Bugout! California Part 167 – Empty Ice Chests


Tyler rushed into the intelligence room.

“UN Peacekeepers! The patrol leader just told us they’re massing at the front of the property. They haven’t started shooting yet.”

“Put the video feeds on that big screen,” Ivan said.

Karen shot Tex a worried glance.

“Want to go man our battle wagon, little lady?” Tex asked.

“I’m game,” she said.

Sparky rushed in. “We’d better get out there.”

Sam’s phone dinged. “Text from Garrett. The back end was attacked too, but we stopped them. Remember that the cavalry and the off-roaders are out there.”

“I just made a deal with the large groups who are camped here, remember?” Jules said. “We be fine, but time to fight.”

“Jules, you stay in here with Shelly,” Ivan said. “You’re second in command. I need you to fight with your brain. Understand?”

Jules nodded, watching the others head for the main shaft.

“Don’t get that look,” Shelly said. “Ivan’s right. We have plenty of fighters.”

“I know, but don’t have to like,” Jules said. “Let’s monitor video, have phones out to direct battle.”


“You hear that?” Trevor asked, hanging out with Kaylee, Megan, and Angel by the mouth of the main shaft.

“Enemy fighters,” Angel said. “I’ll bet that’s why Tyler just ran by.”

They all picked up their weapons. Erica trotted out with Sam, and then Ted, Haley, and the others rushed by them, Ted turning to Trevor. “Get ready, kid, it’s on!”

Trevor nodded, and then he saw somebody running towards the mine from the street. “Is that Willard?”

“Yep,” Kaylee said.

“Good, I could use a drink,” Angel said, Megan rolling her eyes.

“Hey, kids, want to provide me some cover?” Willard asked, trying to catch his breath.

“Sure, what’s up?” Trevor asked.

“I called what’s left of the cannon crew. We want to start blasting these cretins, but a little cover would help us get set up.”

“Cool,” Trevor said. “I love those things. Let’s go!”

They ran to the cannons, which were still in the wooded section in front of town. Willard’s team was already there, Trevor, Kaylee, and the others taking covered positions pointing in several directions.

“Look, see the white vans?” Kaylee asked, laying down next to Trevor.

He looked in that direction. “Yep, still on the highway. Behind the trees there.”

“Wish we could see how many,” Kaylee said.

“You and me both. Hear that? Off-roaders.”

“Yeah, coming from behind the town.”

“Hey, man, look!” Angel said, looking back towards town at a handful of off-roaders sporting micro-guns, followed by a multitude of mounted cavalry.

Everybody’s phones dinged. Trevor pulled his phone and looked. “Jules and the others are monitoring the whole area with all of those new video cameras that Clem’s team put up. The enemy came with at least thirty vans, and a dozen Gaz Tigrs too.”

“They’re in for a nasty surprise,” Megan said, reading her phone.

“Seriously,” Kaylee said. “When do we open fire? I can hit several enemy fighters from here.”

Trevor typed a text to the intelligence team. Fire at will?

Gunfire erupted from the highway, right through the trees, hitting one of the battle wagons but doing no damage. Then there was an ear-splitting blast, as the first cannon went off, and a Gaz Tigr blew up, the fireball clearly visible behind the tree line.

“Guess that answers my question,” Trevor said, opening fire with his Winchester, tagging several UN Peacekeepers who were running to the burning Gaz Tigr. Then a mini-gun on one of the battle wagons fired, stopping a Gaz Tigr which was trying to come in on the main driveway, its windshield shattered. Kaylee opened fire, killing the men as they got out, Megan joining in, as Trevor concentrated on UN infantry rushing through the trees in all directions.

“Damn, there’s a lot of them,” Angel shouted, firing his M-4, too many shots going wide.

“Slow down,” Trevor yelled. “Aim carefully. No need to rush. Look behind you!”

Angel turned around and saw several hundred cavalry men, riding by the cannon emplacement, firing their Colt pistols and Winchesters, the smell of black powder filling the area. Two of the cannons fired again, their thunderous roar striking terror into the UN Peacekeepers, most fleeing for their lives.

“This is burning my eyes,” Kaylee said.

“We’re not in a good position,” Trevor said, “the wind is blowing the smoke into us. We should go hunting. Plenty of UN Peacekeepers to take out.”

“Then let’s go do what we do best,” Kaylee said, getting up, running to the first clump of cover and diving to the ground. She fired, hitting several UN Peacekeepers who were rushing her. Trevor opened fire as he ran, dropping the rest of them. He dived to the ground next to Kaylee, Angel and Megan joining them.

“Hey, let me know a few seconds before you haul ass,” Trevor said as he shoved more .44 mag rounds into his magazine. “Nice shooting, though.”

“Thanks. Where did those off-roaders go?”

“Probably heading towards the highway,” Trevor said. “There’s a way, remember? We walked it a couple days ago. That pretty pathway with the trees covering it on either side.”

“You’re right,” Angel said. “I think the rest of the UN team is afraid to come in here.”

“Not so much,” Megan said, pointing to several Gaz Tigrs busting through the bushes right of the main driveway, in sight of the battle wagons, which opened fire with grenades and mini-guns.

“Whoa!” Trevor shouted. “They’re bailing out of those vehicles. Let’s go get them, so the mini-guns don’t have to waste the ammo.”

Kaylee nodded and they got up, running in a crouch, going from one clump of cover to another, firing on the way, killing several enemy fighters and spooking the rest.

A cannon fired again, hitting a van trying to come down the main road, causing it to fly sideways and roll, the cavalry on them in seconds, blazing away, none of the enemy fighters getting away. Several more vans rolled up behind the burning one, UN fighters racing out the side doors, heading for cover. Trevor and Kaylee hit as many as they could, the men on horseback riding over to finish off those who’d made it behind the bushes and boulders.

“The battle wagons aren’t moving around this time,” Trevor said. “Works a lot better. They’re just blasting whoever comes within range.”

“I hear the off-roaders now, going someplace in a hurry,” Kaylee said. “Couldn’t hear them before.”

“They make a lot more noise when they’re up to speed,” Trevor said. His phone dinged, and he looked at it. “Get ready for mortar fire. They showed up in the video feed. The off-roaders are going to take them out, but they won’t get there in time.”

Just as he finished talking, a mortar round fell in the middle of the pasture in front of town and blew up. Nobody was nearby.

“Uh oh,” Kaylee said. “That’s not good.”

The raspy snarl of the micro-guns started, and seconds later there was a loud series of explosions from the highway.

Trevor laughed. “I’ll bet those micro-guns just fried the mortar ammo.”

“Let’s hope so,” Kaylee said. “Look, there’s more UN Peacekeepers flooding in through those trees, where the first ones came from.”

“Let’s go get some,” Trevor said.

“Okay, Ash,” Angel said, rolling his eyes.

Trevor laughed. He got up with Kaylee and they ran forward, weaving in and out of cover again, firing at the running UN Peacekeepers until the cavalry noticed and flooded into the area.

“Hey, no fair,” Trevor said.

“There’s more over there,” Kaylee said. A shot rang out, whizzing by her, Trevor leaping into action, tackling her, pushing her up behind a boulder.

“What are you doing?” Kaylee asked, reaching for her M4 which she dropped when Trevor knocked her down.

“Saving my woman,” Trevor said, cocking the Winchester and firing at the approaching fighters, Kaylee joining in with automatic fire from the M4.

“Thanks, I think,” Kaylee said, swapping magazines. “We might run out of ammo.”

“I know.”

The gunfire was ramping down. Trevor and Kaylee went back by the cannons, Megan and Angel joining them. Willard and his team were still watching the area, but there was nothing to shoot at.

“Can it really be over this fast?” Willard asked. “Thought it was gonna be a bigger battle.”

“I guess it’s Miller Time,” Angel said.

Willard chuckled. “Perish the thought. It’s whiskey time.


Ivan, Ji-Ho, and Jules watched the video feed.

“Why they do this, boss?” Jules asked. “They know we beat that many UN creeps.”

Ivan was watching the screen. He turned to Jules. “Most of our leadership people are still out there. Get them in here. Now!”

Jules sent a broadcast text to the principals. “You think they would do that much just to draw our people out?”

“I don’t know,” Ivan said. “Maybe.”

“Hey, Ivan, that drone is over us finally,” Ben said, turning from his PC. “Nobody else around for miles. We’re working on a count of the vehicles they sent at us.”

“Good, do that,” Ivan said. “Jules, are they coming?”

“Yep, they responded.” Jules said. “I tell them come fast.”


“Make sure Garrett and Clem get their butts in here too,” Shelly said. “We need them both.”

“I included them,” Jules said. “Trevor and Kaylee too.”

“Thank you,” Ji-Ho said.

Ben turned towards them again. “Counting the attackers in the back, they sent fourteen Gaz Tigrs and forty-five vans.”

“Nowhere near enough to take us, and they know,” Ji-Ho said. “Tell our people hurry.”

“Just did,” Jules said.

There was a low rumble, shaking hard enough for dirt and small rocks to fall from the ceiling.

“Too late,” Ji-Ho said, eyes full of worry.

“Oh crap,” Shelly said, looking at the ceiling. “Was that a cruise missile?”

Several of the video feeds disappeared from the big screen.

“Who got to the mine?” Ivan asked.

“I don’t know, boss, sending message now.”

There was another low rumble, much louder this time, and the ground beneath them shook. Dust filled the air in the intelligence room.

“Dammit,” Jules said, walking away with the cellphone to his ear.

The electricity shut off, several people screaming.

“We just lost everything but the laptops, guys,” Robbie shouted, coming out of the back room using his cellphone flashlight.

“Jules?” Ivan asked.

“Ted report, all alive so far,” Jules said. “Say part of mine shaft may have collapsed. Signal weak. Texts working, but can’t make call.”

“We’re trapped in here,” Shelly said.

“I only felt two explosions,” Ivan said.

“Is there anything they can hit us with that will penetrate this far down?” Ben asked. “Bunker busters, for instance?”

“You have to drop those from plane,” Jules said. “We have air superiority.”

“We hope,” Ivan said. “We used to have B-1s to deliver air support.”

Shelly glanced at Jules. “Let’s see where the cave-in is. Might be a way around it.”

“Yes,” Jules said, turning to the others. “Hey, there flashlights in cabinet by door. Many. Save phones, everybody. Don’t use for flashlight more than necessary.”

Jules and Shelly left the room, grabbing flashlights on the way, light beams picking up the dust in the air as they walked to the main shaft.

“Ivan’s having problems with the stress,” Shelly whispered.

“He okay, in thinking mode. Does hand-wringing. Trust me. He working it out.”

“Whatever you say. You know him better than anybody.”

“True,” Jules said. “Look, there. Closer than I expect. That’s bad. No way around.”

They walked up to a wall of rocks and dirt, blocking the shaft completely.

“Can we dig that out?” Shelly asked, eyes wide as she looked at it.

“From inside, I doubt. From outside with bulldozer, probably.”

“Did the enemy know what they were doing?”

Jules looked at Shelly. “I hope not.”


Trevor and Kaylee raced to the entrance of the mine, after the big explosions. A couple of the buildings in town were damaged, but not totally. Tyler and his warriors were already there.

“I wouldn’t go inside that shaft,” Tyler said. “Might cave in.”

“My dad’s in there,” Kaylee said, ignoring him, running inside with Trevor, both of them taking out their phones and turning on the flashlights. The blockage was only about thirty yards in.

“Dammit,” Trevor said. “That’s gonna take a lot of work with bulldozers.”

Willard came up behind them, with Clem, Tyler, and Elmer.

“Holy crap,” Elmer said. “That’s bad. Might take a couple weeks to dig that out.”

“They’ll starve in there,” Kaylee said, tears running down her cheeks.

“No, they took a lot of food and water down there,” Clem said. “I watched them do it. If it’s not on the wrong side of the cave-in, they’ve got supplies.”

“It’s not on the wrong side of the cave in,” Trevor said, shining his flashlight around at the mountain of rubble blocking the shaft.

“True,” Willard said, “but the cave-in might have landed on top of it.”

“Everybody would be dead,” Trevor said. “I got texted from them after it happened. They said everybody’s okay.”

“They have no power,” Tyler said. “Weren’t you guys working on getting something run down there?”

Clem scratched his head. “Dirt falling on wires won’t knock out the power.”

“Power’s out in the mill, too,” Susanne said as she rushed inside. “We should check the generator.”

Clem and Elmer looked at each other, then rushed out of the shaft, going across the street, to a small building near the mill.

“Look, the waterwheel is blown up,” Elmer said. Must have gotten hit by flying debris.”

“That’s fixable, but not in a hurry,” Clem said. “We need power for those folks in now. They’re in the dark, and our intel team is blind as a bat.”

“Those battle wagons have generators, right?”

Clem smiled. “Yeah, they do, as a matter of fact. It would take about three of them to replace that mill generator. You know how to wire that stuff up?”

“I could do it blindfolded,” Elmer said. “Let’s go.”

They rushed over to the crowd outside the mine.

“Well?” Susanne asked.

“The waterwheel is screwed,” Elmer said.

“Do you have to use that terminology?” Susanne snapped.

“The kids are all in the mine,” Clem said. Several of the people out there gasped. “Don’t worry, they’ll be okay.”

“We need three of the battle wagons moved over here,” Elmer said. “We’ll use the generators until we can get the mill repaired.”

Sam and Erica ran up.

“Oh, God, the kids are still in there?” Erica cried.

“They’re alive,” Kaylee said quickly. “We need three battle wagons over here, so we can use the generators. They’re in the dark right now.”

“Use the new ones in the back,” Sam said. “We should leave the others out front where they are. We might get attacked again.”

“I’ll help drive them over,” Tyler said. He followed Sam and Erica with a couple of warriors.

“Do they have full tanks of gas?” Clem asked.

Trevor nodded yes. “Yeah, they came full. Those diesel generators will run a long time.”

“I had that exhaust hole for the inside generator almost done,” Elmer said.

“I was just thinking about that,” Clem said. “Think we can widen it enough to get people out?”

“Yeah, I think so,” Elmer replied. “Might take a few days.”

“I’ll help,” Willard said.

“I think some of us younger guys ought to work on that, partner,” Tex said. “Lead the way.”


“How far they go?” Mr. Black asked from the passenger seat, as they followed the two rental trucks north on I-5. “They have guts, driving on I-5 so close to the Marine base.”

“That why they take rental trucks,” Mr. White said. “Very little chance they get stopped.”

“We’re already north of San Clemente.”

Mr. White shot him a glance. “Want me to call them and ask how much longer? What you care, I stuck driving whole way.”

Mr. Black was silent for a moment, watching as the rental trucks took the off-ramp to Highway 1. “I knew it, they go to a harbor, pick up more UN Peacekeepers.”

“You probably right, my friend,” Mr. White said as he took the same off-ramp. “What nearby? Any small harbors?”

Mr. Black picked his phone off the van’s center console and brought up the map program.

“Well?” Mr. White asked.

“Dana Point Harbor. Looks like pleasure craft and fishing marina. If they make left on Dana Point Harbor Drive, that’s where they go.”

“How far?”

Mr. Black chuckled. “Less than mile. They turn any minute. If not here, much further. Newport.”

“They not get off so quick for that.”

“I-5 take off towards east right after Highway 1,” Mr. Black said. “So don’t be so sure.”

“There they go, into the left turn lane.”

Mr. Black shot him a grin. “Good, Dana Point. When we see where they park, let’s park too and get out of car. Blend in.”

“Okay, but we must be careful.”

The rental trucks passed the first driveway into the Marina complex, making a left turn into the second one.

“There,” Mr. Black said. “Embarcadero. Huge parking lot. It’s flat, so we can see where they go. They going by launching ramp, turning right.”

“I see. They turn left on street, look.”

“That’s called Street of the Golden Lantern,” Mr. Black said. “They go all the way down to boat dock. Wait and see.”

“I’m gonna park here,” Mr. White said.

“Fine, no outlet where they are. Shall we walk over?”

“Yes, but text Ivan now. Just in case.”

Mr. Black nodded, typing the text as Mr. White parked. “Text done. Say delivered. Let’s go.”

“Turn off your phone ringer,” Mr. White said.

“What, you think I amateur?”

The two trucks were pulled up in a loading lane right next to the entrance of the pier. The French smoker was out, lighting up again. The other men walked onto the dock. Mr. White and Mr. Black walked towards the pier at a leisurely pace, trying not to stare at the trucks, pretending to take in the sights like tourists.

“Double parked,” Mr. Black said. “They won’t be here long, my friend.”

“There’s coffee joint right before it. Looks like their patio overlooks the docks. Let’s get some and watch.”

“You read my mind,” Mr. Black said. They walked to the window and ordered. Mr. Black stood at the counter, waiting on the coffees, while Mr. White went to the patio and grabbed a table right by the edge, giving him a good view of a big fishing boat that said Charter Only on the side.

Mr. Black walked up with the coffees, handing one to Mr. White. “Well, what you see?”

“UN pigs climb aboard charter fishing boat,” Mr. White said softly. “That big boat.”

“Yes. Look, they carry ice chests. Large. New men. Not in original group.”

“Fresh UN thugs to kill, eh?” Mr. White quipped.

“Quiet,” Mr. Black whispered. “They might have lookouts close by.”

“Here come more men. Six. No, ten, look.”

“Five more.”

The two men watched, trying not to make it obvious, as the fifteen men carried the ice chests, four men on each.

“Empty, but they pretend heavy,” Mr. White said. “I’ll bet they don’t come back.”

“Uh oh, they pack boat tight. That’s at least ten more coming out now.”

“There’s more,” Mr. White said, taking a sip of coffee as he watched more men climbing out of the boat, doing the empty ice chest routine again.

“I count thirty, with first fifteen make forty-five.”

“That batch gone now. Look, drivers carry back first ice chests, two men instead of four. Still empty.”

Mr. Black chuckled. “Another fifteen men get off boat. They have this well thought out, no? Fifty-five men so far.”

“Can’t be more, boat not that big.”

“You’re right,” Mr. Black said. “Look, drivers back with rest of empty ice chests. Boat crew picking up from dock.”

“I bet they don’t smell like fish.”

Mr. Black grinned, taking his phone out and typing the info, sending it to Ivan.

“He reply to first message?” Mr. White asked.

“Yes,” Mr. Black said. “Says they got hit at base.”

“They okay?”

“Ivan okay, didn’t mention anybody else. Oh, there reply.”

“What say?”

“Thank you,” Mr. Black said, “and follow back, make sure they go to base we find.”

“You’re driving this time,” Mr. White said.

To be continued…


Bug Out! California Book 6 is available now in e-book and paperback.


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Copyright Robert Boren 2018


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