It’s available now in e-book and paperback.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!
Book 5 of the Bug Out! California saga has been published. It’s available in both e-book and paperback!
The artillery barrage continued, guns firing into the Mexican desert, the gunners watching the apps and adjusting on the fly.
Conrad walked over to Lieutenant Colonel Meyers. “You see what the enemy is doing?”
“Yeah,” Meyers said. “They’re fanning out wide.”
“Won’t that mean we lose our funnel? Our kill zone with the Claymore mines?”
Meyers shook his head no. “They’ll try to re-funnel once they get too close for our artillery to be effective,” he said. “This is the point closest to the road. They’ll try to steal vehicles if we’re defeated. Wish they were further away.”
“You’re saying we shouldn’t fan our men out wider?” Conrad asked.
Meyers thought silently for a moment. “Let’s look at the map. You have a good handle on where the citizens are?”
Meyers walked to his tent with Conrad, reaching in to get his tablet. He pulled up the map program and they looked at it.
“What are you guys up to?” Doug asked, walking over with Jorge.
“Trying to figure out strategy now that the enemy is fanning out so wide,” Conrad said.
“You know where the backup in traffic is, right?” Meyers asked.
Doug shook his head yes. “Some of our people took their motorcycles up to the blockage points. It’s still Ocotillo to the east and Boulder Oaks to the west.”
They all gathered close, looking at the table, trying to block the glare of the sun.
“The enemy must have some intelligence on Highway 94,” Jorge said. “Look how many are going to that side.”
“Let me see that,” Meyers asked, taking Jorge’s phone. “Dammit, that isn’t good.”
“How close are we to having that route open?” Conrad asked.
“We have one of the motorcycle teams heading in that direction,” Doug said. “I’ll text them. Might be a while. Takes two hands to ride.”
“Please do,” Meyers said. “I better make some calls.”
“Wait, let’s chat a minute longer,” Conrad said.
“What’s on your mind?” Meyers asked.
“We don’t have enough room for everybody who’s coming, even if we didn’t have the traffic tie-up,” he said. “I say we get people coming down Buckman Springs Road and the other smaller roads going south from I-8. Get them to the border. If they need to come east to help us right here, they can do that easy enough, but if the enemy is going to try for Highway 94, they’ll be there to stop it.”
“Will they have the numbers and firepower to make any difference?” Jorge asked.
Conrad smiled. “Ivan’s forces arrived at Dodge City last night, along with all of those crazy battle wagons and off-roaders. I say we ask them to get on Highway 94 as soon as they can get through the pass.”
“We should do the same thing on the east side,” Jorge said. “Let’s start running them south from Ocotillo on the small roads through the Jacumba Wilderness. They won’t make it here in time anyway, and once they’re to the border, they can use the road along the fence to come in this direction if we need them.”
“I like it,” Meyers said. “It will keep the enemy from being able to encircle our position here.”
“We’re liable to lose a lot of civilians doing this,” Doug said.
“We’re gonna lose a lot of civilians no matter what we do,” Conrad said. “We knew the gig when we took it.”
“Some of the enemy fighters are gonna get through,” Jorge said.
“Yep, right into the multitude of citizens who are still on the way,” Conrad said.
“And they’ll have to contend with our air power then,” Meyers said. “Okay, I’m gonna make some calls. Conrad, you got some inroads with Ivan’s folks?”
“Yes sir,” Conrad said. “I’ll get them on the horn.”
Doug pulled his phone out, looking at it with a wide grin. “That pass on Highway 94 is open.”
Elmer led Robbie, Seth, Kaitlyn, and Ben into the mine, all of them with heavy backpacks on. It got cooler as they got deeper, the dim LED lights along the ceiling putting off an eerie glow.
“Find many artifacts down here?” Robbie asked, “other than the whiskey, that is?”
Elmer chuckled. “There’s stuff all over the place, but we’ve just left it.”
“You guys found whiskey down here?” Ben asked.
“Lots,” Elmer said. “We haven’t even brought all of it out yet.”
“It’s good stuff,” Seth said. “Real good.” Kaitlyn nodded in agreement.
“Those buildings aren’t old, are they?” Ben asked.
Elmer turned to him, slowing down. “When we bought this land, all that was here were ruins along main street, and the mine, which had been closed up with dynamite somewhere along the line.”
“So, you built the western town right on top of the ruins?” Ben asked.
“Pretty much,” Elmer said. “Here’s the place I had in mind.” They entered a room, carved out with a higher ceiling than the tunnel they’d come out of. There were metal folding tables along the wall, more in the center. Reloading presses and boxes of led bullets sat near the door. “Looks like Susanne still has some stuff to move, but it won’t get in our way.”
“Did you make the town look like the original?” Seth asked.
“I was wondering that too,” Kaitlyn said.
“We found a few old pictures, and used them as a guide,” Elmer said. “Parts of the original rebuild got torn down, though. Garrett and the others didn’t know anything about permits.’
Ben cracked up. “Dangerous thing in nanny-state California.”
“You got that right,” Elmer said. “That’s how I hooked up with these folks originally. Knew a few of them. I’m a contractor. I helped them fix what was fixable and build new structures where the original wasn’t salvageable.”
“Why did they build the town?” Ben asked.
“Originally? Reenactments, mainly. These folks are kinda like Civil War reenactors. That’s why they got so deep into the black powder guns and such.”
“Did they plan to live here originally?” Kaitlyn asked. “I remember reading about this place. There didn’t used to be many full-time residents.”
“No, that happened when things started to go sideways. Garrett lived here before we bought the rest of the land, on his ranch outside of town. That’s been in the family for over a hundred years. When the rest of the land came on the market, he got together his group and made a pitch to pool resources and buy it, but it was mainly for recreation. The land was cheap.”
“Who owned it?” Robbie asked.
“Mining company,” Elmer said, “actually, a holding company that received the land after the mining company went out of business. The family that owned the original company died off. Mines around here been played out for years, of course. There was some question if anybody from the twentieth century even knew the company held this land.”
“Interesting,” Robbie said. “Good fodder for a book.”
“You’re a writer, huh?” Ben asked.
“Yeah, but haven’t had much time for it lately.”
Ben laughed. “I’m a political writer. Haven’t been able to pursue that lately either.”
“We’ll get back to it,” Robbie said.
“What do you think, guys?” Elmer asked. “Can you work down here?”
“What about cellphone reception?” Ben asked.
“We put a repeater out there, so we could communicate with Susanne when she was running her operation down here. We might want to expand it a little bit. Got internet lines running down here already, too.”
“Why’d you do that?” Kaitlyn asked.
“Early on, we thought it better to have a place to hole up. Didn’t think we’d have the resources to fight back. Californians stepped up.”
“You haven’t been eight hundred people for long, then?” Seth asked.
“Nah. The core group was about a hundred and twenty. Hell, I wasn’t even a part of the original group.”
“Who was?” Kaitlyn asked.
“Garrett and his family, which includes Susanne, of course. Willard, and a bunch of reenacting weekend warriors, mainly. We have a group of theater folks here – that’s how we were able to do the shows.”
“Shows?” Ben asked.
“They had an old-west opera house going,” Kaitlyn said. “We sent business their way from our casino. I went once. It was fun.”
“Those people still here?” Robbie asked.
“Most of them, but we don’t encourage strangers to come here right now,” Elmer said. “No more shows for a while. I hope we get back to it. Susanne was big-time into that. I think she’s cranky because she can’t do it now.”
“You’ll get back to it someday,” Kaitlyn said, “and we’ll get our casino business back too.”
Elmer smiled. “Hope so, although Susanne used to skin me alive for dropping too much money at your place.”
There were footsteps approaching. Clem and Sarah appeared at the door way, Morgan with them, a backpack slung over one shoulder. She rushed over to Robbie’s side.
“Figured you guys might want some wiring done,” Clem said. “Need any help, Elmer?”
“Hell yeah,” Elmer said. “You know more about that than me, I suspect.”
“Who wired this place with the cell repeater and Wi-Fi originally?” Seth asked.
“Contractors from town,” Elmer said. “Murdered by the enemy during their first wave through here.”
“Bastards,” Clem said. “I’m ready to dig in any time.”
Sarah smiled. “Yeah, I’d rather have you doing this than stomping around in the back country with Sid and the others.”
Clem chuckled, shaking his head. “I knew why you suggested it, but I’m glad you did. I’m more good here anyway.”
“Oh, didn’t want him exposed to more snipers, eh?” Morgan said. “Good.”
“I saw you,” Ben said, looking at Morgan in the dim light. “On the TV, when you and the others testified about the UN captivity. Your courage impressed the hell out of me.”
Morgan shot him an embarrassed look.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“It’s okay, Ben,” she said. “I’m glad I did it. Most of the others are here too.”
“Then we’re in good company,” Ben said.
“I saw the video of you too, Ben,” Robbie said. “The right thing at the right time. Very brave. I’m in awe.”
“Likewise,” Seth said.
“Well, I’d be dead if not for Ivan,” Ben said, “more than once.”
Seth took off his backpack, and started pulling computer equipment out, setting it on a table. “This okay?”
“Go for it,” Elmer said. “There’s enough power strips to get started.”
“You want to use Wi-Fi down here, or ethernet lines?” Clem asked, looking at the wiring coming in.
“Either would work for us,” Kaitlyn said.
“Whatever is faster,” Ben said. “We’re gonna have a lot of conversations going on. We’ll need to expand this team, too. You guys know that, right?”
“How many people are you thinking?” Elmer asked. “Matters for the electrical.”
“I’d like at least eight more,” Ben said.
“Okay, I’ll wire it for that,” Elmer said.
Susanne came in with a few ladies, picking up the remainder of the supplies. “How’s it going?”
“I think this will work,” Elmer said. “Sorry to displace you.”
“Ah, hell, you were right, you old bushwhacker,” she said. “We’re setting up shop in the mill instead of down here. Those ammo belts are too heavy to carry around, and we don’t have the explosion issues anymore.”
“I thought you wanted to be cool?” Elmer asked.
“The mill has those swamp coolers, remember?”
“Oh, yeah,” Elmer said. “That’ll help. I’ll be up there after this to make sure you got everything you need.”
“Thanks,” she said. “C’mon, girls, let’s go.” She paused, seeing Sarah standing next to Clem, and came over.
“Hi, Susanne,” Sarah said, looking nervous.
“I saw you moved,” she said softly. “Sorry about last night.”
“No worries. I actually like being closer to Clem, but don’t spread that around too much.”
“I had a feeling,” she said, a sly grin on her face. “Enjoy. No hard feelings.”
Sarah nodded, and Susanne turned and joined her group, picking up a box of shell casings.
“Glad that’s over with,” Sarah whispered. Clem nodded, touching her shoulder.
“Me too. Want to help me with this?”
“What can I do?” Sarah asked.
“Probably help me to pull wires. We might need to go into town.”
She giggled. “Oh, we’re going to Scooter’s again?”
Elmer laughed. “Oh, you met old Scooter, huh? He’s well stocked, but he talks your ear off. You ask him what time it is and he tells you how to build a watch.”
Clem laughed. “Yeah, I noticed. I need to pace this out to see how much cable I’ll need. Want to show me where the internet source is?”
“Sure,” Elmer said. “Let’s go.” The three left the room.
“Can you tell me about this history program of yours?” Ben asked, walking over to Seth.
“Yeah, I’m interested in that too.” Robbie said.
They pulled up chairs next to Seth’s table.
“I’ll show you,” Seth said. He opened the program.
“Better run it, honey,” Kaitlyn said. “We didn’t run an AM report today, with all the excitement.”
Seth nodded, clicking on the report button. “This will take a little while. We’ve got a pretty good dataset. Wish we had a strong desktop system to run this on.”
“That’s a gamer laptop, at least,” Robbie said, looking at it.
“It is, but it just doesn’t have the raw power.”
“What is your program doing?” Ben asked.
“It takes a snapshot of all of the enemy hits within the region every few minutes. We’re using outside servers to crunch and store the raw data.”
“Outside servers?” Robbie asked. “That safe?”
“Yeah,” Seth said. “It’s all encrypted, which is part of the computing power issue.”
“Why does it matter how powerful the local machine is, then?” Ben asked.
“Kaitlyn is an Excel expert,” Seth said. “She developed a reporting tool, which takes about sixty pages of VB code to run. That takes a while with this machine.”
“What’s this telling you that you can’t see by running the apps live?” Robbie asked.
“We originally developed this so we could watch for Islamists disappearing and reappearing,” Kaitlyn said.
“Why?” Ben asked.
“We got attacked by Islamists in lead-shielded vans,” Seth said. “It was two UN Peacekeepers driving, the back shielded part of the van full of Islamist fighters. Got the drop on us a couple times. We were afraid they’d expand that capability, and we wanted some warning. If a whole bunch of these cretins disappear all of a sudden, we know there’s something up.”
“I get it,” Morgan said. “They can’t just hide themselves. If they leave an area, you’ll see them. If they drop off the screen completely, you’ll know they’ve effectively hidden themselves.”
“Yep, and we’ll know what the numbers are, too,” Kaitlyn said.
“Genius, man,” Ben said.
“How big of an area do you cover?” Robbie asked.
“We’ve got it set to a thousand square miles,” Seth said. “That’s why it’s taking so long to run.”
“Wow,” Ben said, squinting at the screen as the computer chugged away at the data.
“Maybe we should talk about our strengths, so we can decide who does what,” Robbie said.
Ben smiled. “Good idea.”
“Agreed,” Kaitlyn said, looking at Seth, who shook his head yes, eyes glued to the laptop screen.
“I’m good at copy writing,” Robbie said. “I’d rather write fiction, but I made money on the side writing text that would draw people in, and it worked.”
“So, when we start recruitment, you’d be key to draw interest,” Ben said. “We had a person like that in the last team, and she was essential.”
“Did you lose her in the ambush?” Robbie asked.
Ben nodded yes, trying to keep the emotion from taking him.
“Seth and I are good with technical stuff,” Kaitlyn said. “Data gathering and analysis.”
“That’s obvious,” Ben said. “I know the internet community like the back of my hand. I know where to kick things off, who to enlist to help us get the word out, and so on. Got that ability as a campus radical.”
“You were a campus radical?” Robbie asked. “You mean like SDS?”
Ben laughed. “No, more like the Sons of Liberty.”
The laptop beeped.
“It’s done, honey,” Kaitlyn said, turning to see him staring at the screen, already opening the report.
“Dammit,” he said. “We’ve got to talk to Garrett and the others.”
“You see something?” Robbie asked.
“Julian,” he said. “About seven hundred enemy fighters vanished overnight. Wish I would’ve run this before we went into the meeting.”
“They can’t hide that many people in shielded vehicles, can they?” Morgan asked.
Seth looked at her, brow furrowed. He went to his browser, typing in the search window. Robbie pulled his phone out and sent a text.
“Who are you texting to?” Ben asked.
“Jules,” Robbie said. “He’ll spread the word around.”
“Crap,” Seth said.
“What?” Kaitlyn asked, getting closer to him, looking at the laptop screen.
“What’s it say?” Ben asked.
“I searched on how many people fit in a semi-trailer.”
“Oh,” Ben said. “And?”
“In a two-trailer rig, the number is over five hundred,” he said, looking back at them. “This page is about illegal immigrant smugglers.”
“Son of a bitch,” Robbie said. “They could get that many folks here in two semi rigs.”
“How far is Julian from here?” Morgan asked.
Robbie pulled out his phone and loaded the GPS program. “Worst case, a couple hours. They’re probably already here.”
“No,” Kaitlyn said.
Robbie’s phone dinged with a text.
“Jules?” Morgan asked.
“Yeah, he’s mobilizing everybody,” Robbie said.
“Should we get out there?” Ben asked.
“No, they want us to keep watching this,” Robbie said. He kicked off the report again, adjusting the range down to two-hundred square miles. “It’ll run a lot faster at this setting.”
“I’m getting set up too,” Ben said, pulling the laptop out of his backpack.
“I’m doing the same,” Robbie said.
Morgan glanced at Kaitlyn. “Let’s go grab our guns, just in case.”
“You run your report,” Seth said, getting out of the chair. “I’ll go do that – I’ll grab your AK and my M60.”
“I’ll help,” Morgan said, looking at Robbie, who nodded yes.
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
The artillery pieces were off the flatbeds now, arrayed in a long row along Old Highway 80. Most of the fog had burned off, the desert heating up quickly, even though it was still before 8:00 AM. The empty train pulled forward on the tracks, heading east, as the next huge train pulled up in its place, Marines flooding out of the boxcars. Lieutenant Colonel Meyers directed placement of the men, and had a large team setting up mortars further back from the lines.
“We’re gonna pound the hell out of whoever survives the shelling, dude,” Jorge said.
“The enemy hasn’t budged yet this morning,” Doug said, looking at the apps.
“They’ll start moving soon,” Meyers said, walking to them, Conrad and several Marines following him. “We’ll be able to relieve everybody from claymore mine duty.”
“How?” Doug asked.
“Remote switches,” Meyers said. “You’re getting an upgrade. They’ll be touched off from that hill back there.”
“Good,” Jorge said. “Still want us on the k-rail here?”
“I suggest you dig in further back,” Meyers said. “We’ll put the Marines up front. They’ve trained for this.”
Jorge and Doug looked at each other, startled as the train bumped forward, now empty, the next one rolling in right behind it.
“We’ve got so many men now,” Jorge said. An ear-splitting boom went off, making him and Doug jump. Conrad chuckled, looking at Meyers, who was sporting a wide grin. He pulled some earplugs out of his pocket and put them in.
“You guys have these?” he asked.
“Nope,” Conrad said.
“We brought a lot of them,” Meyers said. “Go see the men at the table in front of my tent. Spread the word, okay?”
“Yes sir,” Doug said. The three men headed past the road, onto a flat stretch of ground about forty yards behind the k-rail, as more artillery shots went off behind them.
“That’s their wake-up call,” Jorge said. He pulled his phone out and looked at the apps. “Damn, dude, they’re scattering.”
“Hopefully a lot of them are dying,” Conrad said, turning to look at the southern horizon. “Look at the smoke. Maybe we hit some of their ammo.”
They got their ear plugs, Conrad scanning for a good place to dig in.
“See a likely spot?” Doug asked.
“Look at that ridge, right behind the train tracks,” Conrad said. “Set up over there, and tell all of your team. You know where they are?”
“All over,” Jorge said. “I’ll send them a broadcast text.”
“That would be good,” Conrad said. “See you guys in a while. I’m gonna go find my men. We’ll probably be close to you guys. There’s not going to be room up front for anybody but Marines.”
All the big guns were firing now, a round going off every thirty seconds.
“You think they’re going to keep coming?” Jorge asked. “They might flee back to the south.”
“I doubt it. Look at the app.”
Jorge refreshed his. “Yep, they’re spreading out wide.”
“That’s what I’d do. I’ll bet the first few rounds took out quite a few, because they were bunched together.”
“Think the artillery is that accurate? We can’t see them.”
“We know exactly where they are, because of the apps,” Doug said. “They probably had it dialed in with the first shot.”
Clem woke as the sun from the window hit his face, his head pounding from the hangover.
“Whoa, haven’t had one of these for a while.” He sat up in bed, noticing that the doors between his room and Sarah’s were opened wide.
“Not feeling so good, huh?” Sarah asked from her room. “Me neither.”
Clem chuckled. “It’ll pass.”
She appeared in the doorway, standing in her nightgown. His eyes locked onto her, her form shadowed through the thin white cloth, thanks to the sun in her room. He looked away quickly, and she giggled.
“Sorry,” he said.
“Well at least I have something on,” she said. “Left my robe at the boarding house. I don’t mind, if you don’t.”
“I wouldn’t say that I mind, exactly,” he said, turning back towards her, then holding his head. “Ouch.”
“We’re quite a pair, aren’t we,” she said, walking towards his bed. “What time is it, anyway?”
Clem reached for the phone on his bedside table, careful to keep the covers well above his waist. “It’s only 8:30. Maybe we should sleep some more.”
She sat on the side of his bed, now the light of his own window revealing her. “I’ll stay in bed for a while. Move over.”
He looked at her, eyes questioning, face turning read.
“Oh, please,” she said, lifting the covers before he could protest and slipping inside. “I miss this the most.” She settled next to him.
“Sarah,” he whispered.
“We don’t have to do anything,” she said, “and I won’t look if you don’t want me too.”
He laughed nervously, then held his head again. “Geez. Every time I move my head.”
“Glad I didn’t drink as much as you did,” she said. “I’m not feeling that bad. Want me to get you some aspirin? I’ve got some in my purse.”
“Isn’t that at the boarding house?”
“No, it was in the bag I brought over,” she said, getting up, her eyes glancing under the covers. He noticed, and they locked eyes. “Sorry. I didn’t see much.”
Clem shrugged as she walked into her room, trying to keep his eyes off her, but losing the battle. She walked back in and he looked away again, raising a smirk on her face.
“Land sakes, I obviously don’t mind if you look,” she said, picking up a glass from the table next to his wash basin, filling it from the pitcher. She brought it over and handed him two aspirins. “This should help a little.”
He nodded as he took them, then laid down. She got back into bed, laying lightly against him. “Can we sleep a while longer? I like to spoon.”
“You sure that’s a good idea?” Clem asked.
She turned her back to him. “C’mon.”
“Okay,” he said, his heart pounding.
“Feels like you’re okay.”
“It won’t last,” he said. “Hasn’t for a while.”
“Don’t worry about that,” she said. “I think I’ll move from the boarding house into the next-door room, though, if you don’t mind.”
He chuckled. “I thought you’d want to move into this room.”
She turned to him, smiling. “You want all the questions from our friends?”
He sighed. “No, not really. They’ll ask them anyway if you move over here.”
“No, they won’t. Everybody heard the fracas last night. Perfect excuse, if we’re not in the same room. After we’ve retired for the night, we can do whatever we want, you know.”
“Well, this does feel nice, anyway,” Clem said. “As long as you don’t expect too much.”
“I understand,” she said.
“My headache is almost gone.”
“That’s only part of it.” He settled as she laid back on her side again. They drifted off to sleep.
Ji-Ho struggled to get out of bed. He checked his phone. Almost 10:00? Dammit.
There was a rap on the door. “Uncle, are you okay?”
“I fine,” Ji-Ho said as loud as he could muster.
“I’m coming in,” she said, opening the door. She walked to the bedroom and saw him. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I be okay after I wake up a bit.”
“You need to be honest with me.” She sat down on the end of the bed. “I’m not blind, you know. This is happening more often.”
He looked at her, his eyes tearing up.
“Uncle,” she said softly. “You’re sick. What is it? Cancer?”
He sighed and shook his head yes, not looking at her.
“You act as if that’s something to be ashamed about.”
“I hide from you,” he said.
“You probably had your reasons,” she said. “Does my auntie know?”
He nodded yes.
“How long do you have?”
“Doctor say one to three year,” he said. “I last a while yet. Just hard sometimes. Episodes.”
“Who else knows?”
“Jules, Tex, Ted, Sparky, Sam, and Ivan.”
“And they let you sign up for this?”
“I force issue,” he said, looking at her. “Dead soon anyway, why not fight for good? Fight for bad too many time in past. Maybe this erase some.”
Kaylee’s tears were running down her cheeks, and she shook as the sorrow took her. “Oh, Uncle.” They hugged, both crying.
“I sorry,” he said. “There more. Hang over me like death.”
“What? Is auntie okay?”
“Your mom and dad,” he said softly.
“Oh, God,” she said, turning away from him, sobbing uncontrollably. He let her go for a few minutes.
“What happened?” she asked, still turned away. He touched her shoulder and she shrugged it off.
“Enemy find,” he said. “My brother sent message before they took them. Asked me to protect you. Told me not to tell until things better. That why I gather you and friends at house.”
“Was he in on the war?” she asked.
“He was following North Korean nukes to terrorists,” Ji-Ho said. “Told government. Government had him killed, then go after me.”
She turned towards him, still crying. “You’ve been holding all of this to yourself. You should’ve told me before now. That’s too hard.”
“This hard,” Ji-Ho said.
“Trevor. I knew you thought he’d be good for me. You must’ve been desperate.”
“I was,” Ji-Ho said. “Lucky to find him. Please don’t hold against him.”
“I already knew you were matchmaking,” she said, looking at him with red eyes. “I told you to back off, remember?”
“You bonded now?” Ji-Ho asked.
A smile rose through her tears. “I’ll be with him for the rest of my life. We’re on the same page about that.”
Ji-Ho smiled, shaking his head yes.
“What can I do to help you?”
“Have patience,” Ji-Ho said. “I already better now. Be fine for days, then this again. Maybe should have somebody with me when driving battle wagon. Clem and Sarah. I talk to them.”
“Yes, you do that. Do you want something to eat? I’ll fix you something.”
“No, you not nurse, I do fine. Please?”
“Okay, Uncle, but if there’s ever any help that you need, please ask.”
There was a knock at the door. “Ji-Ho, you know where Kaylee is?”
She got up and went to the door, opening it for him, pulling him into her arms.
“You’ve been crying,” he said, looking into her red swollen eyes.
“I’ve got a lot to tell you about,” she whispered.
“Hi, Trevor,” Ji-Ho said, walking slowly out of the bedroom.
“You don’t look so good,” Trevor said.
“I’m getting better. Kaylee tell you what going on. We have meeting, I bet.”
“Half an hour,” Trevor said.
“Good, then let me get ready. I see you in while.”
Kaylee looked at Trevor, and nodded at the door. They went back to their coach.
Saladin sat in the cave, going over battle plans with his top lieutenants. The location was getting to him. Capitol Reef had its charms, but it was dusty and hot, with all manner of disgusting insects and rodents making themselves known at the worst of times. His phone rang. He looked at the screen. “I must take this. Leadership. Carry on.” He walked out with it to his ear, into the mid-day Utah heat.
“Liking the desert?” Daan asked.
“What do you want?”
“Sorry, couldn’t resist. I’m not liking where I am all that much either, by the way.”
“And that is?”
“The great southwest,” Daan said.
“That doesn’t narrow things down much. I’m in the great southwest myself. Not sure what’s so great about it.”
Daan chuckled. “The rest of your men make it to Utah okay?”
“They’re all here. We’re planning a surprise attack on the Kansas base, which my sources tell me isn’t much of a base at all.”
“Never underestimate this enemy,” Daan said.
“What’s on your mind? I’m busy.”
“The UN and the EU got their differences ironed out,” Daan said. “They’re sending more troops to California, and that’s not all.”
“The US Navy is still out there,” Saladin said. “And don’t forget those pesky citizens.”
“Ivan’s moved everything he has into the south. He thinks that’s his main problem. We took out his social media team last night.”
“Ben Dover’s team? Is he dead?”
“We don’t know for sure yet,” Daan said. “Probably. When our commandos attacked and tried to take possession of their computer equipment, it all blew up. We don’t control the Sacramento authorities right now, so we’re waiting for official information on the bodies. I’ve heard it’s hard to tell the remains of one person from another. Probably a DNA job.”
“He’s still alive. He detonated the bomb.”
“We’re thinking more like booby trap, but we’ll see. It doesn’t matter.”
“It does matter, because Ben Dover will start a new team quickly,” Saladin said. “I’ve seen reports on the movement of citizens down to the border. They’ve got an impressive number there already.”
“And you know the troops headed north aren’t your best,” Daan said. “Even with significantly larger numbers, they’ll have a hard time winning.”
“That’s why I wanted to take the two hundred thousand down there.”
“You stay on General Hogan,” Daan said. “We’ve got another plan in the works right now.”
“Are you going to tell me what it is? I’m not seeing the point of this conversation.”
“We’re moving the good troops up into central Mexico to crush the US Army and their Mexican allies,” Daan said.
“On whose authority? We need those troops to finish our conquest of Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, and all of those stupid Central American countries that I can’t remember the names of.”
“They’ll be back down there soon enough, and we aren’t moving all of them. Just the best ones.”
“You’ve been watching the reports from down there, right?” Saladin asked. “The locals are starting to organize better. They’ve been watching Ivan the Butcher and some of the other nationalist scum who are still active.”
“Minor problem,” Daan said.
“It wasn’t so minor up here.”
“Yes, but down there the citizenry isn’t armed, and they’re used to taking orders from whoever is in charge. Add to that the fact that there’s nobody running guns to them, and that makes the resistance insignificant.”
“Remember the Viet Cong?” Saladin asked. “You damn Europeans learn nothing from history.”
“Says the man who thinks we’ll all eventually bend the knee to Allah,” Daan cracked. “Whatever. We need you to work strategy with the forces down there. They need some perspective, and when you aren’t doing something stupid, you have a good handle on things.”
“I’m going to hang up now.”
“No, you’re not,” Daan said. “Right now your reputation is crap, but it won’t be if you cooperate with us on this. I’m giving you a life line. I wish I could move you there. Your chances of survival would be better.”
“George Franklin and General Hogan,” Daan said. “Forget about them already?”
Saladin was silent for a moment.
“I can see that you haven’t,” Daan said. “Healthy.”
“I’m angry, not scared,” he spat.
“Then you aren’t as smart as I thought you were.”
“Have you forgotten about the US Army in Mexico?” Saladin asked.
“Have you forgotten that the leadership running the Mexican campaign is part of the coalition, which is on our side? We’ll turn on the nationalists in the Mexican government. We’ll root them all out and take over. Then we can renew attacks on the US mainland from over the border, as we were doing so successfully before.”
“That coalition is falling apart, and the US Government, regardless of what they say, aren’t helping,” Saladin said. “They’re dragging their feet every step of the way.
“The US Government feels the urgency of moving more quickly,” Daan said. “We put the fear of God into them.”
“You’re thinking that the attack on southern California is a diversion,” Saladin said. “That’s too many men to waste on such a risky venture, even if they aren’t our best men.”
“It’s only partly a diversion. We’ll still overrun the border and re-take major parts of eastern San Diego County, and stage for an assault on western San Diego County, but we’ll have to time it with the arrival of more troops. We’ll probably lose a lot of that force, but no matter. A victory here and there will lull our enemy.”
“You guys are delusional,” Saladin said. One of his people scurried over to him with a note. He looked at it and laughed. “If I were you I’d abandon this stupid plan and pull the South American troops back where they can hold some ground.”
“The US Marines are shelling our troops. You guys put them someplace where they have no cover. It’s gonna be a bloodbath before they even get close to the damn border.”
Daan was silent for a moment.
“You there?” Saladin asked.
“I need to make a few calls.”
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
Clem and Sarah watched as Jules and Tex left the saloon. The argument across the street flared up again, Willard and Garrett laughing, telling the others about the situation.
“Sam is so glad to see those guys,” Clem said.
“You know anything about them?” Sarah asked.
“War buddies, basically,” Clem said. He got up and went behind the bar, getting some ice for his glass. “You want another.”
“Don’t know if I should,” she said. “Oh, what the heck.” She drank down the last few drops and slid the glass to him. He made the new drinks, shooting a glance at Willard, who gave him a thumb up.
“I can’t believe Susanne and Elmer,” Sarah whispered as Clem sat next to her again, leaning in close.
“Hard way to live,” Clem said, “but then you don’t know what’s between a couple. The make-up sex might be a big part of their dynamic.”
Sarah blushed. “That’s what they were talking about, huh?”
“Did I really just say that?” Clem asked.
She touched his shoulder. “It’s okay. We’re both adults, you know.”
“I guess,” Clem said, taking a sip. “This stuff has me going pretty good.”
“I’m drunk,” Sarah said. “Been a lot of years.”
“You aren’t slurring as much,” Clem said.
She giggled. “You’re slurring more. I think it’s kinda cute. You never drank that much back at the RV Park.”
“Oh, I drank quite a bit,” Clem said, “but up to a certain point, I hide it well.”
“You’re beyond that point tonight,” Sarah said, shooting him a grin.
“Maybe a tad.”
“How much is a tad?” she asked, her eyes dancing with his.
“More than a smidgen, I guess.”
She punched him playfully on the upper arm. “That’s not an answer.”
“Sure it is,” he said. “Maybe not a good answer.”
She laughed, then took another sip of her drink. “My head feels tingly.”
“I’m sure it does. Mine does. I like it.” He smiled, turning to look at the table, where the others were chatting and laughing. “They’re having fun.”
“You want to join them?” Sarah asked.
“No, I’m having a better time with you. We can if you want to, though.”
The doors creaked, swinging as Anna walked in.
“Uh oh,” Sarah whispered. “The jig’s up.”
“Garrett, you ready to go?” Anna asked.
“Everybody, this is Anna,” Garrett said. “The woman of the house.”
She smiled, shaking her head. “How much have you had to drink?”
“Quite a bit,” Garrett said. “Come join us.”
She sighed, then came over. “Where am I gonna sit?” Garrett pushed back and patted his lap.
“Not in this lifetime,” she said, pulling a chair next to his from the next table. She sat down, and Garrett introduced her to the others.
“Well that was interesting,” Clem said. “At least she doesn’t look mad.”
“She’s totally infatuated with Garrett,” Sarah whispered. “Look at them. That’s nice.”
“It is,” Clem said, moving closer to her. Then the arguing across the street started again, and he laughed.
“They haven’t gotten to the fun part yet, I guess,” Sarah said.
Clem looked at her, studying her eyes, quiet for a moment, then snapping out of it and looking away. He took another sip of whiskey.
“Mine’s almost out already,” Sarah said.
“Not so sure that would be a good idea,” she said, “you having another?”
“I’m thinking about it. I’d like to, but I’d probably regret it.”
“Then don’t,” she said. “I think I’ve had enough.”
“Anna’s taking Garrett home,” Clem said, watching the couple get up and say their goodbyes. They went out the door, the sound of horse hoofs starting, fading away as they headed down the street.
“Maybe I should be going too,” Sarah said.
“I’ll walk you home,” Clem said.
“That would be nice,” she said, getting off the stool. Clem did the same. They were part way to the door when the arguing started again.
“Geez,” Clem said.
“Hey, there’s open rooms in the hotel, if you want to stay there instead of the peanut gallery across the street,” Willard said.
Sarah thought about it for a moment. “All my stuff is at the boarding house.”
“Whatever you want to do,” Willard said. “The keys for the empty rooms are hanging on the wall behind the front desk.”
“Who’s watching that?” Clem asked.
Willard chuckled. “Me.”
Ted, Sparky, and Sam cracked up.
“Remind me not to leave you in charge,” Sam said. “Just kidding.”
“I’ll walk you to the boarding house to get your stuff, then back to the hotel if you’d like,” Clem said.
She looked at him. “That’s too much bother.”
“No it’s not, and the night air will do both of us some good.”
“All right.” They went out the doors, walking down the wooden sidewalk, then crossing the dusty street, entering the front door of the boarding house. “You can wait down here. No need for two of us to go up all those stairs.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Clem asked.
“I feel quite a bit better already,” she said, trying to ignore the angry words as she got to the stairwell.
Clem sat on a couch in the parlor, looking around at the replica décor Susanne had used. The yelling finally stopped, Clem wondering if Sarah wouldn’t just stay there instead. She came down the stairs a couple minutes later with a bag in her hand, her face red.
“What happened?” he asked.
“They’re into the fun part now,” she whispered. “I heard more than I wanted to.”
“Oh,” Clem said, laughing. “You can stay here if you want, then.”
“No, that will bother me as much as the yelling, I suspect, especially now.”
“Why especially now?”
“Because of the drinking,” she said, smiling as they walked out the door.
“Feels nice out here,” Clem said.
“Very nice. At least it helped the flush on my face.”
They strolled across the street and onto the wood sidewalk, going past the saloon.
“Looks like the rest of them called it a night,” Clem said.
“They’ve been on the road,” Sarah said. “They’re probably beat.”
“Probably.” There was a dim light on in the lobby of the hotel. Clem opened the door for Sarah, and followed her to the front desk. The wall behind had mail cubby holes and hooks, about half of which had keys.
“Which one are you in again?” she asked.
“Room twelve,” he said. “Nice view of the street.”
“Room eleven is open,” she said. “I’ll take that one. Still makes me a little nervous being alone, you know.”
“It hasn’t been that long,” Clem said. “Perfectly understandable.”
She picked the key off the hook, and they headed for the stairs, climbing up next to each other.
“There aren’t bathrooms inside the rooms, are there?”
Clem laughed. “No, this is old-school. Men’s and women’s rooms, with showers. Down at the end of the hallway, towards the back. They’re not bad. Good pressure in the showers. Kinda nice after what we’ve been living with.”
Our rooms are adjoining, aren’t they?”
“Mine is adjoining with one of them. Not sure if it’s eleven or thirteen.”
They got to the top of the stairs and headed down the hallway, getting to Clem’s room first.
“Well, which is it?” she asked, as he unlocked his door.
“Yours,” he said. “Let’s make sure it opens.” He followed her down to her door and watched her unlock it.
“It’s fine,” she said, looking inside. “Would it bother you if we had the adjoining doors unlocked?”
“You look nervous,” Clem said. “You gonna be okay?”
“I’m just used to sleeping close to somebody I know, that’s all,” she said.
“I don’t have a problem,” he said. “Might want to knock first, though. I don’t have any PJs.”
She giggled. “Oh my.”
He started for her door.
“You can just use the inside door if you want,” she said.
“Okay,” he said, looking nervous.
She smiled, giving him a quick hug. “Thank you for being such a gentleman.”
“Gentleman?” Clem asked. “Even with my off-color remarks?”
She smiled. “I was pretty drunk earlier. You could’ve talked me into almost anything.”
He shrugged. “I could say the same thing, you know.”
She looked at him funny, but then smiled. “Okay, good night.” She kissed him on the cheek, and watched him open the door. Then he laughed.
“Shoot, I have to open the second door from my side. Been a while since I’ve been in one of these rooms, and my brain still isn’t firing on all cylinders.”
“Still feeling it some, huh?” she asked.
“We drank a lot. Don’t you feel it anymore?”
“I’m still half drunk,” she said, following him to the door. “See you in the morning.”
Clem nodded and left. She could hear him open and close his door, and then he knocked on the inside door. “You still decent?”
“Kinda,” she said. “Open it.”
He unlatched the door and pushed it open. “There, we know everything’s hunky-dory,” Clem said, not looking at her.
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
“You said you were only kinda decent,” he said.
“I was talking about my mental state, silly,” she said, laughing. She walked towards him. “Maybe we should’ve drank some more.”
“I’d better go to bed,” Clem said, looking embarrassed. He slipped back through the door, leaving it ajar. Sarah stood staring at it, a sly smile on her face.
The early morning sun couldn’t quite burn through the fog. Doug had been awake since about four. Jorge was still asleep, in the back of his pickup truck, parked on the north side of Old Highway 80. There were several thousand citizen warriors in the area now, digging in and waiting for the onslaught they knew would come. The waiting was the hardest part for Doug. The enemy had been sitting in the same place, moving only a couple miles towards them in the last couple days. Food and other supplies flowed into the town daily. The rumor was that friends of liberty from around the globe were paying for it all, but there were never names.
“Hey, man, they’re moving,” Jorge said, head poking up from his truck bed. You see that?”
“About time you woke up,” Doug said. “I haven’t looked for a while. It’s like watching paint dry.”
“Look at it, man.”
Doug nodded, pulling his phone out and loading the long-range app, his eyes getting wider. “They’re ten miles further than they were last night when I checked.”
“Look behind them,” Jorge said, climbing out of the truck bed.
“Dammit,” Doug said. “Is that another two hundred thousand?”
Jorge was next to him now. “Looks like.”
“We’re gonna get nailed,” Doug said. He shot Jorge a glance that was nervous but resolute. “This is where I make my stand.”
Jorge smiled, shaking his head. “We’ll fight our best, but when it’s time to split, we need to go. We’re worth more to the nation alive than dead. Don’t ever forget that.”
Doug nodded. “I know, but what’s coming might not be something we can escape.”
“I’m worried for the men who are on the first few rows of claymore mines.”
“Yes, they’re in the most danger,” Doug said, “but our position behind the k-rails won’t stand up to much. You know that, right?”
“I do,” Jorge said. “Feel a little guilty that we’re not in the first couple rows.”
“We’re not fast enough,” Doug said.
“Yeah, getting old sucks.”
“Good morning,” Conrad said, walking to them. “They’re on the move.”
“We saw,” Jorge said. “Still a long walk, though.”
“Indeed,” Conrad said, “and they walked about half the night. I expect them to stop for a little while. We’re still looking at more than a day before they can get here.”
“How’s the recruitment going?”
“We’ve got nearly three hundred thousand here now,” he said, “but the road in is clogged, so they’re slowing some. Both I-8 and Old Highway 80 are backed up to Boulder Oaks towards the west, and to Ocotillo to the east. We’re weighing the possibility of having them leave their cars and walk in.”
“Boulder Oaks is over twenty miles from here, you know,” Doug said, “and if we do that, the backup will go back even further. Our forces won’t get here in time.”
“What about Highway 94?” Jorge asked.
“They’ve got the pass about half-way cleared,” Conrad said, “but it’s going faster now. Time-wise they’re about three-quarters of the way done, from what my sources are telling me.”
“Look at the map,” Doug said. “That will just make the traffic backup worse.”
Jorge put the phone to his face, moving fingers around on the map. “Dude, you’re right. It dumps right onto Old Highway 80, at a spot we know is already gridlocked.”
“It is moving,” Conrad said, “but it’s moving too slow.”
“I was right,” Doug said. “We’re going to die here, but I’m ready. It’s where we make our stand. We’ll cut the enemy forces way back, so the number will be much more manageable for the forces further north.”
“But the cars,” Jorge said.
Conrad and Doug looked at him like he was nuts.
“What are we gonna drive on?” Doug asked. “The roads will be gridlocked. We’ll get stuck in traffic when the enemy comes over the border, and we’ll get picked off easily. Better to stay and fight them than to run when we’re gonna get killed anyway.”
Jorge sat down, his eyes showing panic. “I didn’t get it before.”
Conrad looked at both men, the harsh realization showing on his face. “This is our Alamo. Why didn’t I realize it before now?”
Doug chuckled. “Well, on the good side, they’ll build a monument here. People will remember. It’ll be a shrine.”
Conrad smiled. “That’s the best attitude we can have now.”
Jorge nodded in agreement, his expression melting into peaceful acceptance. “I wish we could get the damn Navy to start bombing these guys in Mexico. That would bring them down to a reasonable number in a hurry. Hell, might even end it completely. There’s no cover in that desert. The enemy will be sitting ducks.”
“The brass are playing the long game,” Conrad said. “Why risk widening the war when they know we’ve got enough people to stop the invasion further north?”
“They should say to hell with it and attack Mexico anyway,” Doug said. “Hell, we’ve got half the US Army in Mexico right now.”
“Those forces are being driven by the coalition,” Conrad said, “with our phony federal government. That’s a globalist adventure. We should have every politician who signed off on that shot for treason.”
Conrad’s phone rang. He walked away with it to his ear.
“First time I’ve seen him scared, man,” Jorge said.
“Yeah. There’s got to be something we can do.”
“We’ve got nothing to do but wait and think,” Jorge said. “We’ve dug in as much as we can. Maybe we can come up with a plan.”
“Listen? Hear that?” Doug asked.
Jorge stopped talking, then his expression changed. “Crap, man, that sounds like a train.”
“That’s what I’m thinking,” Doug said. “You ever seen trains on that track?”
“Not for years,” Jorge said. “That line goes below the Mexican border, then back up. All the problems got it shut down.”
“Dammit, we might have enemy here already,” Doug said. They both ran off the road to the tracks. Jorge put his ear to the rail.
“Yeah, it’s a train all right.”
“Let’s get our guns,” Doug said, rushing back towards their spot on the road.
“Wait, it might be our side, you know,” Jorge said, rushing after him. “It just dips into Mexico by TJ. The US Navy probably controls that whole area.”
“Better safe than sorry,” Doug said, picking up the M60 he’d been issued, loading the belt of ammo.
“Is that what I think it is?” Conrad asked, running over.
“Yeah, man, it’s a train,” Jorge said. “We’ll be able to see it in a minute. You think it’s our guys?”
“Nobody told me anything,” Conrad said, “but that’s not unusual.”
Four engines came into view, the train starting to slow as it approached.
Conrad got a huge grin on his face. “That’s ours. Look at the artillery on those flatbeds! That’s American stuff. Looks brand new!”
The train continued past them, a long freighter with twelve flatbeds, two artillery pieces on each, and a long row of boxcars behind it. It chugged to a stop, and a Marine officer jumped out of the first engine, followed by a couple staffers. They trotted over to where Conrad was, men leaving their positions to look.
“Who’s in charge here?” he asked in a loud voice.
Conrad stepped forward. “Nobody is officially,” he said. “I’ve been coordinating.”
“Conrad,” he said.
“I’m Lieutenant Colonel Meyers. We’d like to place these artillery pieces, but we need to do it in a hurry. There’s three more trains on the way.”
“Tell us how we can help,” Doug said.
“Yes, we’ll all lend a hand,” Jorge said.
The boxcar doors opened, men climbing out, filling the area towards the rear of the train, all of them with packs and weapons.
“Holy crap,” Conrad said. “How many men per boxcar?”
“With equipment and supplies, about sixty per car,” he said. “The other trains are all box cars – each have about 150.”
“How many men on this train?” Doug asked.
“Just over five thousand,” Meyers said. “I heard you’ve placed rows of claymore mines.”
“Yes sir,” Conrad said, “and we’ve done a considerable amount of digging in. Most of our men have top-shelf weapons now, too. M4s and M60s, plus RPGs and other nice toys. The number of enemy troops coming is a problem. You know that, right?”
“What’s the number of citizens here so far?” Meyers asked.
“We’re getting close to three hundred thousand, and there’s a lot more coming in on I-8, but the road is pretty clogged now. It’s slow going. Some of them won’t beat the enemy here.”
“These tracks cross I-8 to the east,” Jorge said. “We’ve got people stopped there too. Maybe we can get a whole bunch of people to drive off the road and get onto the boxcars – then we could ferry them over here. That would free the road up for more cars, too.”
“I like that idea,” Meyers said. “Last time I looked at these new apps, the enemy was thirty miles away. We’ve got about a day, and there’s more trains coming past these three. We’ll have at least nine total. Well trained Marines. Top notch.”
“We still won’t have enough, though,” Conrad said. “We’re talking just under ten thousand men per train if you can hold sixty per boxcar. There’s seven hundred thousand enemy fighters on the way.”
“We’ll soften them up a lot with this artillery,” Meyers said.
“Yeah, but I’ll bet we can’t use them until the enemy crosses the border,” Doug said, shaking his head.
Meyers smiled. “Yep, those were the orders from General Sessions.”
“Dammit,” Conrad said.
“That jackass left the country with some of the other traitors at the Pentagon,” Meyers said. “They probably know something’s coming. Screw them. We start shelling the enemy positions as soon as we can get these pieces off the flatbeds.”
“Then let’s get them off the flatbeds,” Conrad said with a wide grin.
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
Ben ran out of the dark industrial area, heart pounding. His whole team, gone in an instant. He had to contact Ivan, but was afraid to stop. Sirens approached, probably coming to check out the gunfire and the burning truck. He ran towards the opening in back, which went into a vacant lot, hiding in trees about fifty yards out, then hit Ivan’s contact on his phone and put it to his hear.
“Ben, you left yet?” Ivan asked.
“They’re gone,” he said, trying to catch his breath. “All of them.”
“What happened?” Ivan asked.
“One of our new recruits was a plant,” he said. “I figured that out. Was questioning him in the office when UN commandos attacked the group outside.”
“Did they get the computers?” Ivan asked.
“I used the self-destruct. I’ll never doubt you again about that kind of thing. Sorry.”
“Don’t,” Ivan said. “You’re learning faster than anyone I’ve ever had on my team. You sure everybody’s dead?”
“Pretty sure. Nobody was returning fire before I blew the truck. Somebody might have survived, but now I hear sirens approaching. Want me to go back and check?”
“NO!” Ivan said. “Get away from there, find a good place to get picked up, and I’ll send Mr. White and Mr. Black. They’re nearby. Got it?”
“Yeah,” Ben said. “Sorry.”
“How’d you figure out the guy was a plant?”
“He was asking too many questions, and then said he knew somebody who knew you from school in Russia,”
“Morons,” Ivan said. “Protect yourself. We need you to rebuild the team. That recruitment is essential, with the forces we’ve got coming at us now.”
“I’ve got my phone, and we’re rolling big time with the recruitment. I think we did enough before we started packing up. These campaigns develop a life of their own once they really start going.”
“Good,” Ivan said. “We’ll get you on a plane to the south. I’ll have new facilities ready to go. Don’t get killed. Call me when you’re in a place you can be picked up.”
“I’ll do my best,” Ben said. He ended the call and crept further back in the vacant lot, heading for a housing tract that backed up to it, climbing a fence into a back yard and rushing for the front gate, the dog next door barking. He burst out of it just as lights came on in the house, his heart hammering in his chest, running full speed down the sidewalk towards a park at the end, getting into the shadows before anybody got outside. There was play equipment there, in an area with a rubber floor. He slipped into a play fort, hidden from the outside, and watched for a few minutes. The only sound was the sirens, and then the thumping of a chopper. Dammit.
The chopper came into view over the industrial area, circling, it’s spotlight shining, making a beam in the damp night air. The lights in the house he just ran past were on now, a man standing on the front lawn looking around, his cellphone to his ear. “He’s calling the police,” Ben whispered to himself, looking around for a better hiding place. The community pool was sixty yards away, with a club house and cabanas, sitting dark and un-occupied. Run.
He slipped away from the play equipment slowly, not getting up to run until he was out of sight of the man, who was still looking around, phone still to his ear. The ground between him and the pool complex seemed like a mile, but he crossed it in seconds, hopping the fence and getting into the shadows, under a patio roof with a towel cabinet and a row of lounge chairs. The pool was dark, wind putting gentle ripples on the surface, the large round spa also dark. Chlorine smell. There was a click, and the pump started, the flow of water in the pool barely audible.
The sound of a car approached, and a K-9 unit drove slowly up the street towards the house. He could hear car doors opening and closing, the police chopper going in wider circles now. On the edge of panic, he texted Ivan.
“I’m hiding at pool, in the housing track past lot behind office. K-9 unit and choppers approaching.”
An officer was walking towards the park, holding the leash of a big dog. The text ding startled him, and he frantically shut the ringer off and read, trying to block the light of the screen with his hands.
“In area, diversion in seconds, be ready, black sedan.”
Suddenly there was a huge explosion at their former office, a massive fireball rising. The officer ran back to his vehicle, pulling the dog, who was looking back at Ben most of the way. The chopper moved towards the blast, the police cruiser racing out of the tract, siren going on as they got to the main street. A few seconds later the black sedan pulled up. Ben got up, jumped the fence, and ran, getting into the back seat.
“Put on seat belt,” Mr. Black said, smiling back at him from the driver’s seat.
“Ben Dover, good to see,” Mr. White said as the car peeled out, heading out of the tract, going the opposite direction of the melee.
“How’d you guys get here so fast?” Ben asked, trying to catch his breath.
“Boss dispatched right away,” Mr. White said. “He know where office is, you know.”
“Oh, yeah,” Ben said. “Where are we going?”
“Franklin Field,” Mr. Black said as he turned onto the southbound I-5 onramp.
“Laptop on seat for you,” Mr. White said. “Work recruitment. Time short. Chartered plane pick up.”
“You guys going too?” Ben asked.
“No, boss leave us here to watch state government, make sure no slippage,” Mr. Black said.
Sarah slowed as she approached the saloon, heart beating a little faster than she liked. There was laughter coming from inside. The doors swung open, one almost smacking her as two people came out.
“Oh, sorry,” said one of them, tipping his cowboy hat.
“It’s okay,” Sarah said, feeling her face flush. She pushed through the swinging doors. The room was empty except for the bar. Willard saw her come in and smiled broadly.
“Howdy,” he said. “Want a drink? I’m buying.”
“Sarah,” Sam said, seeing her walk in. Ed and Garrett turned, nodding a greeting, Clem seeing her and smiling.
“This taken?” she asked, standing by the stool next to Clem.
“It is now,” Clem said, eyes light with booze, voice still clear as a bell.
“Want some of the good stuff?” Willard asked.
“What’s the good stuff?” she asked.
“Whiskey from the folks who mined here,” Garrett said. “It’s probably about a hundred years old.”
“Really?” she asked, settling onto the stool, her elbows going onto the bar. “This place isn’t that old, is it?”
“The saloon?” Willard asked. “Nah, we built this about eight years ago. The mine is another story, and there was a basement under this. Original bar sat here, I reckon.”
“We know it did,” Garrett said. “Surprised the place ain’t haunted.”
“Maybe it is,” Ed said, grinning at the others. “This is damn fine whiskey, but I think I’d better slow down.”
“You got to drive anyplace?” Clem asked.
Ed chuckled. “No, I guess not.”
“I’ll try some of the good stuff,” Sarah said demurely.
“On the rocks, or mixed with soda, or a shot?” Willard asked.
“Give me a shot,” she said. The others chuckled as Willard grabbed a shot glass from under the bar and picked up the ancient unlabeled bottle. He poured carefully and slid it over to her.
“It might be a little harsh,” Clem said, watching as she picked it up.
She smiled at him and then tossed it back, her body shuddering as it burned its way down. “Wow.”
“Told you,” Clem said. “I like it on the rocks. That way I can sip and enjoy the flavor.”
“I never liked the taste much,” she said, setting the shot glass down. “Wow, you feel this fast, right behind the forehead.”
“Another?” Willard asked.
“Oh, what the hell,” she said. He refilled her glass, the others watching.
“You drink much?” Garrett asked.
“Rarely,” she said, looking down at the shot glass. “John had a problem, and I didn’t want to encourage it, so I drank a lot less in the last fifteen years than I did in my youth.” She tossed the drink down, shuddering a little less than the first time, the light feeling in her head growing. “This is nice. I do like to drink. Usually something a little weaker, though.”
“We’ve got a full bar,” Willard said, “I don’t know much about those sweet drinks that women like, though. I’m more of a pourer than a mixer. We’ve got some white wine if you’re interested.”
“Never mix the grain with the grapes,” Sam quipped.
“I think that comment was meant for beer, not whiskey,” Garrett said.
“What’s whiskey made of?” Sarah asked, pushing her shot glass towards Willard.
“You sure, honey?” Willard asked.
She nodded yes, so he poured.
“Whiskey is made from corn,” Sam said. “That’s a grain, isn’t it?”
“Kinda sorta,” Ed said. “Corn squeezens.”
Garrett laughed. “Isn’t that what Granny Clampett called it?”
Sarah giggled. “Rheumatiz medicine.”
“Oh, yeah,” Clem said. “Loved that show.”
“Grits and gopher jowls,” Ed said, laughing. “Hell, I need another drink.”
“I’d better get back,” Sam said. “Erica’s gonna wonder what happened to me.”
“Text her,” Garrett said.
“Yeah, she’ll understand,” Ed said. “Have some fun with the boys.”
“Hey,” Sarah said. She laughed, then drank the next shot, not shuddering at all this time, savoring the warm feeling as it went down her throat. “I’m kinda liking this.”
“You’re gonna start slurring in a second, if you’re not careful,” Clem said. “This stuff hits women harder than it hits men.”
“That’s a fact,” Willard said.
“I’ve only had three,” she said.
“Well, I’ve had five, and I’m pretty tight,” Willard said. “Probably have more, though.”
There was yelling across the street. Willard and Garrett looked at each other and cracked up.
“What’s going on?” Sam asked.
“Elmer and Susanne again,” Willard said.
“He’s going to end up here, I suspect,” Clem said.
“Nah, they’ll just stay there and fight for a while,” Garrett said.
“Nothing violent, I hope,” Sarah said.
“Never,” Garrett said. “That’s why I told Clem to stay at the hotel instead of her boarding house.”
“Maybe you should’ve warned me too,” Sarah quipped.
“You already moved in before I had the chance,” Garrett said. “Don’t worry, they don’t do it every night.”
“It’s been fine until now,” Sarah said, sliding her shot glass back to Willard.
“You’re gonna be feeling no pain, you know,” Willard said as he poured.
“Good,” she said. “I could use a break. Letting loose a little isn’t bad every once in a while. It’s good for you, actually.” The last of the sentence was a little slurred. Willard eyed Clem, smiling. He shook his head.
“What?” Sarah asked.
“Nothing,” Willard said. “Bar etiquette.”
“What’s bar etiquette?” she asked.
“It’s where the bartender makes sure there’s somebody with a person to help them home.”
“Message received,” Clem said, “but who’s gonna help me home?”
“I’m okay,” Sarah said. “Not like I have to get into the car and drive.”
“Yeah, you only have to cross a muddy, rutted street and brave three flights of stairs,” Garrett said.
“It’s not muddy,” Clem said.
“Just trying to be colorful,” Garrett said, smiling at him.
“How are you getting home, Garrett?” Sam asked. “Your place is a lot further.”
Garrett smiled. “Anna. She’ll come get me in the wagon.”
“She knows how to drive a team of horses?” Sarah asked.
Ed laughed. “Oh, yeah, she’s got that down.”
“She does,” Garrett said, “but this is just a carriage with one horse. She’ll probably be here soon. Maybe I can talk her into a drink or two.”
“That won’t be too difficult,” Ed said. “Trust me on that.”
More shouting drifted across the street.
“Geez,” Sarah said.
“Decent squall,” Willard said.
“Yeah, I was gonna say,” Sam said. “Hit me again.” He pushed his glass to Willard, who filled it with ice and whiskey.
“Maybe I ought to do it that way,” Sarah said.
“It’ll slow you down a tad,” Clem said. “Not a bad thing. I’m enjoying the company.”
She touched his arm, looking into his eyes for a long moment. “You’re so nice to me.”
“Oh, you know,” he said. “Old friends.”
“Yes, old friends,” she said. “Can I have one on the rocks, Willard?”
“Of course,” he said, fixing her one.
She took a sip of the cold whiskey, savoring it for a moment. “You know, this isn’t bad.”
“I’ll take another of those,” Clem said.
“Me too, Willard said, filling both glasses with ice and pouring.
“There they go again,” Sarah said as the voices drifted across the street. She looked at Clem and laughed. “Hope it’s worth it to them.”
“If they stop and Elmer doesn’t end up over here, it’s worth it,” Willard said.
Garrett laughed. “Hey, that’s my sister you’re talking about.”
“Elmer needs more protection than she does,” Willard said.
“That sounded kinda naughty,” Sarah said, slurring a little more.
Willard chuckled. “Actually, I’m kinda envious. Not of Susanne, mind you, but of the situation.”
Sam’s phone rang. “Uh oh, maybe I stayed too late.” He looked at it. “Ji-Ho.” He got off his stool and walked away, having a hushed conversation.
“Crap, I hope the party isn’t over,” Clem said. “I’m enjoying this.”
“Me too,” Sarah said.
Sam came back with a wide grin on his face. “We’re about to have company.”
“They’re here?” Garrett asked.
“Yep, just pulling in now,” Sam said. He typed out a text and sent it.
“What now?” Ed asked him.
“I just let Erica know not to wait up,” he said. “I haven’t seen these guys for a while.”
“Maybe I’d better go into the basement and grab a few more bottles of the good stuff,” Willard said.
“Yeah, do that,” Garrett said.
“How are you doing?” Clem asked Sarah.
“Fine. Glad I slowed down a little. I was on the edge of control there for a while. Feeling better now.”
“Good,” Clem said.
The swinging doors creaked, everybody turning to see Ji-Ho coming in, followed by Ted, Jules, Tex, and Sparky.
“Why are you always in a saloon, you old son of a bitch?” Ted asked, walking up to Sam. They embraced.
“Been way too long,” Sam said. “Tex, how the hell are you?”
“Never been better, partner,” he said. “This looks like my kind of place.”
“Hey, Sam,” Sparky said. “Long time no see. You remember Jules?”
“Sure,” Sam said. “How’s it going, Jules?”
“Very good, old friend. Great to finally be with you.”
Sam and Ji-Ho introduced everybody, while Willard lined up drinks for all.
“You okay, Ji-Ho?” Sam asked, eyeing him.
“Tired,” he said softly. “Illness is progressing a little, but I’ll be okay tomorrow if I get enough sleep. I leave soon.”
“We have development tonight, need to discuss for minute,” Jules said. “Mind?”
“No problem here,” Garrett said. “Maybe we ought to go sit at the round table over there. Easier to chat.”
“Yeah, do that, and I’ll bring a bottle over,” Willard said.
“That stuff is insane,” Tex said. “What kind is it?”
Willard told him as they walked over, holding the bottle up in front of him.
“Damn, this stuff is over a hundred years old?” Tex asked. “No wonder it’s so good.”
“You need me?” Clem asked.
“Not unless you’re interested,” Sam said. “I’ll fill you in later.”
“Great, thanks,” Clem said. Sarah looked at him and mouthed thank you.
“I hear from Ivan little while ago,” Jules said. “Ben Dover’s recruitment team got attacked when they were moving out of their offices in Sacramento.”
“No,” Ji-Ho said. “Did anybody survive?”
“Ben only,” Jules said. “He already picked up, getting on plane tonight. He come here, set up, if that okay.”
“Fine by me,” Garrett said, “but what about our situation? Wasn’t he the key to fielding a million citizens?”
“Yes,” Jules said, “luckily they got beyond hump, recruitment snowballing. We should be good, but he need to develop new team. Maybe you have people who can help. Your data man, no?”
“Seth,” Sam said. “Yeah, he’d be helpful, I’m sure, and his history program is running now. He’s got his woman helping him, and she’s very sharp. She can keep that going by herself while he works with Ben Dover.”
“Anything more?” Ji-Ho asked.
“That was the main thing,” Ted said. “You look way too tired. Go to bed. We’ll catch up in the morning.”
“Thanks,” Ji-Ho said. “Glad you all here. Great to see. Good night.” He got up and walked out the door.
“He’s in bad shape, partner,” Tex said.
“I’m with him every day, so I’m not seeing it as sharply as you are,” Sam said. “Hope he can hold it together.”
“Does the team know about his cancer?” Ted asked.
“Only a few of us,” Sam said. “He doesn’t want his niece to know, but it’s gonna come to a head pretty soon, I’m afraid.”
“Is Ivan really coming here?” Garrett asked.
Jules chuckled. “He’ll make an appearance, I’m sure, but he like ghost. All over the place. Hard to pin down. Hard to keep track.”
“I’d like to meet him,” Ed said. “Love his style.”
“He does have that,” Ted said. “He’s a little more docile than he used to be, from what I can tell.”
“Oh, I don’t know, partner,” Tex said. “The enemy might not agree.”
“That good point,” Jules said, a wicked grin on his face. “Well, I go. Have lovely woman waiting. See in morning.”
“Same here,” Tex said. “I’ll walk with you. Thanks for the fine whiskey, Willard.”
“It’s an honor to serve,” Willard said. “I’m sure we’ll toss a few back in the coming days.’
“I’ll stick around for a little while, I think,” Sparky said.
“Me too, if you don’t mind,” Ted said.
“Okay, guys, have fun,” Tex said, walking out with Jules.
“Another drink?” Willard asked the remaining men.
“I’m game,” Ted said.
The others nodded in agreement, so Willard poured.
To be continued…
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
Sid, Yvonne, and Clem rolled into the back parking area, a block outside of Dodge City’s main street.
“What now?” Yvonne asked.
“I could use a snort and some conversation about what just happened,” Clem said. “Going to the saloon.”
“Sounds kinda good to me,” Sid said.
“Mind if I go back to our rig?” Yvonne asked. “I’m tired.”
“Sure, no problem,” Sid said. “I’ll walk you there, change my clothes, and meet Clem back in town. That okay?”
“Sure, but don’t get too trashed. We’re seeing too much enemy activity around here.”
“I think we ought to have the battle wagons in siege mode,” Clem said.
“Me too,” Yvonne said. “You gonna take one of the new rigs we got?”
“Nope,” he said. “I kinda like living in the Dodge City Hotel. Reminds me of a vacation in Westworld.’
Sid chuckled. “Oh, really. Got any dance hall girls, I wonder?”
“Stop,” Yvonne said. “You’ve been spending a lot of time with Sarah, Clem.”
“Nothing romantic about that,” Clem said. “We’re old friends, that’s all.”
“You just do whatever makes you happy,” Yvonne said. She turned to Sid. “Let’s go, honey.”
He nodded, and they walked down a couple more blocks, to where there were widely-spaced rows of battle wagons, most already in siege mode, lights on in about half of them.
“I think Sarah wants to be more than just friends,” Yvonne whispered when they got out of earshot.
“I doubt it, frankly,” Sid said. “He’s older, you know. By more than a few years. He’s had problems, too.”
“The usual older man problems,” Sid said. “Do I have to spell it out for you.”
“You look nervous mentioning that,” she said. “Worried? You still do fine.”
“I do, but I’m not looking forward to the time that I won’t anymore,” he said. “Clem’s twelve years older than me.”
“That just puts him at seventy-five,” she said. “That’s not that old. I actually thought he was older.”
Sid unlocked the coach and opened the door for Yvonne. After he followed, she turned and hugged him, giving him a kiss which grew passionate.
“Wow, maybe I ought to stay here,” he said.
“No, go and find out what you can, but just remember that I’ll be here waiting.”
Sid laughed. “You don’t want me to drink too much.”
“Yep, and I don’t want you to be out too late either. Might as well use the tools I’ve been given.”
“Oh, brother,” Sid said. “I’m being worked.”
She kissed him again, then whispered in his ear. “I want you. Be ready.”
He smiled as she broke the embrace and walked to the fridge, looking inside.
“You’re something,” he said, shaking his head. “I’ll be back sooner than you expect.”
She waved, and he walked out the door. The evening was cooling down fast, Sid taking his time as he strode back to Main Street. He could hear people. The population of the town had already swelled by a few hundred, most of the newcomers camped in tents to the east. The voices grew louder as he made it to the wooden sidewalk. Light flooded out of the saloon and the lobby of the hotel. Sid pushed through the swinging doors of the saloon. Clem was at the bar with Ed, Sam, and Garrett, Willard behind the bar.
“There he is,” Clem said, smiling as Sid sat on the stool next to him.
“What’ll you have?” Willard asked. “Some of that good stuff?”
“Sure, on the rocks,” Sid said, putting his elbows on the bar. He turned to look at the room, all the tables full. Seth and Kaitlyn were in the back, at the same table as always, staring into the laptop screen, Trevor and Kaylee sitting next to them.
“Jumpin place,” Clem said, taking a sip of his whiskey. Willard slid Sid’s to him.
“Thanks,” Sid said, putting the glass to his lips. “Damn fine liquor.”
“We’re flush, after that last bit that Elmer and I found,” Willard said. “It don’t come out for everybody.”
Garrett laughed. “I’d put it away if my crazy sister shows up.”
“I saw Elmer go over there half an hour ago,” Willard said. “She’s either down for the night, or she’ll stomp over here shortly, ready for a squall.”
Ed laughed, shaking his head. “And I thought the tribe was a soap opera.”
“Mine was,” Sid said. “Where’s Ji-Ho?”
“He wasn’t feeling well,” Sam said. “Hit the sack. I think he wants to be fresh when his friends arrive.”
“When are they due?” Sid asked.
“About four hours, if they don’t run into problems.”
“They’re coming all the way from Sacramento in one day, with the roads how they are now.”
“The roads aren’t bad further north,” Sam said. “Things have settled down nicely thanks to Ivan’s efforts up there.”
“And thanks to the citizens, let’s not forget,” Clem said. “Californians have exceeded my expectations.”
“True that,” Sid said. “Where’s Sarah?”
“Stop that,” Clem said, smiling. “There’s nothing there. Really. Besides, she’s still mourning. John hasn’t been gone for that long.”
“I miss that man so much,” Sam said, raising his glass. “Here’s to him.”
The others joined the toast.
“Clem told you guys what happened out there, right?” Sid asked.
“Yep,” Sam said.
“Sorry about your men,” Sid said to Garrett.
“Thanks,” he said. “That was tough. Wish we had a better way to track them. Maybe those cameras will help.”
“There’s a bunch of armed off-roaders coming with Jules,” Sam said. “We ought to enlist them to join the patrols.”
“How safe do you guys think we are here?” Sid asked.
“We’re getting thousands more people, and a lot of them are armed with military weapons,” Garrett said. “It’ll be an armed camp. I don’t think the enemy will continue to hit us. We’ll kill too many of them.”
“The enemy forces in Mexico are moving north again,” Seth said in a loud voice. “I think it’s because those forces from the south are almost with them.”
“Dammit, I knew that’s why they were waiting,” Sam said. “Thanks, Seth.”
“No problem,” he said. “We’re gonna hit the rack pretty soon. Want me to leave the laptop?”
“Nah, all of us have phones,” Sam said.
“Okay,” Seth said, unplugging his power supply. He got ready to leave with Kaitlyn, Trevor, and Kaylee.
“Seth’s a lucky kid,” Clem said. “His woman is a looker.”
“You got that right,” Willard said. “Makes me wish I was about sixty years younger.”
The men laughed.
“You guys hear any more about the forces in San Diego?” Sid asked. “The air support?”
Clem chuckled. “You’re here to find out the latest, then you’re going back home, aren’t you? Yvonne wants to get a report, I’ll bet.”
Sid snickered. “How’d you guess? We’re both interested.”
“I tried to talk Anna into coming over, but she decided to hang out at the ranch house instead,” Garrett said.
“Erica wanted to stay at home with Mia, of course, but she wants info too. We’re all in the same boat.”
Clem laughed. “Good reason to be single. I’ll have another drink, barkeep. Should I open a tab?”
“You guys can drink for free,” Willard said. “In fact, everybody can drink for free, as far as I’m concerned.”
Garrett eyed him. “I don’t want no drunken brawls in town, though, okay Willard? Take it easy with folks we don’t know.”
“Of course,” Willard said, sliding a fresh drink to Clem.
“Thank you kindly,” Clem said, a twinkle in his eye.
“In the morning we should go follow the tracks, and figure out where those UN Peacekeepers came in,” Sid said.
“I second that,” Garrett said. “Hell, I’ll probably go with you if Anna doesn’t have plans for me.”
“Plans?” Sam asked.
Ed chuckled. “Moving right in, is she?”
Garrett shrugged. “She’s the woman of the house already. What can I say. I wanted it.”
“What time tomorrow?” Sid asked, downing his drink.
“Not too early,” Garrett said. “I’m gonna drink a tad more. Things are gonna get way too busy around here when we get the large influx.”
“Sounds like you’re thinking more than a tad,” Willard said. “Think I’ll join you.”
“Yeah, until Susanne shows up,” Clem said.
“She can only pull that crap with Elmer,” Willard said.
“That’s a true statement,” Garrett said. “I love my sister and all, but I don’t understand how he can put up with that.”
“You probably don’t want to know,” Clem quipped. The others cracked up.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right about that,” Garrett said.
“How about nine?” Sid asked, getting off the stool.
“Nine thirty, okay?”
“Done,” Sid said. “See you guys in the morning.”
Sid left the bar, heading back out onto the wooden sidewalk, re-tracing his steps. He caught Sarah out of the corner of his eye. She rushed across the street from the boarding house.
“Clem in the saloon?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Sid said, stopping on the sidewalk, leaning against a hitching post. “Why? Problems?”
“I heard he almost got killed today,” she said.
“Now where’d you hear a thing like that?” Sid asked.
“Garrett told Susanne,” she said. “He’s too smart to lose. Was he doing something stupid?”
“No more than the rest of us,” Sid said. “Hell, Yvonne helped us a lot. Killed two of the snipers. Clem did well out there, too. He got those cameras placed. They’ll give us at least some view of that area.”
“I don’t think you guys should be taking him out there,” she said softly.
“He’s younger than he looks, you know.”
“How old is he?”
“He’s never told you that?” Sid asked.
“I know he’s older than you and John.”
“He’s only seventy-five,” Sid said.
“Really? I thought he was in his eighties.”
“I’ll tell him you said that,” Sid said with a wicked grin.
“Don’t you dare,” she said. “He’s still in there, huh?”
“He, Garrett, and Willard are gonna drink a little more. It’ll be too crazy to do that around here after all the additional people show up.”
“Thanks,” she said, turning towards the saloon.
“Where are you going?”
“Maybe I’d like a few drinks too,” she said. “Go home to Yvonne.”
Sid chuckled, and headed back to the coach. It was dark, except for the reading light in the bedroom.
“Sid?” Yvonne called from the back.
“It’s me,” he said, shuffling along in the dark. He bumped into the kitchen counter.
“Turn on a light, silly.”
“I’m coming straight there,” he said, walking to the back. She was under the covers with a book in her hand.
“Well, what do you have to report?”
“Lots more people arriving tomorrow. Sam and Ji-Ho’s buddies should be here.”
“They’re driving straight through?”
“Apparently,” he said, pulling off his shirt. “We’re going back out to follow the trails of the UN Peacekeepers tomorrow morning.”
“Garrett’s interested. Not sure who else.”
“I’m going,” she said. “What else?”
“Seth said that the lower group of enemy fighters has caught up with the big group, and they started moving again.”
“Oh, God,” she said. “That all?”
Sid pulled off his pants and climbed into bed, laying on his back. “Yeah, that’s pretty much it. We teased Clem a little bit about Sarah, and teased Garrett a little bit about Anna.”
“It’s not nice to tease,” Yvonne said, rolling over the top of him and settling in.
“So are you, I’ve noticed,” Yvonne said, kissing him gently. “I like it.” Their hands roamed on each other, the conversation slowing. Then Sid laughed.
“What?” Yvonne asked, stopping her movement for a moment.
“Sarah met me on the sidewalk while I was on my way here.”
“Oh, really,” Yvonne asked, looking him in the eyes. “Why?”
“She wanted to know where Clem was. Susanne told her what happened.”
Yvonne snickered, then went back to kissing Sid, on his mouth, then on his neck and chest. He was kissing her back now, focused on the nape of her neck.
“I’m liking this,” he whispered.
“Did she go home?” Yvonne asked, moving her head closer to his.
“Duh,” she said.
“Oh, Sarah,” he said. “You’re not helping my concentration.”
“So deal with it,” she said. “Tell me.”
He sighed. “She went to the saloon, said she was gonna drink with the others.”
Yvonne stopped, backing up to see his face. “No way.”
“I’m serious,” he said. “Get back down here.”
“You know what she wants, don’t you?” Yvonne whispered.
“She wants to tell him to be more careful, I expect.”
She shook her head, getting up higher, then sinking herself onto him, moaning. “She wants this.” Sid watched as she shuddered over him, moving faster, already out of control, crying out as the passion took them over.
The bobtail truck and several vans were lined up on the dark street in an industrial area, just south of Sacramento. A handful of college-aged men and women were loading the back with computer and audio equipment. Ben Dover walked out the door of the rented office suite, which stood between two larger spaces for manufacturing and storage.
“That everything?” Ben Dover asked, looking in the back of the truck at the equipment packed inside.
“Yes sir,” said a young man with dark shaggy hair and an olive complexion, having the look of a TV star. “Are we leaving now?”
“Yep,” Ben said.
“Where are we going?”
“I can’t say,” Ben said. “We can never stay in the same place for long. This is just routine. You know that.”
“So, we aren’t going to the southern base, then?”
Ben eyed him. “What’s your name again?”
“Eric,” he said. “Just joined you last week.”
“Uh huh,” Ben said. “You ask too many questions.”
He looked embarrassed. “Sorry. I’m still feeling my way around with this organization.”
“How did you find out about us?”
The young man shot him a worried glance. “Friend of Ivan’s.”
“What’s his name?” Ben asked, thinking about where his gun was.
The young man didn’t answer right away.
“I’m waiting,” Ben said.
“I can’t remember his name. It’s on the tip of my tongue. It’s one of those Russian names. Somebody who knew him in grade school, back in the old country.”
“Okay, never mind,” Ben said, walking away. When he was out of sight he sent a text to Ivan, telling him about the exchange.
“Oh, there you are,” Eric said, coming around the back of the truck. “Which vehicle do you want me in?”
“Third one from the back,” Ben said as his phone dinged with the text return. After Eric walked away, he looked at it. Kill him now.
Ben’s heart was in his throat. He’d killed since this started, more than once, but it always got to him.
“Hey, Eric,” Ben yelled. “Forgot about something. I need your help. Come over here.”
Sean, one of Ben’s other people, had watched what was going on. He got close to Ben and whispered. “I’ve got your back. Don’t trust this one.”
“Get by the door of the suite,” Ben whispered. Eric was back, trying to force a smile on his face as he approached.
“C’mon,” Ben said. “We’re going into the back-office. We need to dismantle the desk in there and take it. We’re short on those where we’re going.”
“Oh, that was what the text was about?”
“Text?” Ben asked, following the young man into the office suite.
“I heard one come to your phone.”
“Oh,” Ben said. “Yes.”
They got to the back office, Ben closing the door behind them. He pulled his weapon. Eric whirled around, his eyes getting big. His hand went behind his back.
“Freeze or I’ll shoot,” Ben said in a loud voice, knowing that Sean would hear it.
Eric raised his hands above his head. “Don’t shoot.”
The door opened, Sean rushing in with his pistol in a two-handed combat grip.
“He’s got a gun in his back waistband. Get it. I’ll cover.”
“My pleasure,” Sean said, reaching around and pulling the small pistol out. He stuck it into his pocket, then frisked Eric. “Clean.”
“Who are you working for?” Ben asked.
“I can’t say,” Eric said, starting to tremble. “They’ll kill me.”
“If you don’t say, I’ll kill you,” Ben said. “Make your choice.”
“How did you know?”
“You think Ivan grew up in Russia,” Ben said. “You weren’t prepared well by whoever sent you.”
Sean laughed, then got a serious expression on his face. “He might have friends around.”
“All they wanted me to do was tell them where you went,” Eric said.
“Yeah, so they could come kill us,” Sean said.
Ben shook his head. “They probably think we’re going to the same place Ivan is going. Like we’d do that.”
“Can you just let me go?” Eric asked. “Please? I won’t tell anybody.”
Ben ignored him, turning to Sean. “Get the others on all of our vehicles with the bug detectors.”
Sean nodded yes and left the office.
“Who are you working for?” Ben asked again.
“The UN,” he said softly.
Ben sighed. “I already knew that. If it were anybody else, you’d have an RFID chip. Who specifically are you working for?”
Gunfire erupted outside. Eric lost it, crying now, begging for his life.
“You have a frigging wire on or something,” Ben said, pointing the gun at his head and firing. He poked his head out of the office, watching as his small team was killed by a group of UN commandos. “Dammit.” Grabbing his gun, he bolted towards the back of the facility, slipping out the door and running into the shadows. The sound of gunfire went on for another minute or two. Then he pulled out his cellphone, loading the demolition app. He pushed the button, and a large explosion went off, pieces of bob-tail truck flying high enough into the air to be seen from behind the building. A quick text to Ivan, and then he disappeared into the night.
To be continued…
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
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…
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
Tex woke up next to Karen before it was light, not able to sleep anymore. The plans they agreed to last night were spinning through his head like a North-Texas twister.
“Hey,” Karen said, turning to face him. “It’s early. You okay?”
“Nerves,” he said. “I’m fine, though. You can sleep some more. I’m getting up.”
“I’ve got a better idea,” she said, sitting up and pulling her short nightgown over her head. Tex smiled as she covered him. “My breath might be a little rotten.”
“I don’t care,” he said, his arms going around her. They made love quietly but passionately, ending up on their backs, Tex’s right hand intertwined with her left.
“What are we gonna do after the war?” Karen asked, turning her head towards his.
“I haven’t had time to give it much thought,” he said. “You have some ideas?”
“Do you think we’ll last together after it?”
Tex chuckled. “Still?”
“You’re still doubting our relationship?” Tex asked.
“You said we’d be together as long as both of us wants it, remember?”
“And I’ve said different things since, remember?” Tex said.
She turned on her side, facing him. “I’m serious.”
“What do you want to happen?”
“I asked you first,” she said.
He turned on his side towards her, staring into her beautiful face, framed by her thick red hair. “You’re really going to make me say it right now?”
She rolled her eyes. “I can tell when you’re teasing me, you know.”
He smiled, reaching to brush her hair from her eyes. “You’re the love of my life. I hoped that would be the case when I was pursuing you. I’m pretty sure now.”
He chuckled. “When I say pretty it means very. You know that. Why do women ask questions about things when they already know the answer?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Because we need to, I guess.”
“Are you gonna tell me what you want, then?” Tex asked.
She laughed. “You’re doing the same thing you just accused me of doing.”
“Answer the question,” he said, pretending he was serious.
“I just want to be with you. Whatever direction that takes us is fine with me. It’ll be an adventure.”
“That wasn’t the answer I expected,” he said.
“Oh, you think I’ve got this vision of what our life together will be?”
“We’ve been living our lives together for a while now,” he said.
“We’ve been on the run together. When this is over we won’t be on the run anymore.”
He sat up and scratched his head. “What makes you think we’re gonna settle down into some boring relationship?”
“Do you think that’s what I want?”
He laid back down. “No, that’s not what I think you want. I can’t tell if you want me to be serious or romantic or both.”
She laughed again. “You do know how that came out, right?”
“You’re not going to get mad, are you?”
She elbowed him, on the verge of laughter. “Living with you won’t be boring, I suspect. You’re right, I don’t want the little house with the picket fence, and at this point I’m not that interested in having a bunch of kids.”
“Why not what?” she asked.
“Why not a bunch of kids?”
“We aren’t suited for it,” she said. “Maybe I’ll let you knock me up during a weak moment, but I doubt that will happen. We’ll have adventures together instead.”
“Travel the world, huh. Or walk the earth.”
She rolled her eyes. “Stop with the Tarantino references. I had a boyfriend who worshiped him. Don’t be that guy.”
Tex laughed. “Who’s Tarantino?”
She elbowed him again. “Stop it. Do you want kids?”
“At this point in my life, I just want you. Fully and completely. If life leads us to having kids and we both want it, I’m down, but neither of us know if that’s going to happen.”
“What about the big M?”
“I told you I’d do that,” Tex said.
“You’re not sure about anything long term, but you’d marry me?”
“Yes,” he said, getting out of bed.
“Where are you going?”
“We’re leaving early, remember?”
She pulled the covers back, revealing herself to him, smiling at his reaction. “Sure you’re in such a hurry?”
“Yep, and you know we have to be,” he said. “You’re waiting for me to say something, but I’m not sure what that is.”
She shook her head, looking a little frustrated, and got out of bed.
“You’re really getting upset,” he said, walking to her. He took her into his arms. “You’re afraid that when the battle is over, I’ll lose interest in you. In us.”
“Sorry,” she said, looking up at him, her arms going around his waist.
“I’m not going anywhere. I want to be with you for the rest of my life. That’s not going to change. We’ll live out our lives doing the things that make us happy. For me, that’s going to include getting married.”
She held him tighter. “Why do you care about being married?”
“Maybe I want the exclusivity that it forces,” he said. “Maybe I want us to own each other. Or maybe I’m just a romantic Texan who has more traditional values than I care to admit.”
She turned her head, resting it on his chest, holding him tighter still.
“I’m happy,” she said. “I’ve got the man I’ve always dreamed of.” She broke the hug. “Okay, you can get dressed now.”
She turned towards her dresser and got out clothes, as he watched her, shaking his head.
They had a quick cup of coffee, watching out the window as the off-roaders loaded backpacks onto their vehicles, getting ready to go.
“I’m gonna unhook the utilities,” Tex said, heading for the door.
“Okay, I’ll stow things,” Karen said, making eye contact. “Thank you.”
He tipped his hat and disappeared through the door. After a second there was a soft rap on the side of the coach.
“Yes?” Karen asked.
“It’s me,” Shelley said.
“Hey, come on up. I’m about done. You guys ready to go?”
“Yeah,” Shelly said, climbing the steps. She had on a tight-fitting t-shirt and jeans. “Tex had a smile as big as Texas.”
“We were chatting about after the war,” she said. “I can’t believe I resisted that man. He’s a jewel.”
“He is,” she said, sitting on the couch.
“Okay, what’s up?” Karen asked, eyeing her.
“You can’t tell anybody,” she whispered.
“I have an idea.”
“I think I’m pregnant,” Shelley said. “I just had to tell somebody.”
“Pretty sure, but I’ll get one of those test kits when we get a chance.”
“Does Jules know?”
“No,” Shelley said, “and don’t tell him. I want to wait until I’m sure, but I’m just going crazy.”
“Your secret is safe with me,” Karen said.
“Hey, Shelley, you guys ready to go?” Tex asked as he came back into the coach.
“Yep, we’re ready,” Shelley said. “I’d better get back over there. Talk to you later, Karen.”
“Bye,” Karen said.
“See you, Tex,” Shelley said, shooting him a smile on the way out.
Tex got behind the wheel and started the engine. “What was that all about?”
“Oh, nothing, just girl talk,” Karen said.
“Uh huh,” Tex said, shooting her a sidelong glance. “The gate is opening. Time to go.”
Karen sat in the passenger seat, watching Tex as she put her seatbelt on. “I love you.”
“I love you too, little lady.”
Jacumba Hot Springs had become a mini-metropolis. Every flat spot in town was covered with parked cars, and the wilderness between the town and the fortified stretch of Old Highway 80 was covered with tents of every shape and size. Truckloads of weapons had been coming down the highway, and there were men with the trucks to teach citizens how to use them.
“Where’s all this stuff coming from?” Doug asked.
“Yeah, that’s what I’d like to know,” Jorge said.
Conrad smiled. “All over. We’ve got some Marines showing up in a few minutes.”
“They gonna fight with us?” Doug asked.
“Oh, they’ll be fighting, but I’m not sure if they’ll be here or not. This is a supply and training visit.”
“We’ve already been trained with the M60s, M19s, and a lot of other stuff,” Jorge said. “What else is there?”
“You ever heard of the M18A1 Claymore mine?” Conrad asked.
“We’re gonna mine the area?” Doug asked.
“Yeah, but these aren’t like your normal mines. They’re anti-personnel weapons. Good when you have a massive number of enemy fighters heading your way.”
“Maybe that’s them coming right now,” Jorge said, pointing to a military truck coming towards them from town. Conrad stepped forward and motioned to a parking place. Citizen fighters moved out of the way to let the truck pass. It parked, and the cab doors opened, two men getting out and walking over.
“Are you Conrad Kowalski?” asked the older of the two, a man in his thirties with a muscular build and a square jaw.
“I am,” Conrad said.
“Good. I’m Corporal Callahan, and this is Private First-Class Alito. We’re here to provide training for the M18A1 Claymore mine. Do you have men picked out to receive the training?”
“Haven’t gotten to that. How many men do you need?”
“For a deployment of this size, twelve would be optimum,” he said.
“I’m willing to be a trainee,” Doug said.
“Me too,” Jorge said.
“I’m good with that,” Conrad said. “Both of you learn fast. I have ten others in mind. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
He turned and left, coming back in less than five minutes with the other men.
Callahan was looking at the border fence through binoculars. “We’ll need to be on the other side of that. Does somebody here have the key?”
“Yes sir,” Conrad said. “I got it from the border patrol. Do we need a place to back that truck to? There’s a larger break in the K-rail line up about fifty yards from here.”
“That would be helpful,” Callahan said. “Let’s go. You can ride in the cab, the others can climb in the back, but don’t mess with the crates. Understand?”
“Yes,” Conrad said, looking at the others. “You heard the man.”
The men climbed into the back of the truck as Conrad followed the Marines to the cab. They backed out and went down the road, turning off between two K-rails, heading for the gate in the border fence and parking there. Everybody got out, and Conrad unlocked the gate. He pushed it open, the rusted hinges moaning.
“Thank you,” Callahan said. “First we’ll talk about the weapons. Let’s gather around the back of the truck. Alito, get in there and grab me one.”
“Yes sir,” Alito said, his wiry frame jumping into the back. He came back with a canvas bag, about the size of a large purse, sliding it to the edge of the truck.
“Normally we use this bandoleer to carry the weapon in the field,” Callahan said. He opened the flap on the top and pulled out a curved rectangular item, olive drab in color, with the embossed words Front Toward Enemy on the convex side. It had folding spikes on the bottom, two ports on the top, and a sight between the ports. “This is the mine. It’s C-4 plastic explosive behind ball bearings, which are set in epoxy. When the C-4 is detonated, the ball bearings fly forward in an expanding pattern, going out as far as 250 meters, but at that range it’s not optimum. We’ll place these to get the most effective range, which is about fifty meters.”
“Sounds like a shotgun,” Doug said.
“That’s about it,” Alito said.
“How many ball bearings?” one of Conrad’s men asked.
“About seven hundred,” Alito said.
Jorge stepped up to take a closer look. “It’s not very big, is it?”
“No, but it packs a good punch,” Alito said.
Callahan smirked, then pulled two more items from the bandoleer: a long wire, wrapped around a rectangular spool, and a metal item with an electrical plug on one in and a lever over a cylindrical button, which he held up next. “This is the M57 detonator. We call it the clacker. You plug one end of the wire into this port, and the other end of the wire to the blasting cap assembly, which is installed on the mine. Note the safety arm, which will go in place like this, to prevent the lever from pushing down on the detonator button.” He worked it in front of the men.
“Where’s the blasting cap?” Doug asked.
“Inside the spool for the wire,” Callahan said, picking it up and removing the blasting cap assembly from one end. “We’ll be using a daisy chain to connect the mines together in several rows.”
How long is that wire?” Jorge asked.
“One hundred feet,” Alito said.
“Yes, and that makes this a dangerous job,” Callahan said. “We’ll set these up in staggered rows, starting as close as we can get to those hills out there, and bringing them in about one hundred yards for each row. We should have enough to cover the entire area on the Mexican side of the fence, and at least one row on our side. The last of the detonations will be from behind that K-rail you have set up there. Nice job, by the way.”
“That’s it?” Jorge asked.
“That’s the gist,” Callahan said. “Alito, take the men out with forty mines and set them up about fifty meters this side of those hills.”
“Yes sir,” Alito said, climbing back into the truck. “Somebody come give me a hand.”
Several men got into the truck and helped him load the first forty bandoleers onto the back end of the truck, then the men picked up three or four each and followed Private Alito through the gate. Conrad stayed behind with Callahan.
“How far are the enemy fighters now?” Callahan asked.
Conrad pulled his phone out and fired up the app, focusing on it and then showing it to Callahan. “Forty-five miles. They’re moving slower than we expected.”
“That’s what I saw this morning,” Callahan said. “They’re slowing down because they’re waiting for something. That might not be good for us.”
“Did they give you guys the apps?”
Callahan chuckled. “They’re working on it. They need to buy a whole lot of smart phones. Damn military wouldn’t let us just use our own.”
“What’s to stop you from doing that anyway?”
Callahan pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Nothing, but I’ve been told not to encourage that. All my men have them, but if you tell my CO I’ll deny I knew about it.”
Conrad laughed. “Not much different than it was when I was in.”
“No, Army,” Conrad said. “Should’ve stayed in longer. Oh well.”
“If they really throw a half-million men at this line, these mines will slow them down for a very short period of time. You know that, right?”
“Yeah, I know that,” Conrad said. “We’ll have thousands of men up here with M60s and M19s. We’re already making plans on how to proceed when we’re close to being overrun, though.”
“What are you going to do?”
Conrad smiled. “Have the cars arranged so we can get into them and live to fight another day,” he said. “Helps that the enemy is on foot. The mines will help some, but they also complicate matters. We’ll probably lose the first few men we have on the detonation line.”
“If they’re fast, they might survive,” Callahan said. “You’ll need to dig trenches for all of the detonation spots except the last one behind the K-rails. When these things go off they scare the crap out of everybody who isn’t killed outright, which should give our guys enough time to get through that gate and under cover before the next wave goes off. Know anything about the quality of the men we’re up against?”
“No, not really,” Conrad said. “They might be getting down to the dregs.”
“Or they might finally be putting their best into the fight,” Callahan said.
“Yeah,” Conrad said. “You think we’ll really get a million citizens recruited?”
“I was gonna ask you that.”
“I wish I knew,” Conrad said. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far. We’ve got some good folks.”
“We’ve been fighting with the brass for a while now about joining the fight with Ivan the Butcher.”
“Why wouldn’t they?” Conrad asked. “I get that question every ten minutes.”
Callahan shook his head in disgust. “Job one for the brass is to ensure that no more foreigners get involved, no matter what the damage to the civilian population.”
“Foreigners as in the EU or the UN?”
Callahan laughed. “You guys pretty much kicked the UN completely out of here. All they have left is stragglers, from what our sources are saying, and the EU stopped funding the UN. It’s unlikely we’ll get more.”
“Good, then we might be out of the woods soon.”
“There’s a lot more Islamists in the pipeline,” Callahan said. “Half of the fighters we’ve seen here came from other parts of the world they’ve infiltrated. Mostly the European countries. Refugees. Their leadership figured that experience would help them here.”
“That’s a big fail,” Conrad said. “This ain’t Europe. Our people are different.”
“You’d think they would know that. Anyway, there’s a fair number of enemy fighters coming from the middle east now. More than we’ve had before. Don’t know if that’s better or worse for us.”
“Why isn’t the Navy targeting their transport ships?”
“Same reason they wouldn’t let us help you guys,” Callahan said. “They’re afraid the EU is going to lead a foreign intervention.”
“We’ll mop the floor with those Eurotrash punks,” Conrad said.
“Good, keep that attitude. I think you’re right on the money, by the way. I’ve seen what the citizens have done. Here, in Texas, and all over the Southwest. Brings tears to my eyes, and that’s the truth.”
“I was impressed by the people in Oregon,” Conrad said. “Didn’t expect that.”
“I did. That’s where I’m from.”
“Well, they got the first row placed,” Conrad said, watching the men approach the truck for a new load. “What about air support?”
“The Navy brass doesn’t want to bomb Mexico. They’ll hold off until the enemy has crossed the border.”
“That’s not too bright,” Conrad said. “It’ll get a lot of these people killed.”
“Preaching to the choir,” Callahan said.
To be continued…
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
Jules backed into the covered space at the quarry yard. Robbie had already arrived, and a swarm of off-roaders and Jeeps were rolling in. He shut down the engine and got out of his seat, his legs aching from sitting for so long. Sparky got up and stretched.
“Enemy get past bridge?” Jules asked, walking to the dinette, where Shelley and Dana were sitting.
“Not so far,” Shelley said, eyes glued to the laptop screen. “I see a lot of them going east on foot.”
“We ruined their whole day,” Dana said.
“I’m a little worried about the people who live there,” Sparky said. “Looks like some of the enemy fighters are close to the escape road.”
Shelley nodded. “Our guys should be well beyond those spots.”
“I text them now,” Jules said, pulling out his phone.
“How many enemy fighters are moving?” Sparky asked.
“Well over half,” Shelley said. “From what I can tell. Some are wounded but not dead, of course.”
“You mean there’s over a hundred thousand enemy fighters roaming around up there?”
“Give or take,” Shelley said. “They’re in trouble, though. There’s not much nearby. They need a Dunkirk operation to get them out of harm’s way.”
“It’s cold at night now,” Sparky said. “If they don’t have shelter, they’re gonna have a hard night. Would’ve been easier for them a month ago.”
“Ted, Tex, and others out of area,” Jules said. “Some action on way out, Ted’s mini gun turret damaged. Several off-roaders killed on escape road.”
“Wonder how many off-roaders we lost?” Dana asked.
“Hope not many,” Jules said. “Sparky, you know terrain, weather patterns there?”
“Yeah, spent a lot of time there in my twenties,” Sparky said. “On fire crews, and on vacations. It gets cold at night, but some of them are from climates that get cold too. Afghanistan, for instance.”
“They’ll build fires,” Shelley said. “Try to keep alive. I think we ought to get Ivan to recruit up there. If they don’t have a good way out, they’ll mess with a lot of people as they try to walk away. We’ll see a lot of raids, and a lot of civilians killed.”
“I text Ivan,” Jules said. “Need to update him on operation anyway.”
“You know, if we have a whole bunch of people starting campfires there, we’ll have a dangerous situation,” Sparky said.
“Dangerous how?” Dana asked.
“We had a dry year. The place is gonna be like a tinder box. A forest fire could create a lot of havoc for them.”
“Ivan call in few minutes,” Jules said. “Busy at moment.”
“There’s Tex and Cody coming in,” Sparky said.
“Good,” Dana said. “Ted and Justin ought to be coming within fifteen minutes or so.”
“That right, based on text from Ted,” Jules said. His phone rang. He put it on speaker and set it on the dinette table, then slid onto the seat next to Shelley. “Ivan?”
“Hello, Jules,” he said. “We saw what you did on the satellite feed.”
“You have the feed back now?”
“Yes,” he said. “The Feds are losing control of everything. How’d you guys kill so many enemy fighters? Looks like you took out nearly half of them.”
“Cars and trucks fragile,” Jules said. “Grenades burn them fast. Cause chain reaction when they explode. Most dead probably never got out of vehicles.”
“What’s on your mind?”
“There over hundred thousand creeps wandering around there,” Jules said. “We need to warn nearby residents. Maybe recruit them to fight.”
Ivan chuckled. “Ben Dover started that before you guys got there. We can’t field anywhere near a hundred thousand citizens, but we’ll have a lot of snipers there. Good marksmen who know the terrain. I wouldn’t want to be an enemy fighter out there.”
“Seriously,” Dana said.
“Are all your people back?” Ivan asked.
“All except last group, and I text with them five minutes ago,” Jules said. “Should be here any minute. Ted’s coach has damaged mini gun turret.”
“How many off-roaders did we lose?”
“Don’t know yet, boss. Some. Not many.”
“Good,” Ivan said. “Rest overnight. We need you in the south. You leave in the morning.”
“Ji-Ho all right?” Jules asked.
“He’s fine, but there’s a huge number of enemy troops massing near the border, as we discussed earlier.”
“A few battle wagons aren’t going to make much difference,” Sparky said.
“Many thousands of recruits will arrive at Dodge City, where Ji-Ho’s team is now. They’ll need help to manage the situation, and work strategy.”
“Are there still seven hundred thousand coming?” Shelley asked.
“They’re moving five-hundred thousand to the border as we speak, and the two-hundred thousand from Northern California are taking the eastern route to link up with them. They’re by the Salton Sea right now.”
“How many recruits can we count on?” Sparky asked.
“We’re counting on a million,” Ivan said.
“What?” Sparky asked. “You’re high.”
Ivan chuckled. “We have a third of those committed already, and we’ve been given permission to recruit in western San Diego County.”
“Who gave that?” Jules asked.
“US Navy Base commander,” Ivan said.
“How far from the border are the enemy fighters?” Sparky asked.
“About sixty miles, but they’re on foot.”
“We won’t make it in time,” Sparky said.
“You’re right, you won’t make it there by the time the initial incursion starts,” Ivan said, “but there will be plenty for you to do. The battle isn’t to keep them from coming over the border. No way to stop that now. The battle will happen inside California. That gives us a lot more time to work with.”
“Hey, here comes Ted and Cody’s rigs!” Sparky said, watching them through the front windshield. “Right on time.”
“Excellent,” Ivan said. “I’ve got to go, but we’ll probably have a brief meeting a little later. Be ready to leave at first light tomorrow. Fantastic job. Please relay my praise to all.”
The call ended.
“Well, there we have it,” Sparky said.
“Let’s have quick meeting with others,” Jules said, standing up. “Then relax, rest. Tomorrow big day.”
Saladin was riding shotgun in a nondescript white van, on I-10 just past Banning, heading for the Mexican border. Twelve of his closest men were in the back, along with their weapons and ammo. His phone rang. He sighed when he saw Daan’s name, and put it to his ear.
“You stupid son of a bitch,” Daan said, his fury coming over the line like lightning.
“Calm down,” Saladin said. “What’s wrong?”
“You sent men over the Sierras to attack Sacramento without consulting me first?”
“I still command my own men,” he said, sweat breaking out on his forehead.
“Yeah, well that wasn’t too bright,” Daan said. “How did that operation do?”
“I should be hearing from my commanders any time. They should be out of the mountains by now.”
Daan laughed sarcastically. “You don’t even know, do you?”
“Almost half of your men are dead, and the rest are stuck in those mountains with no way out.”
“That’s impossible. There was no force around large enough to pull that off.”
“Didn’t take a large force,” Daan said. “Ivan’s team used a choke point. Blew a small bridge, then trapped your convoy when the leaders got there. Hit their ranks with automatic grenade fire.”
“It can’t be,” Saladin said.
“Those men were working the General Hogan campaign,” Daan said. “You’ve just given him a huge gift. It might be our undoing.”
“Nonsense,” Saladin said, loosening his collar. “It’s a minor setback at best. I’ll get some men up there to retrieve the survivors.”
“No you won’t,” Daan said. “They’ll all be dead by the time you get people there…and the citizens will be strong enough to take them on. You just closed one of the few back doors we have into California. Closed it tighter than a drum.”
“We’ll make up for it in the south,” Saladin said, “unless you think Ivan can come up with a million men.”
“He won’t need a million men,” Daan said. “The Federal Government is headed for trouble, and I’m sure the military knows it.”
“I heard that there’s another coup attempt in the works. No matter, the real power isn’t in the United States anyway.”
“That real power you refer to is beginning to fear the US Navy and Air Force using their full capability without fear of Washington,” Daan said. “We’re in a lot of trouble. The EU Leadership has ordered me to sideline you. You are to report to the base at Capital Reef.”
“And if I refuse?”
“I’ll have you killed,” Daan said.
“My forces will turn on you,” Saladin spat.
“I wouldn’t count on that.”
“I’m going south to run the operation. Everybody’s waiting for me.”
Daan chuckled. “Seriously, don’t do it. Go hide out in Capitol Reef. This will blow over after a while, and then we can attempt to pick up the pieces.”
“Who’s going to run the operation, then?”
“The lower-level commanders have already been notified, but we need you to verify it.”
“Why would I do that?” Saladin asked.
“Because you know that’s the only way you’ll survive, and be able to get back into this battle.”
“There’s nothing I can do at Capitol Reef that hasn’t already been done,” Saladin said.
“We’re getting intelligence reports about the Militia. There’s been overtures made to them by General Hogan’s forces. We need somebody there to hold our alliance together.”
Saladin closed his eyes, fighting his emotions back. “That is important. I can make the case to them. I was the one who brought them in originally. I’ll do as you ask.”
“Good,” Daan said. “Take the men you’re leading south.”
“They aren’t needed for the border operation? That’s nearly two hundred thousand men.”
“We have over seven hundred thousand converging on the border, and another couple hundred thousand on the way as we speak. The EU Navy is helping with that effort now.”
“You’re afraid we’re going to lose California,” Saladin said.
Daan was silent for a moment.
“You still there?”
“If we can keep the US Navy’s air power out of this, we’ll probably win. Yesterday morning I believed they weren’t going to be an issue. Now I’m not so sure.”
“That was part of the reason I wanted to keep up the pressure in Northern California,” Saladin said.
“Finally some honesty,” Daan said. “If we lose this, neither of us will survive. Even if we get out of the country. Our own side will kill us.”
“I’ll disappear into the woodwork. I’ve done that before.”
Daan laughed. “Good luck with that.”
“Where are you?”
“North of Arizona,” he said.
“Understood,” Saladin said. “Talk to you later.”
“Maybe,” Daan said. The call ended.
Saladin looked at his driver. “Turn around, and get on I-15. Go northeast.”
The driver looked at him nervously and nodded, as Saladin focused on his phone, sending texts.
The Saloon in Dodge City was filling up fast, the windows open again, letting in the heat of late afternoon. Ji-Ho was working the audio-visual with Clem, others gathered around chatting. Seth and Kaitlyn were in front of their laptop on a table against the back wall, Angel, Megan, Trevor, and Kaylee sitting with them, eyeing the growing crowd nervously.
“Wonder what’s up?” Trevor asked.
“My uncle looks nervous,” Kaylee said. “I don’t think he’s feeling all that well, either.
Garrett came in with Anna and several others, followed by Ed and Tyler. Sam brought in Mia, Erica arriving a few minutes later with Sarah, Yvonne, and Sid.
Ji-Ho stood before the crowd. “Thank you all for coming. We expect conference call with Ivan and others in five minutes. Just relax. Find seats. Make room for others.”
“The fire department wouldn’t like this,” Willard cracked from behind the bar, a grin on his face. “Too bad I’m not serving. Make a pretty penny.”
“Oh, shut up, you old goat,” Susanne said.
“Be nice, honey,” Elmer said.
“You shut up too,” she said, sitting next to him. “Like living with teenagers.”
“What’d you do now, guys?” Garrett whispered.
“I heard that,” Susanne said. “They found more booze down in the tunnel. Decided to mess with that instead of fixing my lights. Want me to use flames down there to work by?”
“We’ve got enough modern weapons now,” Elmer said. “We don’t need you to be breaking your back loading black powder rounds anymore.”
“Yeah, we’re good, until we run out,” she said. “I’m still gonna keep working.”
“Okay, we have people coming on now,” Ji-Ho said. The screen came up, split three ways. Ivan was on the left, Ben Dover in the center, and Jules, Ted, Sparky, and Tex crowding into the right.
“Well I’ll be damned,” Sam said, looking at his old friends. “How’s it going, guys?”
Ted smiled. “Figures. In a bar. Some things never change.”
“We’ll have some social time soon enough,” Ivan said. “We need to get this over with quickly. Everybody hear me okay?”
“No problem,” Ji-Ho said.
“Same here,” Jules said.
“We hear you,” Ben Dover said, a few members of his team popping their heads out behind him.
“Okay, here’s the situation. We all know that there’s three quarters of a million enemy troops massing south of the border, on foot. They’ve got about two days of walking to get to the California border.”
“Yeah, been watching them,” Ed said. Others agreed, in the Saloon and on the screen.
“We’ve also got a couple hundred thousand on the way south from Northern California,” Ivan said. “That’s the bad news.”
“There’s good news?” Sam asked.
“We’ve got nearly that many recruits on the way,” Ivan said, “but thanks to your handiwork early in the war, it’s not easy to get them from where they are to where we need them.”
“You’re talking about the pass we blew up,” Sid said.
“Precisely,” Ivan said. “We need that opened up, and have a convoy of earth movers and massive bull dozers on the way to the scene as we speak.”
“Got a month?” Sam asked.
“You don’t understand,” Ivan said. “We’ve got enough equipment coming to get rid of that stuff in a few days.”
“Where did you get it?” Sid asked. “I know what we’d need, and it’s a lot, trust me.”
“San Diego County had everything that we needed, including the crews who are experienced with this sort of problem.”
“Okay, so we take three days to clear that out,” Ed said. “That will be just in time for the enemy troops to use it as a gateway into San Diego.”
“You’re right, we won’t have that mess cleared before the enemy gets over the border,” Ivan said. “All that means is that we’ll be fighting them on our home turf, and we’ll have some help.”
“Help?” Ji-Ho asked.
“The US Navy’s aviators are going to join us,” Ivan said. “In large numbers. We’ll get help from the Marines as well.”
“How much do they have that’s not out on a carrier someplace?” Ted asked.
“A lot more than I expected,” Ivan said. “And there are two carriers on the way into the general area as we speak. The carriers might be a little late to the party, but we probably won’t need them.”
“What general area?” Ji-Ho asked.
“The Pacific,” Ivan said. “Don’t put that on the internet, please.”
There were murmurs in the room.
“So, what’s our role?” Sam asked.
“We’d like to set up Dodge City as a way station and supply depot for this operation,” Ivan said.
“That puts a big target on us,” Garrett said.
“That’s why we’re talking,” Ivan said. “It does, but you won’t be alone, and you’ll have capability that is vastly superior to what you have now. We are about to terrorize the enemy as we destroy them. This is the beginning of the end.”
“And where will you be during this?” Sam asked.
“There with you, if you’ll allow it,” Ivan said. “Jules and his team are also on the way to you.”
“Old home week,” Sam said.
“What does that mean, daddy?” Mia asked.
“It means some dear friends are going to join us, sweetie,” Sam said.
“You’ve got a daughter, partner?” Tex asked.
“Yep,” he said.
“Social later,” Ivan said. “I do not command you people. I’m running this by you all. Are there objections to the moves I’m suggesting?”
“I’m for it, as long as it work,” Ji-Ho said. “If help doesn’t really come through, we just opened back door to enemy. Millions of innocents are in danger.”
“If we don’t beat the enemy, they in danger anyway,” Jules said. “They just march to I-8.”
“He’s right,” Sam said. “Highway 94 isn’t even half the capacity of I-8, and there’s nothing to stop the enemy from getting on that and going full bore into San Diego.”
“I’m not hearing any objections,” Ivan said.
“Me neither,” Garrett said. “I’m for it. Let’s do this.”
“I agree,” Tex said.
“Me too,” Sam said.
“Okay, then let’s make some detailed plans,” Ivan said. “We don’t need to have the whole group together to do that.”
“Hey, everybody,” Seth said, raising his hand. “Something’s going on!”
“Who’s that?” Ivan asked.
“That’s Seth, our data guy,” Sam said.
“What do you see, partner?” Tex asked.
“Those two-hundred thousand enemy fighters from the north turned around. They’re going northeast. Most of them are on I-15 or heading in that direction.”
“What’s so funny?” Sam asked.
“I think I know,” Jules said, a sly grin on his face.
“Well, are you gonna tell us?” Sam asked.
“My guess is that Saladin has been called back to the Utah base,” Ivan said. “He pulled a very stupid move last night, and it cost him a couple hundred thousand fighters.”
“What happened?” Sam asked.
“We happened, partner,” Tex said, a look of glee on his face.
To be continued…
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
Doug Westin looked at the border fence from his trench, right behind Old Highway 80, west of Jacumba Hot Springs. It looked like a tall picket fence – vertical metal bars with sheet metal on the top quarter, making it harder to climb. He raised the binoculars to his eyes and stared, panning from west to east. He was a large middle-aged man with graying hair, receding from his forehead, and a goatee. Another man approached, a younger Hispanic with a medium build and jet-black hair, clean shaven. Doug looked over at him and smiled.
“Jorge, there you are,” Doug said.
“See anything?” He got down into the trench next to Doug and lifted his own binoculars, scanning the area.
“Nope,” Doug said. “Wish we had these apps. It would help. We could have a thousand enemy fighters right south of those hills.”
“Do those apps really exist?”
“People I trust said so,” Doug said. “That damn fence isn’t going to slow anybody down for long.”
Jorge chuckled. “At least we can see through it, man. Even if we had the big wall you wanted, they’d just blast through it, and we wouldn’t be able to see as well as we can now.”
Doug looked at him and smiled. “Funny how this worked out. We fought like cats and dogs over the border wall. Now look at us. Comrades in arms.”
“Keeping my people out is one thing,” Jorge said. “Keeping out enemy Islamists is something very different.”
“True, my friend,” Doug said. “We get any more people? I heard there’s been a bunch of recruitment happening on the internet.”
“Yeah, my kid brother said we have a lot of people coming from all over,”
“Hope they get here soon,” Doug said. “Our three hundred men won’t last long.”
“True that,” Jorge said. His phone dinged. He pulled it from his pocket and looked, eyes getting wide.
“My kid brother Luis,” he said. “There’s twenty thousand citizens in Jacumba right now, armed to the teeth. A lot of them have military weapons.”
“Thank God,” Doug said. “We might just live through this. Where are they coming from?”
“Wow. All over…as far north as LA County. He said they were recruited by Ivan the Butcher.”
“It’s about time that guy noticed we’ve got a problem on the border,” Doug said. “Are they coming here?”
“Yep, they want to be in the spots where the border is closest to a road, and this stretch is one of the best.”
“When will they be here?” Doug asked.
“Any minute,” Jorge said, sending a reply. After a few seconds, his phone dinged with a reply. “Oh, God.”
“Some of those guys have these apps, and they showed Luis. There’s half a million Islamists about sixty-five miles from the border.”
Doug’s forehead broke out in a sweat. “Say again?”
“You heard me, man,” Jorge said.
“We’re dead. Maybe we should take off, and live to fight another day.”
“Look, here comes a big line of vehicles,” Jorge said. “Let’s go meet them.”
Doug nodded and they climbed out of their trench, rushing to the road. The lead vehicle was a commercial bus. Doug and Jorge rushed towards the door just as it opened. A large middle-aged man in camo came down the steps, his hawkish eyes scanning the area, then walking towards them. He set down the weapons he carried-an M4 and an M60.
“You Doug and Jorge?” the man asked.
“You found us,” Jorge said. “You talked to Luis?”
“Yeah,” he said, shaking hands with them. “I’m head of the resistance in San Bernardino. Conrad Kowalski.”
“You were recruited by Ivan the Butcher?” Doug asked.
“His recruitment leader, Ben Dover,” he said, a smirk on his face.
“Oh, yeah, that guy,” Doug said. “Saw that video of him on the TV show. Love to shake his hand.”
“Me too,” Jorge said. “There really half a million enemy fighters out there?”
“Hey, Conrad, where do you want us?” shouted a man from the second vehicle – a stake truck with men jumping out of the bed. He was much younger, with the look of an army recruit.
“Let’s move the vehicles off the road, and bring up the K-rail tenders. Place them about five feet apart, all up and down the road as far as we can. Got it?”
“You don’t want them flush, so there’s no gaps?”
“We don’t have enough,” Conrad said. “Stake them down, too, but place them first, okay?”
“Yeah, okay,” the man said. “I’ll pass the word.”
Conrad waved the man off, then pulled his cellphone out, fired up the long-range app, and showed it to Jorge and Doug. “See all these icons here?”
“Yeah,” Jorge said. “Holy crap.”
“That’s one way to say it,” Conrad said, smiling. “I’d use a little stronger language.”
“How’d you get this?” Doug asked.
“Go on the recruiting site and sign up, and you can download it. Worth it. What’s your email addresses?”
They both told Conrad what they were, and he sent them emails with the link to the recruitment page.
“Thanks, man,” Jorge said.
“How many people we got coming?” Doug asked.
“Not enough yet,” Conrad said. “I know of about eighty-thousand on the way, but they might not make it here in time. Obviously, that’s not enough. The only way we’ll survive is to get a whole lot of people here from San Diego. They started recruiting there last night, and I hear the response is huge.”
“Good,” Doug said. “Ah, the app finished loading.”
“Mine too,” Jorge said. “I’m gonna forward this link to everybody on our team.”
“Yeah, you do that,” Doug said. “I’ve got the long-range app up now. There’s gonna be more than half a million. I see a long trail of icons stretching up from the south.”
“Yep, I’ve heard it could be as many as seven hundred thousand,” Conrad said. “Take a look to the north-east.”
Conrad smiled. “I wish. California.”
Doug moved his fingers around, his brow furrowed. “Highway 78, almost to Salton Sea. How many is that?”
“They’re pretty stretched out, but I’ve heard about two-hundred thousand.”
“Hell, man, they’ve got almost a million men on the way,” Jorge said. “We can’t counter that.”
“There’s ten million people in LA County. Over three million in San Diego County, and almost that many in Orange County. Riverside and San Bernardino each have over two million. We can field over a million citizens, easy. Look at what was done in Texas, and Northern California, and Portland.”
“But in what amount of time?” Jorge asked.
“Well, I won’t kid you guys. We might be overrun and killed before this starts rolling, but these heathens aren’t going to win the war. No way, no how. We’ve already taken back Northern California, you know, and we own LA and Orange Counties.”
“Where the hell are the Marines?” Doug asked. “Camp Pendleton is nearby.”
“Maybe they’re still on the side of the Feds,” Jorge said.
“They’re not,” Conrad said. “I’ve heard they’re being used to make sure the Navy base doesn’t get overrun. I agree that they ought to be helping us down here. It’s in their interest, after all.”
“Some Navy planes could be helpful too,” Doug said. “There aren’t enough Marines here to hold off a force the size that we’re seeing.”
Cars were leaving the road now, backing up and heading for the large flat areas between their position and Jacumba. Then two huge tenders rolled past them, and crews used the built-on cranes to lift K-rails onto the right shoulder of the highway.
“This is gonna take too long,” Doug said.
Jorge chuckled. “See where the enemy is right now? There’s no roads there. These folks are on foot. It takes a long time to march sixty-five miles on foot, man.”
“Yep, that’s why we’re taking the time to do this,” Conrad said. “Here’s a good rule of thumb. Infantry can march about twenty-five miles per day. We’ve got two and a half days before the main enemy force gets here. Oh, and by the way, our recruits can drive here. It’s all about the recruiting at this point.”
Jorge’s phone dinged again. He looked at it. “Luis. Another twenty-thousand citizens just got to town.” He laughed. “The traffic is a frigging mess. Maybe we’ll be okay after all.”
“We’d better have them park around there and walk here,” Conrad said. “You know the right people to call about that?”
“Yeah,” Doug said, pulling out his phone.
“I got to go check on some stuff,” Conrad said. “Nice to meet you guys. I’m sure we’ll see each other a lot in the next few days.”
Jorge and Doug watched as he walked away with several of his men.
“This waiting is driving me nuts,” Shelly said. She was sitting at the dinette in their battle wagon, watching the high-res app on her laptop. “Hey, honey, we’d better run the generator for a while so I can charge this up.”
“No problem,” Jules said. He flipped the switch on the dash to start it. “How close are they?”
“The lead is right by Lake Putt,” she said. “The tail is just past Emigrant Gap.”
“How far apart are those two places?” Sparky asked.
“Just a sec,” Shelly said, typing on her laptop. “They’ve tightened up nicely. It’s only four and a half miles.”
“Perfect,” Sparky said. “The entire group will be in the kill zone before the first of them hit the busted bridge.”
“Yes, this almost too good to be true,” Jules said.
“That’s what worries me,” Dana said. “We’ve got a multitude of enemy fighters coming at a small number of folks.”
“We not stand and fight all,” Jules said. “Never plan. Stop them from coming to Sacramento. Kill a bunch, then get away clean. That’s objective.”
“I agree, but I share Dana’s concern,” Sparky said. “As soon as the first vehicles go over the side, you know messages are gonna be sent to the vehicles behind them, right?”
“We can attack the back end as soon as this starts,” Shelly said. “If we disable enough vehicles back there, it’ll be hard for them to escape.”
“That job of off-roaders by Baxter,” Jules said. “Place more there than at Crystal Springs road.”
“I think they’re speeding up,” Shelly said. “The leaders just passed Whitmore Road.”
“Won’t be long now,” Sparky said.
“We still gonna back up there?” Dana asked.
“Probably best way, so we can leave fast,” Sparky said. “How do you feel about driving there backwards, Jules?”
“Piece of cake,” he said. “New back end armor keep us safe until we can get into siege mode.”
“We shouldn’t go right to the edge,” Shelly said. “We’ve got the range to hit them from a larger distance.”
“True,” Jules said. “Off-roaders do a lot more damage. Send text to Robbie – only go far enough to see enemy, not all way to edge.”
“We’re doing too much on-the-fly in this operation,” Sparky said. “Ought to be by the numbers.”
“We by numbers where need,” Jules said. “We aren’t important group, now that bridges down. Baxter group important, and strategy worked out well there.”
“That’s where Ted is, right?” Sparky asked, a sly smile coming on his face. “Say no more.”
“Yes, he handle,” Jules said. “He always handle.”
Ted and Stacey sat at the dinette opposite Haley and Brianna.
“Where are they?” Ted asked.
Brianna pulled out her phone and clicked the Find My Friends app. “Still on the eastbound side of I-80,” she said.
“Well they’d better get to Kearsarge Mill Road in the next five minutes, or they’d better get off into the woods on the side of the road,” Haley said, watching the high-res app on her laptop. “The lead group of enemy vehicles is getting pretty damn close to there now.”
“There’s guard rail all along there,” Stacey said, “until they get to the off-ramp for Drum Forebay, and they’d better turn right and go down a ways, or they’ll be seen.”
“How do you know that?” Brianna asked.
“The map program,” Stacey said. “Street view.”
“Oh,” she said, “That’s smart.”
“Says the woman who came up with using Find my Friends to track our off-roaders,” Ted said, smiling at her. “So impressed. You made my job much easier.”
“Seriously,” Haley said.
“We all used that, before the war,” Brianna said, her babyface turning red. Stacey looked at her, the affection showing to everybody.
“This is gonna be close,” Haley said, refreshing her screen to see the new position of the enemy. “They’re three miles from Kearsarge right now.”
“And the off-roaders are a mile and a half, but they’re slower,” Brianna said. “Not that much slower, though.”
“Thank God for that,” Haley said. “This makes me nervous as hell.”
“Tell me about it,” Brianna said.
“Dammit, I wish we’d get past this part,” Stacey said. “They there yet?”
Brianna looked at her phone again. “They can probably see the sign for the off-ramp right now.”
“Enemy’s less than a mile away,” Haley said. “Geez.”
“We’re gonna make it,” Ted said. “There’s no traffic light at the top of that off-ramp, is there?”
“Stop sign,” Stacey said. “No traffic, either, so they’ll be able to get around that corner in a hurry.”
“The first of them made it up the ramp!” Brianna said.
“You can’t tell where the end is, can you?” Haley asked.
“Nope,” she said. “Should’ve talked to whoever was going to be last.”
“How close are the enemy fighters?” Ted asked.
“Less than half a mile,” Haley said.
“Arrrggg,” Stacey said. “C’mon, guys, make it!”
“Quarter mile,” Haley said.
Brianna’s phone dinged. “They’re all past the right turn.”
“Yes!” Stacey said, leaning back in his seat, taking a deep breath.
Haley smiled. “And there go the bad guys, racing past it.”
“So now we wait,” Ted said. “Is the enemy convoy still looking like about five miles long?”
“Four and a half,” Haley said. “How can this be going so well?”
“Don’t say that,” Ted said.
“They’re past Kearsarge,” Robbie said, watching his app.
“Did the off-roaders make it where they needed to be?” Morgan asked.
“I don’t know. Hope so.” Just at that moment, their phones dinged. Morgan got to hers first.
“Ted. Off-roaders got out of sight in time. Waiting for rest of the enemy convoy to get past that spot, then they’ll get on the westbound side of the road and head down.”
“That’s going to be very dangerous,” Robbie said. “Wouldn’t want to trade places. They have no armor.”
“I know, it’s scary as hell,” she said. “They’re fast, at least.”
“Doesn’t help that much when you have machine guns firing at you,” Robbie said. “The only thing that will protect them is the trees at the side of the westbound lanes. Thank God there’s no guard rails along there, so they can get into the forest before they have to engage the enemy.”
“Yeah, could you imagine if it was the eastbound side, and they were trapped on the highway? That would be a shooting gallery for the enemy.”
They just passed the Baxter overpass,” Robbie said.
“So Ted and Justin can probably see them.”
“I hope they can only hear them,” Robbie said. “These battle wagons are well known to the enemy now.”
“Good point. Where’s the tail end of the enemy convoy?”
“A good mile east of Kearsarge,” Robbie said. “They’ve compacted a lot, though. Good chance they’ll be completely inside the kill zone before we have the front end flying off the bridge here.”
“What could go wrong? What should we worry about?”
“Too many of them getting out of their vehicles and overpowering us,” Robbie said. “They have the numbers. The leaders just passed Crystal Springs Road.”
“Won’t be long now,” she said. “Glad we’re just going back far enough to get a clean shot at the road.”
“We’ll have to watch for RPGs,” Robbie said. “Hopefully we can hit the first few rows with enough grenade and mini-gun fire to shock them into submission.”
Morgan glanced over at him. “We won’t be able to use the rear machine guns as well from where we’ll be.”
“They’ve got plenty of range and a good targeting system,” Robbie said. “We’ll use them to good effect, trust me.”
“Any second now,” Robbie said.
Suddenly they heard the crash of vehicles flying off the road, hitting the broken cement below, and the squealing of tires as vehicles tried to stop in a panic.
Robbie and Morgan looked at each other. “Time to go!” Robbie said, getting behind the wheel. He fired up the engine and backed up quickly. “Tell me when you have a clear shot in that target reticle.”
“You got it,” Morgan said as she pulled out the tray and brought up the reticle. “Keep going, but slow down a little bit.”
“Jules is moving.”
“Watch the mirrors, not him,” Morgan said, “and be ready to angle like we did before.”
“There, angle a little more towards the left.”
Robbie adjusted. How’s that?”
“Perfect. Get us into siege mode.”
Robbie nodded, stopping the coach and hitting the siege mode button. Morgan opened fire, hitting several of the front vehicles right through the windshields.
“That got their attention,” she said.
Jules’s coach fired the rear machine guns too, as Robbie waited for the M19 and mini-gun to rise into place. As soon as the grenade launcher was up he opened fire, shooting a half dozen of them into the stuck trucks in rapid succession, Jules doing the same. Men were leaving their vehicles, trying to run for cover, when the off-roaders fired from the side of the road, blowing up the next several rows of trucks, gas tanks going, spewing fire all over the place.
“It’s gonna be tough to hit much more with these rear guns,” Morgan said. “We’ve wasted just about everybody that I can see with the sight.”
“I’ve got a ways to go with the grenade launcher,” Robbie said, firing off another half dozen further back, the explosions taking longer to sound. Machine gun fire hit the rear of the coach.
“They’re finally shooting back,” Morgan said, getting back on the target reticle. “Stupid.” She fired, hitting several men who were lying between ruined vehicles close to the edge of the road. Several of them were hit, the others trying to crawl backwards as Jules landed two grenades right on top of them, body parts and blood flying into the air. Morgan leaned back from the target reticle. “That was gross.”
“Those off-roaders are still causing havoc, pretty far back there,” Robbie said. “Can’t see, but I can hear the grenades going off.”
“Most of those folks must be out of their vehicles by now, if they haven’t been hit. You haven’t even fired the mini-gun yet, have you?”
“Nope, and neither has Jules,” Robbie said. “Can’t see back far enough now.” He fired the grenade launcher several more times, aimed high so they’d fly far. “Hell, I hate using this thing without actually aiming at a target.”
“Those trucks are so close together that you’re hitting something with almost every shot,” she said. More bullets hit the back of the coach, and she fired again, hitting a group of three Islamists who were firing from prone position behind some of their own dead. Robbie saw them and landed grenades on them again. Then a text message came in.
“Who’s that?” Morgan asked, eyes glued to the target reticle.
“Ted. They’ve got the off-ramp completely blocked with broken trucks, and the off-roaders back there are almost out of ammo. He’s getting on the escape road.”
“Good,” Morgan said. There was another ding. “That Tex or Jules?”
“Tex, same thing as Ted, they’re leaving.”
“Maybe we’d better go too, before more of these folks start climbing out and get a lucky shot at our tires or something.”
“Text Jules,” Robbie said. “I’m going to light up the end with a bunch of grenade fire and get ready to go.”
“On it,” she said, sending a quick text to Jules. He replied right away. “They’re ready too. He says we should both be firing while we take down siege mode, until we get out of sight.”
“Yeah,” Robbie said. “Keep their heads down.” He flipped the switch for siege mode, lowering it as he fired up the mini-gun, sweeping lead across the front of the damaged road, firing a few grenades as well. Then he drove forward quickly, a few stray bullets hitting the back before they were around the bend, Jules right behind them.
“Wow,” Morgan said. “Think that did enough good?”
“We’ll find out,” Robbie said. They squeezed by the roadblock, which the CHP officers had already left behind.
To be continued…
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
Ben Dover was in his social media control room, pacing, waiting for Ivan’s call. His friends, many with him since his days at UC Santa Cruz, were watching him, worried. The phone rang. Ben leapt at it and hit the answer button on the speaker.
“Yes, Ben, sorry for the delay. Is there a problem?”
“We’re not getting enough response in Eastern San Diego or Imperial counties.”
“How many commitments so far?” Ivan asked.
“Just barely sixty thousand. It’s not that the people aren’t willing, it’s just that the population is low, and there are a lot of retired folks who don’t use the internet much. Word of mouth helps with that somewhat, but it takes time.”
“I see,” Ivan said. “I thought San Diego County had a large population.”
“It’s huge, but most of the people are in the area near the city, and the US Navy and Marines have that locked up pretty tight.”
“You have a proposal, don’t you?” Ivan asked.
“I want to expand our operation to LA, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties,” he said. “I think I can make a case that it’s in their interest to join the battle.”
“You want to tell them that if Saladin brings in more people through the southern border, they’ll eventually be attacked,” Ivan said, “and that’s true. They’re going to see it. Go ahead.”
“You know there’s a mix of folks in LA county, right? There are people there who prefer the stability of martial law. Crime is up there because the state government fell apart. Some parts of Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties have a similar issue.”
“Look at the Bay Area and Sacramento. You did well there.”
“I know, Ivan, but that was right after the women told everyone about the UN Peacekeepers and their rape operation. It’s been a while. People have short attention spans.”
“What do you want from me?” Ivan asked. “There’s something. I can tell by the tone of your voice.”
“The optimum place to recruit is western San Diego County.”
“Oh,” Ivan said, silent for a moment. “I’ll need to open a line of communications with the US Navy for that to work. They’re avoiding direct contact with the resistance.”
“I’m asking that you work that. Meanwhile I’ll work those other counties.”
“How many people do you think we need down there?” Ivan asked. “Saladin only has two hundred thousand on the way.”
“Have you been watching Mazatlán?” Ben asked, shooting a glance at his friends, who were hanging on every word.
“Haven’t been paying much attention since that’s so far south. What are you seeing?”
“The enemy is pumping Islamists into that port like crazy,” Ben said. “If it keeps up, we’ll be back to the seven-hundred thousand level like we were before half of them headed southeast.”
“You don’t think our people down there can stop them, do you?”
“Two of my guys came from that area, and know the terrain. If the enemy lines up that many fighters along the border just about anywhere, they’ll walk right in. Bottling up I-8 will stop them from moving trucks up north, but they can go through this area on foot like a frigging hurricane, take over, and then choose any road they like to go north.”
Ivan was silent for more than a minute.
“You still there?” Ben asked.
“Yes, I’m thinking,” Ivan said, silent again for a few minutes. Ben’s team eyed him. You could hear a pin drop in the room.
“Okay, you’ve got me convinced that we have a problem,” Ivan said. “I need to get on the horn with some folks. Start working everywhere except western San Diego county. I’ll see if I can start up some dialog with the US Navy. Good enough?”
“Perfect, boss, thanks!” Ben said, smiling at his crew.
“Thanks for bringing this to my attention. You’ve got talents I didn’t realize. Talk to you soon.” The call ended. Ben’s team cheered, rushing to him and patting him on the back.
Robbie woke up before the sun rose, Morgan still snoring softly next to him. He snuck out of bed, dressed, and went to the dinette, sitting in front of his laptop, moving the mouse and waiting for the screen to wake up. When it did, he looked at the high-res app. His eyes got wide as he scrolled east on I-80.
“Dammit,” he said, pulling his phone out and sending a text to the leadership. Then he switched on the coffee maker and went into the bedroom. “Morgan. We’re about to have company. Might want to get dressed.”
She rolled towards him, half asleep. “What?”
“The enemy is coming this way. I just sent a message to Jules and the others. They’ll be here any minute.”
“Oh,” she said, sitting up quickly. “I’ll get dressed. You turn on the coffee?”
“Yeah,” he said, turning to leave. Somebody knocked on the door. “They’re here.” He rushed out to open it. Jules, Ted, and Sparky came in. Before they all got inside, Tex trotted over.
“Enemy move west on I-80?” Jules asked, leaning against the kitchen counter.
“You got it,” Robbie said.
“How far, partner?” Tex asked.
“They’re almost to Elko. That’s about a third of the way.”
“I was afraid of this,” Sparky said.
“We need to hit them in the mountains,” Ted said, “and we need help from the locals. There still two hundred thousand?”
“Less came across the border than that,” Robbie said. “Looks like it’s closer to a hundred and fifty thousand.”
“What happened to the others?”
“I need to check my history,” Robbie said. “They aren’t on the road, so they’re probably back in Salt Lake City.”
“We have to leave now and attack,” Ted said. “We’d better wake everybody up.”
“Kid, start looking for good spot on I-80 where we can hit from side-roads,” Jules said.
“Yeah, and see if you can find one where there’s a bridge we could blow,” Ted said. “So we can get them bottled up.”
“I’ll get on that right now,” Robbie said.
“Okay, guys, let’s get everybody going,” Tex said. “We better leave in a half hour. No longer.”
“I agree,” Jules said. The men left the rig. Morgan came out of the bedroom.
“You hear that?” Robbie asked, eyes on his laptop screen.
“Yeah,” she said. “Keep working. I’ll get you a cup of coffee and a bar.”
“Thanks,” he said.
Clem was up early, looking out the window of his Dodge City Hotel room. The western street below was waking up. A horse-drawn wagon rolled by, carrying feed in the back, the driver seeing him and waving. His mind was on the surveillance task he’d be working later, when the others were up. There was a knock on the door. He answered it. Sarah stood before him.
“Oh, good, you’re up,” she said. “Heard you’d be going into town to get some electronics. Want some company for that?”
“Sure,” he said. “Come on in.”
She shot him a funny glance, and he laughed.
“You looked nervous about being in my room. Sorry, Sarah, but that ship sailed quite a while ago. I just need to put my shoes on, and then we can get some breakfast. I smell something coming from downstairs.”
“Oh,” she said, looking embarrassed. “I didn’t mean anything, really.”
“I know,” he said. “Just a sec.” He sat on a chair by the bed and pulled on his walking shoes, lacing them slowly, his hands not moving as fast as they used to. “You staying here too?”
“I’m in the boarding house with Garrett’s sister and a few others,” she said. “She’s a riot.”
“Susanne. Fine woman. I’ll bet she runs Garrett ragged.”
“Well, Elmer, at least,” she said. “Her on again, off again boyfriend.”
“I heard that the on and off cycle is about every four hours.”
Both chuckled as Clem stood. “My back is gonna be killing me tonight.”
They went down the stairs. There was a continental breakfast laid out, with coffee in a large canister pot, and a sign saying Help Yourselves.
“Well isn’t this nice?” Sarah asked.
“This breakfast is more John’s style than mine,” Clem said, wishing he could take it back when he saw the sadness in Sarah’s eyes. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be silly,” she said. “I do miss him so.”
“Me too,” Clem said. “Knew him for over forty years.”
“I was married to him for thirty-five,” she said. “I thought you were scary at first.”
“Me? I’m a pussycat.”
“I know that now, but you were older than the rest, and a little stern.”
He smiled as he drew himself a cup of coffee from the canister, taking a tentative sip. “It’s pretty good.”
They sat at one of the round tables near the wall. Elmer walked in, smiling when he saw the spread. “Good, I was hoping that’d be here.”
“Where’s Susanne?” Sarah asked. “Oh, and good morning.”
“Good morning to you,” he said as he got coffee. “Susanne’s a working fool. She’s down in the mine already, pushing the ammo loading team.”
“You don’t work with her on that operation?” Clem asked.
“Oh, hell no,” he said. “You think I’d let her boss me around like that? I only allow that if it’s in my interest.” He shot Clem a naughty glance. Sarah cleared her throat.
“What’s your job here?” Clem asked.
“Contractor,” he said. “Built a lot of the town with a crew of folks. Helped them get up to code, too, after the first debacle.”
“Oh, you didn’t build the stuff that was torn down for that?” Clem asked.
He chuckled. “Nah, that was before I joined the group. They tried to build this place like a barn-raising. That’s okay for a barn, but if you’ve got people living in it, the state cares very much about how the construction is done.”
“I’d be surprised if the state would even cut you slack on a barn, actually,” Clem said.
Elmer stuffed the last of a Danish into his mouth, chewing it quick so he could respond.
“Take your time,” Clem said, catching a smirk from Sarah.
“Sorry,” Elmer said. “Kinda looks like I was raised in a barn, I reckon.”
They all laughed.
“But you’re right,” Elmer continued. “The damn state has rules for anything you build now – even the stuff that really don’t matter. Sick to death of it, but I know how to work the system to get things done. They hired me to help, and I kinda fell in love with the place.”
Susanne came stomping into the lobby. “Where’s that old goat Willard?”
“What’s the matter, honey bun?” Elmer asked.
“That’s for the guests,” she said, eyeing the Danish in his hand.
Elmer smiled at her and took a bite. She growled at him.
“What do you want Willard for?” he asked.
“Those damn lights that he strung up in the mine shaft quit working,” she said. “I need them on. We’ve got a quota to make.”
“Okay, I’ll grab Willard and drag him down there. He needs to know how to do that right. I’ll show him, okay?”
She looked at him for a second. “Why was he doing it instead of you, anyway?”
“I was busy working something for Garrett, remember?”
She thought for a moment. “Oh, hell, I don’t remember what you’re talking about. No matter. Grab him and get down there pronto. Oh, and if you find more booze down there, tell me about it this time.” She left in a huff.
“She’s always going full speed, isn’t she?” Clem asked.
“Brother, you don’t know the half of it.” He washed down the second Danish with coffee and left, tipping his hat.
“Wow,” Sarah said, shaking her head.
“I kinda like it here,” he said. “Call me crazy. Wonder how you become a permanent resident?”
“Are you serious?”
“It’s not like we can go back to the RV Park in Dulzura,” he said, sadness in his eyes. “I miss Harry and Nancy.”
“And Connie and Hank too,” Sarah said, eyes tearing up. “And my John.”
“Let’s change the subject or I’ll be blubbering like an old fool.”
“You aren’t an old fool,” she said.
Sid came in with Yvonne. “Oh, there you guys are. Meeting in five minutes.”
“Ji-Ho is calling it, and they’re setting up the audio-visual stuff. I think they might need your help, Clem.”
“Okay, done with breakfast anyway,” he said. “Where?”
“Saloon,” Sid said.
“Good, about time for a beer.”
“Now you’re talking,” Sid said, both women rolling their eyes. They all left, walking down the wooden sidewalk to the saloon, which was already full, with people still arriving.
“Somebody open windows,” Ji-Ho said, “so overflow crowd can listen.” He was up front next to the TV. “Oh, Clem, good, come help please.”
Clem nodded, making his way through the crowd.
“Hi, Auntie Sarah,” Mia said, rushing over to her.
“Well hi yourself, sweetie,” Sarah said, stroking her hair as she watched people coming in.
“Is this gonna be scary?”
“If it is, I can take you for a walk to see the horses,” Sarah said.
“That would be fun,” Mia said.
“She’s not bothering you, I hope?” Erica asked, walking up with Sam.
“No, of course not. I told her if the discussion got too scary I’d take her to see the horses.”
“You don’t have to do that,” Erica said.
“I wouldn’t mind a bit.”
“Wish this place was bigger,” Sam said.
“It’ll be good enough,” Garrett said, coming out of the back of the saloon with Anna and Willard. “I’ll make sure all my men hear about it. A good number of them are out on patrol, and that’s just where we need them.”
“It ready,” Ji-Ho said. “I’ll send text to Ivan.”
People found places to sit, lean, or just stand as the TV came on, Clem coming out from behind the screen with a laptop on a long HDMI cable. He set it on a bar stool facing the crowd, open so the camera could pick up at least half of the people in the saloon.
Ivan walked onto the frame, wearing his pin-striped suit and fedora, sitting to face the camera. “Hello, all. Can you hear me?”
“Yep,” Clem said. “Should I patch in Ben Dover now?”
“Yes, please,” Ivan said. Clem typed on the laptop, moving his finger on the touch pad a couple times, and then the screen split into two, with Ben Dover on the right pane and Ivan on the left. Ben’s hair looked like he just got up, and he was wearing a t-shirt with a stretched neck.
“You hear me?” Ben asked.
“We do,” Ji-Ho said.
“Yep, I can hear both of you,” Ivan said.
Ji-Ho smiled. “Okay, we set. Go ahead.”
“Hello, all, thanks for your attention,” Ivan said. “Ben has been working recruitment for your area. In the process, him and his team came to some conclusions, and they convinced me to act on what they were telling me. Ben, please tell the team what you see.”
“Have any of you seen the buildup of enemy forces through the port at Mazatlán?” Ben asked.
“I have,” Seth said. “It’s got me worried.”
“It should,” Ben said. “Last time I checked, they were up to about five hundred thousand fighters.”
“There’s more off-shore,” Seth said. “Another two hundred thousand at least.”
A gasp went up in the room.
“We can’t take on that many fighters,” Susanne said. “I’m having a hard time keeping ammo production high enough for the current scale of battle.”
“So, we have to stop up I-8 and the other routes across the border,” Angel said.
“That won’t be enough,” Ed said, his face grave. “With those kinds of numbers, they can march over the border on foot, kill everybody around, and choose the northbound route they want to take.”
“He’s exactly right,” Ben said. “We’ll have to recruit our way out of this, and we’ll need coordination when the volunteers arrive, plus a place for them to stay until the battle, and a method for them to get to the battle.”
“How can we recruit that many people?” Kaitlyn asked.
“We have to recruit from all of the counties in Southern California,” Ivan said. “Especially LA and Orange counties. That’s where the numbers are.”
“What about western San Diego county?” Sam asked. “That’s not as large as LA county, but it’s larger than Orange county and closer, too.”
“We’re trying to contact the US Navy to make that happen,” Ivan said. “It’s difficult.”
“I know some people,” Sam said. “I can work that with you.”
“That would be very much appreciated,” Ivan said.
“What are we gonna do?” Trevor asked. “How can we help?”
“Here’s my proposal,” Ivan said. “We go after all the recruitment we can, including San Diego county if we can get agreement with the US Navy. We use your Dodge City as a staging area. Is it large enough for the number of people we’re talking about?”
“And then some, if you’re just talking land,” Garrett said. “Food and shelter will be something else again.”
“We’re working that,” Ivan said. “Tents and food as well as military weapons to arm people, so they don’t have to go against such a huge force with hunting rifles.”
“I pledge whatever help we can provide,” Garrett said. “Anybody object?”
“Hell no,” Willard shouted.
“I’m for it of course,” Elmer said.
“Me too,” shouted somebody else.
“What about more battle wagon and off-roader?” Ji-Ho asked. “Still come?”
“Those have been on the way for a couple days,” Ivan said. “They’ll be there soon. We also sent military small arms and ammo – enough to outfit a force of a thousand men. We’ll obviously have to expand this quite a bit for the new recruits.”
“Where are you getting all this stuff?” Trevor asked. “Never mind, I don’t want to know.”
Ivan chuckled. “Some of the weapons will be AK-47s and other European weapons, by the way. When we kicked those cretins out of the Bay Area and Sacramento, we captured a lot of military hardware.”
“No problem here,” Sam said. “AKs jam less often than M16s.”
“You have anything else to say, Ben?” Ivan asked.
“Yeah,” Ben said. “Don’t destroy any more roads down there. You’ll need them to access the enemy.”
“Roger that,” Sid said.
“Okay, anything else before I go work this?” Ivan asked.
“Good luck, and let us know if you need help from us,” Sam said.
“Yes, we do anything,” Ji-Ho said.
Ivan smiled. “I know, guys. It’s an honor to serve with you. Talk to you soon.” With that he and Ben Dover left the screen.
“Wow,” Seth said to Trevor. “This is gonna be insane.”
“Seriously, dude,” Trevor said, Angel nodding in agreement.
Clem finished unhooking the audio-visual stuff. Sarah walked over. “You still doing the surveillance task today?”
“Yep,” he said. “More important than ever, in my estimation. This is about to become ground central for the California Resistance.”
“I think we’d better nix that idea of putting land mines out,” Sid said. Yvonne laughed.
“You got that right, brother,” Clem said.
To be continued…
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
A huge crowd ringed the Swan Island Basin in Portland, Oregon, many with signs, most wearing all black with masks covering their faces below the eyes. Behind them were several hundred Portland PD officers, in riot gear, attempting to stay between them and a growing number of counter-protesters.
Nathan watched the water nervously as the big EU Navy ship cruised slowly towards the dock. He turned every few seconds to watch the counter-protesters, holding signs that said NO UN along with American flags. He was only twenty-five, medium build, tattoos covering his upper arms and neck, large round earrings stretching his lobes.
“Hey, Sean,” he said quietly. “This makes me nervous. There’s only one way out of here, and that’s more counter protesters than I’ve ever seen before. Why is the Portland PD letting them get so close?”
Sean’s eyes turned his direction, his cheeks rising under his black bandana, eyes smaller as he laughed. “Rednecks and retired people. I’m gonna break some heads as soon as the UN Peacekeepers show themselves.” He was smaller than Nathan, holding a long stick with finishing nails sticking out a few inches on either end, his medium-length blonde hair shining in the sun.
“I’m hearing bad rumors,” Nathan said, looking back at the ship as it slowly moved towards the dock, a crew there now to grab the ropes. A UN flag rose on the flagpole over the bridge, and a cheer went up from a few thousand black-clad people.
“Watch those Nazis crap themselves when the UN Peacekeepers come down the planks,” Sean said.
“The reactionaries outnumber the police now,” Nathan said. “At least two to one, and they’re still showing up.”
“And we’ve got sixty thousand UN Peacekeepers getting off that boat,” Sean said. “You worry too much. As soon as we get rough with those right-wingers, they’ll turn tail and run… and even if they don’t we’ll be protected by the police as usual.”
“The public is starting to see through this, you know.”
“So go home, little boy,” Sean said.
“Hey, we’d better get out of here!” cried a woman in black with a mask, her stringy brown hair hanging around her shoulders. “Look at this.”
“Shut up, Emily,” Sean shouted.
“What do you see?” Nathan asked, rushing over. She held her phone in front of him. It was news-chopper video of the area. There was a vast multitude of people heading in on all streets, crossing North Willamette Boulevard. “My God. How many people is that?”
“Let me see it,” Sean said, rushing over and looking. He laughed. “You guys are assuming that they’re not on our side.” Emily and Nathan looked at him like he was crazy.
“We know the community,” Emily said. “If there was this many people coming, we’d have known about it days ago.”
“Well run along home, then,” Sean said, turning back to the ship. It was tied to the dock now, and the gang plank was being rolled up.
“Oh, God,” Emily said, looking at her phone again. “Is that another warship. See it? Just getting to Kelley Point Park.”
“There’s more than one ship in the EU Navy, you idiot,” Sean said, looking over at the counter demonstrators again. Several black-clad thugs were rushing past the police line, attacking counter protestors as the police stood by and watched. Suddenly the number of counter demonstrators increased and the police loudspeaker warned all the protestors to go back to their sides. Sean ran towards them as Nathan and Emily watched.
“Moron,” Emily said. “Want to go? No paycheck is worth this.”
“Dressed like this, we’ll never make it past Willamette,” he said. “C’mon, let’s jump the box factory fence and get on one of the semi-trailers in the yard. We can watch from there, then slip out in the confusion.”
“Okay,” she said. They pushed their way towards the fence as most of the black-clad thugs headed to the counter-demonstrator lines. The police began to fire tear gas at the growing crowd of citizens, ignoring the thugs who raced in and attacked them.
Nathan climbed the fence, turning when he was on the far side to help Emily up. They both hit the pavement of the box factory lot and raced towards the row of semi-trailers parked at the loading docks.
“There’s one we can get on,” Nathan said, racing towards it, Emily struggling to keep up. He leapt onto a dumpster next to one of them, and jumped, getting a good hand hold and pulling himself up on top. “C’mon, I’ll grab you.”
Emily looked at him, scared to death, frozen in place.
“Now, dammit!” Nathan shouted.
She snapped out of it and ran, jumping onto the dumpster, taking Nathan’s hand. He pulled her up, and they both stood.
“Holy crap,” Emily said, watching the hand-to-hand fighting between the black-clad people, citizens wearing casual clothes, and police, who were firing bean bags at the counter protestors now.
“Look, UN Peacekeepers!” Nathan said, pointing. “They’re coming down the gang plank in a hurry! That’ll show the reactionaries.”
Emily turned to Nathan, horrified. “They’re lining the deck with their guns out.”
“Show of force,” Nathan said. “Good. That battle is getting out of hand.”
“Our people are getting the crap beat out of them,” Emily said, watching as more and more citizens rushed in, trampling the protesters, kicking them and punching them as they tried to fight back with their clubs, sticks, pepper spray, and bags of urine.
“Look, the police are running away,” Nathan said. “Dammit. What are they doing? There’s still too many counter-protesters here!”
“Damn Mayor’s office,” Emily said. “This is complete lack of coordination.”
Suddenly gunfire erupted from the deck of the ship, UN Peacekeepers firing into the fighting crowd, hitting both sides of the battle.
“No!” Emily shouted, watching people hitting the ground. Then there were screams and yells as the area flooded with thousands of armed citizens, taking aim with their rifles and firing at the ship, killing several of the Peacekeepers as the rest dropped behind cover in shocked horror. Automatic fire started up from several groups of citizens, bullets hitting the gang plank, knocking down the Peacekeepers who were trapped there.
“Those are military weapons!” shouted Nathan. “I see M60s and M-16s! Where’d they get those?”
“You know how those white nationalists are,” Emily said, tears running down her cheeks.
“They can’t own those,” Nathan said. “Somebody gave those guns to them for this event.”
“Those sailors are uncovering the weapons on the boat,” Emily said, her eyes wide as they opened fire on the crowd, strafing with machine gun fire. One of the citizens with an M60 fired back, hitting the men behind one gun, another gunner hitting the man. Several more citizens with M60s rushed up, firing from behind cover now. The UN Peacekeepers were back, firing, hitting citizens, but also taking fire from every direction around the dock, many of them hit.
“This is horrible,” Nathan said.
“Here comes that other boat,” Emily said. “Crap, that’s a US Navy ship!”
Just as the words left her lips, several missiles were fired, all of them hitting the EU ship, blowing the top half of the ship into pieces, silencing the machine gun fire. A cheer rang out from the multitude, sounding like a huge roar.
“We’d better get out of here,” Emily said.
“Take off that outfit,” Nathan said, taking off his black shirt.
“I can’t, I don’t have anything on underneath,” she said.
“Look, there’s more of them,” shouted an old man holding an M-16, leading a group of citizens into the box factory lot. Those were the last words Emily and Nathan heard.
Daan looked out his apartment window, down at a quiet night in Brussels. He had more work to do. The UN refused to continue pumping men and materiel to the states without additional funding, and the EU leadership refused to do anything. His cellphone rang. It was the UN Secretary General. He let it go to voicemail, then walked to his bar and poured himself some whiskey. Leverage. He needed leverage. His phone rang again. Dammit. He looked. Saladin. His heart started to pound.
“Hello,” he said as he sat on his couch.
“Still in Brussels?” Saladin asked.
“Yeah, but I’ll be coming back soon.”
“Have you seen the news, or talked to any of the team?” Saladin asked.
“Oh, crap, what happened now?”
“We had a really bad day on several fronts,” Saladin said.
“Can’t be much worse than what’s happened here,” Daan said. He drank down his whiskey and got up to get another, leaning against his bar. “Let’s have it.”
“We sent a team to take out the CHP headquarters in Sacramento. They were defeated.”
“Dammit. By whom?”
“Ivan’s people in their blasted motor homes and off-roaders, and about sixty CHP officers. Somebody armed them with military weapons. They knew we were coming. Like I suspected, they broke your RFID chips.”
“That remains to be seen. They had to expect we’d try to hit the CHP before they could get rolling. All the leadership was there, and it’s a state-wide organization.”
Saladin chuckled. “So why did you okay that operation, then?”
“Hey, it was your idea, remember?”
Saladin was silent for a moment, his breath quickening on the mouthpiece.
“Sorry,” Daan said. “Don’t get pissed. We both thought it was a good idea.”
“Fine,” Saladin said, icy tone to his voice. “There’s more.”
“All right,” Daan said.
“This one should be all over the news, even there, so I’ll tell you the gist, and you can see the details yourself.”
“Go ahead,” he said.
“The EU ship bringing UN Peacekeepers to Portland was destroyed by a US Navy Aegis Cruiser. All our assets were killed, including the Peacekeepers, the sailors on the vessel, and many of our domestic operatives. Oh, and most of our people in the city leadership were rounded up and shot as well.”
Daan felt faint, gripping the bar. He moved to one of the bar stools and sat, leaning his head in his hands.
“You still there?” Saladin asked.
“Yeah,” he said, pouring another drink. “That means we can write off that state.”
“I agree,” Saladin said. “There was also action in Bend and several other of the inland cities. We lost in each location.”
“Ivan’s social media operation started it,” he said.
“Ben Dover,” Daan said. “We need to kill him. Make it a priority.”
“He’s in the middle of territory we no longer control. We’ve lost the top third of the state.”
“Dammit, we also lost LA and Orange Counties. What do we still control?”
“We don’t control any of California,” he said.
“You mean we should leave the state? Is there anywhere that the locals don’t control?”
“They don’t have control of the area from Merced south to about I-15. We still operate there, but it would be an exaggeration to say we controlled it.”
“Crap, there’s nothing there,” Daan said.
“Yes, there is. Much of their best agriculture is there, also their oil fields.”
“Yeah, whatever,” he said.
“The agriculture is more important than you think,” Saladin said. “Remember that the lines of trade aren’t in place now.”
“Except for that little body of water called the Pacific Ocean,” Daan said.
“The EU Navy is still strong off the coast.”
“And yet we allowed a US Navy ship to cruise right in and destroy one of their boats,” Daan said. “The parts of Southern California other than LA and Orange Counties are still in contention, are they not?”
“We are still active and powerful enough in those areas to keep working, but we must get that southern route opened back up. I-8 and the others. Everything depends on it.”
“On that we agree,” Daan said. “Is your caravan still proceeding south?”
“Yes, but I have them well spaced out, so they attract as little attention as possible. We’re still hitting at Ivan’s people down there. They think they have a safe place, but we attacked them there a few days ago. If we can force them to get on the move again, we’ll start to pick them off.”
“Those forces that caused us so much problems up north are still around,” Daan said. “What if they come south too?”
“Then we should try to slip people north to take it back over,” Daan said. “I could bring a lot of people in through Nevada.”
“Won’t that hurt your campaign against General Hogan?”
“Temporarily,” Saladin said, “but I no longer consider that as important as I did before.”
“Like I was saying, they cracked your RFID chips. That makes Frank Johnson a less important target than before.”
“I still want him,” Daan said. “I’ll roast him alive, but I’m not ready to accept that he’s broken the RFID encryption. If he’s done that, we’d lose all our assets in Washington DC. You know that, right? If those people are safe, we can assume that the RFID encryption is still protecting us.”
“Is it possible that they only broke part of the system?” Saladin asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Is it possible they can track location but not have access to the data payload?” Saladin asked.
“Oh. Possible but unlikely. The encryption of the device is just as rigorous as the encryption of the data payload.”
“You don’t sound convinced by your own statement,” Saladin said.
“It’s been a long day, and it’s not over yet. Now I know why the UN Secretary General just tried to call me.”
“He tried to call you? Just now? I didn’t hear any beeps.”
“No, before you called,” Daan said. “I didn’t want to talk to him. Now I don’t have a choice.”
“What happened back there?”
“The UN leadership dug in their heels on increased funding to stay in the fight, and the EU leadership refused to cough up more money.”
Saladin laughed. “So, go work it harder. You know how that goes.”
“After what just happened, my job is even harder than before.”
“Mine too, my friend, but we have to roll with the punches,” Saladin said.
“All right,” Daan said. “Anything else?”
“Fortunately, no,” Saladin said. “Talk to you soon.” He ended the call. Daan grabbed the bottle of whiskey and his glass, and headed for the couch. He hit the Secretary General’s contact.
Seth and Kaitlyn sat at a table against the wall in the Dodge City Saloon. Most of their friends were up at the bar, having a drink and chatting.
“Go ahead,” Kaitlyn said.
“You brought the laptop for a reason. Plug it in and get it warmed up. Then you can monitor your new program while we’re here.”
“Okay,” he said. “You can go hang with Megan and the others while I check, and I’ll be along.”
“I’m with the person I want to be with right now,” she said, putting her hand on his arm. “Trust me. I’m interested in what your program is showing too, so fire it up. I’ll go get you a beer if you want.”
“Sure, that’d be great, as long as I just have one.”
“Nobody’s drinking a lot,” Kaitlyn said as she slid out of her seat. “Be right back.”
Seth put his laptop on the table and set it up, plugging it into a wall outlet next to him. After it was running, he took out his phone and activated the personal hot spot. The laptop connected, and Seth navigated to his server, hitting the report download button. Excel started, and his report populated after a couple minutes. Kaitlyn came back, holding two beers. He took his and had a sip.
“Not bad,” he said.
“Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised,” Kaitlyn said, sitting back down. “Is it still working?”
“Yep,” he said. “I downloaded a report into Excel. You could probably help with this part.”
“Let’s see,” she said, watching as he turned the laptop to face her. She studied it for a few minutes. “I see what you’re doing here. I couldn’t have done much better, honestly. Maybe I could automate it.”
“You see any quadrants where we’ve had RFID chips disappear?”
She studied it again for a moment, eyes furrowed, until she found the right column and understood what it was saying. “Yes, I do see something funny.”
“Crap, really?” Seth asked, getting up and looking over her shoulder.
“Is that what this means?” she asked, moving the cursor over a column.
“I set it up so at least four had to disappear without them being someplace else.”
“What if they just left?”
“It’s looking at a hundred square miles,” Seth said. “Unless they were right on the border of that, they couldn’t move out of range fast enough. He took a closer look. “This one is okay. The text would show up red if the rules applied. These folks were close to the border.”
“Can you move it to make sure?”
“Yeah, but I’ll have to run the report again.”
“Do it,” she said. “I’m interested.”
He nodded. “I’ll show you how, in case we need it run and I’m not around.” He walked her through the procedure, and they ran the report, moved over to pick up the area nearest to where the missing hits were.
“That’s them, isn’t it?” she asked.
“Looks like it.”
“We don’t have a problem, then?”
“Not yet,” Seth said.
“Why don’t you look at a larger area?”
“It’s harder to analyze,” Seth said.
“You see, that’s where I can help,” she said. “Let me mess with the reporting for a while. Can you set this to run for, say, a thousand square miles?”
“Sure, but it’ll take a while to run.”
“Dammit, I was due at the cinema in ten minutes,” she said.
Seth laughed, and she shot him a smirk. “Let me help you, okay?”
“Okay,” Seth said. “You know how to set the scope – go ahead and adjust the settings and run it again.”
“We won’t have history for all of it, though, will we?”
“Nope, but we’ll run it that way and start gathering the history,” Seth said. “Mind if I watch you? I could use better knowledge of Excel.”
“Be my guest,” she said. He pulled up a chair next to her and watched as she worked.
To be continued…
To be continued…
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
Just Published! Bug Out! Texas Book 9 – Patriots Unleashed
#KindleUnlimited #DriveThemOut #covfefe #war #terrorists #DeepState #ShadowGov #motorhome #guns #NRA #prepper #invasion #bugout #Texas
Anna and Kaitlyn used disinfectant wipes on the massive granite island in the kitchen. Seth and Trevor stood on either side of Hasan, watching them.
“I’ll go get my bag while the counter dries,” Anna said. “You can assist, Kaitlyn.”
Anna left the room.
“Don’t worry,” Kaitlyn said, looking at the fear in Hasan’s eyes. “She’s good. It won’t hurt. You’ll be sore for a few days, but we have medication for that.”
“Thank you,” Hasan said.
“Who made these chips?” Trevor asked. “You’ve got to have millions of them for your whole organization.”
Hasan chuckled. “They’re made right here in California. The Mertins Plant in San Jose, to be exact.”
“No way,” Seth said, shaking his head. “Figures.”
“Do the UN Peacekeepers have chips?” Trevor asked.
“No, but our other partners do,” Hasan said.
“Other partners?” Trevor asked.
“The Militias,” Hasan said. “They’re not active in California, but their a big deal in Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado.”
“Which militias?” Seth asked. “We’ve never heard of this before.”
“Secessionists,” Hasan said. “They hate the Federal Government, but are too stupid to realize that they’re fighting for them.”
“Geez,” Seth said. Anna walked back in with two bags.
“Get up on the counter, please,” she said. “On your back, head facing this way.”
Hasan climbed up quickly, looking more scared now.
“I don’t think I can watch this,” Trevor whispered. “I’m going back by the far wall.”
Seth nodded, but stayed where he was, watching Kaitlyn and Anna work. “You’ve assisted before, haven’t you, sweetie?”
Kaitlyn nodded. “Yep, in the tribal clinic. That was a part-time job for me.”
“You should go back to school and become a nurse,” Anna said. “Hand me the gauze, please.”
“We’ve been over this, mom. I like accounting better.”
They worked for about twenty minutes, Hasan sleeping through most of it.
“Done,” Anna said. “Let’s bandage him up.” She used her tweezers to drop the chip into a small metal pan.
“Where are we gonna put him?” Trevor asked, walking back over.
“Good question,” Kaitlyn said.
“He’ll be sleeping this off for at least a couple of hours,” Anna said.
Garrett walked in. “How did it go?”
“Fine,” Anna said. “It was buried pretty deep. He’ll be out for a couple hours. You know where we can put him?”
“We’ve got some leg and wrist irons,” Garrett said. “We can chain him to something while he sleeps. Then maybe we can move him to Dodge City. We have a jail there.”
“Dodge City,” Anna said. “You guys finished that?”
“Yep, after we settled some things with the county,” Garrett said. “That was a learning experience.”
“So I’ve heard,” Anna said. “Didn’t you have to tear some things down?”
“A few,” Garrett said. “To be honest, I’m grateful. We learned a lot. Built a bunch more the right way after that. All with permits, all to code.”
“Well, that’s good,” Anna said. “I’d love to see it someday.”
“Then you shall,” Garrett said, tipping his hat as he went out to fetch the irons.
“Flirting with Garrett, mom?” Kaitlyn asked, grinning.
“Shut up,” she said. “You’re one to talk.”
“Yeah, but I’m not married,” Kaitlyn said.
“Your father isn’t with me anymore.”
Kaitlyn looked at her, sadness in her eyes, and nodded. Seth shot her a glance, and she nodded to him, saying later with her eyes.
Karen and Tex were still in the embrace they fell asleep in earlier, facing each other. Karen woke, feeling the sweat between them, and rolled onto her back. Tex stirred, his eyes fluttering open.
“Wow, we stayed together the whole time, didn’t we?” Tex asked. “I’m all sweaty where I was pressed against you.”
“This thing has an air conditioner, right?” Karen asked.
“Yeah, two, one for the bedroom and one for the salon. The thermostat for the bedroom is by the door there, see it?”
She looked, then nodded, catching his eyes on her breasts when she looked back. “Oh, you like, huh?”
“You know I do,” Tex said. “Is it okay for me to look, or does it bother you?”
“I guess you can look,” she said. “You’ve earned that much. I’ll give you more of a show. I’m going to the bathroom. Can I turn on the air conditioner?”
“Of course,” he said, watching her climb out of bed. She turned on the air conditioner, and it started up quickly.
“Wow, it’s loud,” she said.
“Sorry,” Tex said.
“Maybe that’s a good thing,” she said as she slipped out to the bathroom.
What did she mean by that? Tex’s mind went to them, coupling with passion, his eyes glassed over when she returned. The sight of her made him moan.
“You’re in quite a state,” she said as she went back under the sheet.
“I think I’d better hit the bathroom too,” he said, getting up, his back to her to hide his condition.
“Turn around,” she said. “You got to see me.”
“I’m in a state you might not be ready for,” he said.
“Oh, please,” she said. “You were in that state quite a bit while you were asleep, by the way.”
“Oh,” he said, sheepishly. He turned towards her as he maneuvered around the bed to the door.
“Wow, impressive,” she said, half a smile on her face.
“No Texas comments,” he said. She giggled, and he chuckled as he left the room, rushing to get back. She was lying on her side, head propped up on her hand and elbow, grinning at him.
“Looks like you’re back to normal.”
“Around you it isn’t really that normal,” Tex said.
“My, but aren’t we talking naughty now,” Karen said, watching as he went to his side of the bed. “Maybe I spoke too soon.”
“Stop it,” he said, shooting her an embarrassed glance.
“What time is it?”
Tex picked his phone off the ledge next to his side of the bed. “Almost ten pm,” he said. “I think our nap might have messed with our sleeping patterns a little.”
“It’ll be okay,” she said, turning on her back. “That air conditioner is cooling the room down nicely.”
“Getting too cold?”
“No, not at all,” she said. “It feels good. And besides, we need the noise.”
“What?” Tex asked.
She rolled her eyes, then pulled at him. He got the message and rolled towards her, moving his upper torso against her.
“C’mon, move closer,” she whispered.
“I would hope so,” she said, reaching for his hip and pulling. He groaned as he moved against her. “Wow. You’re back and then some.”
“Sorry,” he said, starting to move away.
“Stop!” she said, pulling him back. He groaned again.
“You’re torturing me,” Tex said, half a smile showing. She looked at him, a loving smile on her face. Tex trembled at the sight of it. “Haven’t seen that look from you before.”
She looked him in the eyes, then took his hand and put it on her breast. “You don’t have to be that way anymore.” He rolled closer, kissing her gently, his whole body alive, his senses at the max.
“How long will that air conditioner run?” she asked.
“Depends,” he said. “What’d you set it at?”
“Sixty-six,” she said.
He chuckled. “It’ll run for a while.”
“Good,” she said.
“I get noisy,” she said, pulling him over herself.
The passion grew quickly between them, and they were together, riding the waves, beside themselves as they rose and fell, Karen screaming and crying out. Tex focused on her face, amazed and so much in love. Then they settled down, laying on their sides facing each other, silent for a time.
“Told you I get loud,” she said, her eyes misty.
“My God, woman,” Tex said, caressing the back of her head as he went in for a kiss.
“Was it worth the waiting? Worth all the dramatics?”
He chuckled. “I’m so much in love with you that I can hardly stand it.”
“I know,” she said. “I’ve known that for a while. I’m sorry it takes me so long.”
“So long?” Tex asked. “I’m the one that should be apologizing. I’ve been hounding you since the moment I met you.”
“Yes, but in a nice way,” she said. “I was so angry when we met. You pushed past it. You pushed me past it.”
“When did you decide?” Tex asked.
“Decide what? That I’d let you take me?”
“No, that I was okay. That I was safe.”
She smiled, a calmness showing on her face that was new to him. “That’s not what you really want to know.”
“What do you think I really want to know?”
“When I fell in love with you,” she said, eyes dancing with his.
“You don’t have to say that yet.”
“You did,” she said.
“I know,” he said, “but it has to happen naturally. Without pressure.”
Her eyes teared up more, and she reached up to pet his cheek. “Okay, cards on the table. I knew I was in love with you last night. When I offered myself to you and you wouldn’t do it.”
“Oh,” he said. “I was hoping. I felt like you were close.”
“So, you calculated a little in turning me down?” she asked.
Tex smiled. “No, it was after that. It was your reaction when I admitted that I loved you.”
“Okay, I could see that,” she said, more tears coming. “I cried. Geez, it’s so obvious. I’m such a dope. I should’ve told you then and there.”
“You weren’t ready,” he said. “It happened when it was supposed to happen.”
“Yes, it did,” she said.
“We can get up for a while if you want,” Tex said.
“No way,” she said. “We’re not done yet.”
They kissed again.
“You hungry?” Jules asked, sitting up in bed next to Shelly.
“I guess we’ve worked up a good appetite,” she said. “What did you have in mind?”
“There was peach cobbler,” he said. “In kitchen fridge. You like, no?”
“Oh, yeah, I like,” she said. “Should we go get some and bring it back, or just eat it there?”
“Maybe eat there,” Jules said. “Mind?”
“No, not at all,” she said. “We need a break anyway. We’ve been making love on and off since this afternoon.”
“I should be,” she said. “You know why I’m not.”
“Oh,” Jules said. “Sorry. I wish that never happen.”
“I know, sweetie, but I’m a survivor. That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Jules smiled. “That one of Ivan’s favorite sayings.”
“Will I ever meet him?”
“Almost certainly,” he said, getting out of bed. He pulled on his clothes, and picked up his phone. “Message. Didn’t even hear it come in.”
“Gee, I wonder why,” Shelly said as she dressed, her face turning red.
Jules shot her a sidelong glance, then focused on his phone. “Oops, it Ivan.”
“Call him back,” Shelly said.
“Let’s wait until we get to kitchen,” Jules said.
“Somebody’s got a sweet tooth,” she said.
“Maybe little. Let’s go.”
They finished getting ready and left the coach, stepping out into the crisp night air.
“Northern California is always cooler than I expect,” Shelly said, pulling him closer as they walked.
“Warm compared to home,” Jules said.
“You want to go back there?”
“Back to Belgium?” he asked. “Spend time there, spend more time here. This new home. I run business with team who reside both here and there.”
They walked into the house and stepped into the kitchen. Jules opened the fridge.
“Still there?” she asked.
“Yep.” He pulled out the large glass baking pan and set it on the counter, then removed the foil covering it. “Look. Enough for us, no?”
“I think so,” she said, looking at it. “If you want me to keep this figure, don’t feed me this stuff too often.”
He chuckled, looking for silverware in the drawers. Shelly went to the cupboard and took down two small plates. They split what was left and took it to the table.
“Mmmmm, this is good,” Shelly said after a bite.
“Yes, good,” Jules said. “I call Ivan, put on speaker, okay?”
“Sure,” Shelly said.
Jules hit the contact and put the phone on the table, hitting the speaker button.
Ivan picked up. “About time.”
“Sorry, boss, I was otherwise occupied. I’m with Shelly in the kitchen of the groundkeeper’s house. What going on?”
“Oh, with your milkmaid again, huh? Getting anywhere?”
Shelly giggled. “Yes, he got somewhere.”
“Oh, my my,” Ivan said. “Congrats to you both. I’ll be waiting for Wedding invitations.”
“One step at a time,” Shelly said.
Ivan chuckled. “Well, I’m happy for both of you, however serious this is. Now on to business. I have good news. General Hogan’s team has given us the prototype of the apps we were talking about.”
“No, really?” Jules asked. “Why they do that? They finish?”
“Very close. We still have to keep it to leadership team, though, okay?”
“I understand,” Jules said.
“Who’s on the leadership team now?” Ivan asked.
“Sparky, Tex, Ted, and me,” Jules said.
“Want me to leave the room?” Shelly asked.
“Put her on the leadership team,” Ivan said. “Anybody who can put up with you deserves it.”
Jules laughed. Shelly shook her head. “I’ll bet you two are a riot at a party.”
“You’ll find out, when this is over,” Ivan said.
“What next?” Jules asked.
“I send link to each phone. Have Shelly call me so I get her number.”
“Yes, I do,” Jules said, his mouth a little too full of food.
“You guys are eating? Kinda late, isn’t it?”
“There was some left-over peach cobbler,” Shelly said. “Sorry.”
“I’ll bet it was Jules’s idea,” Ivan said. “He always did have a sweet tooth.”
Jules’s phone dinged. “I got link.”
“Good, follow it, download, and install, and I’ll walk you through what it does. Then you can show the others.”
“Downloading now,” Jules said. He took his last bite of cobbler. “This good, wish more left.”
“You have to watch your figure too, you know,” Shelly said.
“Belgians,” Ivan said. “No wonder they’re famous for chocolate.”
“Downloaded. Installing app number one now,” Jules said, watching his screen.
“This is going to make our operations a lot safer, isn’t it?” Shelly asked.
“Yes, it will give us an enormous advantage,” Ivan said. “But we must avoid letting the enemy know about this, at all costs. That’s why we’re keeping it to the leadership team.”
“Does Ji-Ho get this?” Jules asked.
“Yes, he got it earlier today. Same situation. Leadership team only.”
“Can we tell the others that we have it?” Shelly asked.
“Yes, but they can’t have it on their phones. Soon, but not yet.”
“Any word on General Hogan?” Jules asked.
“There’s an operation happening to get him out in a couple days,” Ivan said. “Keep your fingers crossed.”
“I do,” Jules said. “Second app done.”
“Great, then open the first app.”
Jules tapped the tile, and the app opened. “Map show up.”
“If there are enemy fighters within about half a mile, you will get buzzed, and the display will show their location.”
“Wow,” Shelly said.
“Nobody close now,” Jules said.
“Yes, and that’s good,” Ivan said. “This app can be used even where there is no cell coverage. It works peer to peer with the enemy RFID chips.”
“Wow,” Jules said. “They can’t sneak up anymore.”
“That’s right,” Ivan said.
“How do we know this really works?” Shelly asked. “Since nothing will show up?”
“Let’s check the long-range app,” Ivan said. “Load it.”
Jules tapped that app, and it loaded, taking a little longer than the short-range app. “Okay, it up.”
“Expand the map, just like you would do with the normal map application. Go to San Jose.”
Jules did that, and his eyes got wide. “Whoa.”
Shelly got close and looked. “My God, there’s so many that they just look like a blob on the screen.”
“That first target area,” Ivan said. “Mertins Electronics factory. They’ve been making the RFID chips.”
Jules snickered. “Are you kidding? The enemy chips are made in America?”
“You got it,” Ivan said. “One of your Belgian buddies did it.”
“Daan Mertins,” Jules said, a look of disgust on his face. “That man’s whole family has been a disaster for Europe, going back hundreds of years.”
“He’ll get his,” Ivan said. “We’re going in on three sides to hit this factory. Then we move on to another pocket. Move the map towards San Francisco. Make it wider. Expand to show the entire Bay Area.”
“Wow,” Shelly said. “Daly City. Palo Alto. Oakland.”
“Not many in San Francisco,” Jules said.
“Not in the city itself,” Ivan said. “Look at Sacramento. That’s the other big hive of enemy activity.”
Jules moved to that part of the map. “More here than Bay Area. We hit next?”
“Yes,” Ivan said. “Remember focus, though. You don’t try to kill all yourself, you make big show for recruitment. Don’t get killed trying to destroy any single target. Do you understand? We couple with more of my TV appearances. Just like LA Area and Orange County.”
“Yes,” Jules said.
“One other thing,” Ivan said. “There are three locations we know of where women are being held as sex slaves. I think your team is uniquely qualified to liberate them. Do you agree?”
Jules looked at Shelly, who shook her head yes, terror in her eyes.
“Yes, we agree,” Jules said.
“Think about it and get back to me after you’ve talked to the others. The rescue missions will be the most dangerous jobs you will take on.”
“Okay, I discuss, but I think we fine with it.”
“Damn straight,” Shelly said, resolve showing on her face. She put her hand on Jules’s.
“Okay, that’s all I have for tonight. Remember to have Shelly call my phone. Also be ready in the morning to work with team leadership. Take vote on liberation missions. Call me when you’re done. Conference call with the leadership, including Shelly. Got me?”
“Yes, I got,” Jules said. “Thank you.”
“Talk to you soon, old friend.”
The call ended. Jules set his phone on the table and took a deep breath.
“Wow,” Shelly said.
“Look,” Jules said, showing the phone screen to Shelly.
“My God, is that Washington DC?”
“Yes, is,” Jules said. “This why we wait for wide release. Need names of traitors before they can get rid of RFID chips and hide.”
“Can we win this?” Shelly asked.
“Yes, we can win,” Jules said. “Ready to go home?”
“I’m ready,” Shelly said, getting out of her chair. Jules picked up the plates and put them into the sink, and they left the house, heading into the night air, holding hands, fingers intertwined.
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!
Copyright Robert Boren 2017.
“Look, there’s my people,” Kaitlyn said as Seth drove their battle wagon onto the Williams property. “My mom!”
“Oh, great, she’s here!” Seth said, a mixture of relief and nervousness filling him.
“Don’t worry,” Kaitlyn said, watching him. “She’ll like you. Trust me.”
“I’m not worried,” Seth said.
Kaitlyn chuckled. “I can read you like a book, sweetheart. It’s okay.”
“Now we can get married, can’t we?” Seth asked.
“When the rest of the people get here,” Kaitlyn said. “I want Erica here. She’s like my big sister.”
Seth smiled at her. “Okay. Hope they get here soon. I want you to be mine as soon as possible.”
“I’m already yours,” Kaitlyn said. “It’s just a formality.”
“You know men are more sentimental than women,” Seth said, eyes tearing up. “The act of committing to you formally is a real turn on for me.”
“Me too,” she said. “I understand what you’re saying.”
Seth did a K-turn in the coach and parked it, facing towards the exit, other coaches doing the same as they streamed in. Kaitlyn was out the door as soon as Seth shut down the engine, running towards the group of tribal women.
“Mom!” Kaitlyn cried, hugging her tight.
“Kaitlyn, I’ve missed you so much,” her mother said. “So glad you survived. Where’s your man?”
“Probably giving me a few minutes to say hello,” Kaitlyn said. “He’s a good man, mom. I love him so much.”
“Good, I was hoping. Is Megan still with her man?”
“Oh, yeah,” Kaitlyn said. “She’s on fire for Angel.”
“I wish her mother was still with us.”
“I know, mom,” Kaitlyn said. “Here comes Seth now.”
“Wow, he looks so white.”
“Be nice, mom,” Kaitlyn whispered.
“He’s handsome,” she said. “I have no disrespect. I’ve heard he’s a good man.”
“Hi,” Seth said, walking up. “I’m Seth. You must be Kaitlyn’s mom.”
“Anna,” she said, holding out her hand. “Good to meet you, Seth.”
“Likewise,” Seth said. “You raised quite a daughter.”
“She’s something, all right,” Anna said, shooting a grin at Kaitlyn.
“Mom,” Kaitlyn said.
“Oh, don’t take it the wrong way,” Anna said. “You know how much I love you, and how much I’m proud of you.”
“Hi, Anna,” Megan said, walking up with Angel. “This is Angel.”
“Nice to meet you,” he said.
“What a nice-looking couple you make,” Anna said. “Nice to meet you, Angel.”
“I wish my mom was still with us,” Megan said. “I miss her so much.”
“I know, honey,” Anna said. “I miss her too.”
Trevor drove their coach through the gate, following Ji-Ho’s coach. They parked next to each other, close to the house.
Ji-Ho bounded out of his coach, looking right as rain. Kaylee saw him as she came out with Trevor.
“Uncle, you look back to normal.”
“I tell you, that what happens,” Ji-Ho said. “I feel well for while, but have problems again later. Bad times come more often, but in-between still good.”
“Hey, honey, I’m going to see if I can fix the M19 turret,” Trevor said. “See you in a little while.”
“You’re climbing on top of that thing?” Kaylee asked.
“Yeah,” he said, heading for the ladder on the back. “Oops, better take my toolbox up there.” He went into the storage compartment and grabbed a small metal toolbox, then went up the ladder with it and walked up to the front turret.
“What’s he doing?” Seth asked as Kaylee walked over.
“Our M19 turret got hit in the battle,” she said. “He’s trying to fix it.”
“He’ll figure it out, I suspect,” Seth said. “This is Anna, Kaitlyn’s mom. Anna, this is Kaylee.”
“Nice to meet you, Kaylee,” Anna said. “You’re Ji-Ho’s daughter?”
“Niece,” Kaylee said. “Nice to meet you.”
“Yes!” Trevor said from on top of the coach.
“You fixed it?” Kaylee asked, walking towards the coach.
“I got to see this,” Seth said, walking in that direction. Kaitlyn joined him, taking his hand as they walked.
“What was it?” Kaylee asked, looking up at him from below.
“Bullet got stuck in the turret. It didn’t damage anything. Just a lucky shot.” He tossed the bullet down, Kaylee catching it and looking it over. She handed it to Seth.
“Wow,” Seth said. “This was a big slug.”
“I’m going inside to test, to make sure it’s working,” Trevor said. He put his tools back into the tool box and headed for the ladder. Kaylee went back there and watched him climb down.
“I’m going back over to my mom,” Kaitlyn said. Seth joined her. Ji-Ho was there, chatting with her.
“I see you’ve met,” Kaitlyn said.
“Yes,” Anna said. “He’s invited us to move into the house.”
“Good, it’s comfortable, and there’s plenty of beds,” Seth said.
“Yes, it’ll be nice for you, after being on the trail,” Kaitlyn said.
Ji-Ho’s phone rang. “Excuse me. Boss call, I must answer. Pick room upstairs in house. Settle in. Rest.”
“Thanks so much, Ji-Ho,” Anna said.
“Want me to show you around inside?” Kaitlyn asked.
“No, you don’t have to. I’ll check it out. You spend time with your man. I know it’s been crazy for you two.”
Kaitlyn nodded, and watched as her mom followed Ji-Ho onto the veranda and into the house.
“I think Ji-Ho kinda likes her,” Seth said.
“Yeah, I picked up on that too, but we know what his situation is,” Kaitlyn said. “C’mon, let’s go back to our coach and relax for a while.”
“Sounds good,” Seth said. “I didn’t mean that there was any romance there. Ji-Ho is married, even if he wasn’t so ill.”
“Oh, I know,” Kaitlyn said. “My mom’s worked as a nurse. I suspect she’ll be helpful to him as his disease gets worse.”
“She doesn’t have to do that,” Seth said.
“I know, but she will, and it’ll make her happy to serve,” Kaitlyn said. “Trust me on that.”
Karen and Tex walked away from the barn.
“You know what they were doing, don’t you?” Karen asked, her face still red.
“Enjoying each other,” Tex said. “Good for them.”
“She said I should make you happy,” Karen said.
“You are, just by being here with me,” Tex said.
“But you want more,” she said. “Don’t you?”
“We’ve already been over this,” Tex said. “When you’re ready. You’ve told me that you might be falling for me. That has me walking on cloud nine, you know.”
“I didn’t say might,” Karen said. “I said I was falling for you.”
“Oh,” Tex said. “Yes, I remember.”
“Good,” Karen said. “I wasn’t kidding.”
Tex looked at her for a moment, watching her red hair blow in the breeze, her eyes squinting slightly in the late afternoon sunshine. “You are so beautiful.”
“Oh, please,” she said. “I’m a mess. My hair is a tangle of split ends, and I haven’t had any moisturizer on my face for a month. And then there are the scars and bruises.”
“You think I care about any of that stuff?”
She sighed. “I guess I should just accept it and be grateful.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
Karen stopped and pulled Tex into her arms. “I know, honey. This is my stuff that I’m working through. I’m trying to feel like a desirable woman again. That can’t come from you. It has to come from inside me.”
“Okay,” Tex said, his arms around her waist. “I get it.”
“Good,” she said. “You hungry? I smell food at the house.”
“I could eat,” Tex said. They walked to the house together. Dana was just entering with Sparky.
“Is Jules still searching for Shelly?” she asked.
“They found each other,” Karen said. “They’ll be along in a little while.”
“Is it okay?” Sparky asked.
“I’d say so, partner,” Tex said.
“You mean she’s finally giving in?” Dana asked. “It’s easy to see how much she likes him.”
“I’ll let them talk about that,” Tex said.
“Smart,” Sparky said. “Let’s talk about something serious.”
Dana elbowed him, and everybody chuckled.
“Sorry,” Sparky said. “Didn’t mean that the way it came out. I want to know when the next mission starts. All the coaches are done as of earlier today.”
“Jules is supposed to get that info from Ivan,” Tex said. “I’m expecting tomorrow, though, just between us.”
“That soon, huh?” Dana asked.
“Yeah, I wish we had a few more days to relax,” Karen said. “This has been nice.”
“It has,” Dana said. “I don’t want to give up our privacy. We’ll be back to sharing our coach with the kids when we get on the road.”
Sparky shot her an embarrassed glance.
“What, did I embarrass you?” Dana asked. “Sorry. Don’t take it the wrong way. I just enjoy being with you, that’s all. I know you don’t want to be pressured.”
“We should talk about this alone,” Sparky said.
“Oh,” Dana said. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Karen and Tex shot each other a glance.
“Let’s go eat, and then maybe rest up for a while,” Karen said.
“Sounds good, little lady,” Tex said. He took her hand and they went inside.
“Holding my hand in front of the others?” Karen grinned at him. “You sure that’s a good idea?”
“I don’t care,” Tex said. “Do you?”
“No,” she said. “Fun to tease you about it, though.”
“Yeah, I figured. That smells good. Looks like brisket.”
“I’ll eat anything at this point,” Karen said. “I’m just happy to be here.”
“You are? Even though we’ve got battles coming?”
“You know what I’ve been through,” Karen said. “I never properly thanked you for rescuing me, you know.”
“Yes you have, and not another word about it,” Tex said. “Really.”
She shook her head yes, then reached up to his face and kissed him tenderly on the cheek. “I’ll always remember,” she whispered. “No matter what happens between us.”
Tears started forming in Tex’s eyes. He just nodded at her, and they got in line for the food. When their plates were full, they sat at a table with Ted and Haley. Sparky and Dana walked over. Robbie and Morgan were at the next table, chatting with Gil and Tisha.
“We still going after the target tomorrow?” Robbie asked.
“Don’t know yet,” Sparky said. “That’ll be up to Jules and Ivan. The coaches are all done, at least.”
“Yeah, and they’re impressive, too,” Morgan said.
“I’ll say,” Gil said. Tisha was sitting close, hand resting on his thigh as they picked through the remainder of their food.
“Aren’t you nervous?” Dana asked Sparky. He finished his mouthful of food and looked over at her.
“I’m nervous, but I’m also anxious to get it over with,” Sparky said.
“Yeah, me too,” Ted said. “Too much sitting around before a big battle isn’t good.”
“Where’s Stacey been hiding?” Robbie asked.
Haley snickered. “He’s been attached at the hip with Brianna constantly.”
“Lot of that going around,” Gil said, glancing at Tisha. She smiled at him.
They all focused on eating for a while.
“You about done, Tex?” Karen asked.
“I am,” Tex said. “You in a hurry?”
“I’m tired,” she said. “I don’t want to go back alone. Is that a problem?”
“Not at all,” Tex said. He got up and helped her out of her seat. They picked up their plates and silverware, taking them to the kitchen.
“That was good,” Karen said as they left the house. “I’m glad we’re alone again.”
“Me too,” Tex said, his arm going around her waist as they walked to the coach.
“Home sweet home,” Karen said, climbing the steps. Tex followed her up and shut the door behind them.
“It is our home, isn’t it?” Tex asked. He sat down on the couch and pulled off his boots, then grabbed the TV remote and switched it on.
“You want to watch TV?”
“No, I just want to sit a spell with some background noise,” he said. “I’m tired.”
“We should rest in the bedroom,” Karen said.
“The way I’m feeling right now, it might not be a good idea,” Tex said. “I’m pretty mushy.”
She chuckled. “Okay, do what you want. I’m going to change.” She walked into the bedroom. Tex watched her until she disappeared, and didn’t look away for a couple minutes, feeling the warmth of his feelings for her.
“My God, how I love that woman,” Tex muttered to himself.
“What was that?” Karen asked, standing in the bedroom doorway naked. Tex’s eyes got wide as he took her in. “Get in here, Tex.”
He got up, slipping and losing his balance, almost falling. Karen giggled.
“You’ve got me wound up like a sidewinder,” Tex said. He took her into his arms and kissed her deeply, his hands all over her bare back. She broke the kiss.
“I think we need a nap,” Karen said. “I want you close to me.” She pulled back the covers and got into bed. “Get in here.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“We’ll see,” Karen said. “First I just want to sleep. If something develops after we wake up, we’ll just have to deal with it.”
Erica and Sam made it to Highway 94 just before sundown. The Jeeps were shuttling groups of people to the Williams place now, and nearly half of the tribe was already there.
“Well, looks like we’re going to make it,” Sam said.
“So it would appear,” Erica said. “We live to fight another day.”
“Look, here comes a couple of trucks,” Sam said. Tyler jumped out of the cab of the first one. “Load up, folks. We’ve got more trucks coming too, and hot food waiting at the base.”
People started climbing up onto the beds of the first two trucks as more trucks arrived. Ed’s Hovercraft drove up.
“You guys want a ride?” Ed asked.
“Sure,” Erica said.
“You can get us all the way there in this?” Sam asked.
“Yep, alongside the road. We won’t go as fast as the trucks do, but I can get you there in about twenty minutes.”
“Sounds good to me,” Erica said.
“Me too,” Sam said. They climbed on and Ed took off, as several more trucks arrived.
“We’ll all be at the Williams place within the hour,” Ed said.
“You look surprised,” Erica said, speaking loudly to get over the sound of the propellers.
“I’m not surprised, but I am relieved,” Ed said. “This has been a good day for our tribe. A very good day.”
They cruised along, moving as the flat ground did, sometimes in sight of the road, sometimes not.
“Maybe we should be mounting guns on these,” Erica said.
“Too heavy,” Ed said. “About the best we could do is ride-alongs with weapons. Oh, and by the way, the M60 is still in the back.”
“Expecting problems?” Sam asked.
Ed glanced back at Sam. “No, I think we took the wind out of their sails for a few days, but they’ll regroup and hit us.”
“I think you’re right,” Sam said.
“As long as they give us a day or two,” Erica said. “That’s all I ask now. Oh, and a warm place to sleep for a night or two would be nice.”
Ed chuckled. “You’ll get that, I’m sure. They’ll probably give you one of those crazy battle wagons.”
“Not sure I want one,” Sam said.
“They have beds in them, and heaters, right?” Erica asked.
Sam and Ed chuckled.
“I can see where this is going,” Ed said.
“Yep,” Sam said. “Not that I have a problem with it.”
Ed drove, the smile fading, his brow furrowed, worry in his eyes.
“You think we’re still in trouble, don’t you?” Erica asked.
“This war isn’t over, and we’re fighting people with no respect for life or civilization.”
“Or common decency,” Sam said.
“We can win, though, can’t we?” Erica asked. “We have to win.”
“Yes, we have to win,” Ed said. “I think the citizens will win. I hope we live to see it. We’ve hurt the enemy badly. They’ll target us for it.”
“They might,” Sam said. “Especially the man running things.”
“Saladin?” Ed asked. “I read about him.”
“He holds a grudge, and gets revenge,” Sam said. “He’s an evil man.”
“You two are scaring me,” Erica said.
“Don’t say that in front of anybody but your man,” Ed said. “You are one of our greatest warriors. You can be scared, but you can’t admit that you’re scared.”
“He’s right,” Sam said. “Your tribe needs people to look up to and trust. People who give them hope. That’s you, and Tyler, and James, and Ryan, and Zac.”
“I understand,” Erica said. “Same with Kaitlyn and this boy Trevor you’ve been talking about, and, of course, you. We’re joined now. We’re brothers in arms. Hell, Garrett and his men have earned that as well. We’d be dead now if not for them.”
“Yes,” Ed said. “These people inspire others to be better. They inspire bravery and hope.”
“There’s the road again,” Erica said as they approached. “Look, three truckloads of our people just went by.”
“And three more empty trucks are going back for another load,” Sam said. “We’re almost home. I recognize this stretch of road.”
“Good,” Erica said. “You’ve got something on your mind. I can see it on your face.”
“My mind is just expanding on what we were talking about,” Sam said. “Ivan. He seems crazy. He’s got a horrible background. He’s the last person anybody should follow in so many ways, but he put his finger on the key to taking our country back.”
“What?” Erica asked.
“Inspire others,” Sam said. “That’s what he put Ji-Ho out there for. That’s what his other groups are doing. Inspiring others. Making them understand that the citizens still own this country, and the citizens can take it back.”
“Yes, this is true,” Ed said.
“There’s our driveway,” Sam said, pointing.
“Guess I’ve got to cross some blacktop,” Ed said, looking both ways and then shooting across, onto the small access road that led to the front gate.
“Well, I don’t see any smoke,” Erica said. “Probably a good sign.”
They drove into the front gate and pulled up to the house.
Ji-Ho, Garrett, and Sid got off their chairs on the veranda, rushing down the steps to greet them as they climbed out of the hovercraft.
“Sam,” Sid said. “You’re back.”
“Nice to see,” Ji-Ho said. “This Erica? Lovely.”
“Hi,” Erica said.
“And the great Silver Wolf,” Ji-Ho said, holding out his hand to shake.
“You can call me Ed,” he said, “and I’ve heard a lot about you too. It’s an honor to meet you.”
Ji-Ho smiled. “Dinner ready soon. Come, let’s go into house and chat. I have news.”
They went into the house and sat down on the living room couches.
“Hope this isn’t bad news,” Sam said.
“No, it special gift from Ivan, but we have to keep it close to vest. Leadership people only.”
“I’m not leadership,” Erica said.
“Yes, you are,” Ji-Ho said. He pulled out his cellphone, tapped and slid his fingers around, then turned it towards the others. “Gather close, please.”
“What is that?” Sam asked. “What are those icons?”
“Those enemy fighters,” Ji-Ho said.
“This is the app that reads the enemy RFID chips,” Sam said. “How did Ivan get this?”
“Passed on in limited way from General Hogan team,” Ji-Ho said. “Ivan give capability to all leadership, but not to troops yet. We can talk about, but we can’t give others capability.”
“Wait, this lets us see the enemy?” Ed asked. “Anywhere?”
“Short range and long range app. Here, I show how work, then we side-load phones.”
“Wait, how safe are we right now?” Erica asked, shooting a glance at Sam.
“Here, I show,” Ji-Ho said, loading the long-range app. “Here next target. See icons near El Cajon?”
“My God, how many is that?” Erica asked.
“More than thousand.”
“There’s still some nearby,” Erica said.
“Those dead fighters not burned up,” Ji-Ho said. He moved his finger on the screen. “Here dead Islamists on trail.”
“There’s no other group of enemy fighters closer than El Cajon,” Sam said, smiling. “We have breathing room.”
“And we get warning from short range app if they approach,” Ji-Ho said.
“Wow,” Sam said.
“Job change somewhat,” Ji-Ho said. “We start recruitment along with demonstration attacks in El Cajon. Start people fighting, like LA County and Orange County. Turn from strategic hit to big show. Rally people.”
Ed smiled, and sat down on the couch. “We’re going to win.”
“Yes, we win,” Ji-Ho said.
“Yes, we’ll win all right,” Sam said. “We were always going to win, even without this new tool, but it will be a very bloody affair. Saladin will see to that.”
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!
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
Sid was at the mortars with several warriors, directing fire, when he saw a group of Islamists rushing by, not noticing their position.
“Hey, look,” Sid whispered, grabbing his BAR. He took off running behind them, firing, killing all but two of the enemy fighters. Zac left the mortar and rushed behind him with his AK-47.
“Get back on that mortar,” Sid said. “I’ll get this. I’ve got Yvonne and a few others up on the side of that hill there. I’ll make sure I force them in that direction.”
“Okay,” Zac said, rushing back.
Sid felt the hackles on the back of his neck rise, and looked for cover. A group of about twenty Islamists rushed by. The two who survived the first volley slipped out and pointed in Sid’s direction. They turned, rushing towards him, and he opened fire, spewing 30-06 rounds at them, taking out about half, the others fleeing for their lives, right into the kill zone under Yvonne and the others. They opened fire, killing all of them. Then another group rushed in, larger this time, Sid watching until they got in a good position, then opening fire again with the BAR, sending them rushing to the same place the others met their doom. Yvonne’s group fired, killing most, the others rushing past to where the tribe was, running into more warriors who shot them.
Sid’s heart was pounding in his chest. He struggled to reload the BAR as another group rushed through, not getting ready fast enough, Yvonne’s group trying to hit them, only getting about half. Then another group came in. Sid was loaded and fired, hitting about a quarter of them, some continuing on, others turning and heading towards Sid. They saw the mortar team and fired, killing several warriors, Zac getting under cover just in time, returning fire from his AK-47 as Sid joined in. As Sid was pointed in that direction, another group came in, rushing past Yvonne’s team, losing a few men, but continuing, attacking the tribe.
“Dammit,” Sid said, heart hammering in his chest as he got up and ran towards the tribe, firing on the Islamists, then diving into cover as they turned and fired back. “We’re gonna lose.”
Suddenly there was a multitude of guns going off, and the pounding of horse’s hoofs. The smell of black powder floated towards him, and he smiled, getting up again to join the battle. Garrett’s men flooded in from three directions, firing their Winchesters and Colt revolvers, causing the Islamists to panic and retreat. They raced back into the kill zone where Sam and the others were, right into a volley of fire from the M60 and BARs. Sid saw nearly a hundred mounted men following them and sent a text to Sam to hold fire. The gunfire intensified all around them, as Garrett’s men chased down the Islamists, some of the mounted men going to swords, killing Islamists with frightening speed. Then the gunfire subsided to occasional shots as hiding Islamists were discovered and shot.
Yvonne rushed down the hill and leapt into Sid’s arms. “We won, honey.”
“Yeah, we did, but I was getting pretty damn scared for a while there.”
“You and me both,” Yvonne said. “Lose anybody?”
“Yeah, about half the warriors on the mortar team.”
“Zac’s okay, isn’t he?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Zac said, walking over. “We lost too many good warriors, though. If those cowboys wouldn’t have shown up, we’d be dead.”
“True that,” Sid said.
Sam and Erica came down the hill with the others, tired but happy.
“Wow,” Erica said. “That was intense.”
“Tell me about it,” Yvonne said. “You must be Erica.”
“I am. Are you Yvonne?”
“Yes,” Yvonne said, shaking her hand. “Lose anybody up on the ridge?”
“Nope,” Erica said. “It was getting pretty scary, though. We couldn’t hold them all.”
“We killed a lot, though,” James said.
“Yep,” Tyler said. “Wonder what’s going on in Dulzura?”
“Last I heard from Ji-Ho, the battle wagons were joining about four hundred of Garrett’s men to take on the three hundred Islamists that are hiding out at an abandoned church retreat,” Sid said. “At the Y between Highway 94 and Marron Valley Road.”
“I know where that is,” Sam said. “They better be careful. Lot of cover there for the enemy. Not a lot of room to maneuver in those battle wagons.”
“Garrett’s men will win it, I suspect,” Sid said. “We need to get back on the road.”
“Want us to go back with you in one of the Jeeps to help?” Sam asked.
“No,” Sid said. “Stay with the tribe. We don’t know if this was the last of the Islamists. There may be more behind this group.”
“He’s right, honey,” Erica said.
“Honey?” Sid asked. Yvonne elbowed him. Sam just grinned.
Ed cruised up in his hovercraft. “You guys okay?”
“We lost a bunch of the mortar team,” Zac said, his brow furrowed.
“We lost a few warriors further up, too,” Ed said. “We’d better get back on the trail. Sam, could you and Erica continue to guard the back door?”
“Yeah,” Sam said. “No problem.”
Two of Garrett’s men rode up.
“Thanks, guys,” Sam said. “You saved our butts. Big time.”
“No problem,” the first man said. “We’re going to follow the trail back to see if there’s any more coming, for at least twenty miles. Then we’ll come back this direction and protect you the rest of the way. That sound okay?”
“That sounds perfect,” Ed said. “We are forever in your debt.”
“We all do our part, sir,” the man said. He tipped his hat and they rode back towards the north.
“We made the right decision teaming with them,” Erica said.
“That’s for sure,” Tyler said. “Seen them in action several times. Those guys are amazing.”
Ted and Sparky were walking around the back section of the winery in the late afternoon sun.
“How’s it going between you and Dana?” Tex asked. “She keeping you interested?”
Sparky chuckled. “I made a deal with the winery team to use the house, even after the coach was finished. She’s a wildcat in bed.”
“Looks like you have mixed emotions, partner,” Tex said.
“She’s trying too hard,” Sparky said. “She’s afraid of losing me.”
“Should she be afraid?”
Sparky was quiet for a moment. “She’d do better if she didn’t try so hard. I am getting to like her, but I don’t want to end up with an overly clingy woman. Been there, done that.”
“She’s a looker,” Tex said.
“Well, yeah, she is, but there wasn’t one woman we rescued who wasn’t. That’s why they were taken in the first place.’
“True,” Tex said. “Here comes Ted.”
The two men smiled as he walked up.
“What’s up, guys?” Ted asked.
“Just talking about life and love, partner,” Tex said. “Speaking of that, how’s it going with Haley?”
“We’re just friends, for now,” Ted said. “We like each other a lot, though. Something might develop over time.”
“You sleeping in the same bed?” Sparky asked.
“That’s a pretty personal question,” Ted said. “No, I’m on the couch convertible. She’s short enough to handle the dinette bed. We gave the bedroom to the kids.”
“Oh, that’s right. Stacey and Brianna are with you,” Sparky said.
“How’s that going?” Tex said. “Brianna is pretty hot. Maybe too hot for Stacey.”
“Be nice, Stacey is a good solid man. Trust me.”
“I know, Ted,” Tex said. “Just messing. They have a hot romance going?”
“You two are like women,” Ted said, shaking his head. “Yes, they seem to be bonded pretty tight. He worships her, and she’s more than willing. That’s pretty obvious. They’re young, though, and Stacey’s a little immature for his age.”
“Well good for them,” Tex said. Hope it works out the way they both want.”
“You had the more interesting situation, Tex,” Sparky said.
“Yeah,” Ted said.
“Wait, I thought you said we were like women,” Tex said.
Ted and Sparky chuckled.
“C’mon, I told you about Dana,” Sparky said. “Probably more than I should’ve said.”
“And me too, dammit,” Ted said. “Fess up.”
Tex looked at them, face turning red, eyes glassy.
“Crap, man, you’re in love with this girl, aren’t you?” Sparky asked. “Don’t get hurt, man. She’s more than a little flighty, from what I can tell. Remember that thing with Gil?”
“Tex, always the romantic,” Ted said.
“Cut it out, guys,” Tex said, half a smile on his face.
“Forget it,” Ted said. “Sorry.”
Tex was quiet for a moment as they walked along, then looked at them. “Okay, I love her. Is that what you want to hear?”
“I think we both figured that out a second ago,” Ted said. “How does she feel?”
“She’s moving in my direction,” he said. “I know she’s not ready yet, so I’m not pressuring her. Not even a little bit.”
“That’s unusual,” Sparky said, smirking at him
“Shut up, partner,” Tex said sheepishly.
“Well, she is a beautiful girl, especially if you like redheads,” Sparky said, “and like most redheads, she’s going to be the highest of high maintenance.”
“That’s a wives’ tale, man,” Ted said. “One of the best girlfriends I ever had was a redhead, and she wasn’t like that. Not at all.”
“I like high maintenance women,” Tex said.
“What, are you crazy?” Sparky asked.
“Hell no,” Tex said. “When I’m in love with a woman I put her on a pedestal and worship her. You know that. Keeping her happy is a big turn-on for me.”
“That’s why I told you not to get hurt,” Sparky said.
“I don’t think I’m going to get hurt with this one,” Tex said.
“Have you two been intimate yet?” Ted asked.
“Wait, you just called out Sparky for being too personal,” Tex said.
“So sue me,” Ted said. “Answer the question.”
“Not yet,” Tex said.
“Then how do you know she’s moving in your direction?” Sparky asked.
“She offered herself to me,” Tex said. “That had better not get out. Don’t tell your women.”
“I don’t have a woman,” Ted said.
“Uh huh,” Tex said, “but really, guys, don’t say anything. Please?”
“Your secret is safe with me,” Sparky said.
“Me too,” Ted said. “If she offered, you must have turned her down.”
“She did it out of gratitude,” Tex said. “I can tell she’s not ready.”
“You’re a good man, Tex,” Sparky said. “Hope she deserves you.”
“I hope I deserve her,” Tex said, “but thanks.”
“Speak of the devil,” Sparky said softly, nodding to the left. Karen was walking towards them quickly.
“Uh oh, she looks upset,” Tex said. “Talk to you guys later.” He rushed over to her.
“What’s wrong, little lady?” he asked.
“Oh, Tex, I feel so bad,” Karen said, hugging him, crying.
“Shelly. She’s mad. Really mad. Now nobody can find her. Jules is going crazy over it.”
“Why?” he asked, pulling away to look at her face, wiping her tears away with his fingers.
“They were on a call with Ivan earlier, and he spilled the beans about Jules’s family business.”
“That should make her happy,” Tex said. “Now she knows he’s not a mobster.”
“She’s not taking it that way.”
“How’s she taking it?” Tex asked.
“She’s taking it as dishonesty,” Karen said, “and when she talked to me about it, she figured out that I knew. I had to admit it. Now she’s mad at me too.”
“Oh, geez,” Tex said. He was silent for a moment, and then looked at her with a sly smile. “You know what this means, right?”
“She’s already in love with him,” Tex said. “Otherwise why would she care?”
Karen thought through it for a moment. “You might be right.” She backed away from him, breaking their embrace.
“Oh, sorry,” Tex said.
“Sorry about what?”
“Holding you too long,” Tex said. “It’s not my place.”
Karen looked up at him, eyes tearing, and hugged him, getting onto her tiptoes and kissing him. They both moaned as the passion took them.
“Oh, God,” Karen said when they broke, her breath coming fast.
“What happened?” Tex asked, still reeling from the kiss.
“I’m falling for you,” she said. “It’s like I’m seeing you for the first time. It’s never hit me like this before.”
“Maybe it’s just the worry,” Tex said softly.
She kissed him again, more passionately, then broke it, looking into his eyes. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Let’s just give it a little time,” Tex said. “To make sure.”
She smiled at him. “If Shelly wasn’t missing I’d drag you back to our coach right now. We need to help find her. You okay with that?”
“Of course,” Tex said. “Where was she headed last time you saw her?”
“Out into the big field behind the house, but that was a few hours ago.”
“Let’s go in that direction, then,” Tex said. “Do you know where Jules is?”
“Searching for her,” Karen said. They started walking, Karen taking his hand.
“Nervous?” Kaylee asked, looking at Trevor as he drove the battle wagon.
“Of course,” Trevor said. “We’re going into battle, and I think I’m more comfortable running around with my Winchester than I am driving a big tank.”
“Maybe this is a little safer,” she said.
“I trust my own ability more than machinery,” Trevor said. “If we get into a bad position, I’ll want to get out of this thing, where I can fight.”
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” Kaylee said. “We’re almost to the Y. Go to Marron Valley Road on the right. It’s a little way after we get to Freezer Road.”
“Freezer Road, huh?” Trevor asked. “Wonder why they named it that?”
“Good question. Hope Garrett’s men are close by.”
Both of their phones dinged.
“Another broadcast text,” Trevor said.
“I’ll check it, you keep your hands on the wheel.”
“Okay,” Trevor said.
“We defeated the enemy on the trail,” Kaylee said, smiling. “Very few people killed or wounded.”
“Good. Does it say how soon they’ll be back to Dulzura?”
“Tomorrow, mid-day,” Kaylee said. “Some of them will be back faster. They’re putting as many people on vehicles as they can. Probably moving the very old and the very young that way, so the rest of the tribe can speed up.”
“So, it’s one down, one to go.”
“Sounds like it,” Kaylee said. “What’s that ahead?”
“UN Roadblock? Get on the forward guns.”
“You sure? Who’s behind us?”
“Seth and Kaitlyn,” Trevor said.
“My uncle is back a ways, right? He’s not in as safe a vehicle.”
“He’s second from the end,” Trevor said. “The one at the end has some of Garrett’s people in it.”
“Good.” Kaylee reached down for the tray and pulled it forward, using the target reticle. “Now?”
“Now,” Trevor said.
Kaylee pulled the trigger as Trevor raised the turret for the M19.
“Gaz Tigr,” Kaylee said. “See it, coming up from the shoulder.”
Several loud shots came out of the turret, and the Gaz Tigr blew up.
“Stay on those guys up front. I’m gonna raise the mini gun.”
“Remember what the tech said,” Kaylee said. “Don’t use both at the same time.”
“I know,” Trevor said. “Hit those guys fleeing to the side.”
“Got them,” Kaylee said, following them with the target reticle and pulling the trigger, mowing them down. They breezed past the roadblock, and then heard bullets hitting the armor plate behind the engine.
“Knew it,” Trevor said.
“Should we hit them? Not sure I can with the rear machine guns. They’re too far off the road.”
“No, they’ll get hit by the other coaches,” Trevor said. Just at that moment they heard a mini-gun fire up. “Seth. He plastered them all over the trees back there. I can see it in my mirror.”
“Good,” Kaylee said. “There’s a nest over there, see it?”
Trevor nodded and fired the M19, several grenades hitting the makeshift structure a few miles off the road, blowing up the ammo inside, the whole area exploding into flames. Kaylee hit running Islamists and UN peacekeepers with the forward machine guns.
Hear that?” Kaylee asked. “There’s action on Highway 94, too.”
“Yeah,” Trevor said. “I hope Angel and Megan are careful. They’re on that side.”
“There’s the compound,” Kaylee said. “See it?”
“That’s a lot of enemy fighters,” Trevor said, taking aim with the mini gun and firing short bursts, ruining their cover. Then the next coach hit the area with several M19 shots, blowing up what was left of the structures.
“These grenade launchers work pretty well,” Kaylee said.
“Yeah, they do,” Trevor said. “They’re kinda fun to shoot, too.” He shot several times at the first building, sending grenades right through the front windows, causing intense explosions inside. Islamists and UN Peacekeepers flooded out of the building, most of them being picked off by Seth and the other coaches behind them.
“I’m going to park by the last building and set up siege mode,” Trevor said. “It’ll block the escape route. See it?”
“Yeah, I see it,” she said. “We need to save the big stuff for the Gaz Tigrs.”
Automatic fire hit them broadside, bouncing off the armor.
“Oh, you want to play, huh?” Trevor asked, firing off the M19 several times, taking out the machine gun emplacement. “They dug in.”
“You know what’s important, right?” Kaylee asked. “Take out anything that’s going to kill a lot of Garrett’s cavalry.”
“You’re right,” Trevor said. “Machine gun nests and vehicles.”
“Speaking of vehicles, look off to the right,” Kaylee said.
“I see them,” Trevor said, firing the M19 at two Gaz Tigrs, Seth and the others behind them joining in, blowing the vehicles sky high.
“We’ve got to keep our eyes peeled for those things,” Kaylee said.
“Seriously,” Trevor said. “A shot in a bad place from one of those will end us quick.”
There was a loud explosion on the Highway 94 side, then mini gun fire.
“We’re engaging something over there,” Kaylee said. “Can’t quite see it.”
“We’ll be past the trees when we get to our parking spot,” Trevor said. “Right about now.” He stopped the coach and flipped the switches for siege mode, then fired several grenades at the back of a machine gun nest and a Gaz Tigr next to it, hitting them both, exploding them into flames.
“Wow, that grenade launcher has some range,” Kaylee said.
“Yep. Look, we’ve got a whole bunch of troops running towards us. Maybe we ought to use the M60s out the gun slits.”
“On it,” Kaylee said, “Keep your eyes peeled and your fingers on the trigger for anything big.”
“You got it,” Trevor said. “Gaz Tigr, coming straight at us.” He fired the M19 before it could take a shot, disabling it but not blowing it up until the second grenade hit them.
Kaylee got the M60 aimed and fired when the rushing Islamists were only about twenty yards from the vehicle. One of them had a Molotov Cocktail in his hand, which exploded over the area, starting a good fire in the dried leaves and pine needles around that side of the neglected property.
“Whoa,” Trevor said. “We got some help from mother nature on that shot.”
“Seriously,” Kaylee said. “That fire might spread too quickly. We might need to get away from here.”
Two Gaz Tigrs were caught in the flames, and attempted to drive through them, both catching on fire and blowing up before they could get to the road. The fire started to spread to the building near where they were parked, and Islamists flooded out in a panic, only to be cut down by machine gun fire from Highway 94 and Marron Valley Road, Kaylee joining in with the M60.
“Crap, here comes several more Gaz Tigrs,” Trevor said, firing the M19 at them, hitting one, missing the second. It opened fire, a round hitting the M19 turret. “Dammit, they just took out the grenade launcher.”
“Hit it with the mini gun!” Kaylee said, the gun starting before she could finish the sentence, the Gaz Tigr stopping, exploding after a couple seconds.
“This is bad,” Trevor said.
“Maybe we should pull away,” Kaylee shouted. “The fire’s getting too close anyway.”
“Here come more,” Trevor shouted, firing the mini gun, ruining both vehicles. “We need to move out of the way so Seth and the others can take them on. Trevor fired up the coach, taking it out of siege mode and driving forward, hitting two more Gaz Tigrs as they rolled.
“Text Seth, and tell him that our M19 is out of commission. I’ll find another place for us to be.”
“You got it,” Kaylee said, sending the text. Then there was a massive boom behind them.
“Crap, what the hell was that?” Trevor cried. “Hope it wasn’t Seth’s rig.”
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!
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
Karen entered the yellow coach.
“Tex?” she asked quietly. As she approached the bedroom door, she could hear him breathing, fast asleep. She slid the door open quietly, looking around in the bedroom, waiting for the flash back of Lily to hit her. Nothing. She sighed, relieved, then slipped inside, stripping and climbing into bed carefully. Tex stirred, rolled over to face her, and settled back into sleep. Karen glanced over at him and found his peaceful expression calming. She turned onto her back and looked at the ceiling, with its mini gun structure hanging down. How did I get here?
Tex stirred again, moving closer to her, hand going over her stomach, making her jump. His eyes opened slightly. “Oh, sorry,” he muttered, pulling his hand back. She grabbed it and put it back on her belly, petting it tenderly, a warm feeling almost overpowering her. In seconds he was back to his light snore, and she felt herself starting to drift away. For a split second the peppermint smell rushed back into her head. She shuddered, waking Tex.
“Hey, you okay, little lady?” he asked sleepily, not realizing that his hand was resting on her, or that she held it.
“I’m fine,” she whispered. “I started to slip back into that dream, but I came out of it.”
“Want me to go out into the salon?” he asked, pulling his hand back.
“No, I want you to stay right here,” she said, taking his hand again. “Please?”
“Sure, honey,” he said softly, his hand caressing her slightly. She trembled, turning towards him, pulling his arm back over herself, moving tight against him, not caring that her breasts were resting against his hairy chest.
“Can I trust you?” she whispered. “Really?”
“Yes,” he said, his hand moving on her back now, pulling her closer. Her leg went over his hip, entangling them.
“I feel safe,” she said. “I’m not bothering you too much, am I?”
“No,” he said. “I’ll hold you all night if it helps.”
“I know,” she said, checking herself, trying to bring on the bad thoughts. They weren’t there. She started to cry softly.
“Is this bothering you?”
“No, dummy,” she said. “It’s helping me. Just hold me. Okay?”
“Okay,” he said softly, settling in, trying to keep his libido under control. It was a struggle. Everything that filled his hopes and dreams was in his arms at that moment. The last thing he wanted to do was blow it now.
“This is hard for you,” she whispered. “I can feel it. I can feel you.”
“Sorry,” he said. “I’ll move away. He started to back off, but she pulled him back tighter.
“No, stay,” she said, opening her eyes, meeting his. “We can, if you want. I’ll let you.”
“No,” Tex said. “You don’t want to. I’ll settle down after a few minutes. I promise.”
“But you want it,” she whispered. “I’ll get into it once we start.”
“No, I’m fine,” Tex said.
“It’s okay, really,” she said, moving her hand on his side.
“I need to know that you’re ready, and I’m not getting that from you,” he said.
“What are you getting?”
“Fear and guilt,” he whispered.
“I’ll battle that for the rest of my life,” she said. “It’s okay. I know you want it.”
“You don’t get me, do you?”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“I don’t want it, I want you. I can wait until you’re ready. No, I have to wait until you’re ready.”
“What, until I love you?” she asked. “You keep this up and it’ll happen.”
“That’s what I want more than anything,” he said, “but that can’t be rushed, especially after what you’ve been through.”
“Do you love me?” she asked.
“I don’t think I should tell you that,” he said.
“You might feel pressure. You might get overwhelmed.”
“I don’t care,” she said. “Tell me anyway. Then we can go to sleep.”
He chuckled. “That would keep you awake, trust me.”
“No, it wouldn’t,” she said. “It’ll force out the bad, either way. If you don’t love me now, you will soon. I can tell.”
Tex sighed. “All right, all right.” He laid there silently for a moment.
“Yes, I love you,” he said, feeling his eyes tear up. She saw them glisten in the low light of their bedroom, and started to cry.
“See, I told you,” Tex said.
“I’m happy, dummy,” she said, pulling him closer. “Now hold me. Make me know that it’s going to be okay.”
They fell asleep in each other’s arms.
Sid rushed over to the veranda. Garret was there with Ji-Ho, John, Sarah, Yvonne, and Clem. Tyler was walking up, getting there at about the same time that Sid climbed the steps.
“Uh oh, what’s wrong with you?” Garrett asked, looking at Sid’s face.
“I just heard from Sam,” Sid said, out of breath. “There’s about two hundred Islamists following them on the trail.”
“Oh no,” Yvonne said.
“How long ago did you talk to him?” Tyler asked.
“Just a couple minutes ago,” he said. “He’s at the rear of the group with Erica, watching the back door.”
“We need to do something,” Garrett said. “Quickly.”
“I was hoping that was what you were gonna think,” Sid said.
“Sounds like a good opportunity for a long ride,” Garrett said. “You know the trail they’re on, right?”
“Yep,” Sid said. “I propose that we take our Jeeps and lead you guys to where they are.”
“We should take about three hundred men,” Garrett said. “The rest should be here, ready for an attack, just in case they want to hit us in both locations.”
“I agree,” Sid said.
“Me too,” Tyler said. “I’ll go get the others. Let’s take off right away.”
Garrett pulled his phone out of his pocket and hit a contact, walking off the veranda with the phone in his ear.
“What’s going on?” James asked, walking up with Seth and Angel.
“The tribe is about to come under attack,” Tyler said. “I was just coming to get you. Let’s get the Jeeps loaded up again. We’re going out there.”
“I’ll go get the others,” James said, turning and trotting away.
“Let’s go get Kaitlyn and Megan,” Seth said. “You know they’ll want to be in on this.”
“Seriously,” Angel said. They trotted off together as Garrett came back. “It’s all set. My guys will be here in a few minutes. Where exactly are we going?”
“You know the trail to the ghost town and mine?” Sid asked.
“Yeah,” Garrett said, “but only from the Barrett Lake side. “I assume you guys got in from somewhere along Highway 94.”
“Yeah,” Sid said, pulling out his phone. He loaded the map application and held it out for Garrett to see. “We went as far as we could get away with on Highway 94. You guys might not want to go that way.”
“I know a lot of this area,” Garrett said. “We could be there fairly quickly if we go as the crow flies, this way.” He traced the route with his finger. “See?”
“How long of a ride is that?” Tyler asked.
“Way less than a day to get near these ridges here,” Garrett said. “Where would we engage the enemy, though?”
“Maybe we could go in the Jeeps and send GPS coordinates,” Tyler said.
“Yes, that would be a good way to do it,” Garrett said. “How long would it take for you guys to get the Jeeps to the tribe?”
“Not long,” Sid said. “Maybe three hours max.”
“We should take off now,” Tyler said. “With as much ammo and men as we can carry.”
“I agree,” Garrett said. “My forces will take off now too. We’ll make a course correction when we get the GPS coordinates.”
“What go on?” Ji-Ho asked as he walked up. Sid and Garrett filled him in. He got a worried look on his face.
“We can’t lose ability to fight rest of battle,” Ji-Ho said.
“We can’t afford to lose the rest of the tribe,” Sid said, “and remember that Sam is with them. He won’t leave them. He’ll fight to the death for them if he thinks that’s all they can do. We need to get there, and fast.”
Ji-Ho thought for a moment. “How many people we keep here to watch base?”
“Most of my men,” Garrett said. “I’m only taking three hundred. That leaves you with about six hundred men, plus these battle wagons. I’d keep enough of your people here to man them.”
“The clock is running,” Sid said, standing up. “C’mon, let’s go.”
Yvonne stood. “You know I’m going, right?”
“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” Sid said. They took off for the Jeeps.
“We taking ours or one of the newer ones?” Yvonne asked.
“One of the newer ones,” Sid said. “There are some wicked rocks to climb on the way out there.”
“Okay, good,” Yvonne said. Sid led her to the one that he and Sam were in. “Let’s grab some of those Jerry cans. I think they all have fuel in them.”
Yvonne nodded, and they grabbed three, putting them in the back with their rifles and two BARs. Tyler and James rolled up, followed by Zac and Ryan in another Jeep.
“Are Seth and Angel coming?” Sid asked.
“No. Ji-Ho caught them. He’s giving each couple a battle wagon, and running them through the training now. Trevor and Kaylee are doing the same.”
“Okay, makes sense, I guess. Hate to be without their guns in this, though.”
“We need to have someplace to come back to,” Yvonne said. “Let’s go.”
Sid nodded, and got behind the wheel, Yvonne jumping into the passenger side. They took off on Highway 94, heading southeast.
“Think we’ll get there in time?” Yvonne asked.
“Yeah, we will, but if Garrett doesn’t make it in time, we’ll probably get killed.”
“Thanks for that,” Yvonne said. She glanced over at him with a smirk.
“I don’t feel right not going,” Kaitlyn said.
“I know,” Seth said. They stood by their battle wagon, waiting for Ji-Ho and Trevor to show up for their training. Megan and Angel joined them, Kaylee following.
“My uncle will be here in a few minutes,” Kylee said. “He’s just about finished with Clem, John, and Sarah. He’s training a few of Garrett’s folks too. Ones that can’t ride.”
“Good,” Angel said.
“You okay with this?” Megan asked Kaitlyn.
“Not really, but I get it,” she said. “Hey, at least we have places to live now. Other than tents, that is.”
Ji-Ho rushed over with Trevor.
“Ready, guys?” Trevor asked.
“Yep,” Angel said. “Let’s get busy.”
The group went into the coach, watching intently as Ji-Ho and Trevor went over all the systems. It took about half an hour.
“Well, I must admit, this is pretty cool,” Kaitlyn said.
“Seriously,” Seth said. “Just remember what Ji-Ho said. These aren’t indestructible.”
“Yes yes,” Ji-Ho said. “Good.”
“We’re going to ours,” Angel said. “See you guys.” He took Megan by the hand and left the coach, Trevor and Kaylee following.
“Any last question?” Ji-Ho asked.
“Nope, I think we’ve got it,” Kaitlyn said. “Thank you.”
“Welcome,” Ji-Ho said. He turned and left, closing the door behind him.
“You think Megan’s okay with this?” Seth asked, eyeing Kaitlyn as she watched Megan and Angel through the window. She turned to him.
“I think so. She’s like me. Scared for her people. That’s all.”
“Okay,” Seth said, sitting on the couch. She sat next to him.
“This is our first home, isn’t it?”
Seth chuckled. “Oh, I don’t know. I was getting used to the tent.”
“Yes, we made some memories in there,” Kaitlyn said. “I hope my mom survives this.”
“I hope they all do,” Seth said. “I also hope we don’t get attacked here.”
“Wonder when more of Garrett’s men are gonna arrive?”
“He didn’t say, exactly, but they’re never far away,” Seth said. “That I’ve noticed. They patrol all the time, too. That’ll make it hard for the Islamists to get the drop on us.”
“Trevor is coming over with Kaylee,” Kaitlyn said, seeing them through the window.
“Uh oh, hope nothing’s wrong,” Seth said, getting up. He opened the door, waiting as Kaitlyn got outside, then closing the screen after himself.
“Anything wrong?” Seth asked.
“No, but Ji-Ho had a good suggestion. We need to move these coaches around. We need them parked by all of the entrance points, and the parts between that are weak, like over there where the trees are, along the road.”
“Okay, where do you want us?” Seth asked.
“You’ll take one side near the back gate, over there,” he said, pointing.
“Okay, no problem,” Seth said.
“I got to go tell the others too,” Trevor said. “Talk to you in a few minutes.”
Seth nodded, then opened the screen for Kaitlyn.
“You don’t always have to open doors for me, you know,” Kaitlyn said, smiling at him.
“It’s a sign of love and respect,” Seth said, looking at her. “It doesn’t bother you too much, I hope.”
“No, I actually like it, I just don’t want you to feel obligated all the time, that’s all.”
“I don’t,” Seth said. “Want to drive, or should I?”
“You go ahead,” Kaitlyn said. “I’ll learn on the road.”
“Okay,” Seth said, getting behind the wheel. He fired up the big diesel and pulled forward, heading for the back of the property, where a small road went past the barn and corral. He did a K-turn with the massive coach, setting it up so it pointed for a good escape route. “There we go.”
“You handle this thing with no problem,” Kaitlyn said, watching him.
“Thanks,” Seth said. “I’ve driven these before.”
“That’s good. When?”
“When I was a kid. My uncle had one. We went on vacation with him, up to Yellowstone. I got to drive some then.”
“Good,” Kaitlyn said. “What do we do now?”
“Relax, I guess,” Seth said. “Wait.”
“Wait. That’s going to be hard.”
“I know, honey,” Seth said.
Jules woke with a start. Shelly was facing him, breathing in his face, still asleep. He reached for his phone, looking at the screen. It was already noon. He sat up quickly, blankets going with him, uncovering Shelly’s nude form next to him. He sucked in some air, then got back down, covering her up carefully.
“Enjoy that?” Shelly asked, eyes barely open.
“Sorry, it was accident,” he said.
“Uh huh,” she said. “What’s wrong?”
“It noon already,” he said. “Too late to sleep.”
Is it really?” Shelly asked. “Wow. Guess we needed it.”
“Guess so,” he said.
“You didn’t answer my question,” Shelly said, looking at him with a mischievous grin. “Did you enjoy that? I mean, you saw all of me. Or most, at least.”
Jules chuckled. “You tease me, no?”
“Answer me,” she said.
“Yes, I enjoy how you look,” Jules said softly, “but was accident. Really.”
She giggled. “It’s okay, Jules, you’ve been a good boy. At least it’s easier now.”
“What’s easier now?”
“I have to go to the bathroom. I don’t have to wait until you’re gone.” She got out of bed and walked out the sliding door, turning to smile at him. Jules’s eyes glassed over.
“Beautiful,” Jules said under his breath.
“I didn’t hear that,” she said, turning around, showing her naked front to him.
“I said beautiful,” Jules said, eyes fixed on her. “You enjoy this, no?”
“Oh, maybe a little bit,” she said before rushing into the bathroom.
Jules watched the doorway for almost a minute after she was gone, trying to save every detail in his mind. When she came back in, he was still staring.
“Wow, I really hit you with the thunderbolt, didn’t I?” she asked as she slipped back into bed, pulling the sheet over herself. “Show’s over for now.”
“You’re getting back into bed?”
“For a little while,” she said.
“You just want to torture me some more, no?”
She giggled. “Is that what this is?”
“You woke up playful,” Jules said. “I like.”
“Well, which is it? Playful or torture?”
Jules laughed. “Maybe little both.”
Jules’s phone rang. “You hand to me?”
“Why, you don’t want to get out of bed for some reason?”
“Maybe so,” he said.
It continued to ring. Jules shot her a sidelong glance and then got out of bed quickly, grabbing it and getting back under the sheet. “Enjoy show, no?”
She giggled. “Well, at least I know you like me.”
“I already tell you that.”
“Sometimes there are things more convincing than words,” she said, the mischievous grin back on her face.
The phone quit ringing.
“Shoot, lost call,” Jules said. He looked at it. “Ivan. Better call back.”
He hit the contact and put the phone on speaker. It rang.
“Do I need to leave?” Shelly asked, looking serious.
“Yes, I just want to watch,” Jules said. “No, I kid, you stay. He tell if top secret.”
“Jules,” Ivan said. “Sorry to bother you.”
“You never a bother to me, old friend,” Jules said. “Shelly here with me. Okay?”
“Oh, the one you want to take back to the farm with you?” Ivan asked.
“No, not say that, you trouble maker,” Jules said, looking embarrassed as he glanced at Shelly.
“Have it your way, Jules. Sure, she can listen. We need to get word to Ji-Ho about some enemy activity, and I’m going to be someplace where I can’t call. Haven’t been able to raise him.”
“Okay, what message?” Jules asked, sitting up, motioning to a pad of paper and a pencil on the shelf by the window. Shelly got up and grabbed it for him. “Thanks, Shelly. Go ahead, Ivan.”
“Our sources see two groups of Islamists, in very bad places. One group follow Indian Tribe on trail home. Two hundred. Second group near hideout in Dulzura. Three hundred men. He should get ready.”
“That not good,” Jules said. “I call right away.”
“Good, and keep trying until you get him. You could try Sam too, but he’s been out of cell range.”
“Okay, we get word there, no worry. Anything else?”
“No,” Ivan said. “Have fun with your milk maid. See you soon.”
The line went dead.
“Milk maid?” she asked. “Was that a reference to my breasts or something?”
“No,” Jules said. “I call Ji-Ho.” He hit the contact. It rang several times and went to voicemail. “Ji-Ho, it Jules. Large force of enemy fighters near base in Dulzura and behind Indians on trail. Call me.”
He put the phone down. “Dammit.”
“Where’s Dulzura?” Shelly asked.
“Southeast San Diego County,” Jules said. “This very bad.”
“How does Ivan see them?” Shelly asked.
“Top secret? You keep mouth shut?”
“Of course, although I think I should be mad at you.”
“This milk-maid thing. I want some answers, after we get through with this.”
Jules nodded, brow furrowed. “Okay. Robbie’s dad create way to track Islamists via their RFID chips. We don’t have access yet, but exists. Contact call Ivan with info.”
“Oh,” she said. “Wow. That would be huge. Have they been watching out for us?”
“Some, yes, but difficult. Bigger problems in Utah and Colorado than here. They don’t have time to wipe our butts for us.”
Jules’s phone rang. He hit the speaker button.
“Yes. This from Ivan? Using new tool?”
“It is,” Jules said. “Be ready. You have enough fighters?”
“Sent many to trail behind tribe just now. Have plenty staying here, just in case of this. We good. Don’t worry.”
“Good, Ji-Ho, then don’t waste time talking to me. Talk later. Bye.”
Jules ended the call, then looked at Shelly. “Thank you. Maybe we get dressed, go outside.”
“Wait a minute,” Shelly said, grabbing his arm as he prepared to get off the bed. “What farm was he talking about?”
“Family business, I tell. Belgium.”
“You aren’t going back to being a mobster, are you?”
Jules cracked up. “I not say I mobster. Never. I tell you about family estate, too.”
“Crap, you’re rich, aren’t you?”
“A little,” Jules said.
“No, a lot,” she said, eyeing him. “Dairy farms, right? Milk Maid? Geez, I feel like an idiot.”
“I didn’t tell you I was mobster,” Jules said.
“You knew I thought that, though. Why didn’t you tell me?”
Jules sighed. “I guess jig up.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” she said. “Time to fess up. Now.”
To be continued…
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
Chapter 12 – News Conference
Richardson and Lita sat on the front porch next to Roberto and Kris.
“You think we’re gonna be safe here?” Kris asked. “We really poked the hornet’s nest.”
“Depends on if there’s more bases close by,” Richardson said.
“Yeah, that’s the real question,” Roberto said. “You get chewed out by your CO?”
“Not really,” Richardson said. “After I explained it to him.”
“It went viral,” Lita said. “Big time. We’re even in the international news.”
“I’ll bet half of the media thinks we’re villains,” Kris said.
“Pretty much,” Lita said.
“Screw ‘em,” Roberto said. “Let them have their families attacked.”
“Wish we had an alternate location,” Richardson said. “I feel completely exposed here.”
Roberto’s phone rang. He fished it out of his pocket. “Gerald. I’ll put it on speaker.”
“Okay, Gerald, what’s up?”
“Governor Nelson is gonna do a speech in a few minutes,” he said. “Rumor has it that he’s going to address our posting.”
Richardson chuckled. “This ought to be interesting.”
“I’ll go get the TV turned on inside,” Kris said.
“Yeah, I’ll go with you,” Lita said.
“Better go round up the kids,” Richardson said.
“Shouldn’t we have somebody stay in that boat?” Lita asked.
“We’ll get early warning from the dogs,” Roberto said. “Bring guns inside though, just in case.”
“For sure,” Richardson said, heading towards the boat. “Hey, guys, come on in the house. Nelson’s about to talk.”
“What about guarding the place?” Brendan asked.
“Roberto’s leaving the dogs out here,” Richardson said. “It won’t be for too long.”
“Good, I want to see this,” Juan Carlos said, helping Madison up.
They rushed into the house, Madison barely using her crutches now.
“I’m gonna be nervous the whole time we’re in here,” Hannah said.
“It’ll be okay,” Brendan told her as they went through the door. The TV was already on, the reporters milling around in a crowded press room, waiting for the Governor to come out.
“That’s in the bunker,” Richardson said. “Been down there once.”
“Really?” Lita asked. “Why?”
“Tour, believe it or not,” Richardson said. “Seems like that was a whole different world.”
“Tell me about it,” Roberto said. “Look, here he comes.”
Governor Nelson walked up to the podium, flanked by Major General Gallagher and Chief Ramsey.
“Thank you all for coming. This will be brief. I’ll allow a few questions after the statement.”
There were murmurs in the room. Nelson waited till they died down.
“I’m sure you saw the meme which went viral on the internet last night. It touched off a firestorm in the establishment media, which disturbs me more than the graphic nature of the photos. We’ve had an alarming reaction from the foreign press, particularly in the EU. There are now calls for the UN to move into Texas, if the US Federal Government can’t settle things down here.”
He paused for a moment, watching the press corps, making eye contact with several of the more prominent members.
“I’ve given careful consideration on how to respond to both the meme, and the emotional reaction from the press and some foreign governmental entities.”
Murmurs flooded the room again, as reporters hammered away on their cell phones and tablets.
“The United States is under attack by foreign groups, aided by treasonous government officials at the state and federal levels. The foreign groups include the following: The Islamic Caliphate. The UN. The Government of Venezuela. The Government of North Korea. Secessionist Militia Groups in the Southwestern states, who recognize neither the Federal Government nor the Republic of Texas. These attacks are being coordinated by the EU leadership in Belgium and their Globalist partners, foreign and domestic.”
The room exploded with reactions, from boos to cheers. Nelson waited for the crowd to settle down. Some in the crowd began arguing with each other. Chief Ramsey stepped near the microphone, Nelson backing away.
“Settle down or you will be removed from this facility,” the Chief said sharply.
The group quieted down after a moment.
“Wow,” Richardson said, eyes glued to the screen.
“I love this guy, dude,” Juan Carlos said.
Nelson stepped back up. “The story that the meme tells is true. My office checked it out. Islamist fighters near San Marcos were kidnapping young women. These thugs took them back to their hideout at an abandoned recycling center. They used our women for sex slaves. Some victims were under sixteen years of age.”
“You have proof, I assume,” one reporter spat.
“Yes,” Nelson said. “I talked to some of the parents, and to others living in the area.”
“That doesn’t excuse what our people did,” the reporter said.
“Yes, it does,” Nelson said. “The enemy killed the hostages when Texas Patriots attempted to rescue them. The bodies were still warm when the patriots found them. This cannot stand. I support the actions of these Texas Patriots, and advise the Islamist invaders and their allies to expect similar treatment if they harm Texas citizens in this manner. Do I make myself clear?”
“This is barbaric,” said a female reporter near the back of the room.
“You can say that, as a woman?” another female reporter said. “You’re trash, and so is your movement. I ought to bust you right in the chops.”
“That’s enough,” Nelson said.
“Yes!” Hannah said.
Nelson waited while the crowd settled down.
“Geez, some of these reporters are clueless,” Lita said. “What if this was their wives or daughters?”
“Now, a few comments directly to the EU Leadership and the traitors in the Federal Government,” Nelson continued. “Texas left the union because we discovered what you were planning. We will fight you to the death. If you attack Texas, I suggest you bring a lot of body bags. We have twenty million armed citizens in Texas and they have at least thirty-four million guns between them. That’s not counting our Police Departments and the Texas National Guard. You’ve seen how effective our people can be, in places like Austin, Fort Stockton, Riviera Beach, and most recently San Antonio. Attack us at your peril. As a point of reference, the army of China is under four million troops.”
You could hear a pin drop in the room. Gallagher shot a smile at Ramsey as Nelson collected his thoughts.
“Finally, I have a special message for the UN, which is doing a lot of sabre rattling due to the meme in question.”
“Here it comes,” Richardson said.
“We know what you are doing in California. We know about the murders and rapes. We know about the attempted lockdown of that state. We know you are teamed with the Islamist Army there. We also know California Patriots are fighting you, and we know they will win.”
One of the reporters chuckled. Nelson smiled.
“Contrary to popular belief, there are almost as many guns in private hands in California as there are in Texas. The UN and their Islamist partners will not defeat the armed citizens of California. To aid in the struggle, this administration will make public all reliable stories we receive about actions of the UN in California, and we wish our California brothers-in-arms well.”
There was a smattering of applause in the room.
“If the UN attempts to enter the great state of Texas, they will be met by a hail of bullets. We will hunt you down and kill you like the dogs that you are. You cannot defeat us. We will kill you wholesale. Do I make myself clear?”
Murmurs erupted again, some reporters visibly shaken and others smiling.
“That’s the end of my prepared comments. I’ll take a few questions.”
A reporter in the front raised his hand. Nelson pointed to him, and he stood up.
“Price Jones, Washington Post. What’s to stop the Federal Government from just nuking Texas and moving on?”
Nelson chuckled. “They could do that, but they won’t. Texas has friends who understand what the Federal Government is up to. They are prepared to step in.”
“Foreign friends?” the report asked. “Would you like to get more specific?”
“Nope,” Nelson said. “Next question.”
“What’s he talking about?” Brendan asked.
“Probably the Russians,” Richardson said. “They’ve been on our side since the beginning.”
“Quiet, he’s talking again,” Madison said.
“Second row center,” Nelson said, pointing into the sea of raised hands.
A woman stood up. “Kat Bower, MSNBC. Do you consider what was done to the Islamists by the dogs cruel and against the Geneva Convention?”
“Yes,” Nelson said.
“Are you intending on punishing the men who did that?” she asked.
“Nope,” Nelson said.
“Because child rape and murder of civilians are also against the Geneva Convention,” Nelson said sharply. “That behavior needs to be answered, and the answer needs to be in language that these savages understand. Next question.”
“This is barbaric,” the woman cried.
Nelson ignored her and picked another reporter, towards the back of the room.
“Harrison French, Fox News. Have you been in contact with Ivan the Butcher, and do you support his actions in California?”
Nelson chuckled. “Ivan the Butcher. Colorful fellow. I enjoyed his videos, and look forward to more. I’ve had no contact with him, but I fully support his actions against the invaders in California.”
“Thank you,” Harrison said.
“You’re not going to ask a follow up?” the CNN reporter next to him asked. She was a young woman with blonde hair and an attractive face.
Harrison laughed at her, shaking his head. “No, he answered my question. Do you want me to hammer the Governor for his support of an obvious patriot?”
“This is interesting,” Nelson said. “Bree, what is your follow-up?”
She stood up, a smirk on her face. “This ‘Ivan the Butcher’ character made his fortune on vice operations. Prostitution, gambling, and drugs.”
“That was a statement, not a question,” Nelson said.
She sighed, an exasperated look on her face. “How can you support him given his past actions?”
“Do you support the UN?” Nelson asked.
“Of course,” she said. “They’re a stabilizing influence, and we need that in the world today.”
Harrison burst out laughing. Others joined him.
“Next,” Nelson said.
“You don’t have a comment?” Bree asked.
“Sorry, but you aren’t too bright. Any response to that is a waste of time.”
Half the room cheered, the other half booed. Gallagher was laughing, and shot a glance at Ramsey again, who shook his head. Bree left the room in a huff.
“Sorry folks, that was a little harsh,” Nelson said. “I’ll try to behave. There’s time for a couple more questions.” He pointed to a reporter in the middle of the room.
“Brice Ketchum, Austin American-Statesmen. Are there plans for Texas to rejoin the Union, and if so, when?”
Nelson thought for a moment, the room silent.
“Uh oh,” Richardson whispered, eyes glued to the screen.
“Yes, we expect that Texas will rejoin the Union,” Nelson said. “I can’t tell you the timeframe or the exact circumstances that will lead to our re-entry, but I never intended to have Texas remain an independent republic for the long term.”
“You can’t give us any more info than that?” Brice asked.
“Well, this war must be over, and the Federal Government must be back under the control of the citizens,” Nelson said. “I’m hoping that’s sooner rather than later. Good enough?”
“For now,” Brice said.
“One more,” Nelson said. He pointed at a woman on the far right-hand side. She stood.
“Christine Simon, KXAN News. Will Texas hold their statewide elections for the next cycle, or will they be put off until the war is over?”
“I’m glad you asked that question, Christine,” Nelson said. “We will absolutely hold our Texas state elections on schedule no matter what, and they will be free and open. I won’t run for re-election, since this is my second term.”
The room burst into questions, reporters raising their hands frantically. Nelson waved to the crowd, left the stage, and headed for the door, Ramsey and Gallagher following him.
“Wow,” Roberto said. “That was quite a press conference. I didn’t vote for this guy, but I’m glad he’s in the job now.”
“This is gonna start a shit-storm,” Lita said.
“Only one thing surprised me,” Richardson said.
“What’s that, honey?” Lita asked.
“Texas has no term limits for Governor,” he replied. “Nelson could run again.”
“He’s doing the right thing,” Kris said. “And I did vote for him. Canceled Roberto’s vote right out.” She giggled.
“Why do you think he’s doing the right thing?” Richardson asked.
“To avoid any appearance that he wants to hold onto absolute control,” Kris said. “This is a great man. I hope Texas appreciates him.”
“He’ll get a lot of heat for what he said to that one idiot,” Brendan said.
“The CNN reporter,” Madison said. “She kinda pissed me off, after seeing what happened to those poor girls at the recycling center. The MSNBC reporter pissed me off more, though.”
“Seriously,” Lita said.
“What now?” Juan Carlos asked. “Should we go back to the boat?”
“Why don’t you stay in here and get some sleep,” Roberto said. “Trust me, the dogs will alert us if anybody shows up. I’ll let them loose. We got the M60s and M-16s in here.”
“You okay with that?” Brendan asked Richardson.
He thought about it for a moment. “Yeah, I am. Chances are good that we destroyed their local capability anyway, and we’ve been running on too little sleep for a few days. It’d be nice to catch up a little bit.”
“Good, then it’s settled,” Kris said. “I’ll show you were the guest rooms are.”
She got up, Lita, Madison, and Hannah following.
“You forgot your crutches,” Juan Carlos shouted to Madison.
“Don’t need them,” Madison said. “Don’t worry about it.” The women disappeared down the hall.
“So, you really think we’re safe?” Juan Carlos asked softly.
“Yeah,” Richardson said. “There was command and control stuff at the recycling center, those Gaz Tigrs, and all of those other supplies. That was a major base. They don’t have the bandwidth to man another one of those close by.”
“I hope you’re right, dude,” Juan Carlos said.
“Me too,” Roberto said. “We’ll find out soon enough.”
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
Horror Road is a supernatural thriller. It starts where the Bug Out! series left off, but it’s not really a sequel. It’s a new story about the awakening of an Ancient Spirit, and the battle to contain it by a group of psychics and their allies. Check it out!
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.
Here’s the link to “Never A Loose End”