem said, nodding towards his right. “They’re gonna get me before I can get behind something.”
“I see them,” Sid said, pulling out his rifle. Another shot rang out, hitting the side of the Jeep, then another, popping one of the tires. Sid fired several times, causing the snipers to get down.
“Now!” Sid said, scrambling behind the Jeep as Clem and Yvonne did the same, all of them with weapons in hand.
“Text Garrett again,” Sid said, reaching into the back of the Jeep as another shot rang out, hitting the front windshield.
Clem did that, as Yvonne watched the ridge where the snipers head was popping up every few seconds. She tried to time his rhythm, firing at the right time, splitting the sniper’s head. “Got the bastard.”
“Nice shot, baby,” Sid said, pulling his M60 in front of him. He aimed at the break in the gate and fired, the stream of bullets setting off several mines, one of them a few feet in front of the gate break.
“Whoa, I was almost on top of that one,” Clem said, looking over at Sid.
“You get Garrett?”
“Yeah, let him know what was going on. I told him we needed a ride.”
Another shot rang out, from behind them this time.
“Dammit,” Yvonne said, rushing for cover with the others, then aiming again, watching the ridge. “Come on out, slug.”
“This is why I love her,” Sid quipped.
“Focus, dammit,” Yvonne said, pulling the trigger, tagging the sniper in the neck.
“Wow,” Clem said, clutching his rifle.
“These are more UN folks,” Sid said. “We would’ve gotten buzzed by the apps if they weren’t.”
“Thought we’d nailed most of them,” Yvonne said.
“There might only be a few of them out here, and we’ve killed two already,” Clem said, eyes peeled. “It’s gonna be dark soon.”
Gunfire erupted from behind the ridge, a mixture of M60 automatic fire and black powder rounds, the smoke starting to drift into the air. It went on for several minutes, AK-47s returning fire for a few moments. Then there was silence.
“I’d say that was more than a few,” Yvonne said.
“Horses on the ridge,” Clem said, pointing.
Sid reached into the back of the Jeep for the binoculars and put them to his eyes, straining in the low light of dusk. “We just got an all-clear sign.”
“Thank God,” Yvonne said. “We still gonna place these damn cameras?”
“We should do it now, while we still have some light,” Clem said.
“We need to be careful over there,” Sid said. “Might be more mines.”
“Yeah,” Yvonne said.
“I’ll be fine,” Clem said, “but do me a favor. Stay here and fix the flat, so we can leave.”
“I think I ought to go,” Sid said.
“No,” Yvonne said. “Change the tire. “I’ll watch for both of you.”
Sid nodded and got to work, as Clem grabbed the box of surveillance cameras and hurried back to the fence. He watched the ground as he neared, his flashlight pointed at the ground.
“Good, he’s being careful,” Sid said as he put the jack under the Jeep.
“More horses on the ridge, over where the first shots came from.”
Their phones dinged. Sid pulled his and looked. “Garrett said three of his patrolmen were killed, and there were twelve UN Peacekeepers behind that ridge.”
“Dammit,” Yvonne said. “This sucks.”
Clem started placing the cameras, one on the tree facing the break, others on the fence posts themselves, on either side of the break. He looked at the crater between the fences. There was the edge of an unexploded mine visible on the other side of the gate. He texted Sid about it.
“What did he see?” Yvonne asked when she heard the ding.
“There’s an unexploded mine sticking part way in the dirt, beyond the fence.”
“Are we gonna fire at it?”
Sid sent another text to Garrett. “Let’s see what Garrett wants us to do.”
His phone dinged after a moment.
“Well?” Yvonne asked.
“He said to leave it,” Sid said, “in case they think they all got blown up. He’s going to spread the word to stay away from here.”
Clem rushed back to the Jeep as Sid was pulling the old tire off.
“How much longer?” he asked.
“Five minutes,” Sid said. “Might want to cancel our ride.”
“Don’t,” Yvonne said. “Just in case. They can escort us home.”
“Yeah, I agree,” Clem said.
Sid nodded and finished installing the spare. “Good thing I just put air in this.” He stowed the jack. “Let’s go.”
They got in and Sid drove them home, meeting several other Jeeps on the way, who turned and followed them.
“Stockton is always bigger than I remember,” Shelley said, in the passenger seat of the battle wagon. Jules was at the wheel, Sparky and Dana on the couch.
“I hope using I-5 to go south was the right idea,” Dana said. “Lots of people on this road. These battle wagons are easy to spot.”
“Most people don’t know,” Jules said. “Glad we fix Ted’s mini gun gimbal. With gun out, people tell, no?”
Sparky laughed. “Yeah, that’s for sure, although most people who see us are probably on our side.”
“One would hope,” Dana said. “We’re not taking this all the way down, are we?”
“The boss asked we get on I-15 before we get too far south,” Jules said. “Navy don’t want through coastal side of San Diego.”
Sparky chuckled. “Yeah, I could see that, I guess. Are we going into Dulzura using Highway 94?”
“That the plan,” Jules said. “Should work. Long drive. Wish we could spend a night on way.”
“We’ve got four drivers,” Shelley said. “We should keep going.”
Dana was looking at her phone. “Here’s how to go. Get on the 210 Freeway at Sylmar, then take that down to I-15.”
“That’s a good idea,” Sparky said. “Been that route before.”
Jules shrugged. “Okay, I do. How many hours?”
“Says eight hours and seventeen minutes from Stockton, which we just passed,” Dana said. “It’s not that bad, and all of our rigs have more than one driver.”
“Some of the off-roaders don’t,” Sparky said.
“They make detour anyway,” Jules said, “weapons upgrades being done in Santa Clarita.”
“At the same place we picked the battle wagons up?” Shelley asked.
“Yep,” Jules said.
“Are you sure that’s safe?” Dana asked.
“Enemy never found,” Jules said. “Should be good. They spend night, changes take time.”
“Hope we don’t lose a bunch of them,” Sparky said. “We’re gonna need them, I think.”
They settled into the drive, not speaking much for many miles, Dana finally laying on the couch and dozing, Sparky stretching out on the dinette bench and nodding off.
“You no sleep?” Jules asked, glancing at Shelley.
“Oh, I’m okay,” she said. “It really feels like we’ll get to the end of this soon.”
“Good chance, but dangers ahead. You know this.”
“Yes, I know,” she said. “Anxious to see your old friends?”
“Very much,” he said. “Ji-Ho and Sam are fun. You’ll like.”
She smiled at him. “Ji-Ho reminds me of a big kid.”
“Yes,” Jules said. “He got idea for battle wagons.”
“I heard, from that guy named George.”
Jules smiled. “Yes, George. Too bad he not with.”
“We should decide where to trade off drivers,” Shelley said, pulling her phone in front of her face.”
“Hmmm, that’s pretty far,” Shelley said, brow furrowed under her blonde hair. “How are you feeling?”
“I good for long time.”
“It’s almost another three hours away,” she said, “and the town would be Buttonwillow. Bakersfield is too far east.”
“We can run generator, use coffee maker and microwave,” Jules said.
“Yes, we should do that,” Shelley said, “unless you want to stop, and I think that would be a bad idea.”
“Agree. Maybe you should get shut-eye.”
“No, I’m gonna let Sparky drive the next round, and I’m the only person awake other than you right now. I’ll stay awake while you’re driving, if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind,” Jules said, glancing at her.
The miles ticked by, the coach silent inside except for muffled road noise and Sparky’s snoring. Shelley was thinking about the pregnancy, making plans for getting a test kit, going over her speech to Jules in her mind, the feelings warming her as they cruised in the mid-afternoon sun.
“You in heavy thought,” Jules said. “I see wheels turning.”
“I suppose you want to know what I’m thinking.”
“Your thoughts are your own,” Jules said. “Tell me if you want, no pressure, okay?”
“I’m just thinking about our lives after the war, that’s all,” she said.
“Good thoughts, I hope?”
“Of course, honey,” she said.
“USA be mess for months. I hope we can find safe quiet place to ride out.”
“Don’t you think we’ll be looked at as heroes when this is over?” Shelley asked.
“By many, yes. By all, no.”
“Who would want the enemy to have won?” Shelley asked.
“Leftists who want end to democratic society and nationalism,” Jules said. “Fight goes on. Trust me. I expect pressure to break USA into smaller chunks.”
“We can’t do that.”
Jules smiled. “We shouldn’t do that. Not same as can’t.”
“Do you want to stay in America? Or will we go back to Europe?”
“Partly depends on who survives conflict, who in power in governments,” Jules said, “but that’s minor, as far as I’m concerned.”
“Yes, biggest issue is where we want to make life together. Joint decision. We both American citizens. We can stay here. Maybe vacation in Europe.”
“You’d be okay with that?”
Jules chuckled. “Nicer here. Better society. Less class garbage. Less intrusive government. More rights spelled out in Constitution.”
“But your business,” she said.
Jules laughed. “I could sell, money in bank more than enough for us and later generations.”
“Do you want to sell?”
“We need to think about,” he said. “Maybe. Don’t have to move there to run. Have to go more often, though. Might be fine. We’ll see.”
“If you sold it all, what would you do?” Shelley asked.
“Figure something out,” he said. “Not worry me.”
“What if you get bored?”
“Then I do something,” Jules said. “Opportunities abound. Trust me.”
Shelley was silent for a few minutes, thinking about what he said. “What if we just lived in this for a while? Traveled the countryside. People do that all the time here, you know.”
Jules smiled. “I like idea. Might have to remove armaments.”
“Wouldn’t that be weird? Not having to worry about Islamists or the UN trying to kill us all the time?”
“Life go back to normal in hurry,” he said. “Hope your captivity not too harmful over the years.”
“It’s just something bad that happened,” she said. “Look at all the Jews who were in concentration camps, but went on to normal lives after the war. People can be strong.”
“True, and you strong,” he said. “If ever bother you, we work. Professional help or whatever you need. Understand?”
“Of course, honey. It’s not bothering me now. Will it in the future? I don’t know. We’ll see.”
“Checked apps lately?”
Shelley shook her head no. “I’d better, been a while.” She picked her phone off the center console and loaded the app.
“Where are we?” Sparky asked, stretching in the dinette.
“We just passed Turk,” Shelley said. “We’re going to switch drivers when we get to Buttonwillow.”
“Hour and a half, give or take,” Shelley said. “We should get fuel there too.”
“Okay, I’m gonna try to doze a little longer, then.”
“Use bedroom if like,” Jules said.
“Nah, I can sleep okay here,” he said. “Thanks.”
“No enemy hits along our route at all,” Shelley said. “Still seeing a few to the east, but I think they’re going to link up with the group heading to Utah.”
“Where east?” Jules asked.
“They’re on Highway 395, heading for I-15,” she said.
“Where’s rest of enemy group?”
“The closest are already past Vegas,” she said. “The furthest are almost to St. George.”
“That Utah?” Jules asked.
“Yep,” Shelley said. “We’re looking good.”
“How about south?”
Shelley moved her fingers on the screen, getting to the border area. “There’s way more enemy fighters down there than I like to see.”
“How far from border?”
“Hard to tell with this app. Maybe forty miles.”
Jules glanced at her, looking worried. “They slow down. Waiting for more forces, perhaps. How many hits south of their position?”
Shelley looked. “Lots more. Thousands. Coming from Mazatlán, but they’re way south. They’re actually closer to the Texas border than they are to the California border.”
“But they not go that way, no?”
“Doesn’t look like it to me,” Shelley said. “They’re on Mexican Highway 18, which hugs the coast until it goes east into Hermosillo. The roads getting the rest of the way to the California border look pretty bad.”
“It Mexico,” Jules said. “They be on foot eventually. They plan to have vehicles ready for Old Highway 80. We aren’t going to make that easy for them.”
“Didn’t Ivan say they’d overrun our forces at the border?”
“Yes, but we have large buildup of forces at best spot,” Jules said. “We slow down while other forces are brought up, and then Naval Aviators show up. Blast to kingdom come.”
“There’s a lot that can go wrong with that plan.”
Jules nodded. “Tell me.”
“Well, if they get vehicles on Old Highway 80, they can go to I-8, then head either west into San Diego or east and up further into California. They could also take Old Highway 80 to Highway 94 and roll right up to where we’ll be.”
“You mention only three roads they can use,” Jules said. “Two are tiny and easy to attack. One is bigger but also easy to attack. Old Highway 80, Highway 94, and I-8.”
“There’s a lot more if they go east on I-8,” Shelley said.
“They only go that way if they flee to Arizona,” Jules said. “If they go further up into California, we whittle troops down to nothing. Only chance to make difference is San Diego. They will take out Naval Base or die trying. We make sure they die trying.”
To be continued…
Bug Out! Texas Book 1 is now just 99 cents in the Kindle Store! Free in Kindle Unlimited! 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