Kaitlyn and Seth stared at the history program screen, Angel and Megan on the right of them, Kaylee and Trevor on the left. The alarm went off on the PC.
“There’s a third group,” Kaitlyn said. “That makes fifteen hundred.”
“Wonder if they’re coming here?” Kaylee asked.
“Probably depends on their intelligence,” Trevor said. “If they know that Ivan is here, they might make an assault.”
“Do we have enough people outside?” Megan asked.
“Probably,” Trevor said, “but I’m guessing they won’t come here. I think they’re gonna head to the border to help out.”
The alarm went off again.
“Oh no,” Megan said. “More?”
“Not in the same place,” Seth said. “Move the screen towards the indicator there.”
Kaitlyn nodded and used the mouse to re-orient the screen. “That’s south of the border!”
“How far south?” Megan asked.
Trevor laughed. “We just incinerated a bunch of the enemy. There’s no roads there to run semi-trucks.”
Angel stared at the screen. “Look at the number. That’s over a thousand.”
“Hey, Robbie, you hear anything about down south?” Seth asked.
Robbie walked over with Morgan. “Nope, not since the marines and the armor crossed the border into Mexico. Why?”
“About a thousand RFID hits disappeared down there, in the middle of dirt.”
“Where they can’t run semi-trucks, huh,” Robbie said. “We probably nailed them with something.”
“Something like what?” Kaylee asked.
Trevor smiled. “Willie Peter or napalm, I suspect. Either one would burn up a lot of RFID chips.”
The alarm went off again. Kaitlyn turned back to the screen. “Whoa. Another huge group disappeared.”
“I’ll go tell Ivan and the others,” Robbie said, getting up. He left the room with Morgan. They were back with Ivan, Ted, Sam, and Tex after less than a minute.
“See?” Robbie said, pointing to the screen. Just then the alarm went off a third time.
“There’s more,” Seth said. “This is insane. Is there something we aren’t thinking about? Maybe they reprogrammed a bunch of chips or something. They’ve done that before.”
“That was a system-level event, and the apps re-acquire them fast,” Robbie said.
“Maybe they’ve found a way to radiate them,” Tex said.
Ivan pulled out his phone, walking away with it to his ear.
“I’m not sure if we should be happy or not,” Ted said.
Sam was thinking, staring at the screen. “I think we burned them up.”
Ivan was back with a grin on his face. “Fighter jets used Napalm. It’s not all good news, though. The enemy was ready for the tanks. Had huge IEDs buried down there. We lost several tanks and some support vehicles.”
“Did we get the drone close enough to see the trucks that left the Julian area yet?” Robbie asked.
“It’s still on the way,” Ivan said. “It was further north than we thought. All of the assets in San Diego are working the border fight right now.”
“Makes sense, partner,” Tex said.
Ivan’s phone dinged with a text. He looked at it and chuckled, shaking his head.
“What now?” Sam asked.
“Mr. White and Mr. Black are in position.”
“Good,” Ted said. “I’ll bet the enemy doesn’t return trucks tonight, though.”
“We’ll see,” Sam said. “We’re talking UN folks who don’t need shielding. I don’t see them being directly involved in the border fight. I think they’re trying to regain control on this side of the border.”
“You’re probably right,” Ivan said. “If anybody showed up here, I’d expect it to be them, not those Islamists that disappeared from Julian.”
“They might both end up here,” Ted said.
Ivan shook his head. “Possible but unlikely. I’m still thinking the worst thing we’ll get hit with is some cruise missiles from the EU Navy. If we’re using fighter jets and napalm in Mexico, it makes that even more likely.”
The van pulled up, about half a block from the address Ivan had provided. Mr. White looked over at Mr. Black, asleep in the passenger seat. “Hey, trained monkey got us here.”
Mr. Black moved his hat off his face and looked over, then stretched. “We can see from here?”
“It’s right over there, half a block, across street.”
“What time is it?” Mr. Black asked.
“Almost four. Website said check in for rentals at seven. We have a little time.”
Mr. Black nodded, then went into the back of the van, coming back with a brown paper bag and a small ice chest.
“Good idea,” Mr. White said. “I’m hungry.”
They got out food. Sardines, cheese, bread, and some Greek yogurt.
“Wish we could have hot meal,” Mr. Black said, his mouth half full of food. He stopped chewing, nodding through the windshield. “Moving truck. Just pull in.”
“Dammit, why they not wait until dinner finished?” Mr. White asked.
“They do us favor,” Mr. Black said, shooting him a grin. “Eat up. I watch for their vehicle.”
“Look, here comes another one.”
Mr. Black squinted as he watched the second truck pull behind the first one in the return lanes. “How you know they UN?”
They watched silently for a few moments. Two men got out of each cab. One of them pulled out a cigarette and lit it, looking around as the others went into the office.
“There it is,” Mr. White said. “He holds his smoke like French pansy.”
Mr. Black snickered. “Okay, you right. We follow.”
A small white mini-van pulled up after a few minutes. The smoking Frenchman slid open the side door.
“Get ready, they leave soon,” Mr. Black said.
Mr. White nodded, eyes focused on the van. It took nearly ten minutes for the other three men to emerge from the office, walking to the tailgate of the second truck. They rolled it open, grabbing several duffel bags and carrying them to the small van.
“Long guns,” Mr. Black said.
“Could be. Why they want trucks every day?”
Mr. Black scratched his chin, thinking. “We should follow trucks before we hit base.”
“We have to run that past boss first, but I agree.”
“One thing at time,” Mr. Black said. “Look, they leave. Turn left on Main Street.”
“Heading for right turn on Greenfield. I expect.”
“You move?” Mr. Black asked.
“When they make turn. You want them to see us?”
Mr. Black shot him a worried glance. “What if they make another quick turn?”
“Most of town west on Greenfield.” He started the engine as the van rounded the corner.
“Move, dammit,” Mr. Black said. Mr. White chuckled as he drove forward, making the turn. “See, they ahead three blocks. Not getting closer.”
“Ivan gut you if you lose them.”
Mr. White chuckled again. “I ever let you down?”
“Not lately, though. Relax.”
They followed the van down Greenfield for several miles.
“That highway lead to I-8,” Mr. Black said.
“I bet they go over highway, into huge industrial area.”
“When have you been in this town?” Mr. Black asked.
“I do homework. Looked at satellite view on iPad. Watch and see. Greenfield change to Vernon. Past Pioneer Way on North and East are industrial buildings. Many, out of sight of surrounding area.”
“Maybe you right, they pass highway.”
“Told you,” Mr. White said, shooting him a sidelong glance. They past the bridge, noting when the street name changed. “Look, they turn right, slow down.”
“Those large buildings,” Mr. Black said. “What street?”
“Johnson Avenue. I slow down more. Make right turn.”
“What if there’s a gate?” Mr. Black asked.
“Then we leave, report, get permission to follow trucks tomorrow morning.” Mr. White made the right turn on Johnson, driving past the first building.
“Look, second building,” Mr. Black said, pointing. “Many vans, just like one we follow.”
“We have them now,” Mr. White said as he drove by. “Call Ivan.”
Doug, Jorge, and Conrad started bright and early in the morning, cleaning up the area in the aftermath of the artillery attacks. They’d done what they could, picking up body parts and helping to clear debris off the railroad tracks, with a multitude of citizens. The cranes arrived mid-day, lifting wrecked boxcars off the tracks, moving them to the south side.
“I need a two-hour shower,” Jorge said.
Conrad eyed him. “You’re alive.”
“I know. Meant no disrespect.”
“We’re all tired,” Doug said. “Heard from Meyers lately, Conrad?”
“No, but I’ve gotten several texts. My hands have been too dirty to touch my phone.”
“Let’s go to the latrine area and clean up, then,” Jorge said.
“We wasted our efforts on all these fortifications and mines, didn’t we?” Doug asked.
Conrad shook his head no as they walked. “We did the right thing given the info we had at the time. Still might pay off.”
“You don’t think we’ll get attacked here now, do you?” Jorge asked.
“By the group we were expecting?” Conrad asked as they reached the latrine. “No.” The three men each took a sink and started washing their hands and arms, along with many other citizens who’d been working the grim task.
“Look, they’ve got some food over there,” Jorge said.
“You can eat after what we just did?” Doug asked.
Conrad shook his head, pulling out his phone, taking a few minutes to read several text messages. “Meyers says they’re chasing the enemy forces south now. We lost several tanks, though. The enemy set a giant trap with massive IEDs. Obviously, they didn’t expect us to have air support.”
“We lost several M-1s, dude?” Jorge asked. “That sucks.”
“It does, but we’re winning this one,” Doug said.
Conrad was thinking, his brow furrowed.
“What’s bothering you, dude?” Jorge asked.
“The deeper we get into Mexico, the crazier things can get,” Conrad said. “There’s also no word about the ends of the enemy lines.”
“Maybe we need to move men to those areas from here.”
“Well, Doug, that might happen,” Conrad said. “I’m gonna go talk to some folks and make some calls. I’ll see you later. Thanks for pitching in.”
“How could we not?” Jorge said. “Talk to you later.”
Conrad walked away, phone to his ear.
“You really aren’t hungry?” Jorge asked.
“Oh, I could eat,” Doug said. The two headed towards the food trucks, stopping for a moment when there was a loud crash behind them, turning around towards the tracks.
“That was the last big piece,” Jorge said. “They can get another train in here now.”
“Maybe it doesn’t matter anymore.”
They walked silently to the food line and picked up paper plates.
“Wonder where this food is coming from?” Jorge asked.
“Never look a gift horse in the puss.”
Jorge laughed. “Okay, Curley.”
“Oh, you know that Three Stooges episode, huh? I’m impressed.”
Jorge shrugged as they got to the food server, who plopped some mac and cheese on their plates and nodded them over to the next station, where there was fried chicken and green beans. They walked to the tables and benches under a big awning and sat down to eat.
“This isn’t bad,” Doug said as they ate.
“Yeah, no complaints here. Wonder if Conrad is gonna find out anything?”
“We’ll find out before too long,” Doug said between bites. “Hear that? Sounds like a train.”
Jorge got up and rushed to the edge of the awning, looking to the west, then sitting in front of his plate again. “Yeah, long train coming in. Looks like there’s a bunch more tanks or artillery or something. Not close enough to tell yet.”
“It’ll be interesting if they set up artillery here again,” Doug said.
Conrad walked up with a plate full of food. “See the train coming?”
“Yeah,” Jorge said. “Tanks or artillery?”
“Tanks and mobile artillery.”
“So, they’re not putting new emplacements in here, then?” Doug asked.
“Initially, but they’ll be moved quick, I suspect.”
“What else did you find out?” Jorge asked. He and Doug waited until Conrad finished chewing a big mouthful.
“We got more than enough people on the ends of the enemy lines, but the battles haven’t started yet, and we’ve got a problem.”
“What problem?” Doug asked.
“That RFID history program has shown several thousand Islamists disappearing from their base up by Julian. We don’t know if they’re going to attack our lines along the border, or if they’re gonna attack the base in Dulzura.”
“That doesn’t sound good, dude,” Jorge said.
Conrad finished chewing another bite. “Nope, it doesn’t. This food hits the spot. Didn’t know I was so hungry.”
“Seriously,” Doug said. “What are we gonna do next?”
“I don’t know for sure, but I can guess.”
“Well?” Jorge asked as Conrad shoveled more food into his mouth.
“Give him a chance to eat a little,” Doug said.
“Oh, sorry. Finish your food.”
Conrad nodded and finished eating, then they all got up, tossing their plates into the trash and heading down towards the railroad tracks. The train was stopped now.
“So, what were you gonna say?” Jorge asked.
“Oh yeah, sorry,” Conrad said. “If I had to guess, I’d expect them to use us along Old Highway 80 and I-8. Those two roads were always the main reason this was a strategic point. That hasn’t changed. The only thing that has changed is the entry points. They’ll be well west and east of here. We’ll probably be guarding against enemy fighters using the roads from the eastern tip of their lines near Mexicali, and from the west.” He laughed.
“What’s funny?” Doug asked.
“The western tip. They’d be using Highway 94. Now I wish we would’ve left that pass blocked.”
“Then we couldn’t have moved so many people down here,” Jorge said.
Conrad smiled. “True, but we never ended up having to use all these folks here. The forces we’re using south of the border came by other means, remember?”
Doug shook his head, laughing. “War is crazy.”
“Yep,” Conrad said. “I’m gonna go chat with the commanders.” He left them, walking over to the Captain who was standing by the train’s engines.
Tex and Karen sat in a corner of the intelligence room, leaned against each other.
“What’s going to happen?” Karen asked.
“Here? Probably nothing. The enemy would love to take us out, but they didn’t send enough people to take on our forces.”
“You don’t look that confident, honey.”
Tex smiled at her. “You can read me like a book, little lady.”
“So fess up.”
“It’s taking too long to get the drone on line,” he said. “I’m making my prediction based on what I’d do if I were them, but we can’t see them. I’ll feel better when we can.”
“Ivan’s trying to get your attention,” Karen said, nodding towards the archway into the next room. Ivan was standing there with Ted, Sparky, Sam, and Ji-Ho.
“Want to come?” Tex asked.
“Haley and Dana are coming over here,” Karen said. “I’ll hang out with them, but you have to promise to tell me what’s going on.”
“No secrets, little lady. Ever.”
They kissed, and Tex got off the bench they were on, approaching the others. “Are we meeting about something?”
“Yeah,” Ivan said. “In a few minutes.”
“About what, partner?”
“Mr. White and Mr. Black gave me news, and a suggestion.”
“Who are we waiting on?”
“Ed, Sid, Garrett, and Tyler,” Sam said.
The men milled around for a few moments, making small talk. Ed, Sid, and Tyler showed up, with Garrett and Anna.
“Let’s go,” Ivan said. “This won’t take long.”
They went into the next room, where Robbie and Morgan, Seth and Kaitlyn, and Ben Dover were all watching a computer monitor. Robbie looked over and Ivan nodded to him, so they all came to the far side of the room and sat on the chairs and benches in that area.
“Thanks for coming over,” Ivan said.
“How much trouble are we in?” Ed asked.
“Not much, really,” Ivan said. “We don’t have the drone in place yet, since it had to come from further north than expected. This isn’t about our current situation here.”
“What is it about, partner?”
“Mr. White and Mr. Black found the UN base in El Cajon.”
“Yes!” Seth said, Kaitlyn shooting him a worried glance.
“Is it in a place we can attack?” Ted asked.
“It appears to be,” Ivan said. “Industrial area again. There are a lot of small white vans there.”
“Like these?” Sid asked, showing him a photo on his phone. Ivan looked.
“Sounds like it,” he said. “Is that a known UN van from the area?”
“Yep. Not lead-lined.”
Ed eyed Ivan. “You look nervous about something.”
“There were more of those vans there than we expected, and it might not be all of them. The industrial area is huge. Lots of buildings and parking areas.”
“You think this is a mustering point,” Sparky said. Ivan nodded yes.
“It’s gonna take a larger force than we want to send there, isn’t it?” Robbie asked.
“Yeah,” Ivan said. “Mr. White and Mr. Black got me thinking about the bigger picture. I’d like to discuss it.”
“I’ll bet I have an idea where you’re headed,” Sam said.
Ji-Ho grinned. “Yes, me too.”
“Shoot, partner,” Tex said.
“Mr. White and Mr. Black would like to follow the rental trucks in the morning, to see what they’re up to,” Ivan said. “They called and asked me last night. I’ve been thinking about it.”
“And you agree,” Ed said.
“Yes, but I want to hear what you folks have to say.”
Tex stood. “They’re bringing in more UN pukes. If we find where they’re coming in, we can shut them down.”
“Maybe they’re bringing in Islamists, too,” Sparky said.
“No way,” Ted said.
“Why?” Sparky asked.
Ivan smiled. “There isn’t lead lining in those rental trucks, so unless they’ve got a bunch of Islamist fighters with no RFID, they can’t be moving them in.”
“You’re worried because there’s so many vans there,” Robbie said.
“Precisely,” Ivan replied. “We will hit the base, but I think we’d better turn off the flow before we clean up the spill, so to speak.”
“Yeah, if we just attack that base, they’ll find another and continue to move people in,” Ted said. “You can count on that.”
“Anything I’m not thinking about?” Ivan asked.
The group sat silently for a moment.
“I think waiting on the base attack is a good idea either way,” Ted said. “We don’t know where those Islamists disappeared to. We shouldn’t move our forces away from this base until we’ve either located them with the drone or they pop back out on the history report.”
“Anybody else?” Ivan asked.
“Looks like we all agree, partner,” Tex said.
Ivan nodded. “Okay, I’ll let Mr. White and Mr. Black know.”
“See if you can get a handle on the drone situation, okay?” Ted asked.
“Will do,” Ivan said. “How many have disappeared total?”
“Just over three thousand,” Kaitlyn said.
To be continued…
Book 5 of the Bug Out! California saga has been published. It’s available in both e-book and paperback!
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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 2018