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