This is the last of the Bug Out! Texas saga.
Here’s the link:
Jesse drove the pickup truck from Spring Street to Broadway.
Erik was watching the drone feed on Jesse’s phone. “We’re gonna run into a UN roadblock just after we go under the interchange between Highway 94 and Highway 125.”
“Road block? You’re kidding.”
“They might not know how many are with us. They’re not going to stop over two hundred heavily armed vehicles. They’ve got two UN Vans parked diagonal in the road, on Broadway right before Grove Street. There are a bunch more vans west on Lemon Grove Way, but some of the cop cars are heading in that direction.”
“Make sure the rest of the group knows what we’re running into,” Jesse said. “We’re almost there.”
Erik stared at his phone. “Hey, there’s a huge block and brick outlet just before Lemon Grove Way, with plenty of room to park our vehicles. I’ll tell everybody to make a left into that parking lot, then we’ll take out that roadblock and kill as many of these creeps as we can.”
Jesse smiled. “Good, go for it.”
They drove under the interchange. “There it is. See it?”
“Yeah, Erik, I see it,” Jesse said as he made the turn, the other vehicles pulling in too, finding places to park amid the stalls set up for different types of bricks and blocks. “This is perfect, but we need to watch ourselves. Not all of these UN creeps are stupid.”
“Roger that,” Erik said. “The cops are heading in that direction from the other side. I’m seeing about thirty cruisers.”
“Hope they’re better armed than normal.”
“You and me both,” Erik said, passing the phone back to Jesse. They got out of the truck, the men in the bed jumping out, joining the multitude who were getting out and checking their weapons.
“All right, men, let’s look sharp. The UN isn’t stupid enough to have two vans blocking this road all by themselves. Watch for snipers in the buildings. Stay under cover as best you can. Consider this just like Mosul, understand?”
“Yeah, we get it,” somebody shouted from the group.
“Let’s go,” Erik said. The men left, some staying on the north side of Broadway, others crossing over to the south side, all getting away from the road, working their way through parking lot brush and behind buildings, hauling their weapons and mortars.
Jesse and Erik stayed together, moving on the north side of Broadway, crossing Lemon Grove Way, heading behind a gas station and into the parking lot of a Senior Apartment complex, half of their five hundred men behind and around them, scattered about, making themselves a difficult target. A hoarse, loud whisper got Jesse’s attention. He pointed his MP5 in that direction, and a police officer in uniform poked his head out of the brush, motioning him over.
“Cop,” Jesse whispered. “C’mon, let’s go talk to him.”
Erik nodded, turning to the others to point at the officer, giving them the signal to hold under cover for a moment. He and Jesse rushed over.
“Hello, officer,” Jesse said.
“Officer Roberts,” he said. “The UN creeps are all over the place, starting just past Columbus Place. We’ve been sneaking people into the church right past it. About thirty officers.”
“What are they packing?” Erik asked.
“M4s, shotguns, and their side arms.”
“That’s not so good,” Jesse said.
“They’re full auto M4s,” Officer Roberts said.
“Oh, that’s good, then,” Erik said.
“What are you guys packing? That’s an MP5, right? Only 9mm.”
“We’ve got a bunch of stuff. Lot of M249s, M60s, and some mortars too. Also some RPGs.”
“Holy crap, where’d you get that?” the officer asked.
“Ivan,” Jesse whispered.
The officer’s face turned white. “How big is this gonna be?”
“Sizable, but we’ve got five hundred men in this first wave, all ex-military. There’s a few thousand heavily armed Teamsters on the way in semi-trucks too, plus Ivan’s sending a bunch of his people from Dulzura.”
“Wow,” the officer said.
“I think we ought to bring the mortars up here and ruin their hiding places,” Erik said.
Jesse nodded, pulling his phone and sending a text. “You know which buildings to start with?”
“There’s a small auto repair center just past Columbus, and a small shopping center across the street. We were planning to assault the auto repair center. We’ve got other officers to the south. Be great to have some help.”
The mortar teams rushed forward in a crouch. A large Hispanic man rushed over to Jesse. “Where you thinking, Chief?”
“Hey, Luis,” Jesse said. “There are shopping centers just past Columbus Place, on both sides of Broadway. Nail both of those areas.”
“You got it,” he said, rushing back to the mortar team. They moved into covered positions past the Senior Apartment building, behind a Pest Control business, a few of them sneaking across Broadway to set up in a hair salon parking lot. Shots rang out.
“They’ve seen us,” Erik said. “Nothing they can do, though. Let’s return some fire to keep them from being pro-active.”
Jesse nodded, and the men fanned out in the bushes, opening fire at the Auto Care Center with M249s and M60s.
“That’ll get their attention,” Officer Roberts said, joining in with his M4.
After a few moments, there was a pop, a mortar round landing in the parking lot of the Auto Care Center, blowing out most of the windows in the buildings surrounding the parking lot. Then another round dropped into the strip mall across Broadway, hitting the building closest to the street, blowing glass all over. UN Peacekeepers streamed out, running for better cover. A hail of lead met them, dropping most, a few making it behind something good enough to shoot from. Then another several mortar rounds dropped on their positions, destroying two of the buildings at the Auto Care Center and blasting a restaurant in the strip mall.
“They’re running back towards their roadblock,” Jesse said, moving out with his MP5 and spraying lead down the street at the fleeing men.
“Here,” Erik said, shoving an M60 at Jesse. “Use something with a little more firepower. That damn 9mm toy ain’t gonna cut it.”
“Okay, okay,” Jesse said, setting down the MP5 and picking up the M60, checking the belt, then aiming at a group of UN Peacekeepers trying to run to the next set of buildings, cutting down about half of them. More of the team were in good positions now, firing at the Peacekeepers who were fleeing the barrage of mortar rounds falling into their hiding places.
“They’re going into the next structures,” Jesse shouted. “Send some mortar fire there. Get those creeps into the open!”
“Read my mind, Chief,” Luis said, turning to his team, pointing forward. They picked up and moved closer, setting up again as the rest of the team rushed forward, clearing the enemy who were left in the first position and firing on the UN vans blocking the road at the end of the block. The police officers flooded out of the Church grounds, heading into forward positions with guns blazing.
“Maybe we ought to take out those vans with mortars,” Erik said.
Jesse shook his head. “I’d rather hit the buildings first. Those vans were only there to provide a stoppage, so the UN could fire on anybody trying to get past them. Their men are in the buildings. Hell, those vans might be rigged to blow. You know how these cretins are. They’re as bad as the Islamists.”
“Crap, didn’t think about that,” Erik said. “Look, the UN Peacekeepers behind the roadblock just fled north on Grove.”
“Let them go. We need to clear this area. I’m gonna send a text for nobody to get near those vans.”
Jesse did that, as Erik drew a bead on some UN Peacekeepers trying to sneak around the front of the car wash, just past the Auto Care Center. The area blew up with a mortar round before he could get a shot off. “Whoa. See the secondary explosions? We hit some of their ammo or something.”
“That explosion was too big for ammo. They’ve probably got mortars they haven’t used yet. Let’s keep on them.”
“Hey, Chief, saw your text about the vans,” Luis said. “Tell everybody to get down. I’m blowing those things. The enemy might be able to detonate them remotely, and they could have enough explosive in them to take out people who aren’t that close.”
“All right, go ahead,” Jesse said, sending a text for everybody to take cover. Luis adjusted his mortar and fired, short about twenty yards.
“Look, the enemy troops are running away,” Erik said, raising his M249 and cutting down as many as he could. “Luis is right, there’s something in those vans.”
Luis dropped another round, which was within about ten yards this time. “Dammit. Third time will be the charm.” He made the adjustment and fired another round, which hit the van on the right, blowing up huge, setting off the other van and a gas station on the south side of Broadway, debris and fire filling the air.
“Take cover!” Jesse yelled at the top of his lungs as burning pieces came down around them.
“I think I just hit the jackpot!” Luis shouted.
“Yeah, I think so,” Erik said, laughing as the fire spread, more UN Peacekeepers trying to flee from nearby buildings, getting cut down by the multitude of machine guns brought in by the group.
“The enemy is moving further north,” Jesse said, watching his phone. “We need to make sure there’s forces over there.”
“They can get home that way,” Officer Roberts said. “We need to stop them.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll get the Teamsters to block that off,” Erik said. “Maybe we should tell Ivan’s folks from Dulzura too.”
“There’s a larger group still heading south,” Jesse said. “We need the Dulzura group for that. Last I heard they were just getting to Highway 125 from Lake Otay Road.”
“Oh, didn’t know they were still that far south,” Erik said. “We moving?”
“Yeah, let’s chase them,” Jesse said. “Sax’s crew is gonna be on Riviera Drive in about five minutes.”
“Riviera Drive?” Erik asked.
Officer Roberts chuckled. “Grove turns into Rivera Drive. Those cretins are in trouble. Let’s go stop up their retreat route.”
“Let’s get to the vehicles, everybody!” Jesse shouted as he sent out the text.
Ted was behind the wheel of his battle wagon, Bryan in the passenger seat watching his phone. Brianna and Haley were in the back, ready to go with the M60s.
“Real mess in Lemon Grove,” Bryan said.
“For us?” Ted asked.
“No, for the UN. They just got forced to retreat.”
Bryan moved the phone closer to his face. “North on Grove. All those Teamsters are heading in that direction from the north. This ought to be interesting.”
Their phones all dinged with a broadcast text.
“What?” Ted asked, not trying to pull his phone out.
“Big group of UN Peacekeepers massing at a Country Club along Bonita road,” Haley said.
“Dammit,” Bryan said. “We should’ve stayed on Otay Lakes Road. It would’ve taken us right there. Get off on EH Street and go west.”
“To where?” Ted asked.
“It’ll take us right back to Otay Lakes Road, honey,” Haley said. “I’m texting the others.”
“Good,” Ted said. “I see it coming up already. It was the next off-ramp.”
“How many UN creeps are there?” Brianna asked.
“Hard to tell,” Bryan said. “We should put the Blue Tooth headsets back on. We’re about to be in the thick of it.”
“Yeah,” Ted said, putting his back on. “Anybody on.”
“Read you loud and clear, partner,” Tex said. “Never bothered to take mine off. Got an extra if the battery gets low.”
“Good, Ted, you back,” Jules said. “Satellite view just come in. UN Peacekeepers in Lemon Grove cut off from main group, trying to flee north. Rest of slugs heading to the country club. Chula Vista. Recruits in cars beat you there. I tell to hold off, but they’ll get seen, so kick into high gear. They need firepower of battle wagons.”
“Everybody remember the weaknesses of these rigs,” Trevor said.
“Yes, remember,” Ji-Ho said. “Don’t get caught up. Leave coach and fight on ground if you get stuck.”
“You aren’t with us, are you Uncle?” Kaylee asked.
“No, at Dodge City. Traded for second generation rig that was powering mine computers.”
“Oh, you’re Edison today, huh?” Trevor quipped.
Ji-Ho laughed. “Summer rates apply.”
“Hey, everybody, it’s Ivan. We won in Mexico. The last group of Islamists are fleeing to the south. Our guys are chasing them, and they won’t get away. They’re on foot.”
“Good news,” Jules said.
“So, the regular army never had to leave the Mexico City area?” Sam asked.
“Nope,” Ivan said.
“Sounds like we’re getting to the last part of the California war,” Justin said.
“No, there’s still a lot of UN Peacekeepers at the base in El Cajon,” Ivan said. “We aren’t safe until we root them out and kill or capture them.”
“I vote for kill, partner,” Tex said.
Robbie chuckled. “Yeah, me too.”
“Do we know what the size of the force at the country club is?” Ted asked, sounding more serious than the rest.
“Couple thousand, assuming they not pick up more sleepers from southern region,” Jules said, “Take seriously. This dangerous mission.”
“Thank you,” Ted said. “I’m about to turn right from EH Street to Otay Lakes Road. Everybody keep their eyes open. One person from each coach keep an eye on the drone feed. All of us need to watch carefully. If you see something, say something, even if it looks like a minor threat. Everybody got that?”
“Good advice,” Ivan said.
“Yes, agree,” Ji-Ho said. “Damage enemy, but live to fight another day. This not over.”
Haley took off her headset. “Why do they keep saying that?”
Ted pushed the button to turn off his headset. “Because there’s several thousand of them and about one thousand of us, and we’ve seen the weaknesses of these battle wagons. We’re also too far away from Garrett’s cavalry. We’ve got a whole bunch of recruits, but we haven’t fought with most of them before. Stay sharp. Don’t take chances. If somebody is aiming something big at us and you can’t take them out, we need to get out of this thing in a hurry. Got it?”
Bryan nodded. “Put your headsets back on.”
“Uh oh,” Haley asked.
“Nothing happened, but Ivan and Jules want everybody on,” Bryan said.
“I’m back,” Ted said into his headset.
“Good,” Jules said. “You still in the lead, correct?”
“We’re the first battle wagon. Lots of citizen recruits are in front of us.”
“Listen,” Haley said. “Gunfire.”
“The citizens are engaging the enemy already,” Seth said. “I can see them in the drone video. They’re taking tremendous fire.”
“As we expected,” Ben said. “How far out are the battle wagons?”
“We’re hearing the gunfire in our rig,” Ted said. “Several blocks.”
“Yeah, partner, we hear it now too,” Tex said. “The enemy is gonna expect us to go right down this road now. Some of us should split off.”
“Yes, he right,” Ji-Ho said.
“Hey,” Kaitlyn said, “the enemy isn’t firing on the citizens from the country club, they’re on the roofs of those stores, in the shopping center at Otay Lakes Road and Bonita Road. Be careful. Get behind it and lob grenades if you can.”
“They’re also on the roofs at the smaller shopping center on the east side of Otay Lakes Road,” Seth said.
“Oh yeah, see them too,” Kaitlyn said.
“Guide us in,” Ted said. “We’re almost there.”
“Okay, most of you turn left on Allen School Lane,” Kaitlyn said. Follow it around. It’ll put you on a hill behind the big shopping center, with several escape routes.”
“After you’ve laid down fire there, we could put a couple battle wagons across the street and to the north on Songbird Lane,” Ben said. “It’s on a hill with a perfect view of the smaller shopping center, but there’s no back way out. I wouldn’t put more than one or two there.”
“Yes, I see,” Ji-Ho said. “Be careful on east side of Otay Lakes Road. Good spot to shoot from, but death trap.”
“I just made the turn onto Allen School Lane,” Ted said. “Bryan, go man one of the M60s and get Haley up here to man the front and rear machine guns.”
“Okay, boss,” Bryan said, getting up, Haley taking his place, pulling the targeting tray out in front of her.
“The road turns to the right,” Kaitlyn said. “Looks like a different road, but it’s got the same name. Turn there, and when that stretch starts to curve, pull up into the driveway. There’s a large dirt area. Looks like a house with a huge piece of land around it.”
“Got it,” Ted said, making the right turn in the massive coach. “Kinda small back here. Residential streets. Lousy road surface too.”
The front of the coach was pelted with machine gun fire.
“There’s people on that land we were gonna use,” Haley shouted, aiming the front machine guns and firing, mowing down several UN Peacekeepers, the rest running for the line of trees behind the shopping center. Ted pulled onto the dirt, making way for more battle wagons, raising the weapons and going into siege mode.
“Watch the sides with those M60s,” Haley said.
“There’s Tex, pulling next to us,” Ted said, waiting for the grenade launcher to lock into place. When it did, he pulled the targeting sight in front of him and fired a salvo of grenades, hitting the tops of the closest buildings, blowing up three machine gun nests, the UN Peacekeepers on the nearby roofs scrambling towards the trap doors and ladders, just as Tex opened up with his mini gun.
Justine and Katie drove past them, getting on the far side of the property and going into siege mode.
“We’re going to the second location,” Trevor said. “If we have to leave the coach, we can do a lot of damage when we’re outside.”
“Be careful,” Ji-Ho said.
“Don’t worry, Uncle, we know what we’re doing,” Kaylee said.
“We’re going there too,” Cody said. “Allison and I are both pretty good on the ground. We’ll park so if either of us get hit, the other can still back out.”
“Good,” Jules said.
“In place,” Trevor said. “Activating siege mode. We’re getting hit by a lot of machine gun fire.”
“Don’t get stuck there,” Ji-Ho shouted.
“Weapons up,” Trevor said, noise from the mini gun sounding. “We just swept the creeps who were shooting us off the roof.”
“Look, there’s a bunch of them running up the road,” Kaylee said. “Going at them with the forward machine guns.” She fired.
“I’m in place,” Cody said. “Perfect view. I can see both shopping centers. Taking out the crew on the grocery store now.” The M19 grenade launcher chugged away, sending one grenade after another onto the roof.
“Whoa, honey, caved in that whole side of the roof.”
“Watch out, look at those fighters coming at us!” Cody shouted. The front machine guns fired.
“Don’t stay there too long,” Ted shouted as he continued to fire at the shopping center roofs.
“Look at those guys rushing Justin and Katie’s rig over there.”
A mini gun fired up.
“Never mind, Tex nailed them good,” Haley said.
Suddenly the ground near Justin and Katie’s rig exploded.
“Uh oh, they’ve got mortars going,” Tex said. “I think I know where they are. Firing grenades.” Another mortar round exploded, closer to Justin and Katie’s rig as they fought back with the mini gun and grenade launcher.
“Justin, move back, man,” Tex shouted as he fired several grenades towards the source of the mortar fire.
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 2018
Trevor and Kaylee were in their battle wagon when the text came in. They both looked at their phones, then at each other.
“This is bad,” Kaylee said. “That’s a lot of UN vans.
“We aren’t one hundred percent sure they’re coming here, you know.”
“How far away are they?”
Trevor looked over at her from his phone. “Looking at that now. Just under twenty miles. If they don’t run into trouble, they’re about half an hour from here.”
“Don’t get too worried yet. We’ve got a lot of people in place along Highway 94, remember? They’re just coming in vans, too. They won’t take much abuse, and if the highway gets blocked, it’s not like they can off-road.”
“Then why would they come this way?” Kaylee asked.
“That’s why I’m not so sure they’re really coming here. They might have another target in mind.”
“Where are our people on Highway 94?” Kaylee asked.
“There’s about three thousand by Otay Lakes Road. The lion’s share are south of us, around Engineer Springs. Almost ten thousand citizens.”
“I guess that would figure, if we’re expecting the enemy to attack us from Mexico.”
Trevor shot her a grin. “Last I saw of that battle in Mexico, the enemy forces aren’t gonna make it here.”
They both jumped as another text came in. “They’re not coming here,” Kaylee said. “Southwest on Highway 54.
“But we’re going there. I’ll get us unhooked.”
“Which route?” Kaylee asked.
“I’m sure we’ll get instructions in a moment, but looking at the map, the only good way is Otay Lake Road. I’ll be a struggle to beat them there, though, assuming they’re gonna try to take Highway 125 south to the border.”
“I’ll get things locked down in here, then. Glad we reloaded all the weapons.”
“See you in a few minutes,” Trevor said, slipping out the door. He saw Angel rushing to the back of his coach, parked about twenty yards away.
“We’re gonna see some action,” he said. “I’m almost glad.”
Trevor nodded. “Yeah. Wonder if we can beat them there?”
“We’ll see. Hear that?”
The sound of engines starting drifted over the property.
“All those recruits,” Trevor said as he unhooked the water. “Hope they’re sending the citizens who were along Highway 94.”
“Where were they?” Angel asked, as he yanked the power cord off the mast.
“They were close to Otay Lake Road. Hopefully they’re already taking off. We might need to block the road.”
“Highway 125?” Angel asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “We ought to be hearing any minute. I’m done. See you, man.”
“Take care, dude,” Angel said, heading for the door of his coach.
“Ready to go?” Kaylee asked.
“Yeah, we get the instructions?”
“North on Highway 94, stop at Otay Lake Road unless we hear from them.”
“They’re making sure,” Trevor said, pushing the button for the main slide. It moved in slowly. When it was finished, he brought in the bedroom slide, then went to the driver’s seat and fired up the engine. “Ready?”
“Let’s go,” Kaylee said, walking to the passenger seat with her M4 and one of the M60s. She sat as Trevor drove towards the gate.
“You call our Teamster buddies?” Mr. White asked, walking out of the motel room’s bath.
“Yep, they’re hitting the road soon. Three thousand semi-trucks.”
“Sounds like traffic jam in making,” Mr. White said. “Glad Ivan get weapons here in time. Lots M-60, mortars, and RPGs. Distributed at Teamster’s union hall.”
“Excellent, let’s go.”
The two men grabbed their weapons and headed for their van, setting the guns between the seats. Mr. Black took the wheel. “What about others?”
“Jesse gathered three hundred. They already left. Heavily armed. All have military training. They tip of spear.”
“Are we trying to stop them on road?” Mr. Black asked.
“We do what we can, and Ivan send forces from Dulzura. Another four thousand, including all but three battle wagons.”
Mr. Black glanced at him. “Why not all? We know where enemy is, and Dulzura have cavalry.”
Mr. White chuckled. “They use generators from last three battle wagons to power computers in broken mine.”
“Oh. They should buy stand-alone generators.”
Mr. White nodded. “Would have. Not time. This happen fast.”
“What we do about Dana Point Harbor?”
“You worry too much,” Mr. White said. “Either moot point, or we mess with. Depend on this fight, no?”
“This wasn’t all UN forces. Have to watch back.”
“That be part of our job,” Mr. White said. “Let’s hit it.”
They drove south.
The BFV on the end of the line blew up, hit by more tank cannon fire, as four TOW missiles flew, taking out two tanks and disabling a third.
“These are lousy tanks,” Doug said, watching in his sight. “There’s one turning its gun towards us.”
“Fire,” Gonzalez said, but somebody else beat Doug to it, the tank getting hit in the front part of the turret, blowing it half way off, fire erupting from the right side of the tank. The crew tried to escape through the top, mowed down as soon as they were on the ground by a fast-moving L-ATV.
“Those little L-ATVs are too fast for the tanks to get a good bead on,” Jorge said. “Watch that tank coming this way. It’s trying to decide whether to shoot at us or the guy next to us.”
“On it,” Doug said, firing his first TOW missile, steering it right into the turret of the tank, a large explosion stopping it in its tracks. “Bullseye!”
“Nice job,” Gonzalez said. Remember you’ve only got one left before we reload.”
“Here come three more tanks!” Jorge shouted. “Heading this way.”
“Crap,” Doug said, getting ready to fire his second TOW missile. Then the enemy tanks turned and headed south, going full bore. “What the hell?”
There was a loud blast from behind them, knocking one of the fleeing enemy tanks into the air, coming down on one next to it, both bursting into flames.
“Our M-1 Tanks are here,” Gonzalez said. “About frigging time.”
“There they go!” Jorge shouted, watching eight tanks flying by at high speed, two of them firing on the run, hitting two more of the fleeing enemy tanks. Several more tanks passed them to join the fight.
“Yes!” Doug said. “Should I go back to shooting at infantry? There’s a group over there getting another mortar ready.”
“Go for it, man,” Gonzalez said, watching through the CIV.
“I got you, suckas,” Doug shouted, hitting a mortar team with full auto from the M242, killing all the men and blowing up their crate of mortar rounds. Then there was a pop close by, and a large group of enemy fighters exploded in white-hot flames.
“What was that?” Jorge asked. “Mortar?”
“Looks like Sessions and Jenkins finally got their mortar working,” Gonzalez said, his comment punctuated by another pop, another large group of enemy fighters going up in flames.
“What is that, napalm?” Jorge asked.
“Willie Pete,” Gonzalez said. “When that goes off, be someplace else.”
“What’s Willie Pete?” Doug asked.
“I thought that was illegal, dude,” Jorge said.
“Only when you mix it with high-explosive rounds,” Gonzalez said. “We aren’t doing that.”
More M-1 tanks sped past them, heading right for the ridge where the enemy tanks were hiding. One climbed it, starting to go down when it was hit, the round from the enemy tank making a lot of noise but not slowing the M-1 down.
“Like I said, they got lousy tanks,” Doug said, watching the M-1 turn its main gun towards the fleeing enemy tank and firing, pieces of armor raining down around the area. “That shot just pissed off the M-1.”
Jorge laughed. “The enemy isn’t advancing anymore. They’re running south.”
“Then we’ll go further south too. Remember to follow a path already traveled.”
“That’s gonna be tough. The ground is a mess.”
“Hey, Gonzalez, open the door,” Sessions yelled. “We need to go further south.”
Gonzalez pushed the button to open the rear gate, the men flooding in.
“You got that Willie Pete secured?” Gonzalez asked.
“Yeah, it’s back in the container, sealed up,” Jenkins said. “Let’s get going.”
Jorge listened for the sound of the back door closing, then drove forward, trying to keep on a safe path. M-1 tanks continued their assault on the enemy tanks, blowing them up wholesale.
“There were a lot of enemy tanks,” Doug said. “How come we didn’t see them?”
“I don’t think they’re being driven by Islamists,” Gonzales said. “I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.”
“There are still a lot of enemy hits out there,” Doug said. “We haven’t seen the largest group yet. Not by a long shot.”
“Yeah, I know,” Gonzalez said, nearly shouting as the noise outside grew louder.
“Think we’re running into a trap?”
Gonzalez looked at Doug, shaking his head no. “They might think that, but they have only seen about a quarter of the force from the Jacumba Hot Springs area, and we’ve got a huge flow of patriots coming east on Highway 2 right now. Just got an update in my text inbox.”
An L-ATV ahead of them touched off another IED, a second hitting one a few seconds later.
“Here we go, men,” Sessions shouted. “Their next kill spot, or so they think.”
“Keep your wits about you, Jorge,” Jenkins shouted.
“No prob, dude,’ Jorge shouted back. “I’m back on a good path again. We’ll be fine.”
“There aren’t any ridges nearby for tanks to hide behind,” Doug said. “Where’s our M-1s?”
“Finishing off those old Russian tanks back there,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a turkey shoot. Their cannon fire just bounces off the M-1s unless they get very lucky and hit them in exactly the right spot.”
“I saw one of them try a cheapo hand-held anti-tank weapon back there,” Jenkins said. “Bounced right off.”
“Modern Russian anti-tank weapons will work,” Gonzalez said. “Luckily for us, Russia is on our side in this war, and they’re not selling that stuff to anybody but us and our allies.”
“Something’s gonna happen pretty soon,” Jenkins said, looking at his phone. “The enemy troops retreating got to the main group and stopped. They’re liable to come back at us.”
“This is within mortar range,” Sessions said. “We don’t need to go much further before you can drop us off.”
“Listen,” Jorge said. “Sounds like choppers.”
“Crap, it is,” Gonzalez said. “We aren’t stopping yet. Doug, target any choppers you see coming with the M242.”
“How do we know which ours are and which theirs are?” Doug asked.
“We don’t have any in the area,” Gonzalez said.
“Those choppers are in for a nasty surprise,” Jenkins said.
Sessions chuckled. “You ain’t kidding.”
“What?” Doug asked.
“All of the L-ATVs were issued with stinger missiles,” Jenkins said. “Their choppers won’t last long.”
“I see one,” Jorge said. “No, there’s four of them. They look kinda old.”
“They’re strafing our L-ATVs,” Doug said, “but not with a round strong enough to kill them.”
One of the choppers fired a missile, which flew into an M-1 tank, blowing it up.
“Dammit!” Jorge shouted. “You see that?”
“Yeah,” Gonzalez said. “Didn’t kill the crew. They’re getting out of the tank.”
“What happened?” Jenkins asked.
“Chopper hit an M-1 with an anti-tank missile.”
“Whoa!” Jorge said, punctuated by a loud explosion and the sound of metal hitting the ground. “One of those stingers just came out. Knocked that chopper right out of the air.”
“I’ve got a bead on one,” Doug said, firing full auto with the M242, hitting it in the tail, stopping the back rotor. The chopper began spinning through the air, clipping the chopper near it, which went out of control, both of them hitting the dirt and blowing up.
“Nice shooting, Tex,” Gonzalez yelled, laughing. “Two with one frigging shot.”
“It was on auto,” Jenkins said. “That was about ten shots.’
“It was one burst,” Doug said.
Sessions laughed. “You guys crack me up. We close enough for the mortars yet?”
“There’s a small mound coming up. We’ll stop behind it. Doug, keep an eye out for more choppers.”
“There goes another Stinger,” Jorge said, and the explosion went off, sounding closer than the others. Some debris hit the top of their BFV. “Wow, listen to that!”
“More stingers just fired,” Doug said. “One hit, one miss, but the other choppers are flying away now.”
“Don’t blame them,” Jenkins said.
“Jorge, pull up by the mound. See it?”
“Yeah, man, I’m almost there.” The vehicle stopped after a moment. “This good?”
“Yeah,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve got the back door opening. You guys ready?”
“Hell yeah,” Sessions said, leading the others out the back.
“Once they start frying that big group with Willie Pete, this is gonna be over,” Gonzalez said. “There’s another group further south, but they’re at least a day’s walk from here.”
“Maybe we should drive over there and nail them,” Jorge said.
“That’ll be the commander’s call. I’m getting some chatter about a huge caravan of UN vans heading for the border.”
“Vans? What good will those do?” Jorge asked. “There aren’t roads here.”
Gonzalez shrugged. “There is Highway 2D, but last I heard the Marines had complete control of that.”
“Maybe they’re coming to attack the Dulzura base,” Doug said.
“They’re already south of the road for that,” Gonzalez said. “Let’s move around this mound so we can fire at the enemy with the M242. They’ll be setting up mortars any second now.”
“Will do,” Jorge said, moving forward, going around one side of the mound, getting into position to fight again. There were rows of BFVs on either side of them, getting ready to open fire, and then the first of the mortar shots from the enemy ranks flew, hitting a BFV about sixty yards from their position.
“I see where that came from,” Doug said, firing the M242 again, the projectiles smashing into the huddled men and their mortar. Then Sessions dropped a Willie Pete round into his mortar, the round flying into the midst of a huge group of Islamists, the whole area exploding in flames, burning men running, trying to drop and roll as other mortar teams started up, setting the whole enemy line on fire.
Tex was driving the Battle Wagon, in the lead, the rest of the rigs from Dodge City behind him. There were hundreds of citizen fighters ahead of him, in every kind of vehicle imaginable. They’d just made the left turn onto Otay Lake Road.
“Maybe we should put on the blue-tooth headsets now,” Karen said from the passenger seat.
“Yeah, it’s time,” Tex said.
“We’re on,” Karen said into hers. “Tex and Karen.”
“We’re on too,” Sparky said. “Ted, Haley, Bryan, and Brianna.”
“Robbie and Morgan are on.”
“Dana and Sparky.”
“Trevor and Kaylee.”
“Katie and Justin.”
“Megan and Angel.”
“Allison and Cody.”
A few others logged in.
“Hello, all. Jules here, with rest of intel and leadership team.”
“Where’s the UN Vans now, partner? You can see us, right?”
“Yes, we see you, most already on Otay Lake Road,” Jules said. “UN would have beat you there, but ran into trouble on Highway 125.”
“What kind of trouble?”
“Roadblock. Local sheriff in La Presa started. Most vans got message and went to side streets.”
“They can’t go very far to the west, and there’s not much in the way of good roads to the east of I-25,” Ted said.
“Yes, Ted, you right. If they go west of I-805, the Marines get involved. They watch. Same drone feed we use.”
“So are we gonna get to them before they can get south of us?” Morgan asked.
“They have to be lucky to make that,” Jules said. “Keep on plan. Maybe you go north, when off Otay Lake Road, maybe south. Either way, they doomed.”
“How’s it going in Mexico?” Sparky asked.
“Not good for enemy,” Jules said. “Looking like rout.”
“Their plan didn’t work, then?” Ted asked.
“What plan?” Katie asked.
Jules chuckled. “They try to draw regular army from Mexico City to save citizens going over border to fight. Now they need rescue themselves.”
Tex laughed. “That’s beautiful, partner. Maybe this war will be over sooner rather than later.”
“I’d love that,” Dana said.
Jesse was at the wheel of an old primer-gray pickup, the back full of his buddies. All of them were ex-military, most former Marines like Jesse. Sax was behind him, leading a huge group of truckers, all of them armed to the teeth. Both groups were supplied with military-grade weapons. M-60s, M-16s, M-4s, and some new M249s that Ivan had managed to obtain. Rounding out the group was another new weapon – the MP5.
“Hey, Jesse, how far away are they now?” asked Erik, a tall, well-built man who’d only been out of the service for three years.
“Last I saw, they were on Paradise Valley Road, nearly stopped,” he said, pulling his phone out of his pocket and handing it over. “Pin is 3357. There’s a browser up with the drone feed video. Should be right on them.”
“Cool,” Erik said, taking it and inputting the pin. He laughed. “They’re all over the damn place in Jamacha-Lomita and the Bay Terraces area. “I’ll bet they’re trying to find a place to turn around and lose the local law enforcement. There’s cop cars everywhere. Can’t all be from these little towns.”
“This effort is huge now,” Jesse said. “Got to hand it to this Ivan the Butcher character. I think he might have saved the damn state.”
“We’re just about to Lemon Grove. Maybe we ought to get off 125 and onto the surface roads to pick these creeps off. Otherwise they’re liable to keep going north to get away.”
“We know about their headquarters now,” Jesse said. “They’ve got to know they’re done.”
“They might just move someplace else in the state,” Erik said. “We need to kill all of them we can on the road, and then go hit that base. They probably only sent a fraction of what they had there.”
“According to Sax’s guys, they took pretty much all of their vans.”
“Get off on Spring Street,” Erik said. “I’ll text the others. Turn left on Spring, then right on Broadway. That’ll take us right into the quadrant they’re hiding in.”
“Quadrant?” Jesse asked, shooting him a grin. “Want to be back in, don’t you?”
“Yes and no, man. I meant the area between 94 on the north, 125 on the east, I-805 to the west, and 54 to the south. That’s where almost all of them are. We’ll have to hunt them down street to street.”
“They’ll leave their vehicles,” Jesse said. “We’ll be on foot.”
“Yeah, with M-4s, M249s, M60s, and MP5s. We’re gonna fry their bacon up good.”
“There’s our turnoff,” Jesse said, taking the ramp down to Spring Street. “Here we go!”
“Yep, here we go.”
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 2018
Mr. White and Mr. Black walked into Willie’s Lounge, doing their best to look casual. An old barfly with bleach-blonde hair in a tank top saw them belly up to the bar. She sauntered over.
“Are you two that big all over?” The stale smell of beer hit them before she got within three feet.
“Get lost,” Mr. Black said.
“You don’t have to be nasty,” she said, turning to walk away.
Mr. White snickered. “What, you no like? She built.”
“She smell bad. Remember why we here.”
Two men were watching them from a table behind the bar. Mr. White noticed. “We attract attention, no?”
“Watch what say,” Mr. Black said. “They come over in minute.”
The two men got up, leaving their women at the round table, heading for an opening at the bar next to Mr. White.
“Four more of these, bar keep,” said the first man, lanky with a goatee and salt-and-pepper hair. His buddy was short and overweight, a beer belly spilling over his belt. He eyed Mr. White cautiously.
“You trying to avoid tips again?” the bartender asked, taking the empties.
“Nah, just got tired of waiting,” the skinny man said. The bartender shrugged and walked away with the empties.
“You aren’t from around here,” the skinny man said. “I’m Jesse, and this is my friend Sax.”
“Nice to meet,” Mr. White said. “Yes, we aren’t from around here. Just passing through.”
The bartender brought the fresh beers, setting them on the bar in front of Jesse. “That’ll be fourteen dollars.”
“Highway robbery,” Jesse said, half a grin on his face.
“Stuff it, Jesse,” the bartender said, shaking his head as he walked away.
“Let’s go,” Sax said.
“Unusual name, Sax,” Mr. Black said.
Jesse laughed. “He fancies himself a musician.”
Jesse snickered. “I’m just messing with you, Sax. Don’t get upset, okay?”
Sax nodded. “Let’s get back to the ladies.”
Jesse ignored him. “You guys aren’t with them, are you?”
“Them?” Mr. White asked.
“Jesse,” Sax said, eyes darting around. “Knock it off.”
“No, we’re not with them,” Mr. White said.
“We don’t like the UN,” Mr. Black said.
“And why is that?” Jesse asked.
“They kidnap women and rape them,” Mr. White said. “Any of that going on around here? Seen a few more of their pussy vans than normal.”
“I’ve heard stories,” Jesse said, “but not from around here. I think they’re trying to keep a low profile. They haven’t been mixing with the population at all.”
“How you know they’re here, then?” Mr. Black asked.
“Sax here works at a food distribution company,” Jesse said.
“Shut up, dammit,” Sax said. “We don’t know who these guys are.”
“We just concerned citizens,” Mr. White said. “Not here to cause trouble. You do food deliveries?”
Sax eyed Mr. White, then sighed. “Yes, we’ve been delivering to them for the past month. Orders get bigger every time.”
“I’ve seen them bring in vans on car carriers,” Jesse said. “Noticed it about three weeks ago. They just keep on coming. Have to be more than a thousand now.”
“That sound suspicious,” Mr. Black said.
“Yes sir, they’re planning something,” Jesse said. “Wish we had more citizens around here that cared.”
“A lot of people care,” Sax said quietly, looking around to make sure nobody was close by. “We got several thousand Teamsters living in this town. Most of them want the UN out of here.”
“Bad enough to do something about?” Mr. White asked.
“They could be rallied,” Sax said, “but nobody has the guts yet.”
“Do you know locations?” Mr. White asked.
“Who are you guys?” Sax asked. “Really?”
Mr. White and Mr. Black looked at each other, then back at Sax and Jesse.
“How do we know who you are?” Mr. White asked.
“We’re just locals,” Jesse said.
“Why you approach?” Mr. White asked.
“Well, no offense, but you look kinda European to me,” Jesse said. “I’ve not been causing a ruckus over these UN folks because they aren’t in town pushing anybody around. If they start, lots of rednecks are gonna come out of the woodwork. Mark my words.”
“Now don’t be sounding like a trouble-maker,” Sax said. “How do you know they won’t report back to the UN?”
Mr. White chuckled. “UN don’t like us. Feeling mutual.”
“Where are you from?” Jesse asked, “if you don’t mind me asking.”
“Bulgaria, originally,” Mr. White said. “American citizens now.”
“Uh huh,” Sax said. “What do you do for a living?”
Mr. Black laughed. “Fixers.”
“Fixers?” Sax asked. “What does that mean, exactly?”
Jesse shot him a nervous glance. “Forget what my friend is asking, gentlemen.”
“I thought you were full of questions,” Sax said.
“When you come out of shell, you come out of shell,” Mr. White quipped.
“Should we tell?” Mr. Black asked.
“Send boss text,” Mr. White replied.
Mr. Black pulled out his phone, Sax’s eyes getting big.
“Let’s get out of here, Jesse. They’re probably calling their UN buddies.”
“Sit,” Mr. Black said as he typed the message. His phone dinged with a reply. Mr. Black read it and snickered.
“What’s so funny?” Jesse asked, looking more and more nervous.
“Yeah, what so funny?” Mr. White asked.
Mr. Black looked at Sax. “What name of kid on Leave it to Beaver?”
Jesse laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Sax smiled. “I know what they’re doing. It was Theodore.”
“Right,” Mr. Black said. “What name of brother?”
Jesse smiled. “Oh, I get it. Wally. Dad’s name was Ward. Remember the old joke?”
“What old joke?” Mr. Black asked.
“When the wife says Ward, you were kinda tough on the beaver last night.”
Mr. Black burst out laughing. “Hey, I like these guys.”
“Pass test?” Mr. White asked.
“Yes,” Mr. Black said.” He looked at Jesse and Sax. “You hear of Ivan the Butcher?”
“Oh, crap, you’re with him, aren’t you?” Sax whispered.
“You say there teamsters who’ve had enough of UN?” Mr. White asked.
Sax shook his head yes.
“Think they might want to help us on upcoming attack?”
“I got a lot of friends too,” Jesse said. “Ex-military like me. We’ve all had it with these creeps.”
“Be careful who tell,” Mr. White said. “Agents all over. When next teamster meeting?”
“Couple days,” Sax said.
“You know footprint of UN base?”
“I know where I’ve delivered food,” Sax said. He rattled off the street boundaries.
Mr. White and Mr. Black glanced at each other, smiling.
“We pretty close, no?” Mr. White said.
Mr. Black nodded. “I knew. Makes sense when you look at map. Easy to protect. Mass access for attack not easy. Only handful of good entry points.”
“Wonder how they’d like it if we blocked them all up with semi-trucks?” Sax asked.
“I like, them not so much,” Mr. White said. “I think we be friends, gentlemen. Go back to women now, they look antsy. You here often?”
“Hell, just about every night,” Jesse said.
Sax pulled out his phone. “What’s your number?”
Mr. White read it off quietly, and Sax punched it in, calling him.
“Good,” Mr. White said, putting a name to the new contact. “I’ll text when we have news. Be careful who you tell. If women can’t be trusted, don’t mention. Understand?”
“Yes sir,” Sax said.
“We got it,” Jesse said.
They walked back to their table.
Jorge drove the BFV south, one of more than fifty other BFVs and nearly a thousand L-ATVs, infantry following them slowly. It was just past dusk.
“I’m gonna close the hatch,” Jorge said. “Starting to get a little chilly.”
“Go for it,” Gonzalez shouted. “You can turn on the headlights, too. It’s not too early.”
“Roger that,” Jorge said.
Doug scanned the area through his weapons sight, seeing some other vehicles rolling past them. “Damn, those L-ATVs are a lot faster than this, aren’t they?”
“Yeah,” Gonzalez said. “They’re scouting.”
“Hey, Gonzales, how far is it to our deployment location?” asked Sessions, one of the Marines in the back, in a Georgia accent. “It smells like Jenkins’s dirty socks in here.”
“Hey, screw you man,” said Jenkins, a buff black Marine with a big grin. “You’re smelling yourself.”
“We’ll let you know when the scouts in the L-ATVs report in,” Gonzales said. “Don’t get your panties in a bunch. The longer you stay in here, the less time you’re out there walking through scorpions and sidewinders.”
Several of the Marines chuckled, Doug shaking his head.
Suddenly there was a large explosion, the flash looking about a hundred yards out.
“Crap,” Gonzalez said. “One of the L-ATVs just ran over an IED.”
“Hey, dude, it’s still rolling,” Jorge said from the driver’s seat. “They rolled past it. Should I go over there?”
“Negative,” Gonzalez said. “Those vehicles are better equipped to handle IEDs than this is. Steer way wide. As a matter of fact, focus on vehicles who get through without hitting anything and follow their tracks as best you can.”
“Got it,” Jorge said.
“Looks like those guys are all fine,” Doug said, watching through his FLIR gunsight. “They’re getting back into their vehicle now.”
“Yeah, see them,” Gonzalez said. “Most of the time those things can keep going.”
“Yeah, unless there’s a hit too close to one of the tires,” Jenkins said. “Hopefully somebody checked.”
Doug turned from his sight. “Yeah, they had several people crawl underneath. All the insides of the tires got looked at.”
“I was in one of those damn things when we rolled over an IED once,” Sessions said. “Not one of those small ones. An old MRAP. Didn’t hear good for a frigging week.”
There was another explosion further up.
“Dammit, they’ve mined this whole frigging area,” Gonzalez said. “You doing okay up there, Jorge? Still keeping a bead on a good path?”
“Yes sir,” he replied. “That L-ATV isn’t moving.”
“The guys are okay, though,” Doug said. “They’re all out of their vehicle.”
“So what now?” Jorge asked. “They on foot?”
“They’ll figure out if it’s fixable or not,” Gonzalez said. “If it’s not, they’ll end up hooking up with some of the other vehicles. There’s several more waves coming.”
“If the enemy is smart, they’ll have their mortars aimed at the places with no explosives,” Jenkins said. “That way, when the later vehicles roll through, they’ll be funneled into a smaller area that their mortars are already targeted on.”
“Let’s hope they aren’t that smart,” Doug said.
“They were that smart in Syria,” Sessions said.
“Yeah they were,” Jenkins replied.
“We’re just about to the one that’s stopped,” Jorge said. “We picking up?”
“No, they’ll get picked up later,” Gonzalez said. “We don’t have room.”
They rolled along for another several miles, no more IEDs encountered, and then there was an explosion, three hundred yards ahead of them.
“Here it starts,” Jenkins said.
“Was that mortar fire?” Jorge asked, his question punctuated by another explosion.
“Yep,” Gonzalez said. “Stay on a good path and speed up. See that ridge? We might be able to see the enemy mortar team with the FLIR system if we’re high enough up.”
“Looks like another BFV is thinking the same thing,” Jorge said. “They’re gonna beat us there.”
“They’d better be careful,” Gonzalez said, watching them stray into a path not yet traveled, his comment cut off by another mortar explosion, only fifty yards to their east.
“What happens if we get hit with one of those mortar shells?” Doug asked.
“Depends on where it hits us,” Gonzalez said. “These are more survivable against mortar rounds than the L-ATVs, so don’t worry about it too much.”
There was a massive explosion ahead, the BFV ahead of them blowing up.
“Dammit!” Gonzalez shouted. “That’s why you follow a path that’s already been used.”
“Shit, that thing is fully engulfed in flames,” Jorge said. The ammo rounds blew seconds later, pieces of vehicle and men flying in every direction.
“You know what you’re doing up there, driver?” Jenkins shouted.
“Yes sir, I’m sticking to a path already traveled,” Jorge shouted back. “Don’t worry, we’ll get there in one piece.”
“No pun intended,” Sessions said.
“You’re a sick puppy,” Jenkins said. “We probably knew those guys.”
“War is war.”
“We’re almost to the ridge,” Doug said.
Another mortar round blew up, behind them this time by about seventy yards, narrowly missing an L-ATV.
“We’re there,” Jorge said, pulling up to the crest of the small ridge. “Says we’re on an eight-degree angle. I can go up a little more and it’ll level out, but we’ll be more exposed.
“Don’t bother, I can see what I need to see,” Doug said, looking through his FLIR sight as more mortar rounds fell.
“Hurry up, man, they’re increasing their rate of fire,” Sessions shouted.
“M242, right?” Doug asked.
“Yeah, with the anti-personnel frag rounds,” Gonzalez said. “Try a few single shots to test your aim, then go to full auto.”
“You got it,” Doug said, looking at the men moving on the green screen, their bodies showing bright against a darker green background. He fired, the round going off, killing several men, others rushing up to take their place at the mortar, as machine gun fire started, the armor of the BFV pinging. Two more mortar shells fell, one of them a little too close for comfort, the impact shaking the vehicle.
“C’mon, man, end those guys,” Jenkins shouted.
“Here goes nothing,” Doug said, pushing the button for auto-fire and pulling the trigger, peppering the mortar nest with high-explosive rounds, killing almost all the enemy fighters manning the mortars, the barrage stopping. By that time there were more BFVs up along the ridge, and they all started up, most of them firing into the large group of men, who were coming towards the line at a fast trot. Then the L-ATVs started flying over the top of the ridge and down into the valley below, guns blazing.
“Be careful not to hit our guys!” Gonzalez shouted as Doug wailed away at the enemy with the M242.
“Don’t worry, I’m way beyond where they are. This gun is insane. How much ammo we got?”
Gonzalez looked over at Doug and grinned. “Plenty, but don’t fire auto bursts that are too long, or you’ll overheat the gun. See anybody setting up more mortars?”
“Nope, the enemy fighters are trying to find cover. A lot of them are being killed by the machine guns on those L-ATVs. Should I use ours?”
“No, hold that in reserve.”
“Tank, coming in from the west,” Jorge said. “See it?”
“Son of a bitch,” Jorge said. “Remember how the TOW Missiles work?”
“Yeah, I got it,” Doug said. “Want me to fire one?”
There was a whoosh from a nearby BFV, a missile flying towards the tank, hitting it broadside, just under the turret, popping the whole assembly off.
“Whoa, dude, that was awesome,” Jorge shouted.
“See any more?” Doug asked.
“I’m on it with the CIV,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a better picture. I don’t see any more, but there’s a ridge to the west where that first one came from. Might be more over there.”
“What if there are a bunch of battle tanks over there?” Doug asked. “We’ve only got six TOW missiles, right?”
Gonzalez backed away from his CIV eyepiece and glanced at him. “Look to the east and west, along the ridge. We’ve got most of the first fifty BFVs lining up. They got six TOW missiles a piece. Don’t lose your nerve on me, okay?”
Jenkins laughed. “You let us know if there’s a bunch of tanks, and we’ll get out of this tin bucket.”
“Shut up, man,” Gonzalez said.
“There’s a whole lot more enemy fighters coming up behind that first batch,” Doug said, looking through his sight. “Some of them are carrying mortars.”
“So, we blast them before they can set them up,” Gonzalez said. “That’s our job.”
“The L-ATVs are in a good position,” Jorge said. “I don’t think those enemy fighters know they’re there.”
“Oh, they know, believe me,” Gonzalez said. “This battle is gonna be a bloodbath.”
“You want me to kill anybody trying to set up a mortar, right?” Doug asked.
Gonzalez nodded. “Yeah, as long as there aren’t any of our guys in front of them.”
“Hey, dude, tanks, see them?” Jorge shouted. “I can just see the main guns of a couple of them now, coming up from the ridge.”
“Knew it,” Gonzalez said. “Get ready on that TOW launcher. Remember we’ve only got two, then we have to load more missiles. Remember how we did it?”
“Yeah, no problem,” Doug said.
There was a massive blast, and a BFV about sixty yards to the west blew apart.
“Oh crap!” Doug said, his heart pounding.
“We’re getting out,” Jenkins said.
“Yeah, go for it,” Gonzalez said, hitting the button to drop the rear door. “Set up your mortar and wail away.”
Ivan was watching PC screens with the intel team, all of them focused on the long-range detailed app. Sam and the rest of the leadership team walked in, chatting amongst themselves.
“Great, you’re here,” Ivan said. “How’s things up-top?”
“We got the timbers here,” Garrett said. “Still gonna be slow going on the main entrance, I’m afraid. Maybe we ought to move this hardware into a building.”
“No, it safer down here,” Jules said.
“I agree,” Ted said. “What are you guys watching? The battle in Mexico?”
“Yeah,” Robbie said, turning from the screen. “It’s starting to ramp up now.”
“That’s gonna be a tough battle, partner,” Tex said. “I’d rather be here.”
“Let’s chat about the UN base,” Ivan said. “Find a seat. There’s more folding chairs over in the corner there.”
Everybody gathered around with chairs, and Ivan nodded to Ben, who showed a satellite view of the UN base on the largest monitor they had.
“That’s a huge space,” Ted said, looking at the screen, with it’s dark red outline around the target area. “How dense are they?”
“We don’t know for sure,” Ivan said.
“That’s why you asked us to be on the recon team, right?” Sam asked.
“Yes, but there have been some further developments,” Ivan said. “Mr. White and Mr. Black made some friends.”
“Friends?” Ted asked.
“Locals who’ve been watching, and don’t like the UN,” Ivan said.
“One in Teamster’s Union,” Jules said. “We talk to them about joining attack.”
“Teamsters, huh?” Tex asked. “How many?”
“Over a thousand,” Ivan said, “but more on that later.”
“We’re still going in to check it out, though, right?” Sam asked. “We don’t need any nasty surprises when we’ve got our pants around our ankles.”
Jules chuckled. “You and me on same page. Local help great, will pay off, but we need to look for ourselves.”
“I’m okay with that, as long as we have a plan that makes me confident.”
“Confident about what?” Sparky asked.
“Confident that we won’t lose the best men on our team,” Ivan said. “We’re going to hit this base with overwhelming force. I want to know as much as we can, but we have to balance risk and reward carefully.”
“Then we come up with a good plan,” Sam said.
Ivan’s phone rang. He answered it, walking away from the group.
“Uh oh,” Jules said. “Seen that look before.”
Ivan was back in a flash. “Mr. White and Mr. Black are seeing movement of UN vans from the base.”
“Where are they going?” Garrett asked. “They getting on I-8?”
“Going east on Broadway,” Ivan said. His phone dinged with a new text. “Turning south on 2nd Street. Our assets are following them, but it’s tough, because there’s still vans leaving the base.”
“Put the map of El Cajon up on that screen,” Ted said.
Ben loaded the map program, using his cursor to point out Broadway. “There it is. And here’s 2nd Street.”
Sam’s brow furrowed. “They could take that to Highway 94.”
“That leads here,” Morgan said.
Ivan nodded. “Yes, it does. Better alert everybody.”
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 2018
This one is chock-full of action. Pick up your copy today!
Sam slipped down through the hole on the rope, the opening big enough for him to pass now. It was about seven feet from the ceiling to the floor of the storage room, but he had enough rope to get almost to the ground. He heard scraping in the hole, and turned to take hold of the ladder.
“This thing feels really rickety,” he yelled up.
“It’ll be okay,” Elmer yelled down. “The hole will help keep it steady, and it ain’t gonna break. I wouldn’t put more than about three people on it at a time, though. Two if they’re large.”
Sam nodded, then left the storage room, heading straight for the nursery. Morgan saw him and grinned. “Got the ladder in?”
“Yep. You’re working the nursery?”
“Helping out some,” Morgan said. “All of us have been. They miss Anna.”
Mia squealed as she ran to Sam, hugging his legs until he picked her up and kissed her.
“Daddy! Where’s mommy?”
“She’s outside. I’ll take you up the ladder so you can be with her pretty soon.”
“Maybe it’s safer for Mia to be down here,” Morgan said quietly.
“We can send her back down if we have to,” Sam said. “The enemy probably won’t hit us again. Their main operation is starting, and apparently we’ve nailed the Venezuelan ship that was sending the cruise missiles.”
“That’s what we’ve been hearing,” Morgan said. “You should go chat with Ivan and Jules. There’s been a lot going on.”
“I will in a second,” he said, sitting down with Mia in his lap, chatting to her softly.
“What’s next?” Morgan asked.
“We’ll get more supplies down here, first of all.”
“What about the main entrance?”
“Some of Tyler’s warriors are working that with the small bulldozer, but they’re a little worried about additional cave-ins. Garrett sent people into town to get some timbers. We’ll have to put them up as we go back.”
“Sounds like that’s going to take a while.”
Sam nodded. “Yeah, it’ll be a slow process. We’ve got the ladder in place, though. Anybody who doesn’t need to be down here can get out easily now.”
“I want to go see mommy,” Mia said.
“Don’t worry, honey, I’ll take you up there with me when I leave. I need to talk to Uncle Ivan and Uncle Jules.”
Morgan chuckled, shaking her head.
Sam got up. “I’m going to go chat for a few minutes. You’ll have to wait here, honey.”
“Why can’t I go?” Mia asked.
“It’ll be faster if I go by myself, and you want to get back to mommy as soon as you can, right?”
Mia thought for a moment, then nodded reluctantly.
Sam kissed her forehead, smiled at Morgan, and left, heading for the intel room. Ivan and Jules were both there, sitting in a corner chatting with Ben.
“Sam, you guys got the ladder set up already?” Ivan asked.
“Yep. It’s a little rickety, but it’ll work for now. What’s up?”
“Big battle brewing south of border,” Jules said.
“I know, been watching the apps.”
“We’re getting a lot of help down there now,” Ben said. “The US armed forces are getting involved. They sent a ton of military hardware into the area from all over the southwest. Lots of L-ATVs and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.”
“Perfect,” Sam said. “Do they have enough people to run them?”
Ivan shook his head. “They’ve got mostly citizen recruits. That’s probably our biggest weakness right now.”
“How much chance is there that we’ll hold them south of the border?”
“Near hundred percent,” Jules said. “We took over Tecate and the highway that leads right to the enemy lines. There are trucks on it as we speak, sending recruits down there.”
“The UN is gonna be our focus then, right?” Sam asked.
“You got it,” Ben said. “Mr. White and Mr. Black know where they are, and they also found the entry point.”
“Where is it?” Sam asked.
“Dana Point harbor,” Ben said. “We’re planning the operation now.”
“I’d say we’re making plans for the plan,” Ivan said. “We need another recon team. We’re thinking about you, Tex, Sparky, and Ted. What do you think?”
“I think Erica might push hard to go along,” Sam said. “I’d rather she didn’t. She’s a great fighter, but she doesn’t have experience in this type of thing. The group you’re talking about has Special Forces training.”
“Use Mia,” Ivan said. “Make her understand that she needs to protect her child.”
Sam smiled, nodding. “Way ahead of you, chief.”
“How long till the main entrance gets opened?” Ben asked.
“Gonna be a while,” Sam said. “We’re having to buy timbers. The walls and ceiling need to be shored up. It’s as bad as digging a new mine, according to people who know.”
“Which people?” Jules asked.
“Elmer, Willard, and a few others,” Sam said. “I believe them. Frankly, I’d like us to shore up these rooms too.”
“I need to meet with you and the others, and plan the recon operation,” Ivan said. “Could we do that this afternoon?”
“Sure,” Sam said. “I’ll chat with them and send you a text. Feel free to come out, too. It’s a climb, but not too bad.”
“I think we should meet down here,” Jules said. “Computers here, we need the data.”
“I agree,” Sam said. “I’m gonna take Mia up top to be with Erica. Then I’ll get with the others.”
“Sounds good,” Ivan said. “We’ll see you back here in a little while.”
Sam nodded, then went back to the nursery to pick up Mia. She was glad to see him, rushing for a hug. Morgan and Shelly were both there.
“Oh, you’ve got the duty too, huh?” Sam asked Shelly.
“We’re all pitching in. The kids miss Anna. Think she can climb down here?”
“Probably,” Sam said. “Might be better to move the kids up there, though.”
“Is it safe enough?” Shelly asked.
“Oh, I think so,” Sam said. “Ready, sweetie?”
Mia looked up at him, shaking her head yes.
“You’re going to climb in front of me, but don’t worry. I won’t let you fall, okay?”
“Yes, daddy,” she said, taking his hand. They walked to the storage room.
Men were bringing boxes of supplies down, but they stopped to make way for Sam and Mia.
Mia was a trooper, climbing up the ladder quickly, Sam struggling to keep up. “Where’s mommy?”
“She’s probably in the hotel or the saloon,” Sam said, pulling out his phone. He sent her a quick text, and she burst out of the hotel lobby, running down the street to them. Mia leapt into her arms.
“Oh, sweetie, I missed you so much,” Erica said, holding her tight.
Anna came over. “Hello, Mia, how are you?”
“Okay,” Mia said, glancing at her and then looking back at Erica. “I don’t have to go back down there, do I?”
“No, sweetie, you can stay with us,” Erica said, shooting a glance to Anna and Sam.
“She’s completely bonded to you two,” Anna whispered. “That’s good.”
“It is,” Sam said. “Where should we go?”
“Home,” Erica said. “For a little while at least.”
“The battle wagon?” Sam asked.
Erica chuckled. “Well, that is our home, isn’t it?”
“For now,” Sam said. “I’m gonna have to meet with Ivan and a few others in a couple hours.”
“I figured, but let’s not focus on that now, all right? We need to focus on our daughter for a while.”
“Yes,” Sam said. The three of them walked towards the pasture where their battle wagon was parked. Anna watched them until they were out of sight, then went back into the hotel lobby.
It was late afternoon on the border. Doug and Jorge were tired after a day of helping with supply unloading and distribution. Conrad came over.
“Higgins has a proposal for you two.”
“What’s that?” Doug asked.
“They want you to be crew members in one of the BFVs.”
“Won’t that take a lot of training?” Jorge asked.
“Not really,” Conrad said. “They want one of you to drive and the other to be the gunner. A marine will be the commander, and you’ll be bringing in six marines and their mortars.”
“So we’ll be like an armored taxi service?” Jorge asked.
“Once you’re there, you’ll use the weapons of the BFV to pound the enemy. You’ll be one of sixty in this area.”
“Well, what do you think?” Doug asked Jorge.
“I’m game,” he said. “When do we start training?”
“Now,” Conrad said. “We’re pulling out in three hours.”
“We’re going in the dark?” Jorge asked.
“The BFV has very good FLIR systems,” Conrad said. “This version is using CIV, which is a good thing, and it’s also got the latest-generation FLIR targeting system.”
“Hey, dude, in English. What’s CIV?”
“I figured you’d ask what FLIR was,” Conrad said, shooting a smirk at Jorge.
“I know what that is,” Jorge said. “Forward Looking Infrared.”
“Yep, and CIV is the Commanders Independent Viewer,” Conrad said. “Let’s go. That’s your rig right there, third from the end next to the train tracks.”
They walked over and were met by the commander, a young Hispanic man. He was smaller than either Doug or Jorge, with a stocky but trim build and a welcoming smile.
“You’re the commander for this one?” Conrad asked.
“Yes sir,” he said. “Private Gonzalez at your service. Is this my gunner and driver?”
“Yep,” Conrad said. “I’ll leave you guys to this. I’ve got other stuff to do.”
“You gonna be involved?” Doug asked.
“Yeah, most of my team will be using the L-ATVs. We’ll see you out there.”
Doug and Jorge watched as Conrad trotted away.
“Let’s get started,” Gonzalez said. “Have you ever served in a tank or other armored vehicle?”
“No sir,” Jorge said. Doug shook his head no.
“Not a problem,” Gonzalez said. “Who’s got the most experience driving commercial vehicles?”
“I drove truck for a few years,” Doug said, “but Jorge has done more of it.”
“Fifteen years on the road,” Jorge said. “What’s this baby got under the hood?”
“It’s a Cummins VTA-903T,” Gonzalez said.
“Nice,” Jorge said. “It’s 600 horsepower, right?”
“You know your diesels. You okay with driving?”
“Sure,” Jorge said. “Where do I sit?”
Gonzalez led them to the front of the vehicle. “That hatch right there, in front. You’ll be sitting right next to the engine.”
“Is it supposed to be open?” Jorge asked.
“You can drive with it open or closed,” Gonzalez said. “Obviously when we’re in battle we’ll be buttoned up all around. Go ahead and climb in.”
Jorge smiled like a kid in a candy store, climbing onto the vehicle and lowering himself into the seat. “Hey, this is cool.” He checked out the controls. “Looks pretty straight-forward.”
“It is. I’ll help you get a feel for her in a moment, but let’s look inside the turret first. Come on through the back.”
Jorge climbed out and joined them. They walked up the ramp and went to the turret section.
“Which seat is mine?” Doug asked.
“Left side. See the white panel between the seats? Those are for fire control and ammo selection. The main gun fires either semi-auto or automatic, and you select it here.” Gonzalez pointed to the buttons. “There’s also selectors for the TOW missiles and the M240 machine gun. All of them are aimed and fired with the two-hand grip there.”
“The white unit with the handles covered in black rubber,” Doug said. “Seen pictures of this someplace.”
“They’ve been around for quite a while now,” Gonzalez said. “See that joystick next to my seat? That allows me to fire the weapons as well.”
“Cool,” Doug said. “What’s that sight on your side?”
“That’s the CIV.”
“Oh, it’s the Commanders Independent Viewer,” Jorge quipped, shooting a smirk at Doug.
“That’s correct,” Gonzalez said. “Nice unit. Uses a gimbal made of armor, which was quite a feat when it was first developed.”
“Why would that be difficult?” Doug asked.
“The specs on this were really tight. No wiggling around or jerky movements. It’s smooth as silk and easy to zero in on targets, and that’s not easy with a gimbal that’s so heavy.”
“Are we taking six troops with us?” Doug asked.
“Five in our case, and half a dozen mortars,” Gonzalez said. “Ready to drive this puppy around a little, Jorge?”
“Hell yeah, dude,” Jorge said. He got into the driver’s seat. “Anything I need to know before we go?”
“To get a feel for how it turns, leave the hatch open at first, then we’ll close it. It starts with the push button. Fire her up while I close the rear door.”
“Okay, boss,” Jorge said. The diesel turned over and started running, the vibration moving through the hull of the vehicle. “Purrs like a kitten.”
Gonzalez laughed, pushing the button to close the rear door. “Strap yourselves in.”
Doug got into the gunner’s seat and strapped in, Gonzalez getting into the commander’s seat and flipping a few switches. Lights on the equipment came on.
“I start rolling with this knob to my right?” Jorge asked.
“Yep,” Gonzalez said. “Put her into drive and hit the gas, brother.”
Jorge laughed, engaged the transmission, and stepped on the gas, the beast lurching forward, Jorge grabbing the wheel in a panic as it took off faster than he expected. “Whoa!”
Gonzalez laughed. “Don’t worry, you’ll get the feel for this in a hurry. Drive her around between the train tracks and the border fence.”
Jorge drove forward, making a turn to avoid some other vehicles, then going straight towards the border at a good clip. “This thing has a great feel to it.”
“It does, doesn’t it,” Gonzalez said. “I used to be a driver. Kinda miss it.”
“How come you aren’t still a driver?” Doug asked.
“Because we didn’t have enough crews for all of these vehicles. They put experienced BFV operators in as commanders, so we could train you citizen recruits. We can switch around some if you guys would like. Good for all of us to know how to operate everything.”
“What should I be doing?” Doug asked.
“Look through the sight.”
Doug put his head to the eyepieces, his forehead resting on a pad above them. “Crystal clear, nice reticle.”
“Flip the night-vision switch there.”
Doug saw it and flipped it, the picture changing. “Wow, this is very high-res. Expected less.”
“Turn towards those trucks over there.”
Doug did that, the FLIR system showing him the warm engine right through the sides of the truck’s engine compartment. “Holy crap.”
“Yeah, now imagine we’re in the dark and there’s enemy fighters trying to sneak up on us. They’ll stick out like a frigging sore thumb because of their body heat.”
“I could imagine. Should I fire anything?”
“Nah, but move through the buttons and move each of the weapons around. They move slightly different. You’ll have to get used to them.”
Doug put each of the weapons systems through it’s paces. “This is easy. Are we really going to use TOW missiles?”
“We only have six of those,” Gonzalez said. “We save them in case the enemy has brought any tanks along, but so far we haven’t seen any. All other vehicles, including their puny Gaz Tigrs, will be toast when we hit them with the M242 chain gun. Trust me on that.”
“What’s the difference between these two types of ammo?” Doug asked, looking at the buttons.
“That one is to hit vehicles. Armor piercing shells. The other is anti-personnel. They’re high-explosive fragment shells.”
“Remind me not to be around when one of those goes off,” Jorge quipped. “This thing is flat-out fun to drive.”
“She is, ain’t she,” Gonzales said. “Go ahead and drive her back to the parking place, and back in. I’ll show you guys how to reload the guns and other stuff you’ll need to know.”
Jorge parked the vehicle like he’d been driving it for months.
Mr. Black watched as Mr. White drove east on Vernon way.
“This bad,” Mr. Black said. “I think they do this for very long time. I still see vans all the way over here, and European smokers.”
“What’s the next big street?” Mr. White asked.
“Cuyamaca. I see now. Row of housing. Looks abandoned. Lots of broken glass. Turn right. I bet this western boundary.”
Mr. White made the turn, and they drove down the street. “How far boundary to the north, I wonder?”
“First street we hit is Bradley. Here it comes. I see evidence of more people across street. See them out there, sitting between building and lot. I guess UN have rules about smoking outside.”
Both men cracked up.
“Stupid leftists,” Mr. White said. “How about that street, nothing interesting past it.”
“Billy Mitchell Drive. Make right. Nobody on far side. Civilian cars.”
“How can the folks who live around here miss this?” Mr. White asked as he turned.
“Some notice, afraid to say anything, others have no clue. It same everywhere.”
They cruised down the street, and then Mr. White’s eyes got wide. “This street run into municipal airport. Wonder if they use. Lot of UN creeps here. Take long time to float in on fishing boat.”
“I haven’t seen any aircraft flying around,” Mr. Black said. “Turn right again, take Marshall, then Bradley.”
Mr. White nodded, making the turn onto Marshall. “You right, I hear no aircraft at all. It’s closed.”
“Wonder if it’s occupied? Lots of hangars and other buildings around there.”
Mr. White smiled. “We should tell boss about this. Maybe he get line on C-130s or C-17s.”
Mr. Black laughed. “That be riot, but enemy hear. Might shoot down, kill hundred good guys with one shot. Turn here, at Bradley.”
“I see, I see,” Mr. White said. “We know how far on east side, right.”
“I didn’t see Eurotrash east of Pioneer,” Mr. Black said.
“We go past and look anyway, no?”
“Sure, no problem,” Mr. Black said. “Then hit bar. Need drink and food. Listen to locals.”
“Sounds good to me,” Mr. White said. He drove them past Pioneer, all the way to Magnolia, making another right, going down to Greenfield, which turned into Vernon Way.
“That it,” Mr. Black said. “No UN creep east of Pioneer, or at least not enough to be noticeable. We really need to get on foot and check out.”
“Boss said his recon team be here tomorrow. They check out in more detail.”
“We make sure to mention airport,” Mr. Black said.
“Yes. Look. Bar hopping with people. Let’s go. Use ears.”
Mr. White parked at the sports bar called Willie’s Lounge, and they went inside.
To be continued…
Copyright Robert Boren 2018
Seth’s computer sounded the history program alarm. He clicked on it, his eyes getting wide.
“What is it?” Kaitlyn asked, turning her chair towards his screen.
“Same highway in Mexico where we saw the semis unload before they took out the Marines. Wow. I’m seeing about thirty-thousand new RFID hits. Better call Jules and Ivan over here.”
“I’ll go get them,” Ben said, getting up from his seat.
“Why don’t they drive closer to the border before they reveal themselves?” Kaitlyn asked.
“Good question,” Seth said, turning as he heard Jules and Ivan come into the room. Ben sat back down, still working the problem with his drone feed.
“They’re dumping, huh?” Jules asked.
“Yeah, but why here?” Seth asked. “Why not closer to the border?”
Jules looked at Ivan, who was thinking, watching the screen over Seth’s shoulder. “They think it’ll be harder for us to stop them when they’re spread out wide on the dirt between there and the border. They’re probably right.”
Robbie and Morgan came back into the room with cups of coffee. “Uh oh, what’s happening?” Morgan asked.
“Thirty-thousand enemy fighters just revealed themselves in Mexico,” Kaitlyn said. “Same highway as before.”
“Maybe it’s time for the planes of the Theodore Roosevelt to start attacking,” Robbie said. “They’re close enough.”
Ivan shook his head no. “They’re going further south. Not for us. There’s an attack coming in the Gulf of Mexico.”
“Against what?” Ben asked.
“Governor Nelson’s team isn’t sure yet. Probably Houston. It’s the largest town in that region.”
“What about us?” Kaitlyn asked.
“We don’t have a city of over two million who are in danger of a nuke attack,” Robbie said.
“That we know of yet,” Seth quipped.
Robbie chuckled. “Yeah, that’s a fair point.”
Seth’s computer sounded another alarm. “Oh boy, another five thousand, same place.”
“This is going to go on for the next couple hours,” Ivan said. “All we can do at this point is watch and pinpoint their locations. If you see any that are on roads closer to the US border, come get me right away, okay?”
“Will do,” Seth said.
Ivan smiled. “Thanks.”
“Mind if I stay and watch, boss?” Jules asked.
“Sure, be my guest. I want to check on the UN base. Mr. White and Mr. Black are running a stakeout.”
“Good, they bigger problem,” Jules said. Ivan left the room, motioning for Ben to follow him.
“There’s a lot more Islamists,” Robbie said.
“True, but them we can see,” Jules said.
It was first light along the border. Doug crawled out of his pup-tent, his bones aching.
Jorge was getting up. “Hey, dude, ready for coffee?”
“Yeah, let’s go to the mess hall,” Doug said as he stood and fixed his pants and shirt. “I need a shower.”
“Yeah, me too, and I need some time with my wife,” Jorge said, dusting off his knees. “Looked at the apps lately?”
“Need to plug my phone in when we get to the mess hall. Glad they provided all those charging stations.”
“We’ve got military equipment that needs to be kept at the ready,” Jorge said.
Doug laughed. “Yeah, our cellphones with the apps on them are military equipment. Never thought of it that way.”
They walked down the hill, getting into the line for breakfast.
“Wonder where Conrad is?” Jorge asked.
“Who knows? That smells good. Bacon.”
“Perfect thing to go with powdered eggs,” Jorge cracked. “Wish they would’ve waited on pulling those trains out of here until morning. Woke me up at two-thirty. Took a while to get back to sleep.”
“I heard it but fell back to sleep right away. Wonder if they’re going to leave that stuff here?”
“Conrad was non-committal on that.”
“He doesn’t have any say,” Doug said.
“Oh, I know, dude, I was talking about him being non-committal on his opinion.”
Doug snickered. “Sorry, I’m not awake until I’ve had some coffee.”
“You and me both. That’s more tanks than I thought, but not all of them are M-1s. What are those other things?”
“Bradley Fighting Vehicles,” Doug said. “I’m surprised they weren’t using those before. M-1s are mainly for battles with enemy tanks, and this enemy doesn’t have them.”
“At least we haven’t seen any yet.”
They got through the food line after about five minutes, then found a place to sit next to charging outlets, both plugging their phones in.
“We’re slaves to modern technology,” Jorge said, his mouth half full of eggs.
“Listen. Is that another train coming?”
The low rumble got louder, Jorge getting up to look out the flap of the tent. “Two again. Looks like they’re both full of weapons.”
“Hope there’s more Bradley Fighting Vehicles,” Doug said.
“Good morning,” Conrad said, walking to their table with his breakfast. “Mind if I join you?”
“Sit,” Doug said. “Another two trains pulling in.”
“Yeah, chatted with Major Higgins about it earlier this morning. We’re finally getting smart.”
“Wait, earlier this morning?” Jorge asked. “Damn, dude, what time were you up?”
“Four,” Conrad said as he shoveled the first bite of powdered eggs into his mouth.
Doug washed down his breakfast with coffee. “So, they’ve gotten smarter than yesterday?”
“I’m kinda joking,” Conrad said. “Most of what they sent here yesterday were Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and about half of them came from further north in California, not from San Diego or Camp Pendleton.”
“I’m still not understanding what makes these Bradley Fighting Vehicles better than M-1 tanks,” Jorge said.
Conrad finished chewing a piece of bacon and washed it down with a small cup of orange juice. “The BFV has firepower that’s better to use against this enemy, and they hold a crew of three, plus up to six fully-equipped soldiers.”
“That sounds more like an armored personnel carrier,” Doug said.
“It’s much better armed.”
“What’s it got, dude?” Jorge asked.
“M242 chain gun, TOW missiles, and an M240 machine gun,” Conrad said. “It’s got reactive armor, too, so they can withstand a lot of abuse. Not as much as an M-1, but plenty for this situation. They’d eat a Gaz Tigr for breakfast.”
“Probably more enjoyable than this breakfast,” Jorge said, turning to toss his empty paper plate into the big cardboard trash box behind him.
“Always with the complaints, man,” Conrad said, shaking his head.
Jorge laughed. “Next, you’re gonna tell me about how Charley eats fish heads and rice, and squats in the bush.”
Doug cracked up, watching Conrad shake his head.
“What’s a chain gun?” Jorge asked.
“It’s a cannon that fires full auto,” Conrad said.
“Whoa, really? Bitchen, dude.”
“I’m sure that’s what the brass said when they selected that particular weapon,” Doug quipped.
“You two never fail to amuse me,” Conrad said, standing up. “We’ve got something even better coming now, from a base in Nevada.”
“Oh, they’re not BFVs?” Doug asked.
“The first train has a few. The second will be full to the gills with L-ATVs.”
“Great, another acronym I have to learn. What the hell is an L-ATV?”
Conrad smirked. “They’re a smaller, lighter MRAP.”
“Well that was helpful,” Jorge said, Doug cracking up as he tossed his empty plate in the trash.
“Sorry, I’m messing with you,” Conrad said.
“You seem happy this morning,” Doug said, sitting back down at the table. “You didn’t look so happy yesterday.”
“Uncle Sam is finally getting into the fight on our side,” Conrad said. “We’ll be a little short on men, but there are enough citizens to cover it with some short training.”
“Why the change?” Doug asked.
“General Hogan is working directly with the new Joint Chiefs now, and he knows where to direct hardware and what kind to deploy.”
“Are you gonna tell us what an L-ATV is or what?” Jorge asked.
“It’s a smaller, lighter form of MRAP, which means Mine Resistant Ambush Protected,” Conrad said. “Remember in the Iraq war where roadside IEDs were killing a lot of our troops?”
“Oh, yeah,” Jorge said.
“MRAP vehicles were designed to protect against those. They have a hull-shaped structure underneath that directs the blasts of mines away from the occupants of the vehicle. And before you ask, L-ATV stands for Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle.”
“That’s more words than there are letters in the acronym,” Jorge said.
Conrad smirked. “Take it up with the Pentagon.”
Doug snickered, then eyed Conrad. “Are we gonna end up in one of these vehicles?”
“Possibly,” Conrad said. “You guys done? Let’s go down and check them out. The trains are almost in position to unload.”
“I’m ready,” Doug said, looking at Jorge, who nodded in agreement. Conrad tossed his empty plate in the trash and they headed down the hill, getting to the tracks just as the first train was slowing to a stop. Major Higgins was there, directing the crews, poised to unload the train.
“Those are the BFVs?” Jorge asked, looking at the vehicles sitting two to a flatbed.
“Beautiful, ain’t they?” Major Higgins asked.
“How many?” Conrad asked.
“We’ll only have twenty of these,” Major Higgins said. “We’ll use them to lay down fire, mostly.”
“How many L-ATVs?”
Major Higgins shot him a grin. “You aren’t gonna believe it. Just got word from my CO.”
“Fifteen hundred here, another five thousand near Tecate.”
“Wow,” Conrad said. “Nice.”
“That’s not all,” Major Higgins said. “The marines took control of Federal Highway 2D in Mexico and locked down the city of Tecate, with help from that city’s leadership. Seems the Mexicans aren’t too keen on a bunch of Islamists turning their country into a battleground.”
“What’ll they do with that highway?” Jorge asked.
“They’ll load anybody willing to fight onto trucks and take them to the enemy front,” Major Higgins said. “We’ve got citizens massing in that area from all over the state now, itching for some action.”
“Wonder how many enemy fighters there are now?” Jorge asked, reaching into his pocket. “Crap, man, I left my phone on the charger back there.”
“Shoot, so did I,” Doug said. They ran to the mess hall in a panic, Conrad and Major Higgins chuckling.
“Is it really as good as you’re saying?” Conrad asked.
“Yeah, but this is gonna be bloody as hell. Most of the ninety thousand enemy fighters are visible now, walking on a huge line towards the border. We’ve got all these weapons and vehicles, but I expect the enemy to pull some nasty surprises out of nowhere. This battle isn’t about what everybody thinks it is.”
“The Islamists and the UN have had a falling out,” Major Higgins said.
“Where’d you hear that?”
“Never mind. Just trust me on this. They’re evacuating their forces from the US. It’s happening in Texas, and it’s happening in California. No way can they win in the US. They’d evacuate the southwest too, if they didn’t have General Hogan standing in their way.”
“I don’t know that I buy this.”
“They think they can take over Mexico and re-group, if they can get those pesky US regular army folks away from Mexico City and the other places they now control.”
Conrad was quiet, thinking for a moment. “You’re saying that they’d like to draw the US army into a fight to save all the civilians down here?”
“That’s what I’m thinking, and I’m not alone in that. I think they’ve prepared a nasty trap. If we’re dumb enough to fall for it, that’s on us.”
“They want to turn Mexico into a new Afghanistan right on our border, and they think the USA is just gonna let them do it, huh? That’s not so bright.”
“You’re right, it’s not so bright,” Major Higgins said, “and that’s why we’ll win in the long run. There are big glaring signs that they’re ignoring.”
“The Mexican people are actively fighting on the same side with the US Army. They’ve stopped the flow of Islamist fighters from Central America, and very few of the Venezuelans are left alive in Mexico at this point.”
“It’s hard to believe they don’t see that,” Conrad said.
“They believe their own BS. They still think they can convert most of the poor in Mexico to Islam. Catholics usually won’t go there without a fight, and the Pope has finally turned against the globalists. I expect him to be killed any day now.”
“That doesn’t sound so good.”
“If they’re successful in taking out the Pope, it’ll be the end of radical Islam in any Catholic-majority country. Trust me. These sixth-century cretins think they want a religious war. That’ll be their undoing. They don’t have the numbers nor the good leadership. They’ve made mistake after mistake. They always push too far because some stupid Imam tells them it’s the will of their God. They had a good chunk of Europe at one point. They lost it because of the same thinking they’re using now.”
“Charles Martel,” Conrad said.
Major Higgins laughed. “He’s one of the most important figures in European history, and most people have no idea who he was.”
“Yeah, cracks me up when modern historians rail against the Crusades.”
“You ain’t kidding there. It’s portrayed as stupid and evil by the revisionist historians today, when actually it was a reaction to the Islamist invasions of Europe. Bottom line, look who ended up in the 1st world and who ended up in the 3rd world. Hell, we were so dominant over these Islamist slugs that we drew up the boundaries for their countries. Cut their lands up like a frigging birthday cake. Many say we caused all the rancor in the Middle East because we were stupid in how we drew the borders. That’s a misguided opinion.”
“How so?” Conrad asked.
“We set those countries up the way we did to keep the crazies fighting each other instead of the civilized world, and it worked for a long time, until the globalists started messing around with it.”
“Hell, I never thought about it that way,” Conrad said.
“Remember the results of the Arab Spring? The stupid globalists in the EU and a bad president here pushed that forward. The result was a new invasion of Europe which they’re still dealing with today. Morons.”
Doug and Jorge returned with their phones, both looking scared.
“What’s up?” Conrad asked.
“Do you know there’s nearly a hundred thousand Islamists on the way to the border?” Doug asked.
Conrad and Major Higgins shot each other a glance.
“Last time I looked it was in the nineties,” Major Higgins said. “We’ll have six more trains making deliveries here today, and five times that many near Tecate. Don’t give up yet, men.”
Conrad nodded. “Let’s go check out those L-ATVs.”
Jorge and Doug followed him to the second train, which had just started unloading, leaving Major Higgins to his job.
“How worried are you about this?” Doug asked.
Conrad glanced back at him. “We’re in a better position than we were before. Wow, these look brand new.” The three stopped next to a massive flatbed railcar, which had eight off-road vehicles on it. They sported massive tires, and a small turret on top.
“What kind of gun is that?” Jorge asked.
“Looks like an M240 machine gun to me.”
Jorge got closer, looking up. “Is that good?”
“Yeah, it’s good,” Conrad said. “The army replaced M60s with these in most applications.”
“Most?” Doug asked.
“Yeah, they still use M60s for infantry, because they’re so much lighter than these, but where weight doesn’t matter, these are better. They never jam, and their barrels last a lot longer.”
“That vehicle next to it has a different gun,” Jorge said, pointing at the otherwise identical vehicle next to the first one.
Conrad chuckled. “That’s an M19 grenade launcher.”
“Wow,” Doug said. “Bet that packs a wallop.”
“Wouldn’t want somebody pointing that at me,” Conrad said. “You guys might get assigned to one of these.”
“We don’t know how to operate this thing,” Doug said.
“Don’t worry, not much to it,” Conrad said. “It’ll be dangerous, though. If you don’t think you can handle that, speak up. Nobody’s gonna force you.”
“I’ll do what my country asks of me,” Doug said, “but I don’t have kids or a wife who gives a damn. Jorge, you might want to think twice.”
Excuse me, gentlemen,” a young marine said. “We need to unload these.”
The three men backed away, watching as ramps were put into place, and the vehicles backed off.
Jorge looked down at the ground for a moment, then back up at Conrad. “I’ve got a lot to live for.”
“I know,” Conrad said.
“And I’ve got loved ones to protect. If we can take these creeps out south of the border, they won’t come up here and hurt my family. I’m in if they need me.”
“You have a few hours to think it over,” Doug said. “Best to be sure.”
Conrad nodded. “Yep, it’s best to be sure.”
Ivan and Jules stared up at the hole in the ceiling of the dim storage room, dirt falling as Tex and Sam dug at the earthen walls with shovels.
“It’s big enough now to get supplies down,” Jules said. “That’s the immediate danger, no?”
“The chemical toilets down here are gonna be a problem after a while,” Ivan said. “They weren’t designed for this many people living full time. Rolling the tanks out with carts was one thing. Hoisting them up this hole is going to be more difficult.”
Jules chuckled. “True, didn’t think. Maybe as soon as the hole is big enough, we use ladders to evacuate people.”
Ivan nodded, then his phone rang. “Mr. Black. I’ll put it on speaker.
“Hi, boss, still in the hole?”
“Oh, Jules with you. Hi, Jules.”
“Mr. Black, how are you, old friend?”
“Tired, was long night. Glad it morning now.”
“What’d you see last night?” Ivan asked.
“You right, many UN vans around, but not marked. Locals don’t seem to take notice. Foreigners keeping low profile, though. Much more spread out than expected.”
“I figured,” Ivan said. “Have any idea how many UN assets are in the area?”
“Rough guess? Many thousands.”
“Dammit,” Jules said.
“One thing that helps them is TV news,” Mr. Black said. “Talk of Islamists just south of border is on local channels. Saw people chatting in sports bar while watching. Most people stay in their homes according to conversation. Probably helps UN. Easier to not be noticed this way.”
“I’m sure,” Ivan said. “Where’s your other half?”
“Mr. White take nap. Me next. What you want we should do after? Keep motel room, hang out longer?”
“For now, yes. Blend in. Gather intel. We will be hitting them, but it’ll be a coordinated hit. When we get close, you’ll be moved to Dana Point. We’ll start the attack when the boat is at the dock. Kill everybody there, sink the boat, make sure the locals know what the operation was. Ruin that spot for them. That’ll screw them good.”
“How so?” Mr. Black asked. “Boats dime a dozen.”
“We’ll make sure the authorities in all the ports between San Diego and Santa Barbara know what they’re doing, and what to look for.”
“Oh. Hopefully none are on enemy side.”
Jules looked at Ivan.
“Jules, you have something to add?”
“Do we know if anybody at Dana Point knows about operation?” he asked.
“That’s good question,” Mr. Black said, “but very hard to determine. If we ask around, they’ll know, pass to enemy, be ready for our attack. Better to worry about later.”
Ivan sat quietly, thinking. “We need a second intel team.”
“We have, still in San Francisco,” Mr. Black said.
“Yes, but we can’t move them. There’s been attempts to return the UN there. Our operatives can handle it now, but if we lose the intel team, it’ll be much more difficult. I don’t want to battle again for territory we’ve won.”
“Sam, Tex, Ted, and Sparky?” Jules asked. “All trained. All experienced.”
“And Ji-Ho too,” Ivan said.
“Ji-Ho sick, Ivan. Remember, I tell?”
“Oh, that’s right,” Ivan said. “Better to leave him out of this.”
“Boss, I worry more about UN base than harbor,” Mr. Black said. “It’s spread out. Massive assault to take down. We not know boundaries yet.”
“Okay, we’ll table this conversation for now. You and Mr. White stay in the area and watch. Try to figure out what their footprint is, but don’t get caught. Got it?”
“Yes sir,” Mr. Black said.
“Good. Take a nap.”
To be continued…
Copyright Robert Boren 2018
Meyers watched his men from the small ridge, battling the onslaught of Islamists, the tanks silent now, most of them out of ammo. His phone dinged. He set the binoculars aside and looked, his brow furrowed.
“We’re not going to win this,” the driver said in near panic.
“Shut up,” Meyers said. “We’re not done yet. We need to kill as many enemy fighters as possible. That’s all that matters.”
“What was the message?”
“The enemy destroyed the airstrip and the B-1 Bombers in San Diego.”
“What? We’re toast. We should retreat right now.”
“They’ll stop us,” Meyers said. “This was well planned. It’s their D-Day.”
“They’ll retake California?”
Meyers chuckled. “They don’t know how many civilian fighters we have in Southern California. They’ll run into a buzz-saw when they get over the border.” He started for the door of their armored personnel carrier. “Come on.”
“Good, we’re gonna retreat,” he said.
“No, we’re gonna go join the battle, and kill as many of them as we can.”
His eyes got wide. “No way am I doing that.”
Meyers pulled his side arm and pointed it at the driver’s head. “You’re either going or I’m gonna end it for you right here and now.”
“But we’ll get killed. They’re all getting killed down there.”
“And they’re causing huge enemy casualties. Every person we kill is one less that attacks our homeland. We’ve got a job to do, so pull yourself together and be a man.”
The driver swallowed hard, looking down for a moment, then headed for the driver’s door. “I didn’t expect it to end like this.”
Both men got in, and the driver started the engine. Meyers loaded a new belt on the main gun with shaky hands, and they drove down into the raging battle, going for maximum destruction, slaughtering enemy fighters as fast as they could. When the anti-tank missile hit, neither of them felt a thing.
The three motorhomes were parked on the western street next to the mine, making it difficult for anything but pedestrians to get past. Elmer and Clem worked on the power hookup to the generators with Willard acting as commentator. Further back, along the side of the hill next to the boarding house, Tex, Sparky, Ted, and Sam were working on the hole that Elmer had dug to route exhaust gasses from the unfinished mine generator.
“Shouldn’t this give our cellphone signals a better path?” Sparky asked. “We haven’t tried a call from here, have we?”
“Won’t make any difference, because it depends on where the cell tower is,” Tex said. “Hey, Elmer, you guys got any cell repeaters around here?”
Elmer heard him and poked his head up from under the coach. “Yeah, we’ve got one. Willard, you know where that is, don’t you?”
“Yes sir,” he said. “I’ll go get it. Got a long enough extension cord to run it?”
“It’s got a car plug, remember?” Elmer asked. “Plug it into the dash of this rig and turn on the ignition. That’ll be close enough to the hole. Once we have the generators running we can use the AC adapter instead and plug it into the outlet in the utility bay.”
Willard rushed off to the hotel, running inside, coming back out with a box and some dangling wire. He plugged the unit into the motorhome dashboard, the green indicator light on the repeater turning on. “Try it now, Tex.”
Tex pulled out his phone and hit Jules’s contact. It rang three times, then picked up.
“How did you get through, my friend?” Jules asked.
“Cell repeater. I’ll put it on speaker,” Tex said. He did that, setting the phone on a rock as the others paused their work to gather around.
“We’re trying to enlarge the hole for the generator exhaust, so we can get supplies down to you, and hopefully get you out as well. The repeater is sending its signal through there.”
“Oh,” Jules said. “How’s power coming?”
“Close,” Ted said. “Clem and Elmer were almost done with the wiring the last time I talked to them.”
“Good, we’re blind as bats,” Jules said. “Any of you watch apps?”
“I’m sure some of the others are,” Tex said. “We’ve been pretty busy.”
“Ivan worried about battle south of border.”
“Why don’t you try to use the apps near this hole, partner?”
“Ah, Tex, good idea. It in storage room, correct?”
“You know, I’m not really sure,” Tex said. “Hey Elmer, where does this hole open up in the mine?”
Elmer trotted over. “The back storage room. The one we used to keep primer caps in. We’re gonna turn the power on in about five minutes. We’re almost done. The ethernet cable is still connected too. Should get you your WiFi back.”
“That good,” Jules said over the speaker. “Thanks.”
“I’d better get to it,” Elmer said. He went back to where Clem was working, at the mouth of the mine.
“Do you know where that storage room is?” Ted asked.
“No, I find somebody who know. I get off phone for now. Need to conserve battery.”
“The power will be back on in a few minutes,” Sparky said.
“Can you see whole cable?” Jules asked. “Might be damaged someplace else.”
Tex chuckled. “Possibly, but I doubt it. It’s okay, though, we know you’re safe. Talk to you soon, you old bushwhacker.”
Jules laughed and ended the call.
“A Belgian Bushwhacker?” Ted asked with a smirk.
“Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best choice of words,” Tex said. The men got back to work on the hole, making it wider as they went down.
“You know, we should find some rope,” Sparky said. “We’ll have to be down in this hole to continue much further. We don’t need anybody slipping down and getting stuck.”
Tex cracked up. “Yeah, that would be just great. I know where there’s rope. I’ll go get it.” He trotted down the street towards the livery stable.
The motorhome generators started.
“Here goes nothing,” Clem said, watching as Elmer threw the big switch in the mouth of the mine.
“Well, it didn’t short out,” Elmer said. “That’s a good sign.”
“Maybe we ought to make another call,” Clem said. They both walked to the hole. “Get somebody on the phone, so we can make sure they’re getting power.”
Tex came back over with two big coils of rope. “Generators working?” His phone rang. “It’s Jules again.” He put it on speaker.
“We have power,” Jules said. “Thank you. How long will it last?”
“As long as we need it to,” Elmer said. “These generators sip diesel, and we’ve got full tanks, plus more in the storage tank out back.”
“Yeah, we’ll have the waterwheel fixed before we run out of fuel,” Clem said.
“Maybe you have us out by then.”
“Ed and Tyler are leading a team on that, but it’ll be slow going,” Clem said. “It’d be easy to cause more of a cave-in than we already have.”
“Well do best can,” Jules said. “Ivan calling. I talk later.”
The call ended.
“Back to work,” Tex said.
Ivan watched over Seth’s shoulder as his laptop reconnected. Jules and Shelly joined them. Robbie, Morgan, and Ben were on PCs next to them, waiting for them to boot up.
“How long do we have power?” Ivan asked Jules.
“As long as we need,” he said.
“Hey, now that the router and Wi-Fi is back up, just connect your phone to that,” Seth said, eyes still glued to the screen as the history program came up. “The name and password are on the bulletin board over there, on a small piece of paper we tacked up the other day.”
“In a minute,” Ivan said. “Let’s see what’s going on.”
Seth’s eyes grew wide as the display came up. “The enemy fighters are heading for the border in a hurry.”
“Dammit, they overran our troops down there,” Ben said. “I was afraid that would happen.”
Ivan glanced at him, then back at the screen. “How many?”
“Working on a count now,” Kaitlyn said, working on her machine now that it was up. “Wow, less than there were, but still a lot. About ten thousand. It was closer to fifteen the last time we looked.”
“Check further south, to see if anybody else is joining them,” Ivan said.
“Only five thousand killed?” Jules asked.
“Wait, some of those hits are dead,” Seth said, looking at the history program. “Kaitlyn’s just looking at the long-range detailed app.”
“You see them stationary in the history?” Ivan asked.
“Yeah, at least twenty-five hundred of them.”
“So we’ve got between seven and eight thousand,” Ivan said, “and we know where the group from Julian is. They aren’t going to join them.”
“When they do, it’ll be in hell,” Ben said. “I’m working on the drone video feed. Having a hard time getting connected, though. I need to reboot this sucker again.”
“What happened?” Ivan asked.
“I don’t know.”
Conrad walked out of the leadership tent, his face grim. Doug and Jorge were waiting for him.
“I don’t like that look, dude,” Jorge said.
“Meyer’s whole force was slaughtered. At least they took out lots of enemy fighters before they bought it.”
“They’re coming here, aren’t they?” Doug asked.
Conrad shrugged. “Possible. We’re putting the artillery in place here. Want to help put those claymore mines back?”
“They knew,” Jorge said, eyes staring south into the barren desert.
“Excuse me?” Conrad asked.
“The brass,” Jorge said. “They knew Meyers would be overrun.”
“It’s more complicated than that,” Conrad said. “We had B-1 bombers, remember? They were supposed to take part in this, but they got blown up.”
“Yeah, I don’t think it’s so much that they knew this was going to happen,” Doug said. “They knew it might happen, and thank God for that.”
“Doesn’t make me feel a whole lot better,” Jorge said, his eyes on the phone he was holding in front of his face. “They’ve got nearly ten-thousand men on the way.”
“Probably less, according to the intel folks in there.” Conrad nodded at the tent. “Some of the hits aren’t moving. Probably dead.”
“If they put some lead-lined semi-trucks on that highway down there, what’s to stop them from bringing more?” Doug asked.
“Nothing, at this point,” Conrad said. “That’s why I suggested we start placing the claymore mines back out there again.”
“All right, let’s get to it, then.”
The three men went to the truck where they’d stored the claymore mines, pulling the hardware together, Jorge grabbing the big-wheeled cart they used last time.
“There’s got to be more aircraft around,” Doug said.
“The Theodore Roosevelt is steaming out of San Diego as we speak,” Conrad said.
“What’s that?” Jorge asked.
Doug laughed. “It’s one of our carriers. Why aren’t they just using those planes from the damn harbor?”
“They’re overly cautious, and I don’t blame them,” Conrad said. “The fact that they’re throwing that to the wind and bringing the carrier group out is good for us, but worrisome.”
“We’re on our own way too much,” Jorge muttered.
They worked the claymore mine setup for the next several hours, the sun getting low in the sky.
“Okay, that’s all of them,” Conrad said.
“The enemy fighters aren’t coming that fast,” Doug said, looking at his phone.
“They’re waiting for the rest of their force,” Conrad said. “Ten to one.”
Jorge nodded. “Yeah, dude, that’s what I’m thinking.”
They walked up the hill towards the mess center and got in line for food, taking it to one of the tables overlooking the border wall.
“Looks peaceful out there now,” Doug said, “but it won’t be peaceful for long.”
“Train coming,” Conrad said, nodding to the west.
“More artillery?” Jorge asked.
Conrad shrugged. “Probably. We need trained men more than we need artillery right now. The enemy is on foot and spread way the hell out, according to the app.”
“That’s a long train,” Jorge said. “Hey, looks like tanks.”
“Really?” Conrad asked, standing up, craning his neck to see in the distance. “Yeah, you’re right. I’m surprised.”
“Why are you surprised?” Doug asked.
“They were down to pretty low levels of armor at the bases. They want to keep a certain amount there, just in case they get attacked. If the Naval base or Camp Pendleton get overrun, we’re in deep yogurt.”
“What do they know that we don’t, dude?” Jorge asked.
“That’s what I’d like to know,” Doug said. “There’s a second train following this one. See it?”
“Barely,” Conrad said. “This worries me. I hope they know what they’re doing. Maybe these came from someplace other than the local bases.”
The men watched as troops and armor were unloaded, heading down the hill after they finished their meals.
“I’m going to ask where this stuff came from,” Conrad said, heading for the train. He found a Major directing the unloading and approached. “Excuse me.”
“Who the hell are you?” the Major asked. Conrad pulled his ID and showed it. “Okay, heard of you. What’s on your mind? We’re a little busy, as you can see.”
“Where are these assets coming from?”
The Major chuckled. “You look worried. Good.”
“Well?” Conrad asked.
“San Diego, mostly,” he said. “I think they’re nuts to do this. They’ve left themselves too open, and now they’ve sent the Theodore Roosevelt out as well.”
Conrad shook his head. “The B-1s are gone too.”
“Oh, you know about that?”
“It’s why Meyer’s bought it,” Conrad said.
The Major’s brow furrowed. “Meyers was a good man, and my friend.”
“I just barely got to know him, but was very impressed,” Conrad said. “Seems like this whole thing was planned.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” the Major said. “They hit the B-1s, but they also hit the base Ivan the Butcher was using in Dulzura.”
“Oh, crap, is he dead?” Jorge asked.
“And who might you be?” the Major asked.
“He’s one of our citizen recruits,” Conrad said. “A good one. Jorge. The guy next to him is Doug.”
“Good to meet you. I’m Major Higgins.”
“Pleasure,” Doug said. “Is Ivan still alive?”
“Yeah, heard they were in a mine when the cruise missiles hit the base. They’re trying to dig out now, but they’ve got power back on and are still conducting intelligence.”
“You know a lot about him,” Conrad said.
“We’ve been working with him lately,” Major Higgins said. “How could we not? He’s a criminal, but he’s our criminal, and he’s gotten better results than anybody else in the state.”
“Well, I hope we’re doing the right thing,” Conrad said, “but I’m skeptical.”
“What would you have done?” Major Higgins asked.
“We’ve got a couple hundred thousand citizen recruits all along the roads here. More than enough to stop this enemy before they get very far. There’s less than ten-thousand of them.”
“I wish you were right,” Major Higgins said.
“What’s not right?”
“Ivan’s guy is running that history program over Mexico now, and they got some earlier data from the regular army down around Mexico City. There’s over ninety-thousand RFID chips missing. Been disappearing over the last two weeks. They used barely fifteen-thousand of them against Meyers.”
“Oh, hell,” Jorge said. “Really? We need to evacuate our town right now.”
“Jacumba Hot Springs?” Major Higgins asked. “They’re not going to mess with that. If they come here at all, which I think is doubtful, it’ll be to get on Old Highway 80 and head west. There’s nothing for them to the east but death. General Hogan’s boys have seen to that.”
“What do you think they’re gonna do?” Jorge asked.
“I think they’ll head for Tecate and cross the border there.”
“Then why are we loading this place up with tanks and artillery, dude?”
Major Higgins laughed. “Because the brass don’t listen to me.”
Mr. Black was behind the wheel of the van. “They’re going right to where we expected.”
Mr. White nodded. “Yes, they do. Turnoff is only three miles. Don’t get too close.”
Mr. Black shot him a glare. “You worry too much. Boss say forty-five vans participate in hit on Dulzura base. Remember how many vans we see yesterday?”
“I didn’t count them,” Mr. White said. “Fill most of parking lot, so if number down, we’ll see.”
“They’re making the turn.”
Mr. White chuckled. “I have eyes.”
Mr. Black pulled into a parking lot across the street from the industrial area. “Watch them. Maybe we should walk over after dark and check out, no?”
“That’s nuts,” Mr. White said. “We wait a few minutes, drive by, see how many vans, report to boss. Get drone over area.”
Mr. Black sighed. “Okay, that fine.” They waited for a few minutes, then got back out on Pioneer Way, going north, past Vernon.
“That parking lot full more than yesterday,” Mr. White said. “I text boss.”
“You should call,” Mr. Black said.
Mr. White shook his head. “They still in mine, can’t get call, only text.” He sent it, and a second later his phone rang. “Hey, fixed, he calling.”
“Put on speaker,” Mr. Black said.
Mr. White pushed the button and set the phone on the center console. “Boss, you out of mine?”
“No, we’re still stuck, but we have a cell repeater in place. You say the vans are all still there, huh?”
“Yes sir, look like more to me. You want we should investigate?”
“We’re going to put a drone over the area, but I’d like you two to stick around. Keep an eye out on the street for traffic. If they’ve got a large enough number of those vans there, you’ll see them cruising the area. Don’t sneak around on foot after dark, though.”
“Yes, night vision make more dangerous than broad daylight,” Mr. Black said.
“Exactly,” Ivan said. “I’m going to let Ben try to hack into the El Cajon municipal video system. If he’s successful, I’ll send you a URL. You have your laptops, right?”
“Don’t leave home without,” Mr. Black said. Mr. White snickered.
“Good, you guys never disappoint,” Ivan said. “Talk to you soon. If you see any kind of major movement, follow them and let me know.”
“Will do, boss,” Mr. White said. “Talk later.”
The call ended.
“It be long night again,” Mr. Black said.
To be continued…
Copyright Robert Boren 2018
Tyler rushed into the intelligence room.
“UN Peacekeepers! The patrol leader just told us they’re massing at the front of the property. They haven’t started shooting yet.”
“Put the video feeds on that big screen,” Ivan said.
Karen shot Tex a worried glance.
“Want to go man our battle wagon, little lady?” Tex asked.
“I’m game,” she said.
Sparky rushed in. “We’d better get out there.”
Sam’s phone dinged. “Text from Garrett. The back end was attacked too, but we stopped them. Remember that the cavalry and the off-roaders are out there.”
“I just made a deal with the large groups who are camped here, remember?” Jules said. “We be fine, but time to fight.”
“Jules, you stay in here with Shelly,” Ivan said. “You’re second in command. I need you to fight with your brain. Understand?”
Jules nodded, watching the others head for the main shaft.
“Don’t get that look,” Shelly said. “Ivan’s right. We have plenty of fighters.”
“I know, but don’t have to like,” Jules said. “Let’s monitor video, have phones out to direct battle.”
“You hear that?” Trevor asked, hanging out with Kaylee, Megan, and Angel by the mouth of the main shaft.
“Enemy fighters,” Angel said. “I’ll bet that’s why Tyler just ran by.”
They all picked up their weapons. Erica trotted out with Sam, and then Ted, Haley, and the others rushed by them, Ted turning to Trevor. “Get ready, kid, it’s on!”
Trevor nodded, and then he saw somebody running towards the mine from the street. “Is that Willard?”
“Yep,” Kaylee said.
“Good, I could use a drink,” Angel said, Megan rolling her eyes.
“Hey, kids, want to provide me some cover?” Willard asked, trying to catch his breath.
“Sure, what’s up?” Trevor asked.
“I called what’s left of the cannon crew. We want to start blasting these cretins, but a little cover would help us get set up.”
“Cool,” Trevor said. “I love those things. Let’s go!”
They ran to the cannons, which were still in the wooded section in front of town. Willard’s team was already there, Trevor, Kaylee, and the others taking covered positions pointing in several directions.
“Look, see the white vans?” Kaylee asked, laying down next to Trevor.
He looked in that direction. “Yep, still on the highway. Behind the trees there.”
“Wish we could see how many,” Kaylee said.
“You and me both. Hear that? Off-roaders.”
“Yeah, coming from behind the town.”
“Hey, man, look!” Angel said, looking back towards town at a handful of off-roaders sporting micro-guns, followed by a multitude of mounted cavalry.
Everybody’s phones dinged. Trevor pulled his phone and looked. “Jules and the others are monitoring the whole area with all of those new video cameras that Clem’s team put up. The enemy came with at least thirty vans, and a dozen Gaz Tigrs too.”
“They’re in for a nasty surprise,” Megan said, reading her phone.
“Seriously,” Kaylee said. “When do we open fire? I can hit several enemy fighters from here.”
Trevor typed a text to the intelligence team. Fire at will?
Gunfire erupted from the highway, right through the trees, hitting one of the battle wagons but doing no damage. Then there was an ear-splitting blast, as the first cannon went off, and a Gaz Tigr blew up, the fireball clearly visible behind the tree line.
“Guess that answers my question,” Trevor said, opening fire with his Winchester, tagging several UN Peacekeepers who were running to the burning Gaz Tigr. Then a mini-gun on one of the battle wagons fired, stopping a Gaz Tigr which was trying to come in on the main driveway, its windshield shattered. Kaylee opened fire, killing the men as they got out, Megan joining in, as Trevor concentrated on UN infantry rushing through the trees in all directions.
“Damn, there’s a lot of them,” Angel shouted, firing his M-4, too many shots going wide.
“Slow down,” Trevor yelled. “Aim carefully. No need to rush. Look behind you!”
Angel turned around and saw several hundred cavalry men, riding by the cannon emplacement, firing their Colt pistols and Winchesters, the smell of black powder filling the area. Two of the cannons fired again, their thunderous roar striking terror into the UN Peacekeepers, most fleeing for their lives.
“This is burning my eyes,” Kaylee said.
“We’re not in a good position,” Trevor said, “the wind is blowing the smoke into us. We should go hunting. Plenty of UN Peacekeepers to take out.”
“Then let’s go do what we do best,” Kaylee said, getting up, running to the first clump of cover and diving to the ground. She fired, hitting several UN Peacekeepers who were rushing her. Trevor opened fire as he ran, dropping the rest of them. He dived to the ground next to Kaylee, Angel and Megan joining them.
“Hey, let me know a few seconds before you haul ass,” Trevor said as he shoved more .44 mag rounds into his magazine. “Nice shooting, though.”
“Thanks. Where did those off-roaders go?”
“Probably heading towards the highway,” Trevor said. “There’s a way, remember? We walked it a couple days ago. That pretty pathway with the trees covering it on either side.”
“You’re right,” Angel said. “I think the rest of the UN team is afraid to come in here.”
“Not so much,” Megan said, pointing to several Gaz Tigrs busting through the bushes right of the main driveway, in sight of the battle wagons, which opened fire with grenades and mini-guns.
“Whoa!” Trevor shouted. “They’re bailing out of those vehicles. Let’s go get them, so the mini-guns don’t have to waste the ammo.”
Kaylee nodded and they got up, running in a crouch, going from one clump of cover to another, firing on the way, killing several enemy fighters and spooking the rest.
A cannon fired again, hitting a van trying to come down the main road, causing it to fly sideways and roll, the cavalry on them in seconds, blazing away, none of the enemy fighters getting away. Several more vans rolled up behind the burning one, UN fighters racing out the side doors, heading for cover. Trevor and Kaylee hit as many as they could, the men on horseback riding over to finish off those who’d made it behind the bushes and boulders.
“The battle wagons aren’t moving around this time,” Trevor said. “Works a lot better. They’re just blasting whoever comes within range.”
“I hear the off-roaders now, going someplace in a hurry,” Kaylee said. “Couldn’t hear them before.”
“They make a lot more noise when they’re up to speed,” Trevor said. His phone dinged, and he looked at it. “Get ready for mortar fire. They showed up in the video feed. The off-roaders are going to take them out, but they won’t get there in time.”
Just as he finished talking, a mortar round fell in the middle of the pasture in front of town and blew up. Nobody was nearby.
“Uh oh,” Kaylee said. “That’s not good.”
The raspy snarl of the micro-guns started, and seconds later there was a loud series of explosions from the highway.
Trevor laughed. “I’ll bet those micro-guns just fried the mortar ammo.”
“Let’s hope so,” Kaylee said. “Look, there’s more UN Peacekeepers flooding in through those trees, where the first ones came from.”
“Let’s go get some,” Trevor said.
“Okay, Ash,” Angel said, rolling his eyes.
Trevor laughed. He got up with Kaylee and they ran forward, weaving in and out of cover again, firing at the running UN Peacekeepers until the cavalry noticed and flooded into the area.
“Hey, no fair,” Trevor said.
“There’s more over there,” Kaylee said. A shot rang out, whizzing by her, Trevor leaping into action, tackling her, pushing her up behind a boulder.
“What are you doing?” Kaylee asked, reaching for her M4 which she dropped when Trevor knocked her down.
“Saving my woman,” Trevor said, cocking the Winchester and firing at the approaching fighters, Kaylee joining in with automatic fire from the M4.
“Thanks, I think,” Kaylee said, swapping magazines. “We might run out of ammo.”
The gunfire was ramping down. Trevor and Kaylee went back by the cannons, Megan and Angel joining them. Willard and his team were still watching the area, but there was nothing to shoot at.
“Can it really be over this fast?” Willard asked. “Thought it was gonna be a bigger battle.”
“I guess it’s Miller Time,” Angel said.
Willard chuckled. “Perish the thought. It’s whiskey time.”
Ivan, Ji-Ho, and Jules watched the video feed.
“Why they do this, boss?” Jules asked. “They know we beat that many UN creeps.”
Ivan was watching the screen. He turned to Jules. “Most of our leadership people are still out there. Get them in here. Now!”
Jules sent a broadcast text to the principals. “You think they would do that much just to draw our people out?”
“I don’t know,” Ivan said. “Maybe.”
“Hey, Ivan, that drone is over us finally,” Ben said, turning from his PC. “Nobody else around for miles. We’re working on a count of the vehicles they sent at us.”
“Good, do that,” Ivan said. “Jules, are they coming?”
“Yep, they responded.” Jules said. “I tell them come fast.”
“Make sure Garrett and Clem get their butts in here too,” Shelly said. “We need them both.”
“I included them,” Jules said. “Trevor and Kaylee too.”
“Thank you,” Ji-Ho said.
Ben turned towards them again. “Counting the attackers in the back, they sent fourteen Gaz Tigrs and forty-five vans.”
“Nowhere near enough to take us, and they know,” Ji-Ho said. “Tell our people hurry.”
“Just did,” Jules said.
There was a low rumble, shaking hard enough for dirt and small rocks to fall from the ceiling.
“Too late,” Ji-Ho said, eyes full of worry.
“Oh crap,” Shelly said, looking at the ceiling. “Was that a cruise missile?”
Several of the video feeds disappeared from the big screen.
“Who got to the mine?” Ivan asked.
“I don’t know, boss, sending message now.”
There was another low rumble, much louder this time, and the ground beneath them shook. Dust filled the air in the intelligence room.
“Dammit,” Jules said, walking away with the cellphone to his ear.
The electricity shut off, several people screaming.
“We just lost everything but the laptops, guys,” Robbie shouted, coming out of the back room using his cellphone flashlight.
“Jules?” Ivan asked.
“Ted report, all alive so far,” Jules said. “Say part of mine shaft may have collapsed. Signal weak. Texts working, but can’t make call.”
“We’re trapped in here,” Shelly said.
“I only felt two explosions,” Ivan said.
“Is there anything they can hit us with that will penetrate this far down?” Ben asked. “Bunker busters, for instance?”
“You have to drop those from plane,” Jules said. “We have air superiority.”
“We hope,” Ivan said. “We used to have B-1s to deliver air support.”
Shelly glanced at Jules. “Let’s see where the cave-in is. Might be a way around it.”
“Yes,” Jules said, turning to the others. “Hey, there flashlights in cabinet by door. Many. Save phones, everybody. Don’t use for flashlight more than necessary.”
Jules and Shelly left the room, grabbing flashlights on the way, light beams picking up the dust in the air as they walked to the main shaft.
“Ivan’s having problems with the stress,” Shelly whispered.
“He okay, in thinking mode. Does hand-wringing. Trust me. He working it out.”
“Whatever you say. You know him better than anybody.”
“True,” Jules said. “Look, there. Closer than I expect. That’s bad. No way around.”
They walked up to a wall of rocks and dirt, blocking the shaft completely.
“Can we dig that out?” Shelly asked, eyes wide as she looked at it.
“From inside, I doubt. From outside with bulldozer, probably.”
“Did the enemy know what they were doing?”
Jules looked at Shelly. “I hope not.”
Trevor and Kaylee raced to the entrance of the mine, after the big explosions. A couple of the buildings in town were damaged, but not totally. Tyler and his warriors were already there.
“I wouldn’t go inside that shaft,” Tyler said. “Might cave in.”
“My dad’s in there,” Kaylee said, ignoring him, running inside with Trevor, both of them taking out their phones and turning on the flashlights. The blockage was only about thirty yards in.
“Dammit,” Trevor said. “That’s gonna take a lot of work with bulldozers.”
Willard came up behind them, with Clem, Tyler, and Elmer.
“Holy crap,” Elmer said. “That’s bad. Might take a couple weeks to dig that out.”
“They’ll starve in there,” Kaylee said, tears running down her cheeks.
“No, they took a lot of food and water down there,” Clem said. “I watched them do it. If it’s not on the wrong side of the cave-in, they’ve got supplies.”
“It’s not on the wrong side of the cave in,” Trevor said, shining his flashlight around at the mountain of rubble blocking the shaft.
“True,” Willard said, “but the cave-in might have landed on top of it.”
“Everybody would be dead,” Trevor said. “I got texted from them after it happened. They said everybody’s okay.”
“They have no power,” Tyler said. “Weren’t you guys working on getting something run down there?”
Clem scratched his head. “Dirt falling on wires won’t knock out the power.”
“Power’s out in the mill, too,” Susanne said as she rushed inside. “We should check the generator.”
Clem and Elmer looked at each other, then rushed out of the shaft, going across the street, to a small building near the mill.
“Look, the waterwheel is blown up,” Elmer said. Must have gotten hit by flying debris.”
“That’s fixable, but not in a hurry,” Clem said. “We need power for those folks in now. They’re in the dark, and our intel team is blind as a bat.”
“Those battle wagons have generators, right?”
Clem smiled. “Yeah, they do, as a matter of fact. It would take about three of them to replace that mill generator. You know how to wire that stuff up?”
“I could do it blindfolded,” Elmer said. “Let’s go.”
They rushed over to the crowd outside the mine.
“Well?” Susanne asked.
“The waterwheel is screwed,” Elmer said.
“Do you have to use that terminology?” Susanne snapped.
“The kids are all in the mine,” Clem said. Several of the people out there gasped. “Don’t worry, they’ll be okay.”
“We need three of the battle wagons moved over here,” Elmer said. “We’ll use the generators until we can get the mill repaired.”
Sam and Erica ran up.
“Oh, God, the kids are still in there?” Erica cried.
“They’re alive,” Kaylee said quickly. “We need three battle wagons over here, so we can use the generators. They’re in the dark right now.”
“Use the new ones in the back,” Sam said. “We should leave the others out front where they are. We might get attacked again.”
“I’ll help drive them over,” Tyler said. He followed Sam and Erica with a couple of warriors.
“Do they have full tanks of gas?” Clem asked.
Trevor nodded yes. “Yeah, they came full. Those diesel generators will run a long time.”
“I had that exhaust hole for the inside generator almost done,” Elmer said.
“I was just thinking about that,” Clem said. “Think we can widen it enough to get people out?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Elmer replied. “Might take a few days.”
“I’ll help,” Willard said.
“I think some of us younger guys ought to work on that, partner,” Tex said. “Lead the way.”
“How far they go?” Mr. Black asked from the passenger seat, as they followed the two rental trucks north on I-5. “They have guts, driving on I-5 so close to the Marine base.”
“That why they take rental trucks,” Mr. White said. “Very little chance they get stopped.”
“We’re already north of San Clemente.”
Mr. White shot him a glance. “Want me to call them and ask how much longer? What you care, I stuck driving whole way.”
Mr. Black was silent for a moment, watching as the rental trucks took the off-ramp to Highway 1. “I knew it, they go to a harbor, pick up more UN Peacekeepers.”
“You probably right, my friend,” Mr. White said as he took the same off-ramp. “What nearby? Any small harbors?”
Mr. Black picked his phone off the van’s center console and brought up the map program.
“Well?” Mr. White asked.
“Dana Point Harbor. Looks like pleasure craft and fishing marina. If they make left on Dana Point Harbor Drive, that’s where they go.”
Mr. Black chuckled. “Less than mile. They turn any minute. If not here, much further. Newport.”
“They not get off so quick for that.”
“I-5 take off towards east right after Highway 1,” Mr. Black said. “So don’t be so sure.”
“There they go, into the left turn lane.”
Mr. Black shot him a grin. “Good, Dana Point. When we see where they park, let’s park too and get out of car. Blend in.”
“Okay, but we must be careful.”
The rental trucks passed the first driveway into the Marina complex, making a left turn into the second one.
“There,” Mr. Black said. “Embarcadero. Huge parking lot. It’s flat, so we can see where they go. They going by launching ramp, turning right.”
“I see. They turn left on street, look.”
“That’s called Street of the Golden Lantern,” Mr. Black said. “They go all the way down to boat dock. Wait and see.”
“I’m gonna park here,” Mr. White said.
“Fine, no outlet where they are. Shall we walk over?”
“Yes, but text Ivan now. Just in case.”
Mr. Black nodded, typing the text as Mr. White parked. “Text done. Say delivered. Let’s go.”
“Turn off your phone ringer,” Mr. White said.
“What, you think I amateur?”
The two trucks were pulled up in a loading lane right next to the entrance of the pier. The French smoker was out, lighting up again. The other men walked onto the dock. Mr. White and Mr. Black walked towards the pier at a leisurely pace, trying not to stare at the trucks, pretending to take in the sights like tourists.
“Double parked,” Mr. Black said. “They won’t be here long, my friend.”
“There’s coffee joint right before it. Looks like their patio overlooks the docks. Let’s get some and watch.”
“You read my mind,” Mr. Black said. They walked to the window and ordered. Mr. Black stood at the counter, waiting on the coffees, while Mr. White went to the patio and grabbed a table right by the edge, giving him a good view of a big fishing boat that said Charter Only on the side.
Mr. Black walked up with the coffees, handing one to Mr. White. “Well, what you see?”
“UN pigs climb aboard charter fishing boat,” Mr. White said softly. “That big boat.”
“Yes. Look, they carry ice chests. Large. New men. Not in original group.”
“Fresh UN thugs to kill, eh?” Mr. White quipped.
“Quiet,” Mr. Black whispered. “They might have lookouts close by.”
“Here come more men. Six. No, ten, look.”
The two men watched, trying not to make it obvious, as the fifteen men carried the ice chests, four men on each.
“Empty, but they pretend heavy,” Mr. White said. “I’ll bet they don’t come back.”
“Uh oh, they pack boat tight. That’s at least ten more coming out now.”
“There’s more,” Mr. White said, taking a sip of coffee as he watched more men climbing out of the boat, doing the empty ice chest routine again.
“I count thirty, with first fifteen make forty-five.”
“That batch gone now. Look, drivers carry back first ice chests, two men instead of four. Still empty.”
Mr. Black chuckled. “Another fifteen men get off boat. They have this well thought out, no? Fifty-five men so far.”
“Can’t be more, boat not that big.”
“You’re right,” Mr. Black said. “Look, drivers back with rest of empty ice chests. Boat crew picking up from dock.”
“I bet they don’t smell like fish.”
Mr. Black grinned, taking his phone out and typing the info, sending it to Ivan.
“He reply to first message?” Mr. White asked.
“Yes,” Mr. Black said. “Says they got hit at base.”
“Ivan okay, didn’t mention anybody else. Oh, there reply.”
“Thank you,” Mr. Black said, “and follow back, make sure they go to base we find.”
“You’re driving this time,” Mr. White said.
To be continued…
Copyright Robert Boren 2018
Mr. White watched as the UN Peacekeepers went into the office of the rental yard. The coast was clear, so he texted Mr. Black to come back to the van. He was there in a few seconds, slipping into the passenger seat.
“Same losers as yesterday?”
Mr. White shook his head yes.
“Surprised I didn’t smell those lousy French smokes.”
“Why they rent trucks?” Mr. White asked. “Why not just steal some? I hear all other rental yards in area closed. Probably trucks sitting in lots.”
“If those get ripped off, owner will call cops, cops put out APB.”
“True, but here owner could tell others about his unusual customers,” Mr. White said. “In fact, that’s exactly what happened.”
“Not exactly,” Mr. Black said. “They drop advertiser pen on ground near Ivan’s base. Stupid mistake. Otherwise like needle in haystack.”
“The turn of war, no?” Mr. White said. “Look, they come out.”
They watched as the UN Peacekeepers walked to the same trucks they’d used yesterday, one of them going back to the small van they came in.
“Only two trucks,’ Mr. Black said.
“Big trucks, though.”
“Don’t follow too close,” Mr. Black said as Mr. White started the engine.
They followed the rental trucks through town.
Mr. Black pointed. “Look, they go to San Vicente Freeway.”
“Is that Route 67?”
Mr. Black nodded. “Goes north, then cuts east, ends up in Ramona.”
“You’ve been there?”
“No, but I saw on map,” Mr. Black said. “This will be interesting.”
“Here we go,” Mr. White said as he steered the van to the on-ramp, hanging back, not seeing his quarry for a moment.
“I hope this pay off,” Mr. Black said.
“It will, my friend, it will.”
Meyers was getting tired of listening to his driver. They were ahead of the tank and infantry line now, going way to the west, heading for a high spot.
“Highway 2D should be over that ridge. Slow down when we get close. I’m gonna get out and walk.”
“Be careful,” the driver said. “We’re even ahead of the enemy now. Some of them might have seen us. Binoculars aren’t exactly advanced technology, you know.”
The grade continued to increase, until it was too steep to pass.
“This’ll do,” Meyers said. “Shut down and keep watch while I go check this out.”
Meyers got out of the passenger door, closing it quietly, looking in all directions before he started moving, his M4 in one hand, binoculars hanging around his neck. The side of the hill was loose, and he slipped a couple times before he found a pathway that would work. The sun was to the west, still high in the sky, but he’d be looking south-east. Good. No reflections. He crawled slowly to the top of the ridge and peeked over. There was a line of semi-trucks on the road, nearly a mile away. He pulled out his phone, took a picture, and then texted it to his commander and the rebel intelligence team he’d talked to earlier.
His phone dinged, his commander replying to the text.
Take coordinates and begin tank and artillery barrage when in range. I’ll call in an air strike.
Meyers typed roger that and slipped his phone into his pocket, turning to slide down the hill. He caught a glimpse of something rolling towards them in the distance. Then his phone dinged. His driver had seen them too. Meyers hit the contact and put the phone to his ear.
“You see them?” the driver asked.
“Yeah. Get the guns ready. We might have to fight our way past them. You concentrate on them while I concentrate on calling the tank line. We can’t let them run headlong into what I just saw.”
“What’d you just see?”
“Never mind, do as I say. Get ready to fight.”
“That’s a Gaz Tigr,” the driver said. “We’re out gunned.”
“No we’re not. We’ve had several off-roaders behind us with grenade launchers and micro-guns. Keep your panties dry.”
Meyers ended the call and texted the coordinates and instructions to his force, then hurried to the vehicle, getting into the passenger seat.
“They see us, that’s for sure,” the driver said, a terrified look on his face.
“You ever been in combat before?”
The driver looked at him, shaking his head no.
“Wonderful,” Meyers said, taking control of the gun. “Head back towards our lines while I man the weapon.”
“That’s a standard .50 cal. It’s just for last-ditch use.”
“Not today,” Meyers said, bringing up the targeting system, swinging the gun around as the vehicle rolled down the incline, the Gaz Tigr speeding up towards them.
“They aren’t gonna let us get away,” the driver cried.
“Shut the hell up,” Meyers said, pulling the trigger, .50 cal rounds sweeping up the dirt and into the front of the vehicle, which stopped, getting its main weapon ready to fire. Meyers pulled the trigger again, hitting the windshield, breaking through and killing the man in the passenger seat, the driver going into a panicked zig-zag.
“Nice shot,” the driver said as he sped up, trying to get past them. “What’s that I hear?”
Meyers heard it and smiled. “It’s our little friends.” The sound of small engines approached, and then there was the raspy snarl of the micro-guns, hitting the sides of the Gaz Tigr, taking out the tires, then hitting the side windows until one of them blew out, bullets hitting two men inside, the vehicle rolling to a stop against a big clump of bushes.
“Yes!” the driver shouted.
“Don’t start rejoicing yet, there’s three more coming in from the east. See them?” Meyers aimed and fired, hitting the first one in the front driver’s side tire, stopping it in it’s tracks, the second one squeaking by, only to run into the sights of the micro-guns again.
“Those things are awesome,” the driver said, watching the micro-guns make swiss cheese out of all the Gaz Tigrs in a few seconds. “We were further away last time. I’ll never forget that noise.”
Meyers nodded, scanning the area for more enemy vehicles. “Looks like that’s all for now. Haul ass. We need to get with the main group.”
“What are we gonna do?”
“Set up the tanks and the artillery, then wail away at that road,” he said, pulling the phone out of his pocket and checking the apps. “I’m surprised they didn’t get out of those trucks yet. They must know we’re nearby. I’m not seeing any hits in that area.”
“Maybe it’s not Islamists.”
Meyers chuckled. “Oh, trust me, it’s Islamists all right. They’re funneling us into a trap. They’ll defeat us if the air power doesn’t arrive in time. We’re not out of this yet.”
They made it back to the main lines, where the tanks were already setting up on the coordinates Meyers had sent them ten minutes earlier. “You ready?”
“Yes sir,” the tank commander said.
“Fire at will. Have somebody monitoring the apps for each gunner. They’re further than half a mile, so they won’t get buzzed with the short- range app from here. Tell them to load up the long-range app if they haven’t already, and focus about a mile and a half south.”
“Got it,” the commander said, getting on his radio. Then one of the tanks fired, several others firing within seconds.
“Wow!” the driver yelled, plugging his ears. Meyers ignored him, looking at his phone. Several hundred icons appeared, then several hundred more as the tanks and artillery pieces continued to fire, breaking open the trucks, causing those who weren’t hit to empty out.
“Sir, they’re coming this way in a hurry,” the tank commander said, watching his phone. “I see quite a few thousand now.”
“I see them,” Meyers said. “Stay put but aim the guns via the apps. Got it? I’ll see where that air support is.”
Fire came at them from the west.
Meyers hit the dirt. “Get down! Gaz Tigrs.”
“Oh crap,” the driver shouted, crawling to his armored vehicle, Meyers following, getting in the back and moving quickly to the targeting system, just about ready to fire when the off-roaders were on the Tigrs, attacking them from all sides.
“Man, do I love those guys,” the driver said, firing up the engine. You want me to turn towards them, right? So I can use the forward guns?”
“No, turn our back to them so they can’t destroy us, and don’t fire where those off-roaders are working.”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry.”
Meyers shook his head, using the targeting system to check for more Gaz Tigrs coming in, letting the off-roaders do their job.
Jules and Shelly made their way back to the mine.
“Do you think there’s any chance we’ll be hit here?” Shelly asked.
“I’d be surprised, but I’ve been surprised before, no?”
Shelly glanced at him as they were walking. “Should I be worried or not?”
“Always be worried, until war over,” Jules said.
“That’s what you’re gonna say?”
Jules sighed. “I think it’s unlikely we get hit here. That’s why I wasn’t worried about taking you outside.”
“Thanks. Sorry, I’m a little nervous. Something doesn’t seem right.”
They continued walking, Jules being strangely quiet. When they got to the entrance, Shelly stopped him. “Are you worried that I think something doesn’t seem right, or do you feel that way too?”
Both,” Jules said. “You read me too well.”
“That’s what a good Chief of Staff does,” she said, her eyes flashing at him.
Jules smiled at her, but his expression changed to worry. “Okay. Something happening. Something big. I feel. Can’t put finger on.”
“Crap,” Shelly said. “You aren’t supposed to candy coat things.”
“I would never hide what I know. This just feeling. I’m wrong sometimes.”
“What should we do?”
Jules took her hand. “Let’s go see what’s going on. Talk to Ivan, talk to intelligence team.”
They entered the intelligence room. Ivan was talking with Ted, Sam, Ji-Ho, and Tex in the big room. Ji-Ho saw Jules and Shelly and motioned them over.
“Something up?” Jules asked.
“The enemy has been busy south of the border,” Ted said.
“Uh oh,” Shelly said, touching Jules’s arm.
“What they do?” Jules asked.
“Same thing they’ve been doing here,” Sam said. “Shielded vehicles. This enemy knows how to adapt quickly, and they’re good at making the best of a bad situation, too. We need to remember who we’re dealing with.”
“They seem smarter than they were when Saladin was in charge,” Ted said.
“Yeah, I noticed,” Sam said. “Maybe his ego wasn’t helping them.”
Ivan wasn’t talking much, his mind working. Ji-Ho noticed. “What worry you?”
“Our forces are in trouble down there. The apps are showing nearly fifteen thousand men, over and above the group they’ve been chasing, which is still several thousand strong. We need coverage of all of Mexico with that history app.”
“You get to the regular army forces?” Sam asked. “Maybe they’ve been monitoring things. We shared Seth’s program with General Hogan. He probably gave it to them.”
“I’m still waiting for a call back on that,” Ivan said. It’s taking too long.”
“Well, partner, we’ve still got air support, right?” Tex asked. “They hit them with B-1 bombers last time, remember?”
“Yes, I know,” Ivan said. “Still makes me nervous, and we’ve got nearly two thousand Islamists rolling around on this side of the border that we can’t find.”
“Are they done with the search along the road from Julian to here?” Shelly asked.
“They should be done any minute,” Ivan said.
“At this rate, we’ll see them come out of those vehicles before we see them with the drone, partner.”
Ivan nodded. “Yeah, Tex, I’m afraid you’re right.” His phone dinged, so he raised it to his face. “The drone sweep is done. Unless those semi-trucks from Julian are in a building or something, they aren’t around here.”
“Wish that made me happier,” Ted said.
“You and me both,” Sam said.
Ivan’s phone rang. He answered it, turning to the others after a second, ending the call. “We need to go into the next room.”
“Robbie?” Sam asked.
“Seth,” Ivan said, leading the others into the smaller, darker room through the archway.
“What’s up?” Sam asked. Seth and Kaitlyn turned towards them, Robbie, Morgan, and Ben there too.
“The Islamists from Julian have shown up,” Kaitlyn said.
“Finally,” Ivan said. “Where?”
“An airstrip in San Diego,” Seth said. “You don’t think this is a surrender, do you?”
Ivan’s brow furrowed. “Ben, see if you can find out where the B-1 bombers are based. I’m gonna call central command.” He walked away with his phone.
“Dammit, they’re gonna stop the air support,” Ted said.
“Yep, this is a suicide mission,” Sam said. “Dammit.”
“How much damage can that many men do in the middle of our territory?” Shelly asked.
“They can ruin airstrip or blow up bombers,” Jules said. “Very bad.”
Shelly shook her head. “Oh. That’s not good.”
“That is where the B-1s were based,” Ben said, swiveling his chair away from his PC screen.
Ivan rushed back. “They accomplished their mission. They blew up the bombers and ruined the airstrip before anybody realized what was happening.”
“Hopefully somebody got word to our forces down there,” Sam said.
“Seriously,” Ted said. “That means we’re out of danger for now.”
“Unless we’ve got a bunch of UN pukes showing up here, partner.”
“The drone is gonna come back and hang out over us,” Ivan said.
“They don’t need to help out in San Diego?” Shelly asked.
“Nope, the enemy fighters there are already dead.”
“We’d better get ready to guard the roads,” Ted said. “Assuming the enemy is gonna overrun the Marines we sent south of the border.”
“That battle is still going,” Ivan said. “Let’s get the app going on that big screen and watch. I have the transponder code for the tanks.”
“Great, I’ve got that overlay program ready,” Ben said, smiling as he set it up.
“We got problems,” Robbie said, turning away from his PC screen.
“What?” Ivan asked.
“I looked at the sales for lead in Mexico and Central America. There have been a huge number of recent sales down there. Enough for a lot of semi-trucks.
“What’s a lot?” Sam asked.
“At least a thousand,” Robbie said. “This is bad for California. Maybe worse for Texas.”
“The enemy isn’t worried about Texas anymore,” Ivan said. “They know they can’t win there. California is still their crown jewel, along with some of the east coast areas. They’re still fixated on imposing martial law in a way that a preponderance of the population will accept. They think if they can get it going on the coasts, they can spread it into the free areas eventually.”
“They’re delusional,” Ted said.
“You know it and I know it,” Tex said. “They aren’t that bright.”
“No, they’re very bright,” Ivan said, “and it’ll be all we can do to hold them off and survive. I’ve always known that.”
“This come down to naval power,” Ji-Ho said. “UN and EU can’t take us without sea access on the coasts. It’s US and British Navy against rest of world’s Navy.”
“You’re basically right, but it’s not as bad as you think,” Ivan said.
“How so?” Ji-Ho asked.
“You forget the Russian Navy,” Ivan said. “They’re on our side, at least for now.”
“Yep, and that huge,” Jules said. “They only navy that rival USA.”
“What about China’s navy?” Ben asked.
“China sit out,” Ji-Ho said. “Cozy up to winner.”
Ivan laughed. “Yeah, that’s what it’s looking like, but they might decide to come in on one side or the other. They’re still heavily invested here, so I doubt they’ll side with the EU and the UN.”
Ben was still typing on his PC, trying to get the battlefield display correct. The apps were up, but he was struggling with the tank transponders. “Ivan, you sure the transponder code is correct?”
“That’s what I was told,” Ivan said, walking towards the screen.
“Do those transponders run off the tank’s main electrical systems, partner?” Tex asked.
Ted shook his head no. “They’d be on batteries, independent, like a black box. The only way they wouldn’t show up is if the tanks are damaged or burned up so badly that the units are disabled. Can’t imagine all of the tanks are destroyed.”
“Nothing would surprise me in this damn war,” Sam said.
“That’s a scary number of hits there,” Ivan said, staring at the screen. “What happened to the ends of their lines?”
“I’ll zoom out and catch them,” Ben said, turning back to his PC. The screen changed, the entire enemy line coming into view.
“Son of a bitch,” Ted said.
“Yes, this isn’t good,” Ivan said.
“What is that?” Shelly asked.
“Ends of lines come towards middle, trap our Marines,” Jules said. “This plan all along. They crush our forces and head for the border fast.”
Garrett and Anna laid next to each other at the ranch house, in the afterglow of their lovemaking.
“Think you could get used to living here?” Garrett asked.
She turned to him. “You aren’t gonna get weird, remember?”
“That’s not weird,” he said. “Not in my book, anyway.”
“I’m just teasing you. Yes, I could get used to living here, but we’ll have to split our time up. I need to be with the tribe part of the time.”
“That means I get to see my friends,” Garrett said, sitting up. “I’ve gotten pretty close to Ed and Tyler, you know. Same with Sam, and he’s gonna be with Erica.”
“That’s true,” Anna said. “I knew that was gonna happen, and now they’ve got a child together.”
“Yep,” Garrett said. “I’m jealous.”
“Now that is weird,” Anna said, her eyes dancing with his.
“Okay, it is,” Garrett said, “but the feeling is there.”
There was a buzz, coming from the bedside table.
“What’s that?” Anna asked. “I heard it a few times when we were busy.”
“I didn’t notice. Turned the ringer off so we wouldn’t be disturbed.” He picked up his phone, looking at the screen. “Guess I wasn’t rocking your world hard enough. Wait – you missed one at least. There’s four messages.”
“Don’t look so proud of yourself,” she quipped.
“I’ll start from the first one,” he said, his fingers scrolling the screen. “Damn, there’s a huge row of semi-trucks on Mexico’s Highway 2D. The tanks attacked, breaking them open. There’s over ten thousand men there waiting for them.”
“Oh no,” Anna said. “Our men can’t go up against that many, can they?”
“I don’t know. Next one is good news. The drones didn’t see any semi-trucks near us.”
“Good,” Anna said, getting ready to make another comment when she saw his expression. “Uh oh, what’s wrong?”
“Those semi-trucks that we thought might be coming here just blew up B-1 bombers and an airstrip in San Diego.”
“That’s bad, isn’t it?”
“It means our guys won’t have an air strike to help them beat the enemy.”
“Doesn’t sound good.”
“It gets worse. The ends of the enemy line are moving towards the center. They’re trying to encircle our forces.”
“There’s no other place for air power to come from?” Anna asked.
“I don’t know,” Garrett said, getting out of bed. “Maybe we ought to go join the others. If a force that size gets past those Marines down there, we’ll be needed to slow them down on the roads.”
Anna got out of bed and dressed. Gunfire erupted, startling both of them.
“Oh, crap,” Garrett said, fastening his belt and then grabbing his phone. More gunfire started, sounding closer now.
“Look, there’s a bunch of vans out there on that fire road,” Anna said. “Looks like your guys are coming in from either side on horseback, but they’ll have a problem catching them.”
Garrett rushed to her side, looking out the window. He grinned. “I think I can help.” He rushed to the closet, coming out with his Sharps rifle.
“Is that a buffalo gun?” Anna asked, looking at the massive weapon.
“Yep, single shot. I’d better take it on the balcony, though, or this room is gonna smell for a week.”
He filled his pockets with cartridges and rushed onto the balcony, taking the spiral staircase to the top level, Anna right on his heels with her AK-47.
“You should stay in the house,” Garrett said. “They’re liable to return fire, and they’ll see our position with this black powder gun.”
“I’ve got my rifle,” she said. You’re gonna lay down, right? It’ll be hard to hit us.”
He glared at her for a moment, then nodded and got down, her joining him. He took a few seconds to aim the massive rifle. “This is gonna be loud.”
“It’s okay,” Anna said, sighting her own weapon as Garrett pulled the trigger, the recoil pushing his body back. The windshield of the lead van exploded, the vehicle rolling to a stop, blocking the line of vans.
“Perfect!” Garrett said as the smoke blew to the east.
Anna fired several times, tagging two Islamists who were fleeing from the back of the first van.
“Wow, that’s good shooting,” Garrett said as he loaded the Sharps rifle again. “I’m gonna put a round in the engine before they can get somebody else behind the wheel.” He fired again, the smoke spewing into the air, blowing away quickly. A couple shots came at them, hitting the side of the house below the top balcony. Anna returned fire, killing the man with the rifle.
“Those idiots are trying to aim at this distance with stock sights,” Anna said, laughing.
Garrett looked at her rifle with its custom sights. “Wow, didn’t even notice that.”
“Well, I’d rather you be looking at me than my gun,” she said as she fired again, dropping another Islamist. “One got into the driver’s seat, but I nailed him.
More gunfire filled the air from the other direction. “Dammit, they’re near the front of the property too,” Garrett said. “We’d better get back to town.”
“Yeah, your cavalry is blowing these guys away in a hurry. I think the back door is closed.”
To be continued…
Copyright Robert Boren 2018.
Karen watched as Tex approached.
“Excuse me,” she said to Haley and Dana.
“Oh, good, here comes Sparky,” Dana said.
Karen met Tex half way across the room. “Well?”
“Nothing immediate happening here that we know of.”
“You look worried.” She took his hand and they went to the bench next to the wall.
“It was basically good news,” Tex said, looking at her pretty face, framed by her thick red hair. “Ivan’s guys found out where the UN base is.”
“We’re going to attack, aren’t we?”
“We won’t leave here in large numbers until we know where the shielded Islamists ended up. The worst news out of that meeting is the drone. We still don’t have it in the air. Ivan said it’s from further north, but I think there’s more to it than that. I suspect we aren’t considered as important as the battle going on south of the border. Not that I’d blame them for that.”
Karen studied his eyes. “What else?”
“There were more UN vans at the base than we expected. Mr. White and Mr. Black suggested that they follow the UN thugs after they pick up their trucks in the morning and see what they’re up to.”
“They’re moving new UN creeps in here from someplace,” Karen said, staring at the floor. “This is far from over, isn’t it?”
“Maybe, but don’t lose hope. This might be a good development. If we can find where they’re bringing in the UN Peacekeepers, we can shut it off. That’s good news.”
Karen chuckled. “We didn’t think there was still a flow of them entering California until you guys talked just now. Things are worse, not better.”
Tex shrugged. “Okay, you’re right.”
“Where are Jules and Shelly?” Karen asked.
“I was wondering that myself. Neither of them was in that meeting. I haven’t seen them for a while.”
Ted walked up with Haley. “What did you think?”
Tex chuckled. “I was more confident before I discussed it with Karen. We’re worse off than we thought.”
“Because we didn’t know there were still UN Peacekeepers coming in,” Ted said. “Thought the same thing myself.”
“You know where Jules and Shelly are, partner?”
“Yeah, they’re meeting with the leadership of the two largest groups to arrive here. They’re over in the saloon, I think.”
“They aren’t having to hang out down here?” Karen asked.
“Ivan thought this was important enough to let them go,” Ted said, “and besides, the chances that we’ll get hit are going down by the hour, not up.”
“Are you talking about the cruise missiles or the shielded Islamists?” Tex asked.
“Both, actually,” Ted said. “Wish we had that damn drone, though.”
Ivan rushed in. “We’ve got the drone. I told them to run it over Highway 79, coming south from Descanso.”
Ben Dover heard him. “You got the URL for the feed, boss?”
“Yep,” Ivan said, holding his phone out for him. Ben took the phone to his computer desk and input the URL into a browser window. The drone’s screen came up, and Ben loaded the video feed.
“This is gonna be tough,” Ben said. “It’s been hours since they took off. They might have turned onto any number of roads.”
“If they’re coming here, they’ll show up someplace along Highway 79,” Ivan said. “That’s the first thing we need to eliminate. If the drones get all the way down to Highway 94 without seeing the semi-trucks, they’ll go back up and check I-8.”
Tex was looking at the map on his phone. “If they got onto I-8, they aren’t coming here, they’re heading to the border battle zone.”
“That would be my guess,” Ivan said, “but remember how unpredictable this enemy can be.”
“Who’s watching the video feed for us?” Ben asked, eyes glued to the screen. Ivan approached, looking over his shoulder.
“Somebody out of Camp Pendleton,” Ivan said, taking back his phone.
Ted was watching and listening. “You guys know that if they’re coming here, they’d already be close by, right? It’s been too many hours. The drive isn’t that long.”
“How long is it, honey?” Haley asked.
“Hour and a half max. I was just looking at it. They’ve been messing around getting the drone in the air for a lot longer than that.”
Ivan sighed. “You’re right, but it’s still worth doing the search. It’s hard to hide semi rigs like they’re using. If they plan on attacking us, we’ll find the rigs someplace nearby. I’d be shocked if they are, though.”
“Me too,” Seth said, turning away from his computer screen. “They’d be sitting around, packed like sardines in hot semi-trailers. It’s too warm for that today. I think they’re still traveling someplace, or we would’ve gotten hits on the history program.”
“I agree,” Ben said.
“Where’s the drone now?” Ivan asked.
“Just a sec,” Ben said, changing from the video feed to a combo view, with the video on one side and data on the other. “Twenty miles south of I-8.”
“Okay,” Ivan said. “We’ll get notified if they see something, but whoever wants to watch the video feed, feel free. I need to go make more phone calls.”
Ivan walked out of the room.
Garrett walked to the saloon, Anna by his side.
“I still think you should’ve stayed in the mine,” he said.
“We aren’t going to get hit,” Anna said. “I’d rather be with you in any event.”
“You’re looking at me differently now,” he said, glancing at her for a moment as they walked, then looking ahead.
“What do you mean?” she asked with an edge to her voice.
“You sound defensive,” Garrett said. “It’s no big deal. It just seems like our relationship is changing.”
She stopped, grabbing his arm. “I’m not losing interest in you.”
Garrett chuckled. “That isn’t what I’m picking up.”
“Oh.” She released his arm and started walking, stopping when she noticed he didn’t continue. “What?”
“We need to chat for a minute. Jules will keep.”
She sighed, looking at him for a moment. “It’s nothing.”
“I’m in love with you,” he said, watching her face. She trembled, her eyes wetting with tears.
“Stop,” she said softly.
“You’re falling for me, aren’t you?”
“I’m sorry,” she said, wiping her eyes. Garrett took her into his arms, hugging her tight. She looked up at him. “This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“I’m glad it is.”
“It complicates things,” Anna said. “You know that.”
“I don’t care. I want you.”
“Oh, God,” she said, hugging him tighter again. “How can this work?”
“We don’t have to do anything,” Garrett said, his hand caressing her hair. “At this stage in our lives, all we have to do is enjoy each other. I want you with me, though. All the time.”
A smile broke through her tears. “We’re together all the time anyway.”
“Exactly,” Garrett said. “I just wanted you to know how I feel, and what I sense from you.”
She was silent for a moment, looking down at the ground.
“Hey, don’t worry,” he said. “It’ll be all right.”
“I’m giving off a hell of a beacon. Sarah figured it out too. You aren’t going to get all weird, are you?”
Garrett looked at her, not understanding. She shook her head.
“Okay, you’re reading me like a book. I’m in love with you. There, I said it. Is that what you wanted to hear?”
“Yes,” he said, pulling her back into his arms, kissing her gently. Then he pulled back to look at her, using his fingers to wipe away her tears. “We can go talk to Jules now.”
“That’s it, huh?”
Garrett smiled. “I wish I could take you back to the ranch and express my love right now. For several hours.”
She giggled, her eyes dancing. “You get a raincheck on that. Let’s go.”
They got onto the wood sidewalk and continued to the saloon, going through the door.
“Hey, boss, want a drink?” Willard asked from behind the bar.
“What are you doing out here?” Garrett asked.
“You’ve got your gig, and I’ve got mine,” Willard said.
“Where’s Jules?” Anna asked.
“He and Shelly walked our guests back to their camp.”
“We back,” Jules said, walking through the swinging saloon doors with Shelly.
“Hi, guys,” Shelly said.
“How’d it go?” Garrett asked.
“They agreed to stick around until we know where those shielded Islamists went,” Shelly said.
“Yes, we can tell Ivan mission accomplished,” Jules said, taking a stool at the bar.
“Victory drink?” Willard asked.
Jules chuckled, nodding yes. Willard poured drinks for all of them.
“So they’ll fight for us, then?” Garrett asked.
“Yep, all four thousand,” Jules said.
“What were they gonna do before?” Anna asked. “Join the battle at the border?”
“They were going to be the back stop if the enemy forces get onto Old Highway 80, Highway 94, or I-8.”
“They’ll still be that, won’t they?”
“Yes, Anna, and our forces will too,” Jules said. “They planned to leave today and dig in along the routes. Now they hang out here instead, ready to guard base. They move to original planned deployment as soon as we see hidden Islamist forces.”
“Hopefully it won’t be too long,” Garrett said. “The drone is on line now.”
“Finally,” Jules said, raising his glass, then taking another sip.
Garrett tossed back his drink. “Mr. White and Mr. Black saw more UN vans than we were expecting at the base.”
“I was afraid of that,” Jules said.
“What does that mean?” Shelly asked.
“It means UN peacekeepers still coming into state, or moving here from other parts of state,” Jules said. He finished his drink. “Better if they come from elsewhere in state.”
“You got that right,” Willard said. “Think the drone is gonna tell us something concrete? What if those semi-trucks are sitting in some service bays someplace nearby?”
“That why we make deal with new forces,” Jules said. “Ivan covering the bases. Come, we go back.”
“I’d rather hang out here,” Willard said.
Garrett smiled as he got up. “Suit yourself, but there’s nobody around to serve drinks to. Don’t get the people we have on patrol started at drinking, either, you old bushwhacker.”
“Perish the thought. There are others who aren’t acting like gophers, you know.”
“Who else outside mine?” Jules asked.
“I saw Sarah and Clem go into the hotel a little while ago.”
Anna shot Garrett a glance. “Maybe we ought to go to the ranch and check things out before we go back.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” he said. “There’s something I need out there.”
“I figured,” Anna said, getting off her barstool. “Let’s go, old man.”
The couple left the saloon and walked down the street, ducking into the livery stable. Garrett hitched the horses to the wagon as Anna watched.
“It’s nice to be with somebody who knows how to survive old school,” she said. “Makes me feel safe.”
“Do you think society is gonna break down?” Garrett said as he finished with the horses. “I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”
Anna climbed onto the wagon’s front bench before Garrett could help her up. Garrett walked the rig outside, then got on and drove them towards the ranch.
“It’s peaceful out here,” Anna said.
“There are a lot more people out and around than you think. I’ve got seven hundred men on patrol.” He fished the phone out of his pocket. “Send a broadcast text to the men, letting them know we’ll be at the ranch house for a little while. That way we won’t get any unexpected guests.”
“I’m gonna curl your toes,” Anna said as they rolled out of town.
The row of tanks continued ahead, Meyers watching them through binoculars, standing beside his armored personnel carrier.
The driver poked his head out. “You look worried.”
“This is too easy.”
“Too easy? We’ve lost tanks and men.”
Meyers shook his head, then climbed back into the vehicle, sitting in the passenger seat. The driver got back in his seat too.
Meyers took a second to strap in, then settled back, enjoying the air conditioning. “They’re barely fighting back. Just enough to make us think they’re still in the fight, but they continue to retreat. They’re leading us on.” He pulled up the map on his phone. “We aren’t that far from Federal Highway 2D.”
“Why does that bother you?”
“You know what the Islamists have been doing north of the border with the shielded trucks, right?”
“You think they’re gonna do that down here?”
Meyers didn’t answer the question. He picked up his phone and called headquarters, having a hushed conversation. Then he calmly put the phone into his pocket.
“Why don’t you put your phone in the compartment under the dash like everybody else?” the driver asked.
“If I have to bail out of this, I want my phone with me,” he said.
“We’re way in the back, and we’re winning big.”
Meyers shot him a sidelong glance, and then turned back to the windshield, watching the infantry continue their march towards the south.
“How close is this road you’re worried about?”
Meyers was silent for a moment.
“C’mon, I piss you off or something?” the driver asked.
“Your unit isn’t high on discipline, is it?” Meyers asked.
“Sorry, sir. I’ll shut up.”
Meyers sighed. “Okay. It’s about two miles ahead, but it’s behind a small ridge, so I can’t see it yet. As soon as we get to a place where we have a little more elevation, I’ll ask you to stop again so I can get out. Maybe I’ll get on the roof.”
“Be careful doing that. Good way to draw sniper fire.”
“If there are a few thousand enemy troops down there, we’re gonna have a bad day,” Meyers said.
“What about our air power?”
Meyers chuckled. “It’s like the police. When you’re in trouble, they’re just minutes away.” He looked at the driver and grinned.
“That’s not really so funny.”
Meyers nodded, pulling his phone out again. He brought up the message window and typed a text to the rebel intelligence team.
“Hello. We’re nearing Mexico’s Highway 2D. What is the range of the history program south of the border?”
“You can use text messages with headquarters?” the driver asked. “That’s a new one.”
“Watch the road,” Meyers said. His phone dinged. A reply from the rebel intelligence team.
“We don’t cover much of Mexico. In the extreme north we have coverage, south of California. We go down to about Agua Hechicera. No coverage when we get east of California.”
“Crap,” he muttered under his breath as he typed a reply.
“Is anybody else monitoring Mexico?”
“Your expression is scaring me, chief,” the driver said. Meyers continued to ignore him as he waited for a text reply. His phone dinged.
“We’ll check with our allies in south Texas, and with Hogan’s team, but I’d be surprised if anybody’s watching that close.”
Meyers typed another reply.
“How about the forces we have down there? Regular Army?”
He waited, sweat rolling off his forehead, which he wiped away just before it got into his eyes. His phone dinged.
“We’ll get the question to General Hogan. Might take a little while. He can be hard to reach.”
Meyers sent a thank you message and slipped the phone back in his pocket. “Speed up. I want to be closer to the front of our lines.”
“You sure that’s a good idea?” the driver asked. Meyers answered him with a stern glance. “Okay, sorry sir.”
“Strange request,” Seth said, setting his phone down. “Maybe we ought to tell Ivan.”
“He’s right over there,” Kaitlyn said, nodding to the left.
“Good, be back in a sec.” Seth walked over to Ivan. “Excuse me, Ivan. Something interesting just came up.”
Ivan turned away from Sam, who he’d been talking to. “Go ahead, kid.”
“Got several text messages from one of the commanders of the armored column south of the border.”
Ivan glanced at Sam, then back at Seth. “Go on.”
“He’s asking if we have history program coverage of Mexico. When I told him how far our coverage goes, he asked if anybody else was watching. I told him I’d get with the Texans and General Hogan. Then he suggested the regular Army we have down there, so I told him I’d include that question to Hogan.”
“You sent that through normal channels?” Ivan asked.
“Yes,” Seth said. “Is that okay?”
“It’s correct, but I’ll call the General personally, to speed things up a little. Thanks for telling me this.”
Seth nodded, then went back to the PC.
“Well?” Kaitlyn asked.
“He’s worried. I could see it on his face. Maybe the enemy is setting a trap for our guys down there. They’re getting close to a highway.”
“That’s the first place they could have vehicles like semi-trucks,” Kaitlyn said in a hushed tone. Seth nodded at her.
Mr. Black was barely awake, sitting behind the wheel, watching out the windshield as the sun came up.
“Hey, sleepyhead, time to get up and watch,” he said.
Mr. White stirred. “What time?”
“Think I can sneak out and get us coffee? Donut shop open. I see through back window.”
“Yes, but hurry so enemy not see. They could be here any time.”
Mr. White pulled on his shoes and slid open the side door, slipping into the brisk morning. Mr. Black heard him slide the door shut, keeping his eyes on the rental yard. They were in a better position this time, more out of sight. A truck drove up to the rental yard office and parked in the furthest-back stall.
“Owner,” he muttered to himself, watching as the middle-aged man walked to the front door with a large keyring, opening the door. The lights came on inside, shining into the dull morning as the owner entered.
Mr. White returned, coming through the passenger door with a cardboard tray, holding two large coffees, a bag in between them.
“They have bathroom?” Mr. Black asked.
“Yep, just used,” Mr. White replied. “Go. I watch.”
Mr. Black nodded and opened the door.
“Take phone,” Mr. White said.
“Good idea.” Mr. Black grabbed his phone and got out, closing the door behind him.
Not thirty seconds later, a small white van drove into the lot and parked. Mr. White recognized the men right away and typed a text.
“Stay put, they just arrived.”
Mr. Black replied after a few seconds.
To be continued…
Copyright Robert Boren 2018
Kaitlyn and Seth stared at the history program screen, Angel and Megan on the right of them, Kaylee and Trevor on the left. The alarm went off on the PC.
“There’s a third group,” Kaitlyn said. “That makes fifteen hundred.”
“Wonder if they’re coming here?” Kaylee asked.
“Probably depends on their intelligence,” Trevor said. “If they know that Ivan is here, they might make an assault.”
“Do we have enough people outside?” Megan asked.
“Probably,” Trevor said, “but I’m guessing they won’t come here. I think they’re gonna head to the border to help out.”
The alarm went off again.
“Oh no,” Megan said. “More?”
“Not in the same place,” Seth said. “Move the screen towards the indicator there.”
Kaitlyn nodded and used the mouse to re-orient the screen. “That’s south of the border!”
“How far south?” Megan asked.
Trevor laughed. “We just incinerated a bunch of the enemy. There’s no roads there to run semi-trucks.”
Angel stared at the screen. “Look at the number. That’s over a thousand.”
“Hey, Robbie, you hear anything about down south?” Seth asked.
Robbie walked over with Morgan. “Nope, not since the marines and the armor crossed the border into Mexico. Why?”
“About a thousand RFID hits disappeared down there, in the middle of dirt.”
“Where they can’t run semi-trucks, huh,” Robbie said. “We probably nailed them with something.”
“Something like what?” Kaylee asked.
Trevor smiled. “Willie Peter or napalm, I suspect. Either one would burn up a lot of RFID chips.”
The alarm went off again. Kaitlyn turned back to the screen. “Whoa. Another huge group disappeared.”
“I’ll go tell Ivan and the others,” Robbie said, getting up. He left the room with Morgan. They were back with Ivan, Ted, Sam, and Tex after less than a minute.
“See?” Robbie said, pointing to the screen. Just then the alarm went off a third time.
“There’s more,” Seth said. “This is insane. Is there something we aren’t thinking about? Maybe they reprogrammed a bunch of chips or something. They’ve done that before.”
“That was a system-level event, and the apps re-acquire them fast,” Robbie said.
“Maybe they’ve found a way to radiate them,” Tex said.
Ivan pulled out his phone, walking away with it to his ear.
“I’m not sure if we should be happy or not,” Ted said.
Sam was thinking, staring at the screen. “I think we burned them up.”
Ivan was back with a grin on his face. “Fighter jets used Napalm. It’s not all good news, though. The enemy was ready for the tanks. Had huge IEDs buried down there. We lost several tanks and some support vehicles.”
“Did we get the drone close enough to see the trucks that left the Julian area yet?” Robbie asked.
“It’s still on the way,” Ivan said. “It was further north than we thought. All of the assets in San Diego are working the border fight right now.”
“Makes sense, partner,” Tex said.
Ivan’s phone dinged with a text. He looked at it and chuckled, shaking his head.
“What now?” Sam asked.
“Mr. White and Mr. Black are in position.”
“Good,” Ted said. “I’ll bet the enemy doesn’t return trucks tonight, though.”
“We’ll see,” Sam said. “We’re talking UN folks who don’t need shielding. I don’t see them being directly involved in the border fight. I think they’re trying to regain control on this side of the border.”
“You’re probably right,” Ivan said. “If anybody showed up here, I’d expect it to be them, not those Islamists that disappeared from Julian.”
“They might both end up here,” Ted said.
Ivan shook his head. “Possible but unlikely. I’m still thinking the worst thing we’ll get hit with is some cruise missiles from the EU Navy. If we’re using fighter jets and napalm in Mexico, it makes that even more likely.”
The van pulled up, about half a block from the address Ivan had provided. Mr. White looked over at Mr. Black, asleep in the passenger seat. “Hey, trained monkey got us here.”
Mr. Black moved his hat off his face and looked over, then stretched. “We can see from here?”
“It’s right over there, half a block, across street.”
“What time is it?” Mr. Black asked.
“Almost four. Website said check in for rentals at seven. We have a little time.”
Mr. Black nodded, then went into the back of the van, coming back with a brown paper bag and a small ice chest.
“Good idea,” Mr. White said. “I’m hungry.”
They got out food. Sardines, cheese, bread, and some Greek yogurt.
“Wish we could have hot meal,” Mr. Black said, his mouth half full of food. He stopped chewing, nodding through the windshield. “Moving truck. Just pull in.”
“Dammit, why they not wait until dinner finished?” Mr. White asked.
“They do us favor,” Mr. Black said, shooting him a grin. “Eat up. I watch for their vehicle.”
“Look, here comes another one.”
Mr. Black squinted as he watched the second truck pull behind the first one in the return lanes. “How you know they UN?”
They watched silently for a few moments. Two men got out of each cab. One of them pulled out a cigarette and lit it, looking around as the others went into the office.
“There it is,” Mr. White said. “He holds his smoke like French pansy.”
Mr. Black snickered. “Okay, you right. We follow.”
A small white mini-van pulled up after a few minutes. The smoking Frenchman slid open the side door.
“Get ready, they leave soon,” Mr. Black said.
Mr. White nodded, eyes focused on the van. It took nearly ten minutes for the other three men to emerge from the office, walking to the tailgate of the second truck. They rolled it open, grabbing several duffel bags and carrying them to the small van.
“Long guns,” Mr. Black said.
“Could be. Why they want trucks every day?”
Mr. Black scratched his chin, thinking. “We should follow trucks before we hit base.”
“We have to run that past boss first, but I agree.”
“One thing at time,” Mr. Black said. “Look, they leave. Turn left on Main Street.”
“Heading for right turn on Greenfield. I expect.”
“You move?” Mr. Black asked.
“When they make turn. You want them to see us?”
Mr. Black shot him a worried glance. “What if they make another quick turn?”
“Most of town west on Greenfield.” He started the engine as the van rounded the corner.
“Move, dammit,” Mr. Black said. Mr. White chuckled as he drove forward, making the turn. “See, they ahead three blocks. Not getting closer.”
“Ivan gut you if you lose them.”
Mr. White chuckled again. “I ever let you down?”
“Not lately, though. Relax.”
They followed the van down Greenfield for several miles.
“That highway lead to I-8,” Mr. Black said.
“I bet they go over highway, into huge industrial area.”
“When have you been in this town?” Mr. Black asked.
“I do homework. Looked at satellite view on iPad. Watch and see. Greenfield change to Vernon. Past Pioneer Way on North and East are industrial buildings. Many, out of sight of surrounding area.”
“Maybe you right, they pass highway.”
“Told you,” Mr. White said, shooting him a sidelong glance. They past the bridge, noting when the street name changed. “Look, they turn right, slow down.”
“Those large buildings,” Mr. Black said. “What street?”
“Johnson Avenue. I slow down more. Make right turn.”
“What if there’s a gate?” Mr. Black asked.
“Then we leave, report, get permission to follow trucks tomorrow morning.” Mr. White made the right turn on Johnson, driving past the first building.
“Look, second building,” Mr. Black said, pointing. “Many vans, just like one we follow.”
“We have them now,” Mr. White said as he drove by. “Call Ivan.”
Doug, Jorge, and Conrad started bright and early in the morning, cleaning up the area in the aftermath of the artillery attacks. They’d done what they could, picking up body parts and helping to clear debris off the railroad tracks, with a multitude of citizens. The cranes arrived mid-day, lifting wrecked boxcars off the tracks, moving them to the south side.
“I need a two-hour shower,” Jorge said.
Conrad eyed him. “You’re alive.”
“I know. Meant no disrespect.”
“We’re all tired,” Doug said. “Heard from Meyers lately, Conrad?”
“No, but I’ve gotten several texts. My hands have been too dirty to touch my phone.”
“Let’s go to the latrine area and clean up, then,” Jorge said.
“We wasted our efforts on all these fortifications and mines, didn’t we?” Doug asked.
Conrad shook his head no as they walked. “We did the right thing given the info we had at the time. Still might pay off.”
“You don’t think we’ll get attacked here now, do you?” Jorge asked.
“By the group we were expecting?” Conrad asked as they reached the latrine. “No.” The three men each took a sink and started washing their hands and arms, along with many other citizens who’d been working the grim task.
“Look, they’ve got some food over there,” Jorge said.
“You can eat after what we just did?” Doug asked.
Conrad shook his head, pulling out his phone, taking a few minutes to read several text messages. “Meyers says they’re chasing the enemy forces south now. We lost several tanks, though. The enemy set a giant trap with massive IEDs. Obviously, they didn’t expect us to have air support.”
“We lost several M-1s, dude?” Jorge asked. “That sucks.”
“It does, but we’re winning this one,” Doug said.
Conrad was thinking, his brow furrowed.
“What’s bothering you, dude?” Jorge asked.
“The deeper we get into Mexico, the crazier things can get,” Conrad said. “There’s also no word about the ends of the enemy lines.”
“Maybe we need to move men to those areas from here.”
“Well, Doug, that might happen,” Conrad said. “I’m gonna go talk to some folks and make some calls. I’ll see you later. Thanks for pitching in.”
“How could we not?” Jorge said. “Talk to you later.”
Conrad walked away, phone to his ear.
“You really aren’t hungry?” Jorge asked.
“Oh, I could eat,” Doug said. The two headed towards the food trucks, stopping for a moment when there was a loud crash behind them, turning around towards the tracks.
“That was the last big piece,” Jorge said. “They can get another train in here now.”
“Maybe it doesn’t matter anymore.”
They walked silently to the food line and picked up paper plates.
“Wonder where this food is coming from?” Jorge asked.
“Never look a gift horse in the puss.”
Jorge laughed. “Okay, Curley.”
“Oh, you know that Three Stooges episode, huh? I’m impressed.”
Jorge shrugged as they got to the food server, who plopped some mac and cheese on their plates and nodded them over to the next station, where there was fried chicken and green beans. They walked to the tables and benches under a big awning and sat down to eat.
“This isn’t bad,” Doug said as they ate.
“Yeah, no complaints here. Wonder if Conrad is gonna find out anything?”
“We’ll find out before too long,” Doug said between bites. “Hear that? Sounds like a train.”
Jorge got up and rushed to the edge of the awning, looking to the west, then sitting in front of his plate again. “Yeah, long train coming in. Looks like there’s a bunch more tanks or artillery or something. Not close enough to tell yet.”
“It’ll be interesting if they set up artillery here again,” Doug said.
Conrad walked up with a plate full of food. “See the train coming?”
“Yeah,” Jorge said. “Tanks or artillery?”
“Tanks and mobile artillery.”
“So, they’re not putting new emplacements in here, then?” Doug asked.
“Initially, but they’ll be moved quick, I suspect.”
“What else did you find out?” Jorge asked. He and Doug waited until Conrad finished chewing a big mouthful.
“We got more than enough people on the ends of the enemy lines, but the battles haven’t started yet, and we’ve got a problem.”
“What problem?” Doug asked.
“That RFID history program has shown several thousand Islamists disappearing from their base up by Julian. We don’t know if they’re going to attack our lines along the border, or if they’re gonna attack the base in Dulzura.”
“That doesn’t sound good, dude,” Jorge said.
Conrad finished chewing another bite. “Nope, it doesn’t. This food hits the spot. Didn’t know I was so hungry.”
“Seriously,” Doug said. “What are we gonna do next?”
“I don’t know for sure, but I can guess.”
“Well?” Jorge asked as Conrad shoveled more food into his mouth.
“Give him a chance to eat a little,” Doug said.
“Oh, sorry. Finish your food.”
Conrad nodded and finished eating, then they all got up, tossing their plates into the trash and heading down towards the railroad tracks. The train was stopped now.
“So, what were you gonna say?” Jorge asked.
“Oh yeah, sorry,” Conrad said. “If I had to guess, I’d expect them to use us along Old Highway 80 and I-8. Those two roads were always the main reason this was a strategic point. That hasn’t changed. The only thing that has changed is the entry points. They’ll be well west and east of here. We’ll probably be guarding against enemy fighters using the roads from the eastern tip of their lines near Mexicali, and from the west.” He laughed.
“What’s funny?” Doug asked.
“The western tip. They’d be using Highway 94. Now I wish we would’ve left that pass blocked.”
“Then we couldn’t have moved so many people down here,” Jorge said.
Conrad smiled. “True, but we never ended up having to use all these folks here. The forces we’re using south of the border came by other means, remember?”
Doug shook his head, laughing. “War is crazy.”
“Yep,” Conrad said. “I’m gonna go chat with the commanders.” He left them, walking over to the Captain who was standing by the train’s engines.
Tex and Karen sat in a corner of the intelligence room, leaned against each other.
“What’s going to happen?” Karen asked.
“Here? Probably nothing. The enemy would love to take us out, but they didn’t send enough people to take on our forces.”
“You don’t look that confident, honey.”
Tex smiled at her. “You can read me like a book, little lady.”
“So fess up.”
“It’s taking too long to get the drone on line,” he said. “I’m making my prediction based on what I’d do if I were them, but we can’t see them. I’ll feel better when we can.”
“Ivan’s trying to get your attention,” Karen said, nodding towards the archway into the next room. Ivan was standing there with Ted, Sparky, Sam, and Ji-Ho.
“Want to come?” Tex asked.
“Haley and Dana are coming over here,” Karen said. “I’ll hang out with them, but you have to promise to tell me what’s going on.”
“No secrets, little lady. Ever.”
They kissed, and Tex got off the bench they were on, approaching the others. “Are we meeting about something?”
“Yeah,” Ivan said. “In a few minutes.”
“About what, partner?”
“Mr. White and Mr. Black gave me news, and a suggestion.”
“Who are we waiting on?”
“Ed, Sid, Garrett, and Tyler,” Sam said.
The men milled around for a few moments, making small talk. Ed, Sid, and Tyler showed up, with Garrett and Anna.
“Let’s go,” Ivan said. “This won’t take long.”
They went into the next room, where Robbie and Morgan, Seth and Kaitlyn, and Ben Dover were all watching a computer monitor. Robbie looked over and Ivan nodded to him, so they all came to the far side of the room and sat on the chairs and benches in that area.
“Thanks for coming over,” Ivan said.
“How much trouble are we in?” Ed asked.
“Not much, really,” Ivan said. “We don’t have the drone in place yet, since it had to come from further north than expected. This isn’t about our current situation here.”
“What is it about, partner?”
“Mr. White and Mr. Black found the UN base in El Cajon.”
“Yes!” Seth said, Kaitlyn shooting him a worried glance.
“Is it in a place we can attack?” Ted asked.
“It appears to be,” Ivan said. “Industrial area again. There are a lot of small white vans there.”
“Like these?” Sid asked, showing him a photo on his phone. Ivan looked.
“Sounds like it,” he said. “Is that a known UN van from the area?”
“Yep. Not lead-lined.”
Ed eyed Ivan. “You look nervous about something.”
“There were more of those vans there than we expected, and it might not be all of them. The industrial area is huge. Lots of buildings and parking areas.”
“You think this is a mustering point,” Sparky said. Ivan nodded yes.
“It’s gonna take a larger force than we want to send there, isn’t it?” Robbie asked.
“Yeah,” Ivan said. “Mr. White and Mr. Black got me thinking about the bigger picture. I’d like to discuss it.”
“I’ll bet I have an idea where you’re headed,” Sam said.
Ji-Ho grinned. “Yes, me too.”
“Shoot, partner,” Tex said.
“Mr. White and Mr. Black would like to follow the rental trucks in the morning, to see what they’re up to,” Ivan said. “They called and asked me last night. I’ve been thinking about it.”
“And you agree,” Ed said.
“Yes, but I want to hear what you folks have to say.”
Tex stood. “They’re bringing in more UN pukes. If we find where they’re coming in, we can shut them down.”
“Maybe they’re bringing in Islamists, too,” Sparky said.
“No way,” Ted said.
“Why?” Sparky asked.
Ivan smiled. “There isn’t lead lining in those rental trucks, so unless they’ve got a bunch of Islamist fighters with no RFID, they can’t be moving them in.”
“You’re worried because there’s so many vans there,” Robbie said.
“Precisely,” Ivan replied. “We will hit the base, but I think we’d better turn off the flow before we clean up the spill, so to speak.”
“Yeah, if we just attack that base, they’ll find another and continue to move people in,” Ted said. “You can count on that.”
“Anything I’m not thinking about?” Ivan asked.
The group sat silently for a moment.
“I think waiting on the base attack is a good idea either way,” Ted said. “We don’t know where those Islamists disappeared to. We shouldn’t move our forces away from this base until we’ve either located them with the drone or they pop back out on the history report.”
“Anybody else?” Ivan asked.
“Looks like we all agree, partner,” Tex said.
Ivan nodded. “Okay, I’ll let Mr. White and Mr. Black know.”
“See if you can get a handle on the drone situation, okay?” Ted asked.
“Will do,” Ivan said. “How many have disappeared total?”
“Just over three thousand,” Kaitlyn said.
To be continued…
Book 5 of the Bug Out! California saga has been published. It’s available in both e-book and paperback!
Copyright Robert Boren 2018
Sam and Erica parked their Jeep behind the livery stable, the other two Jeeps parking next to them.
“You mind if we go to the mine right now?” Erica asked. “I’m worried about Mia.”
“That was my plan,” Sam said. They started walking before the other Jeeps emptied. The streets were deserted, but Sam saw armed warriors placed at strategic points in town. They got to the mine shaft and went inside, Jules and the rest of the group not far behind them.
“Where’s Tex?” Karen asked, coming out of the shadows with Haley.
“Right behind us,” Erica said. “Don’t worry, they’re all right.”
“Where’s Anna gonna be?” Sam asked.
“The room that Susanne used before she got moved outside, I suspect.”
They hurried down the dark shaft, past the large room, which was full of the buzz of conversation.
“You can go in there now if you want,” Erica said.
“No way, I want to get to our daughter first.”
“Our daughter,” Erica said, choking up. “My God, she is, isn’t she?”
Sam nodded as they turned right, heading into the former gun reloading room. It was turned into a children’s play area. Anna was there, with several other women.
“Mommy!” Mia shouted. “Daddy!” She rushed over, hugging them tight.
“How are you, sweetie?” Erica asked, squatting down next to her on the earthen floor.
“I was scared when everybody came down here. Are bad men coming?”
“We don’t think so, honey, but we’ll protect you if they do,” Sam said, crouching next to Erica.
“Glad you’re back,” Anna said, walking over. “Mia’s been on pins and needles. Where’s Garrett?”
“I’m right here,” Garrett said, walking into the play room. Anna rushed to him, hugging him tight. “Wow, you really missed me.”
She pulled back and looked into his eyes, then kissed him gently.
“We should go into the meeting room and report,” Sam said.
“I can go too, can’t I?” Mia asked.
“Yes, you can go too,” Erica said, standing and holding out her hand, which Mia took.
“Daddy,” she said, reaching for Sam’s hand, which he took as they walked towards the main shaft.
“Jules probably unloaded all the info to Ivan, you know,” Erica whispered, drawing a look from Mia.
Sam chuckled. “I want to know what they know, because of all this. If things are too bad, I’ll be taking you two to safety, you know.”
Erica nodded to him as they made their way through the crowd to the front of the room. Jules, Ivan, Ted, Ben, and Tex were chatting in front of the big TV screen. Karen and Haley were sticking close. Sparky and Dana were nearby, listening but keeping mostly to themselves, Cody and Allison doing the same.
“Sam. Erica. How are you?” Ivan asked.
“None the worse for wear,” Sam said. “What’s going on?”
“Simply a precaution,” Ivan said.
“Where are the citizen recruits?” Erica asked.
“They’ve headed towards the border with the armor battalion that showed up here earlier,” Ivan said. “That probably makes us a lot safer here.”
“Yeah, the target is now on the road,” Ben said.
Jules shook his head. “We more important than that force. Enemy knows.” Shelly looked up at him, then moved a little closer, her eyes darting around the rock ceiling.
Ivan chuckled. “Calm down, Jules. We’ll be okay. We’ve got video, lots of firepower, and men all over the place.”
Garrett walked to them with Anna at his side. “I’ve got five hundred mounted men patrolling the area. If we get visitors, we’ll know in a hurry.”
Robbie rushed out of the back section of the intelligence room and made eye contact with Ivan. He nodded, then turned to the others.
“Robbie wants to show us something.”
“Okay,” Jules said.
“I’ll stay here with Mia if you don’t mind,” Erica said to Sam, who nodded in agreement.
Ivan led the way, the others right behind him. The people milling around in the meeting room noticed.
“What’s up?” Sam asked Robbie, who was back beside Morgan in front of his PC screen. Seth and Kaitlyn were looking over their shoulders, Angel and Megan close by.
“Somebody shot cruise missiles at Jacumba Hot Springs.”
“The town?” Garrett asked.
Robbie nodded yes.
“Here it starts,” Ivan said, pulling his phone out of his pocket. He typed a quick text.
“General Hogan?” Sam asked, to which Ivan nodded.
“Is that what you’re afraid they’ll hit us with?” Shelly asked, looking at the devastation of the town on the video feed.
Ivan glanced at Jules and then nodded yes to Shelly.
An alarm went off on Seth’s PC.
“Oh, crap,” Kaitlyn said, rushing over to it, Seth right behind her.
“What was that?” Tex asked.
“That was an alarm from the history program,” Seth said as he stood behind Kaitlyn, who was typing on the keyboard. “It goes off when enemy RFID hits disappear.”
“They’re loading up again?” Ted asked.
“Oh boy,” Sparky said. “Wonder if they’re coming here or going to the border?”
“Where did they disappear?” Sam asked.
“South of Julian,” Kaitlyn said. “They’ve still got a lot of people there.”
“How many disappeared?” Ivan asked.
“Five hundred so far,” Kaitlyn replied.
“No,” Shelly said.
“They probably aren’t coming here,” Ted said, looking at his phone. “Look at the map. We know the western tip of the enemy front is going to hit the border near Tecate. The only way they can go is Old Highway 80, or maybe I-8 if they’re crazy enough.”
“They might come here, though,” Tex said. “There’s more than one way they could go to get on Highway 94.”
“He’s got a point, boss,” Jules said.
“Okay, okay, let’s not panic yet. I’m gonna see if I can get a drone to cover the area.” He walked away with the cellphone to his ear.
“What now?” Angel asked.
“Hang tight and wait,” Ji-Ho said.
Ivan came back in the room. “General Hogan is talking to the Navy base. Hopefully they’ll get a drone over the area.”
“It won’t be just to help us,” Ted said. “There’s a better than even chance that these folks are going to the border to attack Marines.”
“Yes, I made that point,” Ivan said. “Anything else on Jacumba?”
“They only shot three missiles, from the reports I’m seeing,” Robbie said. “They only hit the town. All the armed forces and most of the military equipment was west of there a few miles. Seems kinda stupid to me.”
“It’s terror,” Ted said. “Pure and simple. They know they can’t take out enough of our military to make a difference, since they’re so well-spaced out. They can hit civilians in close quarters like that town, kill a lot of people, and maybe take attention of the fighting force away from their business.”
“This is an escalation,” Sam said.
Ji-Ho nodded. “Yes, I agree.”
“As do I, gentlemen,” Jules said. “Maybe we ought to be getting involved directly.”
“No,” Ivan said. “We sit tight, in this shelter. We have an important job coming up. A job we can pull off. An important job.”
“What’s that?” Angel asked. “What could be more important than killing the enemy?”
“I think I know,” Robbie said. “You want us to take out the UN base after Mr. White and Mr. Black tell us where it is.”
Ivan smiled. “You’re smart, like your father.”
Meyers sat in his armored personnel carrier, watching the laptop screen, which was running the high-res app. He could see all the enemy fighters in detail, the program on auto refresh so he could see movement every twenty seconds.
“We’re not far from the target zone, sir,” the driver said.
“Thank you,” Meyers said, eyes not leaving the screen. “How far ahead are the heavy armor?”
“The tanks are about a hundred meters ahead of us, sir. They’ll be engaging the enemy in minutes.”
“No sign of enemy armor?”
“No sir, but there are a hell of a lot of troops, and a bunch of broken artillery.”
“Watch for anti-tank hand-helds,” Meyers said.
“Will do, sir. See anything about those explosions we saw a little while ago?”
“Nope,” Meyers said. “They might have thought we were still there.”
“Makes sense to me,” the private said. “Haven’t heard more explosions since they’ve been able to see us.”
Meyers nodded, eyes still peeled at his screen. His phone dinged. He pulled it out of his pocket and looked at it, almost losing his balance as he released the hand-holds.
“Jacumba Hot Springs,” he said.
“Excuse me, sir?”
Meyers looked over at him. “They hit the town east of our position with three cruise missiles. Killed a bunch of civilians. Bastards.”
“Oh, geez,” the private said. “From the look on your face, there’s something else.”
“The history program shows enemy RFID hits disappearing south of Julian.”
“That’s a long way to the north. You think they’re coming to join the fight?”
“There’s a base they might be interested in, just outside of Dulzura. We’re trying to get a drone over there to see where they’re going, now that their RFID chips have been shielded.”
The radio scratched to life.
“We’re in position, sir,” the voice said.
“Fire at will, but watch your ammo. Let the off-roaders lead the attack on their infantry.”
“Here it starts,” the private said.
The first line of tanks moved forward. One of them fired into a huge group of enemy troops, killing many in a line and scattering others. Then that tank moved forward, it’s machine gun blazing, other tanks beginning to move. A massive explosion went off right at that moment, under the tanks, blowing three of them up, the others starting to back up in a panic.
“Oh crap!” the private yelled. “They’ve got huge IEDs under the ground there.”
Another explosion went off, taking another tank.
“Tanks – freeze!” Meyers shouted into his microphone. “Use your machine guns to take out as many of the enemy infantry as you can. Off-roaders, come around behind them and fire up those micro guns.”
The private looked at Meyers, eyes full of fright.
“Oh, you didn’t expect something like this?” Meyers asked calmly. “What do you think they’ve been doing for all the days they’ve been sitting here?”
Suddenly there was the sound of jets approaching, and the area around the enemy troops exploded into flames.
“Napalm?” the private asked. “Didn’t know we still used that.”
Meyers chuckled, watching his screen as RFID hits disappeared. Another run of the jets started further back, saturating the huddled enemy fighters with burning gel, the singed flesh smell mixing with the gasoline smell.
“Look, the off-roaders are killing everybody who tries to run away,” the private shouted, as another napalm run started, back past the charred bodies of those already hit. “The enemy isn’t even firing back now. They’re just running.”
“They won’t get far,” Meyers said, picking up his microphone again. “All tanks, back up on the tracks you left on the way in. Go slow. We don’t need to lose any more of you guys. We’re going way wide to pursue the enemy.”
“How far, sir?” somebody asked.
“All the way to Mexico City if we have to.”
His comment was punctuated by another whoosh of fire as the fighter jets spewed death and destruction.
Mr. White was at the wheel of the delivery van, Mr. Black in the passenger seat. “We might make in time to catch,” he said.
Mr. Black chuckled. “I just hear about battle south of border. They have hands full. I bet trucks be late to rental yard.”
“Means we sleep in van, take turns.”
Mr. Black shrugged. “Part of job, old friend, part of job.”
Mr. White nodded. They rode silently for a little while, both tired after eight hours on the road. The drive from San Francisco had been easy due to the light traffic, but there was an APB out on them. They hijacked the van, leaving their Lincoln hidden in an industrial area, way back in Hayward. Sooner or later the man they’d stolen the van from would be discovered. They’d both wanted to gut the guy and throw his body into a landfill, but Ivan vetoed that idea.
“Hey, pay attention,” Mr. Black said. “Don’t stay on I-5, get on the 805.”
“I remembered,” Mr. White said. “Take Highway 52 after that. Don’t worry.”
Mr. Black stared at him a moment, then shook his head. “You take first nap when we park. Too tired for own good.”
“Then maybe you should sleep.”
Mr. Black flashed a wicked grin. “I try, after we get on Highway 52.”
“Funny,” Mr. White said, shaking his head.
“I just mess with you.”
“Yes, that what you always say. Ever since Russia.”
Mr. Black snickered, then looked over at him again. “You think boss go soft?”
“Why, because he wouldn’t let us kill guy in Hayward?”
“That, and group he with now,” Mr. Black said. “Think he come back to business?”
“If he doesn’t, we find work. Plenty business, especially with mess left by war.”
“Can we trust if he become respectable?” Mr. Black asked.
“Wait, you think we should erase boss?”
“I didn’t say that, and don’t you ever repeat again, or I gut you like fish.”
“Then why the question?” asked Mr. White.
“Just thinking about future. Maybe we go back to Europe, if Ivan go straight here.”
“We’re still wanted there,” Mr. White said.
Mr. Black laughed. “Yes, we wanted by bad guys behind this war. They not survive. Trust me, and remember who else wanted, here and there.”
“Ivan hero now,” Mr. White said. “Untouchable.”
“Perhaps yes, perhaps no.”
“Jules went straight. He’s not wanted anymore.”
Mr. Black shook his head. “Not same thing. Ivan’s fortune from crime. Jules rich from centuries-old family business.”
Mr. White nodded, then glanced at Mr. Black and grinned. “Never figure out why he join up anyway. He never in need of money.”
“Rebellious kid, overbearing father,” Mr. Black said. “Old story. Old as hills.”
They both laughed.
“Look, you almost miss again,” Mr. Black said as they neared Highway 52.
“I see, stop worry,” Mr. White said. “Go to sleep now. We on last road. Even trained monkey get there.”
“Then I guess I’m safe,” Mr. Black said, leaning his seat back and putting his hat over his face.
Mr. White grinned, then focused on the road.
Doug and Jorge entered the town of Jacumba Hot Springs on foot, via Old Highway 80. Parts of the town were still on fire.
“Look, the post office is toast,” Doug said.
“So is the resort,” Jorge said, his face lined with worry. “I hope my house didn’t get hit.”
“Would they have been at home?”
“I don’t know, man,” Jorge said. “Doesn’t look like there’s smoke in that direction. Let’s go left on Heber instead of Railroad Street. The wind is blowing that smoke in a bad direction.”
“Yeah, we don’t want to breathe that.”
They continued down Old Highway 80 another block, watching the buildings burn to their left, then turning on Heber.
“Oh no, there is smoke coming from there,” Jorge said.
Doug used his hand to shield his eyes. “I don’t think that’s your street, I think it’s the Methodist Church.”
Jorge just nodded silently, but sped up. “I’ll bet you’re glad your wife left.”
Doug laughed. “She can’t stand me. Probably off with her boyfriend again. Our marriage is a bad joke.”
“You still love her, though, right?”
“I do, but knowing about that other guy ruins it.”
“Why? It’s not like you don’t play around.”
“That was the agreement,” Doug said, “but I didn’t make the choice.”
“If you didn’t want it, why’d you agree?”
Doug was quiet for a moment as they walked
“You don’t have to say anything,” Jorge said. “None of my business. I’m just trying to keep my mind off the worst. It’s not fair. Sorry.”
“No, it’s fine,” Doug said. “You’re the best friend I’ve got, man. I don’t mind talking about it.”
“But you don’t have to,” Jorge said.
“I know. Doesn’t feel like she’s still mine. I can’t get past that.”
“It doesn’t help that you’re having your fun?” Jorge asked. “Seems like you’ve got your cake and you get to eat it too. Sometimes I envy that.”
“I can’t really cheat.”
Jorge looked at him for a moment, not understanding.
“I’m not getting my thoughts out very well,” Doug said. “I can’t have a girlfriend. Not one I might fall in love with, and when you don’t have that, it’s only physical cravings that you satisfy. Afterwards it’s bad. Empty.”
“Why can’t you have a girlfriend? She’s emotionally involved with this other guy, right?”
“I’m still in love with her. I can’t give my heart to anybody else while I do. That’s why I know it’s hopeless.”
“I don’t follow.”
“She gave her heart. She doesn’t worry about it because she doesn’t love me anymore. Not really. Not like a wife.”
“There’s my house, man,” Jorge said, breaking into a run. “Isabel!”
The door flew open, a middle-aged woman rushing out, running towards him as fast as her legs would carry her. They embraced, both crying. Doug looked on, hanging back, tears in his eyes. Jorge’s four children ran out, gathering around their parents, all of them clinging to one another.
Jorge and Isabel talked for a moment, and then she turned and went back inside their house with the children. Jorge walked over to Doug.
“You’re invited for dinner,” Jorge said. “Don’t you dare say no.”
Doug looked at him and nodded yes, wiping the tears out of his eyes.
Doug looked at him. “Part happiness, part envy.”
“Your wife is safe, at least,” Jorge said.
“Maybe. She doesn’t let me know where she is. Doesn’t return texts or calls half the time. When we’re together she acts like nothing’s happening, but then she huddles out of earshot with her phone.”
“Oh, man, it can’t be as bad as that.”
“I don’t have her anymore,” Doug said. “It’ll be okay. For better or worse, I let this happen, thinking it would keep us together. Let’s change the subject, okay?”
“Maybe you can work it out,” Jorge said. “Come on, let’s go inside.”
To be continued…
Book 5 of the Bug Out! California saga has been published. It’s available in both e-book and paperback!
Copyright Robert Boren 2018
Sam drove the Jeep down the side of the hill, following Garrett’s Jeep, Sid and Yvonne behind them in the third. They pulled past the smoking remains of the two booby-trapped semi-trucks.
“Be careful, there might be more mines,” Ted yelled as the group gathered. The off-roaders were on the next ridge, keeping watch.
“We’re not going to learn anything from this mess,” Sam said.
“You got that right, partner,” Tex said, Jules nodding in agreement.
“You know where the tracks start up again, though, right?” Shelly asked Sid, who was staring at the ground.
“They used dirt bikes,” Sid said, pointing. “Looks like at least five. Last night, if I had to guess.”
“There’s probably still some bad guys around, then,” Yvonne said.
“That why off-roaders watch,” Jules said. “We follow tracks?”
“Yeah, but I’d better take the lead,” Sid said.
“I’m driving,” Yvonne said. He nodded, and everybody got back in their vehicles. Yvonne pulled in front, and they followed the motor cycle tracks up the next ridge, where the off-roaders were waiting. The Jeeps stopped, everybody getting out and gathering. Garrett nodded to the leader, and motioned them to come over.
“No cover here for the enemy,” Tex said. “Makes it a little easier.”
“We need to watch that far ridge,” Garrett said. “There’s a huge plain on the other side. The next ridge after that one is half a day’s drive in a Jeep.”
“Where does that road lead?” Shelly asked.
“Southwest,” Garrett said. “Miles and miles of rugged terrain. Eventually you’ll run into Morena Village to the east, but there’s forks. One of them leads down to Tecate.”
“Mexico?” Shelly asked.
“Yep,” Garrett said.
“How much further are we gonna go?” Erica asked.
“That’s a good question,” Sam said.
“I think we should go on until we find end of dirt bike tracks,” Jules said. “Those aren’t long range. We should find spot where they came off the trucks.”
“He’s right,” Garrett said. “We need to remember that the off-roaders are with us, though. We don’t want to run them so far that they can’t get home. They’re not long range either.”
Jules’s phone dinged. He took it out and looked at it, his brow furrowed.
“What now?” Sam asked.
“We just invade Mexico with armor. More armor showing up at Dodge City, staging to continue. Far east and west ends of enemy front rush towards border at same time. Ivan make women and children get in mine.”
“We’re expecting an attack?” Erica asked. “We should get back there.”
“Not troops,” Jules said.
“Then what?” Yvonne asked.
“Ivan afraid invasion of Mexico bring EU response,” Jules said.
“Crap, he’s afraid we’re gonna get bombed,” Ted said, “and he might be right.”
“I’m gonna take a quick run down there,” Sid said. “You guys hang out here.”
“I’m going too,” Yvonne said.
Sid nodded. They got into their Jeep and drove towards the last ridge, the off-roaders ahead of them.
“You don’t think they’d use this back way to march right in here, do you?” Tex asked.
“I was thinking the same thing,” Ted said, looking at his phone. “The western tip of the enemy line isn’t that far from the entrance to this area, as the crow flies.”
Garrett laughed. “Yeah, but as the crow flies isn’t so hot unless you’ve got Jeeps, and they don’t.”
“It’s that area we went through before, isn’t it?” Sam asked, looking at Erica. “Where we met.”
“Yep. They’re on foot, though. Lots easier than taking vehicles over that ground.”
“It’s a lot of miles to walk,” Garrett said. “They’d be sitting ducks during a lot of it, especially with the US Navy and Airforce getting involved.”
“The Airforce isn’t involved, are they?” Sam asked.
“They send B-1s into Mexico a couple hours ago, to take out the enemy’s artillery,” Jules said.
Ted shook his head. “We need to get home in a hurry. They aren’t coming through here.”
“I’d have to agree,” Garrett said. “Too long of a walk. They’ll get on Highway 94.”
“Somebody call Sid,” Jules said. “We go.”
“Looks like he stopped already, partner,” Tex said. They watched as Sid got out of the Jeep and walked in front of it a few steps. He froze, then motioned to Yvonne to back the Jeep up.
“He found a mine, I’ll bet,” Ted said, squinting to see in the distance.
“Yvonne is motioning for him to come back to the car,” Sam said. “Dammit, get out of there, Sid.”
“Good, he’s going,” Shelly said.
Sid got back in the Jeep and Yvonne backed up another fifty yards. Then she was out of the Jeep, aiming her sniper rifle. She fired a shot, which echoed through the area. Then she fired again, and there was a huge explosion, much bigger than a single mine.
“That was a trap,” Sam said, watching dirt and rocks falling. “Glad they were back as far as they were.”
“Here they come,” Tex said, watching them get into the Jeep and k-turn, heading back to the ridge at a good clip.
“They really think we’re stupid,” Shelly said.
“No, I think they hope we check at night,” Jules said. “Men we fought came to check, clean up. Found we hadn’t tripped their trap, so they decided to do ambush.”
“Yeah, partner, I think you’re right,” Tex said. “We need to high-tail it home.”
Yvonne and Sid drove up, skidding to a stop. Sid got out, a big grin on his face. Yvonne was shaking her head.
“The enemy is pretty tricky,” Sid said, “but not tricky enough.”
“I think we’d better be careful on the way home,” Sam said.
“Why?” Erica asked. “You think there’s still some of them out here?”
“Look at that area down there,” Sam said, nodding towards the huge plain. “There’s nowhere to hide. We can see all of it for miles.”
“True,” she said. “What’s your point?”
“Where are the vehicles that the commando team came in?”
Jules glanced at him, then looked around nervously at ridges further out, which they hadn’t checked. “He right, we go now, watch backs on way.”
“Yeah, I think you’re right,” Garrett said. “Let’s have some of the off-roaders in front of us, and some in back, just in case.”
The lead off-road rider nodded in agreement, then closed the visor on his helmet and started his engine.
The group took off for home.
Ji-Ho directed the armored vehicles towards the entrance of the Dodge City property, as far from the city as he could get them. There were over forty vehicles there now. Ed walked over to him.
“All of the women and children are in the mine,” he said, “and the warriors are in defensive positions with some of the citizen recruits who arrived last night.”
“How many men that?” Ji-Ho asked.
“Eighteen thousand, give or take. The rest are leaving for the western tip of the enemy’s line in about fifteen minutes.”
“Good, I tell commander of armor,” Ji-Ho said. “They here for support.”
“Why’d you move them all over here?”
“Ivan’s idea,” Ji-Ho said. “If EU sends airstrike, it not right on top of town.”
“Would they really do that?”
“EU destroyer fire on American citizens in Portland, remember?”
Ed scratched his chin. “Yeah, you’re right. Not used to thinking about these folks as bad guys, I guess.”
Ji-Ho’s phone dinged with a text. He looked. “Ivan want meeting in intelligence room.”
“Let’s go, then.”
Ji-Ho motioned to the armor commander, who trotted over.
“More news?” asked the man, pulling his helmet off his head.
“We have to go into meeting. Main force of citizen recruits will be leaving soon. Get ready now. You follow them, Captain Carlotta?”
“That’s the plan,” he said. “Thanks for your help.”
“Thank you,” Ji-Ho said.
Carlotta smiled, put his helmet back on, and trotted back over to the others in his command.
“Ready?” Ed asked.
“There two battle wagons not yet in siege mode,” Ji-Ho said as they got into their Jeep. “Last two that got new tires. Let’s put them in and then go to mine shaft.”
“You got it.” They drove back to town, ducking into the last two battle wagons and putting them into siege mode on the way.
“That ought to protect them,” Ed said.
“If we get airstrike, they be toast,” Ji-Ho said.
“Then why bother?”
“Might not get airstrike. Enemy forces might overrun, head here. Battle wagons in good spots. We just get in and open fire.”
“Oh,” Ed said. “Got you.”
The Jeep rolled down the main street of Dodge City and parked, Ji-Ho and Ed going into the mine entrance, nodding at the armed warriors who were placed around the area.
“Nice and cool in here,” Ed said.
“Yes, is,” Ji-Ho said. They saw two figures racing towards them. It was Haley and Karen.
“When are our men coming back?” Haley asked.
Ji-Ho smiled. “Ted texted, on way home now. May take some time.”
“So, they’re done back there?” Karen asked.
“Yes, for now,” Ji-Ho said.
Karen shot Haley a worried glance. “I won’t feel better until they’re here.”
“Come, we go to meeting,” Ji-Ho said. “Okay?”
Karen glanced at him, then back at Haley, her red hair swaying. “Let’s go. I want to hear what’s going on.”
The intelligence room was nearly full, Ivan standing in the front, next to a large TV monitor which displayed video from nine cameras mounted around Dodge City. Ji-Ho approached him.
“They’re moved away?” Ivan asked.
“All the way to highway entrance. They be gone soon anyway. Citizens nearly ready to leave.”
“Good. Just heard from Jules. They’ll be back here in about twenty minutes.”
“What did they find?” Ji-Ho asked.
“UN Commandos, mine fields, and a big booby trap.”
“No. All survive?”
Ivan shot him a grim look. “Lost one off-roader.”
“Uh oh,” Ji-Ho said. “So sorry to hear. Armor not good enough?”
“Head shot,” Ivan said, looking like he wanted to change the subject. His phone rang, and he excused himself, walking away with it to his ear.
“He didn’t look happy,” Trevor said, walking up to Ji-Ho with Kaylee.
“Lost off-roader in back country,” Ji-Ho said. “Ivan takes hard every time. Not cut out for this business.”
“Nobody likes losing people,” Kaylee said softly. “Sam and the others are okay?”
“So far,” Ji-Ho said. “On way home now.”
Ivan came back over, shoving the phone back in his pocket.
“Good news?” Trevor asked.
“Mr. White and Mr. Black are on the way to El Cajon,” he said with a wicked grin. “They finished their task up north earlier than expected.”
“What task?” Ji-Ho asked.
“UN officials attempted infiltration in San Francisco, to lay groundwork for renewed assault.”
Ji-Ho chuckled. “How many did your men kill?”
“All of them,” Ivan said. “They’ll find out where the local UN base is. Guess what will happen next?”
Trevor and Ji-Ho cracked up, Kaylee looking on with worry in her eyes.
“Hey, look, the citizens are pulling out,” Trevor said, pointing to the TV screen.
“Ah, perfect,” Ivan said.
“What’s the meeting about?” Ed asked.
Ivan chuckled. “Postponed.”
Ed shook his head. “You called the meeting just to get everybody in here, didn’t you?”
“You found me out.”
“Is there something you know that we don’t?” Trevor asked.
“EU forces are angry,” Ivan said. “That’s the truth.”
“They can’t fly in here, though, can they?” Kaylee asked.
“Yeah, what about the US Air Force?” Trevor asked. “I heard what they did down south.”
“If they hit us, they won’t send manned bombers or fighters,” Ivan said.
“Then what?” Kaylee asked.
Ji-Ho’s eyes narrowed. “Cruise missiles.”
“Where would they launch them from?” Trevor asked. “Didn’t the remaining EU Navy ships leave the west coast after the Portland incident?”
“They still have a couple of ships south of here,” Ivan said. “They’re in a dry dock in Ecuador.”
“US Navy should bomb,” Ji-Ho said.
“That would be a mess from a diplomatic standpoint,” Ivan said.
Ji-Ho chuckled. “We’re sending bombers and armored vehicles across border into Mexico now. Horse already left barn.”
“They attacked us from Mexico with artillery,” Ivan said, “and they’re sending a few hundred thousand troops our way, too. Our actions can be portrayed as self-defense.”
“It’s really just baloney,” Ed said. “We’re at war with the EU and their UN allies. We can defeat them. The sooner we accept that and go after them, the better.”
“I’m not disagreeing,” Ivan said. “I’m deferring to General Hogan, though. He wants to take out Daan Mertins and his remaining team. He thinks if we can do that the EU will lose interest in this adventure and back off.”
“He right, we not want big battle with EU,” Ji-Ho said. “US armed forces still strong, but manpower was depleted by the enemy infiltration. We win any battle on our soil. We can project power with Navy and Airforce, but we don’t have massive assault troop forces to back up.”
Ivan nodded. “You and General Hogan are on the same page.”
“You don’t think the EU would have nuke warheads on those cruise missiles, do you?” Kaylee asked quietly.
“They wouldn’t dare,” Ivan said. “We still have our nuclear capability, and it’s under the control of the Air Force and the provisional government in DC. If they hit us with a nuclear attack where there’s no doubt that they were directly involved, there’s gonna be a lot of Europe on fire in a hurry.”
“Yeah, Islamists don’t have cruise missiles,” Ji-Ho said.
“They floated nukes into our harbors,” Kaylee said.
“The maniac Islamists did that, with help from North Korea and Iran,” Ivan said. “This would be completely different.”
“Would we survive if they did hit us that way?” Kaylee asked.
Ji-Ho shook his head no. “Mine shaft deep, but not deep enough. Not shielded by steel. Not sealed.”
“Let’s not go there, folks,” Ivan said. “They aren’t going to hit us with nuclear weapons. They’ll try to hit the armor and the citizens before they can join the fight at the border, if they do anything. I wouldn’t bother if I were them.”
“Why not?” Ed asked.
“Not enough bang for their buck,” Ivan said. “Our forces will be spread out along the road. It would take a lot of missiles to kill many of them. There’s really no infrastructure they could take out here which would stop us from fighting them, either.”
“That true,” Ji-Ho said. “Cruise missiles good to blow up installations. Not so good to hit multitude of people on open ground.”
“They might take out the saloon,” Willard said, walking up with Elmer and Susanne. “That would be a catastrophe.”
Susanne shot him a disgusted glance as Elmer cracked up.
“Finished with the ethernet cable runs?” Ivan asked.
“Yep,” Elmer said. “We should think about adding more generators. Maybe even placing some down here and drilling exhaust holes. If they hit the mill, we’ll lose our main source of power.”
“We wouldn’t need a lot of capacity,” Willard said. “Keeping the laptops powered up doesn’t take that much juice.”
Ji-Ho’s phone dinged. He read the text. “Sam and others back in town. Asking why citizens aren’t in back camping area.”
“We’ll brief those guys when they get in here,” Ivan said.
Doug looked through his binoculars at the armor column moving south from the border. Behind them were the surviving Marines. Armed off-roaders rolled along on either side of the column. Conrad walked over with Jorge.
“They’re on their way,” Jorge said, turning towards the south and squinting in the bright sunshine.
“I wish we had more troops on the ends of their line,” Conrad said.
Doug handed his binoculars to Jorge, so he could look. “Where’s Meyers?”
“Down there with his troops,” Conrad said.
Doug shook his head. “I don’t see him.”
“He’s in one of the armored vehicles,” Conrad said. “A personnel carrier. They’ve got video screens, the apps, and a direct line to headquarters routed into his rig.”
“Mobile command post, huh?” Jorge said, handing the binoculars to Conrad.
Doug chuckled. “Heard that the forces staged at Dodge City are on their way to the western tip. Hope there’s enough folks.”
“They’ve got a whole battalion of tanks with them,” Conrad said, handing the binoculars to Doug.
“How many is in a battalion?” Jorge asked.
“Twenty-two battle tanks and some support vehicles,” Conrad replied. “Wish we had four times that.”
“What about the eastern tip?” Doug asked.
“They have more citizens there, and more tanks too,” Conrad said, “but some of the tanks are old M-60s.”
“The western tip is M-1s?” Doug asked. Conrad nodded yes. “The most advanced models they had at Pendleton.”
“The enemy is gonna crap their pants,” Jorge said.
There was a loud crash below them. Railroad tenders were dragging cars away on the tracks, one of them coming loose and falling over.
“Damn, what a mess,” Doug said. “That’s gonna take days to clear.”
Jorge nodded. “Yeah, we need more artillery rounds. Hell, we need more artillery pieces, too. It’s gonna be rough getting them here until that train track is back in operation.”
“The main part of the battle will be over before we solve that issue,” Conrad said.
“What’s that?” Jorge asked, pointing at the southern sky. “Is that a drone?”
Conrad squinted, looking too close to the sun, the white missile-shaped object coming into view. His eyes grew wide. “Get down and hope for the best.”
“What is that?” Doug asked.
“Looks like a cruise missile,” Conrad said as he got down in the dirt. “Get down, dammit.”
Jorge and Doug hit the dirt as the missile approached, flying at low altitude. It went over their heads.
“Where’s it going?” Jorge asked.
“Town,” Conrad said, as the explosions started to the east of them. “Dammit, here comes two more.”
“My family is in town,” Jorge cried as the missiles flew over them, going to the same target.
To be continued…
Book 5 of the Bug Out! California saga has been published. It’s available in both e-book and paperback!
Copyright Robert Boren 2018
It’s available now in e-book and paperback.
Jules and his team were back on the road, the off-roaders ahead of them by several hundred yards, as they went up and down the hills, watching for more enemy fighters. “No more cover nearby, no?”
“Garrett said that last place was the worst,” Shelly said. “Heard him tell Sid.”
“I heard it too, little lady,” Tex said.
Ted was watching out his window. “Way to early to be relaxing, man.”
Jules chuckled. “Who say relax?”
“They’re slowing down at the next ridge,” Tex said.
“Some of the off-roaders already clear top, go past,” Jules said.
Ted nodded. “I’ll bet the ruined trucks are past this ridge.”
“Hope so, partner.”
Most of the off-roaders stopped just shy of the ridge too, waiting, listening to the engine snarl of the few who kept going.
Jules parked behind Sam and Erica’s Jeep, and everybody got out, heading to the ridge in a crouch.
“Problem?” Jules asked.
Garrett looked back at them. “The trucks are there, and there’s a slight amount of ridge cover to the left.”
“Risky to put off-roaders out there, no?”
“They’re somewhat shielded,” Sam said. “More so than our Jeeps, at least.”
Tex’s brow furrowed. “A little Kevlar ain’t great against a sniper rifle.”
“That’s why we only sent three,” Sam said. “Nothing so far. We might have nailed everybody they sent over here.”
“Think I’ll grab my sniper rifle just in case,” Yvonne said, reaching into the back of the Jeep. She took it to the ridge, getting prone, flipping up the lens caps.
Tex looked over the ridge at the cover. “Hell, partner, that’s not much cover at all.”
“Better safe than sorry,” Ted said, his binoculars in front of his eyes. “We need to check the trucks for booby traps.”
“You said a mouthful there,” Sid said, looking through his binoculars. “We need to check for tracks around those trucks. We might have something to follow.”
The three off-roaders approached the wreckage, slowing down to a crawl. One of them blew up.
“Dammit!” Jules said. “Tell them to pull back.”
“They know, partner,” Tex said, watching as the other two vehicles turned around.
“Land mine,” Sam said. “So much for looking at tracks.”
“What now?” Shelly asked.
“Maybe we should hit the area around those trucks with a few mortar rounds,” Garrett said.
Yvonne fired her rifle, startling everybody, and the ground exploded about ten yards from the broken off-roader. “They didn’t hide that one very well. Saw it through my scope. Start looking at the ground with those binoculars.”
“These aren’t as strong as that rifle scope,” Sid said.
Sam stared down there. “Wish we had an M107.”
“Ji-Ho has one,” Sid said, “but it’s in his rig.”
“I need to move over that direction,” Yvonne said, pointing to the right. “Dirt looks disturbed in a spot over there.”
“Stay below the ridge,” Ted said. She nodded and moved over, getting into prone position again, looking through the rifle scope.
She put her finger near the trigger. “I think that’s one. Let’s see.” She fired, and the ground blew up, the concussion setting off another one a few feet away.
“Hell, they have a bunch of those damn things there,” Garrett said.
Sam stared through his binoculars. “The dirt is loose in several spots, which might be mines. I think we need to short-circuit this.”
Jules eyed him. “What, take chance? Pretty risky, no?”
Sam put down the binoculars and looked at him. “No, I think we ought to drive around the wreckage and find the tracks. No need to look inside the trucks. Hell, they’ll probably be booby trapped anyway.”
“Oh, I get. Yes, we should.”
“What’s wrong with hitting the area with mortars?” Ted asked. “We already know there will be tracks out of here. The folks who were in those trucks didn’t set the mines. We know somebody came by afterwards. Might have been those creeps that we blasted earlier.”
“I got an idea,” Garrett said, rushing over to the Jeep. He came back with his plains rifle. “If those busted trucks are booby trapped, maybe a few rounds with this .50 cal will set it off.”
Jules chuckled, shaking his head. “We need to get upwind of that, no?”
Garrett laughed as he loaded the large cartridge and aimed. He fired, the blast and smoke filling the air. “Damn, this thing kicks like a mule.”
“Didn’t work, partner,” Tex said. “That’s a beauty, though.”
“Want to give it a try?”
Tex chuckled. “Sure, why not?”
Garrett loaded another massive cartridge and handed the big weapon to Tex, who aimed and fired, the recoil taking him back a step.
“Holy crap,” he said, handing the gun back to Garrett and rubbing his shoulder.
“People used to fire these things all day long,” Garrett said. “Buffalo hunters.”
“Don’t get me started on that,” Sid cracked, raising a laugh from his friends.
“You got a point there, I guess,” Garrett said, reloading the gun. He fired again, and there was a massive explosion down below, pieces of truck flying high in the air. The off-roaders rode away as fast as they could as debris landed all over the valley.
Erica smiled. “Bingo.”
“Wow,” Shelly said.
“How much frigging explosive did they put in that damn thing?” Ted asked.
Jules smiled. “Enough to take many of us out if we were close.”
Tex nodded. “You got that right, partner.”
“I’m glad those off-roaders didn’t get hit,” Sam said. “Think we can go down there now?”
“I’d still steer way clear of that spot,” Ted said. “Damn mines will survive a lot more than you’d expect.”
“Let’s get going,” Sid said. “I’ve got a pretty good idea where to pick up the trail.”
“How, honey?” Yvonne asked.
“Staring through the binoculars.”
Doug, Conrad, and Jorge looked down at the devastation that the artillery attack left in it’s wake, all of them on the verge of tears.
Doug’s expression was grim. “We’d better go down there and help.”
“Yeah,” Jorge said. Conrad shook his head in agreement, too shook up to say anything.
“Wait, what’s that squeaking noise?” Doug asked. They all looked at the road in, which was still clogged with cars. A tank came into view, coming over the top of the small hill, next to the road. It was followed by more. By the time the three men got next to the road it was obvious there was a very long column. Meyers was sitting on top of the first tank. It slowed to a stop, and he jumped off. Conrad could tell by his expression that he knew what had just happened.
“So sorry about what happened to your men,” Conrad said.
“We should’ve seen that coming,” Meyers said. “How bad did we hurt them with the air strike?”
“Hard to tell,” Doug said. “The icons are still mostly there, but all that tells us is that their bodies haven’t been burned up.”
“I’ve been refreshing my app every couple minutes,” Jorge said. “Lots of them are still moving around.”
“Well, at least the artillery stopped,” Meyers said. “How many of the marines survived?”
“Don’t have a good number,” Conrad said, “but the losses are significant. Probably close to half.”
“Oh, God,” Meyers said, sitting down on a boulder, trying to keep it together.
“They hit the train several times,” Conrad said, “the last shot hit the artillery ammo before it was all unloaded. That caused a lot of the casualties.”
“Crap, so if that train was later, it wouldn’t have been as bad?” Meyers asked. “I worked really hard to rush that train over here with more artillery shells.”
“Don’t look at it that way,” Jorge said. “After our artillery started firing, the enemy guns slowed down a lot.”
“Yeah, we must have hit their artillery lines a few times,” Doug said. “No other explanation.”
“Well, that’s something, at least,” Meyers said. “We’re going in with the tanks. The US Navy and Marines have decided to ignore the international pressure and go over the border. Enough is enough.”
“Good,” Conrad said. “That’s what needs to happen at this point. I was glad to see those B-1s fly over us, let me tell you.”
Doug looked at the others. “That artillery attack was frightening as hell. I expected to get killed.”
“Yeah, dude, me too,” Jorge said. “So many died, and a lot of them were civilian fighters, not marines.”
“I know,” Meyers said. He turned to the tank. “Go on down and start lining up along the fence. I’ll let you know when we’re gonna move out.”
The tank commander nodded and rolled forward, the others following them across the road, heading towards the break in the wall towards the right.
“When are we going in?” Conrad asked.
“I ought to be getting a call pretty soon.” Meyers looked over at his officers, who were motioning him over. “I’d better go over there.”
“Yeah, go ahead,” Conrad said. “We’ll start working cleanup.”
“Hey, dude, they’re moving,” Jorge said, looking at his phone.
“Where?” Meyers asked.
“Looks like they’re on the way here.”
Meyers pulled his phone out and looked. “Yeah, they are. This is good, in a way. We can tell who’s dead.”
“Assuming some aren’t staying behind to get the artillery going again,” Conrad said.
“The flanks on the far right and far left are starting to move as well,” Doug said, staring at his phone. “We got enough people in those spots now?”
“They’re still arriving,” Meyers said. “Ivan’s recruitment team is back in business, and the citizens smell blood in the water. Of course there’s not enough road capacity for everyone to get there in time.”
“Doesn’t help that the train is blown up here,” Jorge said.
“Yeah, I need to go look at that after I get the tanks and the troops moving,” Meyers said. “Talk to you guys later.”
He walked to the men who were motioning to him a few moments before.
“What should we be doing?” Doug asked. “Body pick-up?”
“Well, somebody has to,” Conrad said. “Let’s go.”
The men got busy, helping the others around them with the nasty task as the tanks continued rolling across the road, going through several breaks in the border fence and parking right inside Mexico.
Anna and Mia were standing on the wooden sidewalk in front of the hotel with Sarah and Susanne.
“The area behind town is filling up,” Anna said, watching the flow of armed citizens coming down the street. “Saw it when I brought the wagon up from Garrett’s place.”
“Why are they all here?” Mia asked.
“They’re coming to help us in the war, honey,” Sarah said.
“Is the war going to be here?” Mia asked, eyes wide as she looked around.
Anna squatted down next to her. “No, we don’t think so.”
“But what if it does happen here?”
“Then you and I will hide where they can’t find us,” Anna said.
Mia looked down. “My mommy told me that before, but they found us anyway. When will my new mommy and daddy be back?”
“Soon,” Anna said. She stood, shooting a glance to Sarah and Susanne.
“Don’t you worry none, sweetie,” Susanne said. “We’ve got a lot of strong people here. It won’t be like what happened at your home.”
“I’ll feel a whole lot better when they get back,” Sarah whispered to Anna. “after hearing that explosion earlier.”
Anna put her finger to her lips, and Sarah nodded in response.
Elmer came across the street with Clem, having to slip through the heavy foot traffic.
“Wow,” Elmer said, getting next to Susanne and putting his arm around her waist.
“Don’t paw me right out on the sidewalk, you old coot,” she said, pushing him away. Sarah and Anna snickered. Mia looked on, not understanding.
“You look worried,” Clem said to Sarah. She shook her head no, nodding down at Mia, who was focused on two of Garrett’s men trying to direct traffic. The sound of a big diesel truck approached.
“Oh, crap,” Sarah whispered as she saw it come into view.
“Don’t worry, that’s the tire company,” Clem said. “Ivan and Ji-Ho were talking to them on the phone earlier. They’re gonna replace the tires on the battle wagons.”
“Did you guys hear from Garrett and the others?” Anna asked quietly.
“Not for a while,” Clem said, “but we did hear from them after the explosion you probably heard.”
“You didn’t hear it in the mine?” Sarah asked. “It was loud.”
Elmer laughed. “If you’re not near the opening, it’s hard to hear much of anything down there.”
“That’s a fact,” Susanne said. “One of the things I liked about it down there.”
“We got your storage rooms wired, honey,” Elmer said.
“Do it right this time?” Susanne asked. “And stop with the honey stuff.”
Elmer shot a grin at the others, then looked back at Susanne. “Okay, honey.”
Chet laughed loud, then covered his mouth. “Sorry.”
Susanne shook her head, rolling her eyes at the same time. “I suppose you won’t shut up about it till I go look. Let’s go.”
The couple started across the street, Elmer’s arm going around her waist again, Susanne smacking it away. He turned back to Clem and grinned.
“Those two are a riot,” Sarah said.
“Susanne’s not fooling me a bit,” Anna said. “She worships that man.”
“Yeah, that’s the impression I get too, now that I’ve been around them more.”
“What was that explosion?” Anna asked.
Chet smiled. “Garrett and that big buffalo gun of his.”
“It’s not that loud,” Anna said.
“They found those blown-up trucks way out in the BLM land, and figured they were booby-trapped. Garrett got the idea to hit it with that big .50 cal. Took three or four shots, then kaboom.”
“Did they run into any bad guys back there?” Anna asked. Clem started to talk, but Sarah touched his arm and nodded down at Mia, who was listening.
“Nothing bad,” Clem said. “They’re just following tire tracks now. They’ll be back before too long.”
Ji-Ho emerged from the mine with Sparky, Ed, and a few others, making their way to the tire company truck.
“I’d probably better get back to work,” Clem said. “Still got to finish wiring up that room for the intel team.”
“I’m hungry,” Mia said.
“There’s some food in the hotel kitchen,” Sarah said. “C’mon, I’ll make us something to eat.” She turned and went into the hotel door, Anna and Mia following.
“Sit at the table, honey,” Sarah said as she was going to the walk-in fridge. “You like tuna sandwiches?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Good, because Clem made some tuna salad last night.” She disappeared into the walk-in for a moment, coming out with a container of tuna salad and the mayo.
“I know where the bread is,” Anna said, opening a drawer under the counter and pulling out a loaf. She looked at Sarah as she opened it and grabbed three plates from the cupboard above the counter. “So, what’s the story with you and Clem?”
Sarah smiled. “News travels fast, I guess.”
“You two together?”
“Kinda, but nothing serious,” Sarah said as she made the sandwiches. “We’re a comfort to each other.”
Sarah’s face turned red, and she nodded.
“Sorry,” Anna said. “Not trying to embarrass you.”
“Oh, it’s okay, really,” Sarah said. “I figure as long as we’re both enjoying each other, what’s the harm?”
“That’s how I feel about Garrett,” Anna said.
“Is that how Garrett feels?”
Anna sighed. “He’d marry me if I gave him half the chance.”
“You don’t want that?”
“Been there, done that,” Anna said. “Still, he’s the best man I’ve had in years. I certainly could do a lot worse. We’ll see what happens after this damn war is over.”
“Well, you’re still young enough. Clem and I are quite a bit older.”
“True, but our circumstances aren’t all that different.”
Sarah nodded in agreement as she put a sandwich plate in front of Mia. “Here you go, honey.”
“Thank you,” Mia said, picking it up and taking a bite. Sarah and Anna stood at the counter and ate their sandwiches, silent for a few moments.
“You’re pretty worried about Garrett being out there.”
She nodded, setting her sandwich down. “That’s the hard thing.”
“You’re in love with him, aren’t you?” Sarah asked.
She looked down at the counter for a moment, then looked back at her, tears welling in her eyes. “Dammit.”
“Strike a nerve?”
“I’ve been trying to keep myself from falling for him,” Anna said. “Not working so well.”
“It’s a nice thing,” Sarah said, “and he’s a good man. Maybe you should just enjoy it for now, and let the future take care of itself.”
There was a low rumble approaching, shaking the ground beneath the building. The two women eyed each other.
“What’s that?” Mia asked.
“Stay here,” Sarah said to her as she ran out to the front. She could see armored vehicles rolling into the large pasture in front of the town. Ji-Ho was talking to somebody on top of one of them, as others filled in the open space rapidly. Sarah went back to the kitchen.
“Well?” Anna asked.
“Military vehicles,” Sarah said. “Tanks or something. I don’t know much about those.”
“Friendly, I hope?”
“Appears so,” she said. “Ji-Ho was welcoming them in.”
“Is it okay?” Mia asked.
“Yes, honey, it’s good guys,” Sarah said. She went back to her sandwich.
There was more commotion outside. The sounds of people talking as they walked past the hotel. Clem rushed in.
“What’s happening?” Anna asked.
“Ivan and Ed want women and children in the mine,” he said quietly, trying not to alarm Mia.
“Are we about to be attacked?” Sarah whispered.
“No, but we’re invading Mexico. That’s why all the tanks, armored personnel carriers, and troop transport trucks showed up. They’re beefy enough to get around the clogged roads.”
“What about Garrett and the others in the back country?” Anna asked.
Clem shot her a glance. “Let’s get into the mine, and then we’ll call them, okay?”
“Is there a fridge down there?” Sarah asked.
“Yeah, as a matter of fact. It’s not huge, but it was nearly empty last I looked.”
“Good, then let’s carry the food from the walk-in down there,” Sarah said.
“Good idea,” Clem said. “I saw some boxes out the back door. Be right back.”
They got the food boxed up in a matter of minutes, and headed across the street to the mine.
To be continued…
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
Sam and the rest were pinned down behind the ridge, gunfire coming at them every few moments. They raised to return fire.
“They run us out of ammo while they come around ridge on right hand side,” Jules said, watching as Ted and Sid got out the mortars. “Mortars not solve. Most probably gone from that area.”
Ted set down his mortar and rushed over to Sam, Erica, and Tex as Jules looked on.
“How long until those off-roaders get here?” Ted asked.
Garrett looked away from the ridge. “Ten minutes, maybe fifteen or twenty.”
“We might be dead by then, partner,” Tex said. “Time to become a little more proactive.”
“Hey, recruit,” Ted said, looking at Sam. “What does this remind you of?”
“That bad spot we got ourselves out of in Afghanistan,” Sam said. “Was just thinking about that. You ready?”
“Ready for what?” Erica asked.
“We’re gonna go ambush the ambushers,” Ted said.
Tex grinned. “I’m in.”
Jules held up his hands. “Wait. Think through. We have several resources. Need to use perfectly.”
“I’m listening,” Ted said.
“Sid and I get mortars set up, hit first area, then move to right quickly. Most of force probably there. Who best sniper here?”
“That’d be Yvonne,” Sid said.
“I’ve got my sniper rifle in the Jeep,” she said. “You want me to watch for movement and pick them off, right?”
“Yes, they eyes and ears for force coming at us,” Jules said. “Make them think we all here focused on them.”
“I get it, partner,” Tex said. “Meanwhile those of us good at running warfare use our special forces training. Head them off and pin them down. Hopefully that’ll work long enough for the off-roaders to get here.”
“Exactly,” Jules said. “Ted, Sam, Tex go.”
“I’m going too,” Erica said.
Jules looked at Sam. “She good enough?”
“She’s at least as good as I am,” Sam said. “Maybe better. She trained Kaitlyn.”
“Good enough for me. Go. Clock running.”
Sam nodded, pulling his M60 off the ridge. Erica checked the magazine in her AK-47, while the others checked their weapons – Tex with his BAR and Ted with another M60, his M4 slung over his shoulder.
“I’m gonna go grab a couple more ammo belts,” Sam said, rushing back to his Jeep, returning with them around his neck. “Let’s go.”
Jules watched them scurry off to the right, along the ridge, dropping down out of sight quickly.
“What do I do?” Shelly asked.
“Cover us, and every minute or two, send a short blip of fire from your M4 into those trees. Different target every time. Make them think more than one shooter. I join in between mortar salvos.”
Yvonne’s sniper rifle went off, and they could see a UN Peacekeeper in camo falling out of a tree.
“Nice shot,” Sid said, as he dropped a mortar round into the tube. “Fire in the hole.”
The round came down right behind the trees. Yvonne smiled and fired three rounds as quickly as she could work the bolt on her Winchester Model 70, dropping two with the three shots. Then Jules fired off his mortar, to the right side, the blast sending two UN Peacekeepers rolling down the hill, both Yvonne and Shelly firing at those they could see. Garrett got up with his Winchester and fired several times, the black powder rising above them.
“Wow, I hit somebody,” Shelly whispered.
“You okay?” Jules asked, mortar round in his hand above the tube.
“More than okay,” she said. “This is payback.”
Jules chuckled and dropped another mortar round, hitting a little further to the right again, Sid dropping one seconds later, the whoosh of flame spreading around one part of the trees.
“Sure it’s a good idea to be using that black powder gun?” Sid asked Garrett. “It kinda gives away our position.”
Jules laughed. “In this case, good. Move around with that. Make it look like there more than one.”
“Just what I had in mind,” Garrett said, rushing twenty yards to the left and firing again.
Ted, Sam, Erica, and Tex fanned out as they got into the wooded section below the ridge, using hand signals to point out positions, moving silently, their eyes scanning. Sam was worried about Erica in the back of his mind, not because he didn’t think she was up to it, but because no matter how good you were at this kind of warfare, bad things can happen. Sam had the scars to prove it.
Tex froze, slipping behind some bushes, then getting into prone position, dropping the bipod on his BAR, glancing back at the others, holding up his hand, five fingers up. The others nodded back at him, getting into cover positions, watching silently as the UN commando team headed in their direction, using the same training they had. There was a clear shot for one, Tex having a bead on him, but holding up his hand in a hold your fire manner, waiting as two more of the five also came into view. Erica raised her hand with two fingers, her AK pointed in a different direction.
Tex nodded, opening fire, the others joining in, hitting four of the five, the survivor screaming and running back to the bushes he came out of. They watched silently, the sounds of gunfire and mortar rounds drifting over to them. Sam got up, running in a crouch to the next clump of cover, getting down and listening as the others rushed forward. The mortar fire and rifle shots intensified, the sound of a black powder rifle piercing the air, the sulphur smell drifting towards them. Sam grinned, glancing at Tex, who was focused on the clump of bushes past an open section. He held up his hand and pointed with three fingers. Sam nodded, then saw Erica gracefully rush past him in the brush, eyes focused, gun at the ready, bobbing and weaving, hitting the dirt as a shot rang out in front of her, bullets hitting a tree, bark flying in all directions. Her AK went off, and a person yelled. There was rustling in the brush and Tex fired his BAR, dropping one man. Sam saw three more, rushing towards the spot Erica was, and opening fire with the M60, cutting them down before they got thirty yards. Erica was firing again, at two men who’d frozen behind the three Sam had shot, both hitting the ground dead.
There was more rustling in the brush in front of them, but it was moving away, not moving forward. Ted bounded ahead on the far left, firing his M60 as he went, the UN Peacekeepers yelling and pouring on the speed, Erica up and running now, much faster than Ted, her AK going off every few seconds. Tex and Sam got up and ran in that direction, and then a salvo of fire came at them and they all got behind cover. Tex climbed forward on his belly, looking at the terrain ahead, then shaking his head and holding up ten fingers, flashing them twice, half a grin on his face. Ted rose for a moment and threw something, and then the forest ahead of them exploded, gunfire starting again as Ted hit the dirt, grabbing his M60 and firing into the trees. Erica was up and running again, dodging bullets as she fired, going from tree to tree. Sam saw several Peacekeepers rushing her position and nailed them with the M60, and then there was silence for a moment. Ted and Tex moved forward again, watching silently as Sam moved closer to Erica, who was on point now.
Another volley of fire went off, hitting the trees above their heads, pinning them down. Tex looked forward and grinned, holding up five fingers, then putting the BAR in front of him and firing, a man screaming as he fell into view, only to be hit in the face by Erica’s AK. Ted chucked another grenade, which hit the dirt and rolled into the bushes, a German man yelling in panic before it went off. Three men rushed out of the bushes, right into Tex’s sight, and he cut them down, then paused to reload his magazine with 30-06 ammo. There was no more noise now, other than the sporadic gunfire and mortar rounds coming from Jules and the others. Sam rushed to Erica, diving onto the dirt next to her.
“Nice job,” he whispered.
She nodded, smiling, turning her eyes forward and listening again, making eye contact and holding up three fingers, then nodding towards Ted and Tex. Sam relayed the message and followed Erica forward, around the right side of the wooded ridge. They could hear men running with equipment, but they were fleeing, not coming towards them. Erica stopped behind a tree and fired, Ted joining her from the other side as the Peacekeepers tried hiding behind a boulder to escape Erica’s fire. They were dead in seconds, Erica racing forward again, Sam trying to keep up behind her. The wooded section ended for about fifty yards, Erica trying to shoot a handful of Peacekeepers making for the cover, only hitting two. Ted fired from the other side, dropping two more, leaving one who got to the cover in time. They could hear him breaking through tight branches as he struggled to get away. Then that section of forest exploded in flames, hit by a willie peter round from one of the mortars. Sam froze and sent a text to Jules and the others, telling them not to move any further to the right with mortar fire. He got a confirmation quickly. The group got together behind the trees, all of them trying to catch their breath.
“That was kinda fun,” Erica said, wiping the sweat off her forehead.
“You are a hell of a fighter,” Ted said, smiling at her.
“Seriously,” Tex said. “I’m impressed.”
The wooded section a little further to the left went up in flames with a whoosh, and it spread towards the original position, joining quickly with the flames started with the earlier willie peter round.
“Damn, hope this doesn’t turn into a big brush fire,” Ted said. “You know how dry it is.”
“Maybe we should join the others and keep going,” Sam said.
Tex shook his head. “I think we ought to walk around the back side of that ridge first, partner.”
“He’s right,” Erica said. “We’ve got to drive those Jeeps right down through that valley. If there’s more UN thugs past that ridge, they’ll pin us down.”
They were getting ready to walk towards the burning cover ahead of them when they heard the raspy snarl of many off-roaders approaching.
Tex chuckled. “I don’t think we have to do that job after all. Look. They’re going right through the valley now.”
The rest moved closer and looked, watching about twenty of the off-roaders flying down the hill from the original position, heading for the crest of the hill into the next valley.
“Good, let’s just sit here and wait until they get on the other side,” Ted said. “We’ll hear if they run into anybody. If they don’t, we should go back to the Jeeps and keep going.”
“Yeah, sounds good,” Sam said, watching as the first of the off-roaders climbed the fire road, disappearing over the crest of the ridge, followed by several others. There was no gunfire. A moment later all their phones dinged with a text.
“It’s clear,” Tex said, looking at his screen. “Let’s get going.”
They headed back for the Jeeps. Jules and the others had the guns and mortars loaded before they got there, and they took off, following the off-roaders into the next valley.
“So what do we do, just call the number?” Morgan asked, sitting next to Robbie in the cool dark earthen room.
“I guess,” Robbie said. “Let’s think about this. We need a story.”
“Yeah, we can’t just call and ask if they’ve been renting trucks to UN Peacekeepers, can we?”
Morgan giggled. “I guess you have a point there.”
Robbie sat silently for a moment, staring at his laptop screen, which at this point could’ve been a window. He sighed and picked up the pen, rolling it till he could see the phone number, then picked up his cellphone and tapped in the number. He put it on speaker, and put his finger to his lips, Morgan nodding.
“Smiley’s Rental Yard,” said an old-sounding, rather gruff voice. This is Jimmy.”
“It’s not Smiley?”
The old man laughed, turning into a coughing fit. “Sorry. Smiley was my father.”
“Oh,” Robbie said. “What time do you guys open?”
“We’ve been open since six. What can I do for you?”
“I’m looking for a moving truck,” Robbie said. “My fiancé and I are moving into a new place.”
“We only got small ones available. The three large ones we have are rented most of the time. Usually a day or more ahead.”
“How small are the ones you have?” Robbie asked.
“Slightly larger than a van,” he said. “Two. Okay for moving if you only have a little stuff. Got plenty of open trailers that have a lot more room in them.”
“Not going to work,” Robbie said. “Got nothing to tow with.”
“No car, in California?”
Robbie snickered. “Any of your trailers work with a Toyota Yaris?”
The man chuckled. “Okay, I see your point. No, you don’t want to be towing one of these with those kiddie-cars. No offense.”
“None taken. How about tomorrow? Got any of the larger trucks available then?”
“Maybe, if they come back in time, and in a usable condition,” Jimmy said, his voice flaring with anger. “Jerks left a bunch of blood in the back last night, and dirt too.”
“Uh oh,” Robbie said. “Sounds like you don’t want to be renting to those folks. You gave them the trucks again after that?”
“Normally I would’ve called the cops about it, and stopped renting to them,” Jimmy said. “Can’t do that here. Damn worthless sheriff won’t listen. Says they’re using them for official business, and if I know what’s good for me, I’d better keep my mouth shut tighter than a drum.”
“Any other yards around that have large moving trucks?” Robbie asked. “I got a lot of stuff, and my girl has more.”
“The others closed up shop, at least the others in El Cajon. Maybe some in San Diego, but nobody likes to deal with those damn check-points.”
“The damn Navy. They think they’ve been given control. I got property in there and they won’t let me in.”
“Two of my vans and a pickup truck got caught back there when all hell broke loose. I have an address, but they won’t let me in to fetch them.”
“Oh,” Robbie said, glancing at Morgan. “They the ones who’ve been renting your trucks?”
He snickered. “I wish. The sheriff told me not to ask questions, but I think these are the worst form of scum we have around here now.”
“I don’t follow.”
“They got French and Italian accents. You can put two and two together, can’t ya, friend?”
Jimmy sighed. “I think it’s the damn UN. They’re mostly in hiding after the uprisings, but they’re still around. Bad things still happening.”
“You know. Women and girls disappearing, their men found gutted someplace. Real pigs. Hate them all.”
Robbie was silent for a moment.
“You don’t take offence, I hope,” Jimmy said. “You don’t like them, do you?”
“No, I don’t like them one bit,” Robbie said. “What if we came real early in the morning, day after tomorrow?”
“I’ll tell you what,” Jimmy said, “I’ll open for you at 5:30 and let you have one, if you don’t mind taking your chances a little bit.”
“They might not be cleaned out as well as usual. If there’s blood or anything like that, I’ll hose it out the night before.”
“What about my stuff? You got pads or something that I can put on the floor to keep my furniture and boxes clean?”
“Yeah, we got plenty of pads, but I suggest you use boxes on the floor instead. I’ll give you enough free of charge. Don’t put them together, just lay them on the floor… you get it?”
“Yeah, I get it,” Robbie said. “Thanks. What’s your address?”
“You don’t see it on the web page?”
“No, I got your number off a ballpoint pen that a buddy gave me,” Robbie said.
Jimmy laughed. “Well I’ll be damned.”
“What’s so funny?”
“My brother-in-law talked me into buying those pens a few years ago. I think you’re the first customer I’ve ever gotten from one.” He read off the address.
“Well, I’m glad I found you guys. Thanks for your time. I’ll be there at 5:30 sharp, day after tomorrow.”
“This number good to reach you?” Jimmy asked.
“Yep,” Robbie said. “See you soon.” He ended the call.
“What good is going down there gonna do for us?” Morgan asked.
“I think we’ll be sending a team down there tomorrow morning,” Robbie said. “Stake the place out. Maybe hang out all day. Follow them home.”
“Oh, I get it,” Morgan said. “You aren’t going, I hope?”
“Nah, I think this is a job for our folks with special forces experience.”
Morgan looked relieved. “Good.”
Seth came around the corner with Kaitlyn and Ben, carrying their laptops. “Mind if we join you in here for a while?”
“Sure, no problem,” Robbie said. “What’s going on?”
“Elmer, Willard, and Clem are gonna install lights and some more ethernet lines in there,” Ben said. “They’ll be doing this section next, so we’ll all have to move back out there in a couple hours.”
“Progress,” Morgan said.
As they were setting up, Ivan walked in with Ji-Ho.
“Hey, guys, how’s it going?” Ivan asked.
“Glad you’re here,” Robbie said. “Just had a conversation with that rental yard.”
“Oh, the pen,” Ivan said. “Jules texted me about that. What happened?”
Robbie told them the story.
Ivan and Ji-Ho sat silently for a moment, thinking. Robbie shot Morgan a nervous glance.
“Hey, boss, this sounds like a job for your hit squad,” Ben said.
“Hit squad?” Morgan asked.
“Mr. White and Mr. Black,” Ben said.
Ivan looked at him and smiled. “Exactly what I was thinking, but not sure if I can get them here tomorrow.”
“We probably want them there later in the day anyway,” Kaitlyn said. “We want to follow them home, right? Won’t they be going home after they drop the trucks off?”
Ji-Ho nodded. “That right.”
Ivan chuckled. “Yes, that’s right. It was what I was thinking, but Mr. White and Mr. Black are in the middle of an operation that won’t be over until very late tonight.”
“Oh,” Kaitlyn said.
“I’ve got to go make some calls,” Ivan said, walking towards the passage way. He turned before he was out of sight. “Nice job, Robbie.”
Robbie nodded, watching him disappear.
To be continued…
For those of you following Bug Out! Texas, Book 10 has just been published. You can find it here.
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
Sid and the others walked through the front gate, heading back to Dodge City from the road.
“Kind of a long walk,” Yvonne said.
“I need the exercise,” Shelly said.
Ted got next to Sid and Sam. “We should take that ballpoint pen down to the intelligence team. Let Robbie investigate it. They’re working in the mine, right?”
“Yeah,” Sam said. “Don’t know if they’re down there yet, though. It’s not even eight.”
“Worth a try,” Ted said.
“I’m pretty sure they’re down there already,” Garrett said.
They continued through the front area, littered by debris and parked battle wagons. They got into town, the mine opening about a block in.
“Shall we?” Sid asked.
“Yeah,” Ted said. “Wait here for a second, folks.”
“What’s going on?” Jules asked.
“We’re gonna get Robbie working on the rental yard,” Sam said.
Jules smiled. “Oh, that’s what you were talking about. Good idea.”
Sid, Ted, Garrett, and Sam walked into the mine shaft, it’s ceiling lined with dim electric lights, the floor rough with rocks and dirt.
“Wow, gets cooler down here in a hurry,” Sid said.
“That’s why my sister liked working in here,” Garrett said.
“I thought it was to protect the operation,” Ted said.
Garrett nodded. “Well, that was part of it too.”
They arrived at the opening to the intelligence room. Seth and Kaitlyn were right inside the door, staring at their laptop screens in the dark room.
“Robbie here yet?” Ted asked.
“Yeah, he and Morgan are back there, around the corner,” Seth said.
They walked into that side of the room.
“Hey, guys,” Robbie said, smiling as they walked up.
“Good morning,” Ted said.
Morgan smiled, nodding at them, then taking a sip of coffee out of a paper cup.
“What can we do for you?” Robbie asked.
Sid took the pen out of his pocket. “Found this out front, near the spot where the UN Peacekeepers were parked.” He handed it to Robbie, who looked at it, holding it below a desk lamp next to his laptop.
“You think the UN rented the trucks from here,” Robbie said. “Want us to check on it, don’t you?”
“Yes, but be discreet,” Ted said. “Sid saw tracks from three delivery trucks – with dual tires in the back. Probably moving trucks. See what you can find out.”
“Okay, I’ll get on that right away,” Robbie said.
“Thanks,” Sid said. “We’re going out to the back forty in case anybody asks.
“Be careful out there,” Morgan said.
“We will,” Sid said.
Ted nodded. “See you later, kid.”
They left the room, heading back up the mine shaft. Clem and Elmer were walking down.
“Morning,” Clem said. “What’s up?”
“Found something we wanted Robbie to check out,” Sid said.
Clem smiled. “From out front?”
“Yep. See you guys later.”
The men got back to the road, the women there with cups of coffee for them.
“Oh, excellent,” Ted said. “Thanks!”
They walked down the middle of the street, headed past the livery stable, stopping at the row of Jeeps.
“Here we go,” Sam said. He and Erica got into the first Jeep with Garrett, Sid and Yvonne getting into the second, Jules, Shelly, Tex, and Ted into the third. They rolled across the pasture, then through the tight pass which led to the back country.
Conrad woke up too late, cursing himself. He left his tent, heading for the ridge with his binoculars and phone. Jorge and Doug were already up there, dug in, looking at their phones.
“About time you got up,” Jorge said, smiling at Conrad. “The enemy fighters on either end are starting to move.”
“Very slowly, though,” Doug said.
“No movement down the middle?” Conrad asked.
“Not that we can see so far, Jorge said, “but there are more forces joining them. They’re about a day’s walk away, though.”
“Maybe that’s why they stopped for a while,” Conrad said. “How many?”
“Several hundred,” Doug said.
Conrad raised the binoculars to his eyes. “That’s not very many in the grand scheme of things.”
“Nope,” Doug said. “Where’s Meyers?”
“Haven’t seen him yet today.” Conrad put down the binoculars. “Way too far away to see yet.”
“They aren’t quite a day’s walk, though,” Doug said. “Maybe it’s good that the other group is coming. If the main group waits, it’ll buy us more time.”
“They might be trying to encircle us,” Conrad said, “since the ends are moving. He looked at his phone app, his brow furrowed.
“Don’t like the look of that?” Jorge asked.
Conrad shook his head no. “Wonder where Meyers is?”
“He’s probably working on placement of the Marines along the train tracks,” Doug said.
Jorge shrugged. “I thought he might be on one or the other end areas, since we haven’t seen him this morning.”
“How many people they have there now?” Doug asked.
Conrad continued looking at his phone, but glanced up for a second. “More people than we have here, but they’re all citizens.”
There was a low rumble coming towards the area.
Jorge stood and looked to the west. “Another freight train coming in.”
“They’ll have a hard time stuffing more troops in this area,” Doug said.
Conrad stood, taking a look with the binoculars. “Not all boxcars. Looks like they’re bringing more shells for the artillery.”
“Good,” Doug said. “About time. Can’t believe they ran out and had to wait more than a day.”
“I don’t miss the noise,” Jorge said. “The earplugs don’t block all of it.”
“It’s the concussion.” Conrad took the binoculars away from his eyes. “I wish they could use air power on these folks before they cross the border.”
“You look worried,” Doug said.
Jorge nodded. “Yeah. What’s up?”
“That new group. They’re slowing down, and moving wider. It’s hard to catch if you don’t keep refreshing the app.”
“What do you think they’re doing?”
“Can’t tell,” Conrad said. “Wish we had some drones in the air, or some good satellite shots.”
Doug was silent for a moment, thinking. Then he stood, looking at Conrad. “Tell Meyers to target that new group with the artillery.”
“Why?” Jorge asked.
“Dammit,” Conrad said. “Yeah, Doug, they might be bringing their own artillery up.” He picked up his phone and made a call, listening to the rings. Then he spoke into it quietly, and stuck the phone back in his pocket.
“Left a message?” Doug asked.
“Yeah,” Conrad said. “I’m gonna go meet the train and talk to the gunnery guys.”
“Mind if we come along?” Doug asked.
“Hell no,” Conrad said, starting his climb off the ridge.
Doug looked at Jorge. “You coming?”
“Nah, I think I’ll hang out here,” he said.
Doug nodded and joined Conrad. They made it to the flat ground just as the train was pulling to a stop. The gunnery team was already there, with wagons to drag the artillery shells to the guns.
“You heard from Meyers this morning?” Conrad asked the man supervising the unloading of shells.
“No sir,” he said. “Conrad, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah. Been watching that new group, coming up behind the main group in the center?”
“Not for about an hour,” he said. “Why?”
“They’ve stopped moving forward, and they’re fanning out,” Conrad said, pulling his phone out. He showed him the screen.
“What do you think that means?”
Conrad looked him in the eye. “Maybe they’re bringing up artillery of their own.”
The man shot him a worried look. “You might be right.”
“Maybe they should be the target, when you guys get ready to fire.”
“Yeah, maybe so,” he said. “Thanks. I’m gonna go talk to the crews.”
He rushed away.
“Wonder how long it’ll take them to get those guns ready to go again?” Doug asked.
Conrad smiled. “Minutes. Better go get our earplugs. Left mine in the tent.”
“Me too,” Doug said. They headed back towards the ridge, their tents behind there about sixty yards.
They could hear the train move forward and boxcar doors opening.
“More troops?” Conrad asked.
“Holy crap,” Doug said, looking back. “They’re unloading a bunch of off-roaders with guns.”
Conrad turned around. “What?”
“Look, man,” Doug said, pointing.
“That looks like what Ivan’s got now. Look, they’ve got small turrets mounted on the roll cages.”
Doug snickered. “Wonder if we’re taking them through the gate?”
Suddenly there was a whistle in the air.
“Dammit, hit the dirt!” Conrad shouted, diving to the ground. A shell landed about fifty yards to their left, taking out a group of men who had been dug in.
“Son of a bitch!” Doug shouted. “C’mon!”
They ran towards the ridge, Jorge watching them with eyes wide as another shell flew in, blowing up just to the left of the first one, catching some fleeing men off-guard, pieces of them flying through the air.
“How the hell did they get those there without roads?” Jorge yelled as they approached. Another shell hit, fifty yards left of the first two, but then the gunnery team fired several guns at once, the blast almost deafening.
“Finally!” Conrad yelled, still trying to get to his tent, Doug in hot pursuit, Jorge joining them now, holding his hands over his ears as another salvo went off. Then there was whistling again, and a shell landed about sixty yards behind the artillery line, taking out a bunch of tents.
“Hope those were empty, dude,” Jorge said as they reached their tents, getting their earplugs in as more shots were fired from the artillery line.
“Shouldn’t this be enough to warrant air power going down there?” Doug shouted over the noise. “They’re firing on California.”
There was a huge explosion to the east, hitting the train mid-section, throwing metal into the air, much of it coming down on dug-in Marines.
“Dammit!” Conrad yelled.
The artillery line ramped up their firing, a round being fired once every ten seconds now, as the enemy rounds started slowing down.
“Maybe we hit some of their guns,” Jorge said.
“We can see them better than they can see us,” Conrad said, “and we’ve probably got better guns to boot.”
Another round blew up, almost on top of where the first one was, flinging broken train debris all over the area as men screamed and ran for cover.
“That’s getting pretty damn close to the artillery line,” Jorge yelled.
“Too close,” Conrad shouted back at him. They heard whistling again, in between the rounds being fired, two shells coming down dead center in front of the highway, touching off the back row of Claymore mines.
“What a waste,” Jorge said. The gunnery line was firing even faster now, a round every couple of seconds, as other men raced to help the gunnery team grab more rounds off the back end of the train, going wide to avoid the destroyed front half.
“Maybe we ought to go help with that,” Doug shouted.
“We’ll never get down there in time,” Conrad said.
Just as that left Conrad’s lips, an enemy shell landed on the back end of the train, setting off the remaining artillery shells.
“Get down!” Doug shouted, all of them hitting the dirt.
They waited, heads down, as dirt, metal, and body parts rained down around them.
“Crap, we’re in big trouble,” Conrad said, watching the carnage below them, as the artillery continued to fire at a slower rate. “They’ll be out of shells soon.”
“What are we gonna do?” Jorge said.
They were startled by low flying planes coming in from the north, the blast from their jets getting past the earplugs like they weren’t even there.
“Whoa,” Conrad yelled, standing up and cheering.
“Is that the navy?” Jorge asked.
“Air Force,” Conrad shouted, grinning at him. Those are B-1 Bombers.” Several more flew over their head, and a mere minute later they could see explosions in the distance, the sound taking some time to get to them.
“Glad we’re not there,” Jorge said, watching the smoke coming up. The artillery fire stopped.
“Looks like that got them,” Doug said.
Conrad stood up, looking at the devastation below them. “My God, they killed at least half of our Marines.”
The three Jeeps rolled up to the first semi-truck, on its side and burned badly. Charred bodies lay around the wreckage.
“There was supposed to be about 400 bodies here, but only half that show on the apps,” Ted said, walking with his phone out. “Guess it doesn’t take that much heat to disable these RFID chips.”
“Let’s just take a closer look, okay?” Sam said, walking over to three bodies lying together in a heap, half burned. He checked their forearms. “Skin got hot enough to cook on these guys.”
“What were you expecting to find?” Erica asked.
“This, or scars where the RFID chips had been removed.”
“Let’s dig them out, just in case,” Sid said.
“Eeewww,” Yvonne said, shooting a glance at Shelly.
“No, we need to know,” Shelly said.
Sid nodded and pulled out his hunting knife, cutting in the spot they’d been told was the implant zone, finding chips in each.
“They got hot enough to warp the plastic,” Sam said, taking a close look. “Let’s check the rest, okay?”
“Hey, guys,” Ted said, standing behind one of the semi-trailers. “We set something off inside this one. Made this damn thing into a kiln, and the lead made things worse.”
Sam and Tex walked over and took a look.
“Oh, man, they’re melted,” Sam said, holding his nose. Erica was on her way over, but he motioned for her to back up. “You don’t need to see this.”
“I’m not cutting into that mess,” Sid said.
“I don’t think we need to do after all,” Jules said, looking at the melted bodies from behind the others. “That enough to explain.”
“Some kind of ordinance went off inside there, partner,” Tex said. “How about the other one?” He walked over to it, then looked back and shouted. “Only a few shot up fighters here.”
“The other bodies are strewn all over the place,” Shelly said. “You guys just shoot them from the ridge over there?”
Sid chuckled. “Most of it was those damn off-roaders with the microguns.”
“Yeah, those are very effective,” Sam said. “We ought to tell the army about this when the war is over. They might reconsider that system.”
“Seriously,” Jules said.
“So we should keep going, right?” Shelly asked.
“Yeah, let’s follow the tracks from this rig,” Sid said. “I’ll lead the way. Back to the Jeeps.”
Everybody got into their vehicles and took off again, driving past the carnage.
“Hard to believe how many men they snuck in here,” Yvonne said, “and they were all dead in an instant.”
“I was wondering how we made such short work of them. Didn’t know something blew up inside that trailer. That was about half of them in one shot.”
Yvonne shook her head. “Bad way to go.”
“You said a mouthful there,” Sid said. “That didn’t blow up… it burned. The heat probably killed them before the smoke got a chance.”
He slowed down as they crested the hill, looking down at the road below, with the gravel dumped into the creek bed.
“Oh, that’s what they did with the gravel,” Yvonne said.
“We’re damn lucky they did. That’s how we noticed the problem.”
“I know,” Yvonne said. “Battles can turn on the smallest of details.”
Sid nodded as they drove down the road, crossing the gravel, then speeding up the next grade, slowing down again before the crest.
“You afraid somebody’s going to be on the other side?” Yvonne asked.
“Damn straight.” He inched forward until he could see. It was clear sailing for a while, nobody in sight, no good cover or ridges for the enemy to hide themselves.
“What’s that on the ground over there?” Yvonne asked.
Sid strained his eyes, then smiled. “That’s the drone that we shot down. We need to grab that. Text the others, okay?”
Yvonne nodded and picked up her phone as Sid left the road, heading for the broken drone. He got out and rushed to it, picking it up gingerly. The other two Jeeps pulled up next to him.
“Oh, yeah, forgot about that thing,” Sam said from the driver’s seat of his Jeep.
“Yvonne saw it,” Sid said, setting it into the back of the Jeep. “Wonder if it’s got any image storage, or if it’s all Wi-Fi going elsewhere?”
“I suggest we let Clem look at it,” Sam said.
Sid nodded in agreement. He got back into the Jeep and drove forward, back to the road, the others following.
“What’s the range on these things?” Yvonne asked.
“I have no idea, but we know the other two semis were close. Probably just over that next ridge. It’ll be interesting to see how far they got before the planes blew them up.”
“Are we sure they got blown up?”
Sid nodded yes. “Pilots told Ivan’s folks.”
“Oh,” Yvonne said, looking around. “There might be survivors on the ground who can shoot. Or worse, others here to rescue them.”
“That’s why we brought the weapons,” Sid said. “I’d be surprised, though.”
“They’re already on the run, and they lost this battle in a big way. It’d be throwing good men after bad.”
“They’re Europeans, mostly,” Yvonne said. “They might place some importance on rescue of their own.”
“Let’s not assume they have that kind of integrity,” Sid said.
“We should be cautious anyway.”
“That’s why I’m slowing down before we crest each hill,” Sid said, grinning at her. “Speaking of which.” He slowed down as they got to the next crest, inching up till he could see over. “Clear again, but there are some trees off to the right that could hide enemy fighters.” He started down slowly, and then their phones dinged with a text.
“Who is it?”
“Garrett,” she said, turning towards him. “Stop and back up past the ridge again.”
Sid shrugged and turned the Jeep around, racing back up the hill and over. Sam and Garrett were lying next to each other on the dirt, just over the ridge.
“Sorry, guys,” Garrett said. “I probably should be running neck and neck with you. I know this terrain better. That line of trees goes for a long way, deep into the BLM land. Good way for somebody to bring up an ambush.”
“Now you tell us,” Sid said, a silly grin on his face. “So what now?”
“I thought I saw something,” Sam said, lowering his binoculars. “Movement. Might be a deer or something.”
“Any chance that friendlies could be in those trees?” Ted asked.
“Doubtful,” Garrett said. “There’s nothing to draw people for miles.”
“Unless they want to set a trap,” Tex said.
“So what now?” Erica asked.
Sam reached behind him for his M60, bringing it up, dropping the bi-pod in front, taking aim.
“You’re going to shoot up the trees?” Erica asked.
Sam handed her the binoculars. “Keep your eyes peeled for anybody running. You too, Garrett and Ted.”
They all put their binoculars to their eyes, and Sam fired, sweeping back and forth into the woods a couple times.
“Nothing,” Garrett said.
“Same here,” Ted said, lowering his binoculars.
“Stop,” Erica whispered. “Just caught a reflection. I’ll bet it’s a wristwatch. See that center tree, honey. Off to the left from where you were shooting, further up the hill. Send some lead in there.”
Sam nodded, aiming and pulling the trigger. Suddenly gunfire came at them, pelting the front of the ridge, causing all of them to put their heads down.
“Well I’ll be damned,” Garrett said. “Check the eyes on Erica.”
“What now?” Yvonne asked.
“I still got the mortar in the back of the Jeep,” Sam said.
“Yeah, I’ve got one in mine, too,” Ted said. “Let’s get set up and give them a surprise.”
“Watch the ridge as it goes to the right there,” Garrett whispered. “They could get behind us using that.”
“Dammit,” Jules said. He pulled out his phone.
“Who are you texting, partner?”
To be continued…
For those of you following Bug Out! Texas, Book 10 has just been published. You can find it here.
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
Ivan led the leadership team to the hotel lobby, selecting the group of couches and chairs in the rear.
“Something bad happen, partner?” Tex asked.
“The apps are going wide,” Ivan said. “The enemy is about to get their hands full.”
“Finally,” Sparky said.
“This might not be that good for us, you know,” Ted said.
“And it may make no difference at all,” Sam said. “They hit us in shielded vehicles today, remember? They already knew we could see them.”
“You guys are missing it,” Robbie said, looking like he wanted to take it back after it came out.
“Go ahead, kid,” Ted said.
“Well, as Sam said, they already knew we could see them. Now they have to worry about everybody they get near, anyplace they go. This will put extreme pressure on them.”
“Yes, that’s why I said the enemy is about to have their hands full,” Ivan said, “but we need to keep to the strategy that we spelled out earlier. We need to check the back, look at those enemy semis to see who was in them.”
“I agree,” Ted said, “and we need to get out of the mode of being hunted by the UN. We need to hunt them instead.”
“How do we do that?” Seth asked.
Sam grinned. “The old-fashioned way. Like we did before the apps came along. Many of us have had experience. Checking the outback is step one. We also need to investigate the vehicles that the UN Peacekeepers came in through the front. Did they come in rental trucks? Private vehicles?”
“We didn’t see them arrive in vehicles,” Tex said. “They came in on foot.”
“Which means their vehicles are probably still sitting out there,” Ted said. “Maybe we ought to do a quick check of that before we take off for the back forty.”
“I think that’s a good idea,” Ivan said. “Feel free to tell everybody what happened.”
“Why’d you bring us out here, then?” Ben asked.
“I wanted to make sure you were thinking in the right direction. You are. More will hit you when you sleep on it.”
Sam nodded, a smirk on his face.
“You have something to add, Sam?” Ivan asked.
“No, but I’m pleasantly surprised that we have an intuitive leader. Didn’t know you were this sharp.”
“Told you,” Jules said.
“I knew,” Ji-Ho said.
Jules chuckled. “Now let’s go back and have good whiskey.”
“Yep, I’ll drink to that,” Garrett said.
“Me too,” Ed said.
The group went back to the saloon.
Trevor and Angel watched their friends coming back into the saloon, as Megan and Kaylee chatted about marriage and kids.
“Well, anything you can tell us?” Trevor asked.
“We can tell you everything,” Seth said, walking hand in hand with Kaitlyn.
“Shoot, dude,” Angel said.
“The apps went wide.”
“No, really?” Trevor asked.
“What was that?” Kaylee asked. “The apps got released?”
“Yep,” Seth said. “Not that it means the war is over right away, but it’s gonna move us in that direction, probably faster than anybody thinks.”
“That calls for another round,” Angel said, pouring the shot glasses full. They all tossed them back, Kaitlyn shuddering some.
“That stuff is powerful,” she said.
Megan snickered. “I know. Ain’t it great!”
Garrett stood up, clearing his throat loudly.
“All, we’ve just learned that the apps went wide. It’s a whole new ballgame.”
“So what are we gonna do now?” somebody shouted.
“Hunt the UN, for starters,” Garrett said, “and make sure the Islamists have nowhere to hide.”
“I think there’s some things that the social media team could do,” Ben said.
“Yes, I agree,” Sam said.
The group enjoyed each others company, all of them with new hope. It wasn’t a late night. Tomorrow would be busy and dangerous.
Sam woke next to Erica, who was spooned against him. Mia was on a folding bed on the other side of Garrett’s guest bedroom.
“Hey, sweetie,” he whispered. “You awake?”
“I am,” she said.
“Did you ever talk to Anna about Mia?”
“Yes, she was happy about the idea. She just loves Mia.”
“Good,” Sam said. “We going to let her sleep?”
“We have to get going already?”
“Yep,” Sam said. “We’re supposed to meet at six-thirty.”
“Geez. Okay, I’m getting up. Let’s be quiet though, so we don’t wake her.”
“Should we leave her a note or something?” Sam asked.
Erica pulled off her nightgown. “I’ll do that.”
“Mommy, where are you going?” Mia asked.
Erica shot a glance to Sam, then turned to her. “We’re going out to investigate some things, honey. We’ll be back later.”
“Can I go?”
“No, sweetie, Anna is gonna watch you.”
“Okay. It’s not dangerous, is it?”
“No, honey,” Sam said, “the bad guys are gone.”
“Don’t leave the house without Anna or Uncle Garrett, okay?”
“Okay,” she said, laying back down. “I’m still tired.”
Sam and Erica finished getting dressed and left the room.
“She fell asleep already,” Erica said.
“Sure she’s not playing possum?”
“Her breathing changed,” Erica said, “and she was barely awake when she was talking to us.”
They came down the steps. Garrett and Anna were already up.
“Mia still asleep?” Anna asked.
“She woke long enough for me to tell her you were in charge,” Erica said. “She’s back asleep now.”
“Good, it’s too early for her to be getting up,” Anna said.
“There’s some coffee on the stove,” Garrett said. “And some Danish, if you want some.”
“Love some,” Sam said, following him into the kitchen.
“Why do you want to go with them?” Anna asked.
“I’m good in a fight, and I don’t like him out of my sight.”
“This isn’t going to be dangerous, is it?” Anna asked, her brow furrowed. “Garrett said it wasn’t.”
“It shouldn’t be, but you never know. Think I’ll have some of that coffee.” The two women went into the kitchen.
“How long do you expect to be?” Anna asked.
“Hmm,” Garrett said. “First part shouldn’t be more than an hour. We’ll stop back here on the way to the second part.”
“Going in the back will take a little more time,” Sam said.
Anna studied Garrett’s face. “Be careful. Call me if there’s any kind of trouble.”
“We won’t be alone,” Garrett said. “In either part.”
“We’re pretty good at handling trouble if there is some,” Erica said. “I’ll watch out for your man.”
“Don’t sell her short,” Sam said. “She’s right up there with the best of us.”
“Oh, I know, I’ve seen her in action,” Garrett said. “You guys ready?”
Sam and Erica nodded yes. Garrett kissed Anna and they left the house, joining the others when they got into town.
“About time you slackers got up,” Ted said.
Sam smiled at him. “Some things never change.”
“What things?” Erica asked.
“Ted busting my chops.”
Ted got a grin on his face. “You can take that to the bank, recruit.”
“Wait a minute, partner,” Tex said. “Were you his drill instructor or something?”
Sid laughed. “These guys are almost the same age, so I doubt it.”
“Are you guys gonna haze each other the whole time?” Yvonne asked.
Jules came out with Shelley, dressed for the day.
“You two are coming?” Ted asked.
“I speak five languages,” Jules said. “Chances are good the UN thugs have left something behind in one of the vehicles.”
“Good point,” Sam said. “We’d best get moving. It’s gonna be a long day.”
The group picked up their guns and walked towards the front entrance to the property, past the battle wagons with ruined tires and the wreckage of the Islamist semis.
“Let’s keep our eyes open when we get to the highway,” Ted said
Tex nodded in agreement. “Yeah, partner. Wouldn’t surprise me if we have some enemy folk here to see what happened, or try to retrieve their people and equipment.”
“Only one place they could park vehicles of any size and walk in,” Garrett said. “That big turnoff around the bend, about two hundred yards down.”
“Let me walk in front,” Sid said. “I know how to track.”
“That he does,” Sam said.
The group made room for him and Yvonne to get to the front.
“You track too?” Shelley asked, smiling at her.
“No, but I’m good at shooting anybody who targets my man,” Yvonne said.
“That’s my function too,” Shelley whispered, holding up her M4.
“Nice to have women like this, no?” Jules asked.
“No…I mean yes,” Sid whispered, turning back for a moment, then refocusing his eyes on the road.
Yvonne rolled her eyes, Shelly chuckling.
“This isn’t how I expected my life to go,” Shelley said softly.
“How’d you end up with a rascal like Jules, anyway?” Yvonne asked.
“A lot of hard work on my part,” Jules said.
“We might want to concentrate on listening,” Ted said. “We’re still in a war zone, you know.”
Jules turned to him and nodded in agreement.
“Stay back,” Sid whispered, moving quickly over to a spot where the bushes broke off the right side of the road. He got down on his hands and knees, looking at the footprints.
“Damn, I can barely see those,” Tex whispered.
“Told you he was good,” Sam whispered back.
“This is them,” Sid said.
“How you tell?” Jules asked.
“Many different set of footprints, all with the same tread marks,” Sid said. “Kinda like they were all issued the same kind of shoes.”
“Yeah, the Islamists wear all kinds of stuff,” Sam said, “but the UN have uniforms. Where’d the tracks come from?”
“The blacktop,” Sid said. “Got to assume they walked down the road, but I’m gonna check both shoulders just in case.” He walked further down the shoulder looking for more tracks there, then crossed the blacktop to the left side of the road and came back down, shaking his head no as he rejoined the group.
“Nothing over there?” Sam asked.
“Nope. Let’s keep going towards the bend. I suspect there will be vehicles there, or at least some pretty recent tire tracks.”
“Crap, what if there’s no trucks?” Shelley asked.
“Then we know driver, maybe others survive to flee,” Jules said. “Hope that not case.”
“You and me both, partner,” Tex said. They continued down the highway, on the right shoulder, Sid still in front, eyes glued to the dirt.
“Seeing anything?” Ted asked.
“A little swap over from the blacktop. Not unexpected. Nothing beyond that.”
They kept going, the bend looming ahead of them. Sid froze and bent down, picking something up.
“What is it?” Yvonne asked.
“Ballpoint pen,” Sid said. “Probably nothing.”
“Let me see it,” Garrett said. Sid handed it over.
“Recognize it?” Yvonne asked.
“Smiley’s,” Garrett said, turning towards her with a smile. “Equipment rental yard in El Cajon.”
“That might be break we need,” Jules said.
“Isn’t El Cajon a much bigger town?” Shelley asked.
“It’s the eastern edge of the San Diego area,” Sid said. “This could have nothing to do with the UN Peacekeepers, though.”
“We’ll find out around the bend, I reckon,” Garrett said. “Let’s keep going.”
Sid pressed on, Yvonne closely behind him. They rounded the bend. “How soon until I see this turnout?”
“Hundred yards or so,” Garrett said. “It’s pretty deep. Room for several big trucks.”
Sid sped up, still keeping an eye on the shoulder. They came to the turnout after a few minutes.
“Dammit, empty,” Yvonne said.
“Everybody stop,” Sid said. “I need to look for tracks.” He walked along the shoulder first, until he found some recent tire tracks, then followed them towards the back of the turnout, up against a large mound of dirt and rocks. He motioned for the others to come ahead.
“What’re you seeing?” Garrett asked.
“Three delivery trucks,” Sid said. “See the single tires in front and the duals in the rear?”
“Yeah, partner,” Tex said.
“And check out the footprints,” Yvonne said. “Same tread as the ones that disappeared into the bushes back there.”
“Yep, they came in from here for sure,” Sid said.
Sam stood still, thinking. “I was hoping they’d still be here.”
“We need to talk to the rental yard,” Ted said. “Hopefully they aren’t in on it.”
Sid shook his head. “I wouldn’t have your hopes up too high about that pen. Those things are a dime a dozen, you know.”
“Still worth it to check, no?” Jules asked.
“Does it make sense to go further down the road?” Ted asked.
“Nah,” Garrett said. “There’s no place to stop until you get into town.”
Sid nodded. “And we know the footprints started here. We ought to go into the back forty now and check that out. Maybe we’ll find something more useful.”
Sarah woke next to Clem. He was still asleep, and she watched him, his chest rising and falling. She had her leg drapped over his torso again, and it made her feel a little naughty. They were sweaty, but she didn’t care. Does he like me that way? He was a hard man to read, harder than John had been. She wasn’t sure what she wanted from Clem, but she knew at least she wanted to be close to him, and affectionate. It scared Clem. Why? A man his age had physical problems with lovemaking sometimes, but she was pretty sure that wasn’t it. Maybe it was loyalty to John, but he was gone now. John would always be her beloved, but he’d want her to be happy, and he loved Clem. Still, maybe that was what was bothering Clem, even if it seemed like no big deal to her. How hard can I push it? Being friends with him was worth so much to her that she wouldn’t risk it by trying too much. She shifted her weight, moving tighter against him, causing him to stir.
“Hey,” she said as his eyes fluttered open. He turned his head towards her.
“Back again, huh?” he asked.
“I like it, Sarah, just as long as you don’t expect too much.”
“It’s okay,” she whispered, getting closer to him. “I’m here for whatever you want, but no pressure.”
He was quiet for a moment, his brow furrowed.
“Do you want me to leave?” she asked.
“No, no, I like you close to me,” Clem said.
“Is it John?”
He was silent for a moment. “No. There are parts of my past that you don’t know about.”
“Sad things?” she asked, her hand going onto his chest.
“I guess I can tell you,” Clem said. “You’re the closest friend I’ve got now.”
“Only if you want to,” she said.
He turned on his side facing her, her leg staying over him, their faces almost touching. She moved in and kissed him tenderly, her arm going around, pulling him close.
“Wait. Let me tell you before I lose my nerve.”
Sarah’s eyes got wider. “Really? You’ve never mentioned that.”
“It’s a long story, and a strange situation,” Clem said.
“Do you ever see her?”
“Not for years,” he said. “I paid her until she told me to stop.”
“Child support or alimony?”
“We never had kids,” Clem said. “She had mental illness. We couldn’t live together, and for a while she couldn’t even be around me. I supported her because I still loved…what she was.”
“You never divorced?”
“Never saw the point, and she wasn’t capable,” Clem said, “so I just left it alone.”
“Where is she now?”
“In an institution,” he said. “All alone, but she told me twenty years ago to stop coming, so I’ve stayed away.”
“You’ve been pining away for her all this time?”
“Oh, I’ve had girlfriends,” Clem said, “but never was able to get serious. I didn’t mind, actually. Never met any I wanted to settle down with.”
“I’m not getting this. You don’t want us to have a relationship because of this?”
He sighed. “This is the hard part. I want to be with you, but we can’t marry, so I don’t want you to think that I’m just using you.”
Sarah laughed. “I don’t want to get married again. Even if we fell for each other hard. I’d be happy if we could both enjoy ourselves without worrying about that.”
“This doesn’t seem weird to you?”
Sarah smiled at him, caressing his face, looking into his eyes. “Honey, I’d love to be with you, to live with you, and to be lovers if you’re interested in that. I don’t require you to do anything but agree if it makes you happy.”
“Are you sure?”
She moved over him, kissing him gently but passionately. Clem’s breath came faster, his body trembling. “You okay? You’re not scared, are you?”
“I’m excited,” he said, kissing her, their passion rising fast, their embrace getting tighter.
“I’m yours if you want me,” she whispered, taking his hand and putting it onto herself. Then there was a harsh knock on the door.
“Hey, Clem, you awake? Want to come help us in the mine?”
“Elmer,” Clem whispered.
“Not again,” she said, on the verge of laughing.
“You’re right, not again,” Clem whispered. “Sorry, Elmer, I need a little more sleep. Be there in an hour or two.”
“Okay, see you later,” Elmer said. “Sorry to wake you.”
They heard him walking away, then started kissing again.
To be continued…
For those of you following Bug Out! Texas, Book 10 has just been published. You can find it here.
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
“Nobody can raise Saladin?” Sam asked, as the group gathered around the bar, Willard getting out glasses.
“That’s what my sources said,” Ivan said, “but that’s about all they said. Jules’s info sounds a little more complete.”
Jules chuckled. “Or mine jumps to more conclusions, no?”
“How do we tell?” Sparky asked.
“Probably doesn’t really matter,” Sam said. “Even if he’s dead, that’s not the end of the war. We’ll just have a change in leadership.”
“Given the mistakes he’s made recently, it might be better for us if these stories aren’t true,” Ivan said.
“He’s dead,” Ted said.
Everybody was silent for a moment.
“Where are you getting that, partner?” Tex asked.
“Part hunch, part educated guess,” Ted said.
Sam chuckled. “Look, several of us have had experience with this cretin. He was feared by all he was close to. Ted might be basing his hunch on the fact that nobody would dare admit that he was missing unless they were sure he was gone.”
“Bingo,” Ted said. “Assuming this isn’t just complete BS coming from their side to mess with us.”
“If that were the case, would we see the gridlock south of the border?” Ivan asked.
“I was just wondering the same thing,” Ben said.
Ji-Ho walked into the saloon. “Oh, you hear?”
“Hear what?” Jules asked.
“Saladin probably take dirt nap,” Ji-Ho said with a wicked grin.
“Who’d you hear that from?” Tex asked. “We’ve just heard he might be missing.”
“If he work for me, I gut like fish,” Ji-Ho said, “after attack here, and incident by Nevada border. He waste too many men.”
Sam took a deep breath, his brow furrowed. “Okay, we need to stop this right now, and assume he’s still in command until we hear otherwise.”
Ivan leaned against the bar. Sid handed him a shot of whiskey and he tossed it back. “Sam’s right. Let’s not fall into this trap. We’ve heard something. Makes no difference at this point. None. Zero. Nada.”
“Yep,” Sam said. “We can still see the men below the border. They aren’t moving right now. That doesn’t mean Saladin is gone. He’s probably not even directing those guys. General Hogan is a more dangerous adversary than anybody just north of the California border.”
“Yes, good point,” Ji-Ho said. “I trust my source, but not always right. I say we take Sam advice.”
“Good,” Ivan said. “Does anybody have a problem with us sharing intelligence with General Hogan’s team and Governor Nelson’s team?”
“You mean via Seth’s program, correct?” Sam asked.
“That, and anything else that might come up,” Ivan said. “I view one of my main functions as liaison with those two teams, and I want to make sure I have your confidence. I want to make sure I’ve got permission to share data.”
Tex chuckled. “I’m looking at you as the leader of this crazy outfit, so I defer to you on this.”
“I good,” Jules said, “not that it surprise.”
“I’m not considering you an employee, Jules,” Ivan said. “You’re a fellow patriot fighting the enemy. Our employer/employee relationship ended years ago.”
“I just meant I trust,” Jules said.
Ivan smiled and nodded.
“Good here,” Sam said. “It makes all the sense in the world to work together on this stuff.”
“So, we’re going to get our intelligence team sharing data with the other groups,” Ted said. “We should make sure none of our intelligence team members have reservations.”
“I think it will protect us from problems like we ran into yesterday,” Seth said. “I’m good with sharing what we have. You too, right honey?”
Kaitlyn looked at him, then at the group. “Yes, I think it’s a good idea.”
“I agree,” Robbie said, “although my main task got eclipsed by Seth and Kaitlyn’s program.”
“The study on sales of lead stock?” Ted asked. “We still need to do that. It will help us to get an idea what the enemy capacity is.”
“I agree,” Ivan said. “We should proceed on that.”
“Okay,” Robbie said.
“You still want me doing mainly social media outreach and recruiting?” Ben asked.
“Yes, and we need to rebuild your team quick,” Ivan said. “I want you to teach the other local team members about that, and then compare notes with the team in Texas.”
“What about General Hogan’s team?” Ted asked.
“I don’t think they’ve focused on that as much as California and Texas,” Ivan said, “so we’d be a help to them.”
“Texas right up there with us,” Ji-Ho said. “Don and Sydney. Heard about from meeting with Governor Nelson. We should compare notes.”
“Yes, I built my organization based on a very limited knowledge of what they’re doing,” Ben said. “I’m sure I could improve our operation if we can share.”
“Don’t sell yourself short, partner,” Tex said. “We all know what you’ve done. You can probably help them some too.”
Ivan stood back up. “Okay, then we’ll get started on that. What do we need to do here?”
“Seems like we have some unfinished business with that back road from the BLM land,” Sid said.
“Is that still an issue?” Sparky asked. “We’ll get a preview of enemy fighters trying to hide themselves.”
“That helps,” Seth said, “but remember that we can’t see the UN Peacekeepers, and there turned out to be lots more of them still around than we expected.”
“The kid’s right,” Ted said. “We need better intelligence on that group. Their numbers should be dwindling by now, but low and behold, they keep on showing up. We need to figure out how to find them.”
“All of them came in through the front, correct?” Sid asked.
“I don’t think we can make that assumption,” Sam said. “There weren’t any in that first semi that we blew up back there, but we have no idea who was in those second two.”
“Shoot, almost forgot about them, partner,” Tex said. “Maybe we ought to send a detail out to the site and see if we can recognize who they were.”
“Good point,” Ivan said. “Did we see hits when they were attacked?”
“Not that I remember,” Seth said. He looked at the high-res app on his laptop. “I don’t see hits out there now, either, by the way.”
“The Naval Aviators might have burned them all up,” Sparky said.
“I’m not buying that,” Ted said. “We need to get out there tomorrow at first light and take a look. We know there had to be Islamists with them. Why else would they send them in those semis?”
“Are we sure they were shielded semis?” Ivan asked.
“I’d bet on it,” Sam said. “Those things were a pain back there in the dirt. That’s why they dropped the gravel in the bad spots of the road, remember?”
Robbie stared at the ceiling for a moment, thinking. “Yes, but maybe it made sense to send them back there since they were already prepared, to take advantage of their capacity.”
“This is why we need to go look,” Ted said.
Sid nodded in agreement. “Okay, then we should kill two birds with one stone. Use the same team to follow the route, and go further to look at the wreckage.”
“Agreed,” Sam said. “I’ll be part of that team. You mind, honey?”
Erica sighed and shook her head yes, then got closer to him and whispered. “I’m gonna see if Anna can watch Mia so I can go along.”
“I’m okay with that,” Sam said.
“What else?” Ivan asked.
Ben raised his hand. “We still have some infrastructure work to finish in the mine.”
“That’s gonna be Clem’s main focus,” Sam said. “Him and Elmer.”
“I’m gonna help too,” Willard said, walking out from the back of the bar with fresh duds on. “We’ll turn that into the nerve center for the operation.” He laughed as he got back behind the bar. “How much of a head start do you guys have?”
“We’ve been talking more than we’ve been drinking,” Sid said.
“That’s about to change, boys. Just heard from Garrett. He’s on his way with most of our folks. We’ll have to expand out to the hotel lobby and the sidewalk.”
Clem woke up on his back, disoriented, feeling warmer. Sarah was against him, her leg over his torso, snoring softly. She stirred when he lifted his head to gaze at the window.
“Oh, guess I got kinda close,” she said, her eyelids heavy.
“You got kinda naked, too,” Clem said.
“Sorry, I sleep better that way,” she said, brushing the hair out of his face. “Getting long, old man.”
“Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve been to the barber shop.”
“I know how to cut hair, you know. Don’t have my scissors and clippers, though. Left them in the RV. What time is it?”
“About ten minutes before the alarm was gonna go off,” Clem said, reaching for his cellphone.
“Can we stay in bed for a little while longer?”
“Of course,” Clem said, lying back down.
“I don’t bite you know.” Her hand went onto his chest, her leg still draped over his middle.
“Just trying to stay a gentleman,” he said, shooting her an embarrassed grin.
She smiled, then took his hand and put it on her side. “It’s okay.”
He froze for a moment, then caressed her. She moved over him more and kissed him lightly on the lips.
“Sarah,” he whispered.
“No pressure. I’m just being affectionate.” She kissed him again, with more passion this time, and Clem started to respond. Then there was a knock on Sarah’s door.
Clem chuckled. “Well it is the afternoon, you know.”
“Land sakes, who’s that?” she asked, getting out of bed, not making an effort to cover herself. Clem took her in. “Good, you didn’t look away this time.” She threw on her robe and rushed into her room, opening the door a crack.
Clem could hear Yvonne talking, telling her that the party was starting, and that they should come now if they want a seat. He chuckled and got up, getting his clothes on. He was half dressed by the time Sarah came back in.
“You heard her?”
“Yep,” Clem said. “We’ll get back to this later, if you don’t mind. I was liking it.”
“Good,” she said.
Kaylee shook Trevor, next to her on the bed, still in his clothes.
“Geez, I actually fell asleep,” he said.
“Battle will take a lot out of you. I just got a text from my uncle. The gathering is starting in the saloon. Most of the folks are there already.”
“Oh,” Trevor said, sitting up and stretching. “I think I’d better change my clothes.”
“Not a bad idea. I did that before I laid down.”
“Did Ji-Ho say when the tire folks are gonna be here?” Trevor asked as he changed.
“Tomorrow morning,” she said. “Glad we only had one blown away.” She walked into the salon, Trevor following her, stopping to put on his shoes.
“You look gorgeous.”
“Oh, please,” she said. “I’m a mess. I haven’t had my nails done in forever, and my hair is out of control.”
They left the coach, stepping into the dusk.
Trevor laughed. “I still smell that black powder.”
“I don’t like it. Smells like Sulphur.”
“It does,” Trevor said, getting closer and taking her hand. They intertwined their fingers. “I wanted to do this in High School.”
She looked at him. “You liked me back then?”
“Yes,” he said. “Sorry. Glad I didn’t push it then. I needed to grow up.”
She giggled. “Yeah, you seemed a lot younger than your friends. I was way into Matt still, too.”
“I know, so I just adored you from afar.”
“Oh brother,” she said, holding his hand tighter. “We got together when it was time.”
“Do you still think about Matt?”
She stopped, turning to him. “What brought that on?”
“Sorry, just wondering.”
They started walking again. She glanced at him. He looked sorry that he’d asked the question. “I don’t think of him romantically, if that’s what you mean. I was unhappier with him than I realized.”
“I feel bad about him and Emma.”
“I have nightmares about Emma,” Kaylee said, looking at him for a moment, on the verge of tears. “Those horrible beasts all over her.”
“Wonder if she’s still alive?”
Kaylee sighed. “We’ll never know. I’ll bet they killed Matt and the other men right away.”
“Probably,” Trevor said. They got to the main street, getting on the wooden sidewalk. “Hard to think about that. We’re lucky they didn’t get all of us.”
“I’m kinda mad at that Jamie character and the others. The enemy might not have got them if they’d stayed with us.”
“I think they would’ve found us,” Trevor said, “but we would’ve beaten them. Our friends would still be alive.”
Kaylee was quiet for a moment, as they approached the saloon. “You’re probably right.”
“We might not be together,” Trevor said. “I feel guilty for even bringing it up.”
She looked him in the eyes before they went into the saloon. “Don’t be so sure about that.”
He nodded and they went inside, joining Seth and Kaitlyn.
“Hey, guys,” Kaylee said as they pulled up chairs.
“Where’s Angel and Megan?” Trevor asked.
“They’ll be here in a few minutes,” Kaitlyn said.
“Cool,” Kaylee said. “My uncle looks a lot better.”
“He’s something else,” Kaitlyn said. “Loved the gut him like a fish comment.”
Trevor laughed. “Who was he talking about?”
“Saladin,” Seth said, “and by the way, he’s missing.”
“That’s what we heard from three sources,” Kaitlyn said.
“Maybe that will end this damn war, and we can go live happily ever after,” Kaylee said.
Seth shook his head. “I wish, but the leadership isn’t thinking so.”
Trevor nodded. “I’m not surprised.”
Hey,” Angel said, walking up with Megan. “What’s the whispering about?”
“Saladin is missing,” Seth said.
Megan smiled. “Good, maybe this damn war will be over soon, and we can go on with our lives.”
“Oh, really, and what do you have planned?” Kaitlyn asked.
“Same thing you do, so don’t mess with me,” Megan said.
“Uh oh, what’s that?” Kaylee said.
“I know what I’ve got planned,” Seth said.
“What?” Kaitlyn asked.
“Taking you for my wife, and keeping you barefoot and pregnant for a while.”
“Yeah, dude, that’s kinda what I was thinking,” Angel quipped.
“I thought women were supposed to trick you guys into that,” Megan asked, grinning at Kaylee and Kaitlyn.
“You aren’t doing that?” Kaitlyn asked. Kaylee laughed and shook her head.
“Hey, I want that too, you know,” Trevor said.
“Yeah, I’ll bet the two of you have been practicing already,” Megan cracked.
Kaylee giggled. “Look who’s talking.”
“Getting kinda lewd over there,” Morgan said, looking over at them from the next table. Robbie rolled his eyes. Morgan noticed and elbowed him. “Like you don’t want that.”
“Okay, you found me out,” he said. “Anybody want something to drink?”
Willard’s ears perked up, and he glanced over, putting a finger in the air. He rushed over with a bottle of whiskey and a tray full of glasses. “Help yourselves. Drinks on the house.”
“We’re gonna get trashed,” Kaylee said, looking at the bottle.
“You aren’t pregnant yet,” Trevor said. “You can have a little.” That got another eye roll from Kaylee.
The saloon started filling up fast, Willard rushing around with drinks, beaming but being somber as well, as glasses were raised for the fallen. Garrett and Anna came in a little later, the room stopping to acknowledge them.
“I like it here,” Seth whispered to Kaitlyn. “People here love each other.”
She nodded in agreement, her hand going to his. “It is nice, even though it’s kinda whacky.”
“I could live here,” Angel said. “What are you guys doing now?”
“We’re part of the intelligence team,” Seth said.
“So you won’t be fighting directly?” Megan asked. “Are you okay with that, Kaitlyn?”
“Yes and no,” she said.
Kaylee smiled. “I think it’s good. Who else is on the team?”
“Robbie and Morgan, and Ben Dover,” Kaitlyn said. “They’re recruiting to replace Ben’s social media team. You guys might want to apply.”
Megan’s eyes lit up. “I know something about that. What do you think, honey?”
“Maybe, but we can’t have all the young folks like us out of the fight, can we?”
“I’m not planning on leaving the battle,” Trevor said.
Kaylee sighed. “Me neither, I guess. We’re good at it.”
“Oh, you’re finally admitting that you have fighting ability?” Trevor asked.
“I don’t believe that warrior blood stuff that my uncle talks about, but we did well with each other out there today.”
“You did,” Angel said, “I saw some of that. You guys are nuts.”
There was commotion up by the bar.
“Something’s going on,” Kaitlyn said.
“All, we have announcement,” Jules said.
“What’s that?” Clem asked, sitting at a small table with Sarah.
“Saladin is dead,” Jules said. “Died in custody of General Hogan.”
A cheer rose from the room.
“Yes!” Trevor said.
“So what now?” somebody shouted out.
“Fight not yet over,” Jules said. “Still much trash to take out. Still huge force south of border.”
“He’s right,” Garrett said. “The enemy is gonna be in disarray. We’ll take advantage however we can, but we can’t hang it up and go home yet. Our state is still in trouble. I think we saw today what the enemy can do.”
Ivan came back into the bar, walking up to Jules and the others. He made eye contact with Ben, and nodded to the rest of the intelligence team.
“I think he needs us,” Ben said, getting up.
“Us?” Robbie asked.
“The intelligence team,” Seth said. “Let’s go.”
The team got up and headed for the bar. Ivan led them and the rest of the leadership team out of the saloon.
“Damn, I feel left out,” Trevor said.
“I don’t,” Angel said. “I think we ought to have a drink.”
“I’m up for that,” Trevor said. “This is good news. The second-in-command of the enemy forces has been killed by General Hogan’s team. That’s huge, folks.” He poured four shot glasses, handed them out, and raised his. “Here’s to General Hogan and victory!”
To be continued…
For those of you following Bug Out! Texas, Book 10 has just been published. You can find it here.
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
Jorge looked out over the legions of trained Marines, spread out over the entire funnel area along Old Highway 80. Conrad and Doug came over.
“What’s taking them so long, man?” Jorge asked.
“That’s the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question,” Doug said.
“Meyers thinks something is going on with their leadership,” Conrad said.
“What ever happened with Ivan’s folks?” Jorge asked. “Are they coming south from Highway 94 to pick up the western tip?”
Conrad shook his head no. “Not this time. Ivan was afraid to commit his battle wagons here. Said they’d be overrun and destroyed.”
Jorge chuckled. “Hell, most of us are gonna get overrun and destroyed.”
“I’m not mad at him,” Doug said. “I see his point, actually.”
“Me too, but at the time I wasn’t too happy,” Conrad said. “He put me in touch with the commander of the naval aviators. We’re gonna pull away from that area and bomb the crap out of the enemy as they come across the border…if they come across the border. They’re just sitting there.”
“Thirty miles,” Jorge said, looking at his apps. “We sure all of them have apps?”
“Pretty sure,” Conrad said. “We got a satellite feed too, from the navy. They’re definitely still on foot, so they won’t sneak up on us. They might have figured out we can see them.”
“Still seems like Ivan’s folks ought to be involved down here,” Jorge said.
Conrad’s phone rang, so he pulled it out and looked. “Speak of the devil.” He walked away with the phone to his ear.
Doug smiled. “Ivan’s folks, huh? This ought to be interesting.”
“You think this border crossing is gonna fizzle?”
Doug looked at Jorge and nodded. “Wouldn’t surprise me.”
Conrad walked back over. “They got hit.”
“Who, Ivan’s folks?” Doug asked.
“Yep, by thirteen hundred fighters in lead-shielded semi-trucks. Some came from as far away as Colorado.”
“Holy crap,” Jorge said. “They lose many people?”
“Only a handful. They’re burning bodies now. Could’ve been a lot worse. They got some things in place just in time to save themselves.”
“Like what? Some new weapons?” Jorge asked.
“Yeah, the best weapon of all. Information.”
Doug and Jorge looked at Conrad, waiting for the punchline.
Conrad chuckled. “That history program we were talking about that they just started. They saw about seven hundred enemy fighters from the Julian area disappear overnight.”
“Not following,” Doug said.
“I know what he’s talking about,” Jorge said. “If they disappear, there’s only two possibilities.”
“Well, three, actually,” Conrad said. “Possibility number one – the enemy fighters moved outside the range of the history program. That one is possible, but they’d usually know, because they’d see them moving towards a boundary.”
“Okay, I get it,” Doug said. “The other two possibilities would be that their chips were burned up, or that they’ve shielded themselves in something that stop signal transmission.”
“Exactly, and since we know removing that many RFID chips and burning them isn’t likely, it has to be shielded vehicles. Ivan’s folks were ready and waiting.”
“So if they would’ve sent their battle wagons and troops here, they would’ve been overrun,” Jorge said.
“Without doubt,” Conrad said. “They had some issues with the battle wagons that proved Ivan was right to be worried about sending them to the border.”
“What’s that?” Doug asked.
“Those battle wagons are vulnerable if they are hit with a huge assault of superior forces.”
“Why?” Jorge asked.
“Too fragile to withstand anything large, and if they must flee, their tires are vulnerable.”
“They’re like a PT boat,” Doug said. “Not a battleship or a sub.’
“Yep,” Conrad said, “when the serious weaponry comes out, or you’re hit with overwhelming numbers, you don’t want to be in one of those.’
“Okay, what now?” Doug asked.
“They’re going to continue on as a staging and supply area, and play cleanup if any enemy fighters get north of our lines. They’ll be able to control Highway 94 with those battle wagons if they’re strategically placed, and they can use those off-roaders to great advantage as well. They won’t be right on the border.”
“No, I meant what now for us,” Doug said.
“Oh,” Conrad said, smiling. “We continue to wait. It’s all we can do at this point, but now we’ve got the satellite feed as well as the apps, and we’ll have air support for the areas we can’t staff up with fighters. We’re not in such bad shape. If the enemy doesn’t re-funnel to the center, we’ll have enough men and firepower to stop them here.”
Meyers walked over, surrounded by several of his men. “You heard what happened to Ivan’s base?”
“Just talked to him,” Conrad said.
“They won’t be joining us down here, but that’ll be fine. I’d rather they stayed put and continue with their intelligence and recruiting operations.”
“They plan on using their forces to stop enemy fighters on the road,” Conrad said. “Better use of their capability.”
“I agree,” Meyers said. “One other thing. We’re hearing some new traffic.”
“Traffic?” Jorge asked.
“Enemy communications traffic,” Meyers said. “Nobody can raise Saladin. We think that might be why the enemy isn’t moving.”
Willard came back to the street with Garrett and a host of others, many of them crying.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” Sarah said to Garrett from the door of the hotel, as they got on the wooden sidewalk heading for the saloon.”
“Thank you kindly, Sarah,” Garrett said. “Always hard when we lose people. Come on over to the saloon and have a drink with us later. We’re doing a wake.”
“We’ll be along,” she said.
“We?” Willard asked.
Sarah smiled. “I’ll drag Clem along. I know he’ll want to be there.’
“Oh, yeah,” Willard said. “Good.”
The group continued down the sidewalk, Sarah wiping tears from her eyes as she went into the lobby. Clem was coming down the stairs.
“Garrett’s folks?” he asked.
“They just had their memorial for the fallen,” Sarah said. “So sad. They invited us over for drinks at the saloon later.”
“Good, I’d like to go over, but after they’ve had some time with their own.”
Sarah nodded. “You sleep any?”
“No, but it felt good to stretch out for a while. That battle took a little out of me.”
“I’m a little tired myself. Maybe I’ll go try. Maybe you should join me.”
“Headed for the kitchen first,” Clem said. “My stomach is growling. That’s probably part of the problem.”
“Oh, good idea.” Sarah joined him, walking down the hallway past the front desk, into the dining room and past it to the kitchen, with its walk-ins and industrial oven and range.
“Wonder how often they use this?” Clem asked. “Looks like over-kill.”
“Remember when they had the opera house running?”
Clem turned towards her and nodded, then pulled open the walk-in fridge. “Never went to a show. John told me you two had a good time there once or twice.”
“Yes, we went. Never spent the night, but they had a nice deal going here. Probably haven’t used this kitchen much since those days.”
“Everything they have in here takes too much effort,” Clem said. “I just want a snack. Let’s check the freezer.”
Sarah followed him to the second walk-in. “Were you scared?”
“During the battle?”
She nodded yes.
“Not that much,” Clem said. “It wasn’t as scary as the other day when the snipers were firing at us.”
“Even with all those enemy fighters rushing us?” Sarah asked, trembling slightly.
“Oh, you’re still shook up, aren’t you?” Clem asked, pulling her into a hug. She began to cry, leaning her head against his chest.
“Don’t be,” Clem said, patting her back.
“Why weren’t you scared?”
Clem broke the hug and studied her face. “I don’t know, probably having all of the others with us. I trust the battle wagons too. I know they have their weaknesses, but against small arms they’re pretty tough. I prefer it to being out in the open.”
“Like you were the day before,” she said. “I was so scared when I heard about that.”
“I remember,” Clem said. “It’s okay. Made it past that.”
Sarah tried to compose herself. “Is that more like what you had in mind?” She pointed to the stacks of frozen meals on one of the wire shelves.
“Yeah, something we can just zap,” he said. “You okay with that?”
“Sounds good,” she said.
They picked out meals and took them to the microwaves.
“Look, we can do them at the same time,” Sarah said, looking at the two microwaves on the wall above the stainless-steel counter.
They cooked their meals, then took them to the table in the middle of the kitchen.
“Hit’s the spot,” Sarah said after the first bite. “Guess I was hungry.”
“Not bad,” Clem said.
They ate silently, then Clem picked up their mess, and went into the walk-in fridge. “Want a bottle of water? There’s some cold ones in here.”
“Sure. I’m finally feeling more relaxed. Thank you.”
“I didn’t do anything,” he said, closing the walk-in door. He handed her a water bottle.
“You were here with me,” she said. “You’re a good calming influence, I think. You always have been.”
Clem chuckled. “Well, I’m good for something, then, I guess. Want to go back up?”
“Sure,” she said, standing. “Can I nap with you?”
He glanced at her, then nodded yes.
“Don’t worry, I just want to sleep. I’m so tired.”
“Me too,” he said. “Mind if we set an alarm? I don’t want to sleep through.”
“Me neither. I’d like to go pay my respects at the saloon later.”
“Good, that’s what I was thinking,” Clem said, taking her hand. They went upstairs.
Sid, Yvonne, Tyler, and Ed were standing by the big smoking pit, taking care to stay up wind as the flesh burned. All the bodies were in the pit now. It’d been a long day rounding them up.
“This is a dirty business,” Ed said.
“Had to be done,” Tyler said, “if just to kill those damn RFID chips.”
Sid shook his head. “The enemy will have no doubt what happened.”
Yvonne nodded. “You think that’s bad, honey?”
“I think they already knew.”
She got closer, her arm going around his waist. “I hope we don’t get hit again.”
“We’ll see it coming,” Tyler said. “I was just talking to Kaitlyn. They’ve increased the range of that history program, and we’re going to coordinate with the groups in the southwest and Texas to expand coverage.”
“Kaitlyn and Seth have become valuable,” Yvonne said.
“They were valuable before,” Tyler said. “Hell, Kaitlyn fights better than I do.”
“Where are we sleeping tonight?” Yvonne asked.
Sid shrugged. “We could grab a room in the hotel. That’s where Clem and Sarah are.”
Yvonne grinned at him.
“What?” he asked.
Sid looked at her and smiled. “Oh, really?”
“Stop, it’s probably nothing,” Yvonne said. “Sarah won’t say anything.”
“How bad is our rig damaged?” Sid asked.
“Flattened tire on the front passenger side. They put down the jacks so it’s level.”
“We could sleep in there, then, if we wanted too.”
“We’re going back to the tribe’s camp,” Ed said. “See you guys later at the wake.” He and Tyler walked away.
“Well?” Sid asked.
“Let’s go take a look. I didn’t fight in our rig, remember? I was in Ji-Ho’s rig with Clem and Sarah.”
“Afraid it might be a mess?”
“A little,” she said. “I glanced inside before I came back to town. Didn’t look too bad.” They walked back towards town. The saloon was already filling up for the wake, and the night air was descending, cooler but still dry as a bone.
Sid looked at her, taking her hand as they walked. “Gonna be dark pretty soon.”
She smiled at him. “Yeah. I hated being away from you during the battle. Let’s not do that again.”
“We didn’t plan on it that way. Good thing we noticed that gravel when we did.”
“They should’ve gotten the drop on us,” Yvonne said as they neared their rig, sitting in the pasture in front of the chicken coup. “We were lucky.”
“I know. The rig looks okay, except the gun slits are open. Who used it?”
“Some of Garrett’s folks,” Yvonne said. “I talked to them after. They went into siege mode right after they lost the tire. Good thing, or we would’ve lost more of them.”
“I’ll bet.” Sid walked to the door, which was ajar. He pulled it open. The faint smell of gunpowder hit him. “Might smell bad.”
“We’ll air it out for a couple hours, if there aren’t other problems.”
Yvonne followed Sid inside.
“A few water bottles laying around,” Sid said.
“Some brass on the floor.” Yvonne bent over to pick up the shells. “We should reload, just in case.”
Sid nodded, and opened the compartment under the grenade launcher. “They already reloaded this.”
“I’ll check the mini gun and the rear machine guns,” Yvonne said, walking into the back.
“I’ll check the front guns.” Sid opened the compartment next to the front seat. “Reloaded too.”
“So’s the mini gun,” Yvonne said, coming back out with a plastic bag full of spent brass. “It’s fine in here, but let’s open more windows.”
“Might get a little cold by the time we go to bed.”
“You’ll keep me warm,” Yvonne said with a twinkle in her eyes.
They opened the windows, then headed for the door.
“There’s Sam’s rig,” Sid said. “Lights are on. Why don’t we see if they’re going over now?”
Yvonne nodded, and they crossed the pasture, getting to the passenger side of the coach just as Sam, Erica, and Mia were coming out.
“Auntie Yvonne!” Mia said, rushing to her, hugging her legs. Yvonne smiled and patted her head.
“Hi, sweetie, how are you?”
“I’m glad the bad people are gone,” she said, looking up at her, then over at Sam and Erica.
“How’s your rig?” Sid asked.
“Needs a little airing out,” Sam said. “I think we’re gonna sleep over at Garrett’s place tonight.”
“We’re airing ours out now,” Yvonne said. “Smells like gunpowder.”
Erica snickered, nodding in agreement. “How are you two holding up?”
“Tired but relieved,” Yvonne said. “I don’t want to go through another battle without Sid being with me.”
“I feel the same way,” Erica said.
“Well, we did get caught with our pants down a little,” Sam said. “Are you guys going to the wake?”
“Yep,” Yvonne said.
“Good,” Erica said. “Maybe we can grab a table.”
“Probably all gone now, but we’ll see,” Sid said.
“Where’s Clem and Sarah?” Sam asked.
“Last I saw, they were at the hotel,” Yvonne said.
“Did they move in together?” Erica asked softly, glancing down at Mia, who wasn’t paying attention.
“They have separate rooms,” Sid said. “You know why she left the boarding house, right?”
“What’s so funny?” Erica asked.
“Elmer and Susanne were in a shouting match that was still raging when Sarah was ready to go home. We could hear it all the way across the street.”
“Those two,” Erica said, shaking her head.
“I think Sarah wanted to be close to Clem anyway,” Yvonne said.
“You don’t think they’re getting together, do you?” Erica asked.
“I think Sarah needs companionship,” Yvonne said. “Not necessarily romantic, but they’ve been close friends for years.”
“Well whatever works for them,” Sam said. “I’m not going to tease them.”
Sid snickered. “I am, but not tonight.”
“Stop,” Yvonne said, hitting him with an elbow to the side.
“I can’t have any fun?” he asked.
“Am I going to the saloon, mommy?” Mia asked.
“Sure, for a while,” Erica told her. “For the wake. Then we’re spending the night at Uncle Garrett and Aunt Anna’s house. Is that okay?”
“Goody!” she said. “Maybe Anna will let me feed the chickens tomorrow morning.”
Sid and Yvonne looked at each other and laughed. “She’ll get tired of that before too long,” Yvonne said. “Not one of my fondest childhood memories.”
They got on the wooden sidewalk, nearing the saloon.
“Not very loud, are they?” Erica whispered.
“They haven’t made the transition from memorial to wake, I suspect,” Yvonne said as they got to the door. Willard saw them and motioned them in. The place was almost empty.
“Where’d everybody go?” Sid asked, walking to the bar.
“Most of those folks hadn’t been home to change yet,” Willard said. “I’m gonna have to sneak in the back and do the same. I probably smell a little ripe.”
“What does ripe mean, mommy?” Mia asked, looking up at Erica.
“That means that Willard needs to clean up,” Erica said, glancing over at Willard as he cracked up.
“Then he needs a bath?” she asked.
Willard quit laughing for a moment and looked down at her. “I wouldn’t go that far, honey. It’s not spring yet.”
Sam and Sid laughed, the women shaking their heads.
“What’s so funny?” Mia asked, looking at the adult’s faces, the women starting to laugh now too.
“He’s just joking, honey,” Erica said.
“You guys want to tend the bar for a few minutes while I go freshen up?” Willard asked.
“Sure,” Sid said. “Drinks on the house!”
Willard laughed as he walked into the back, where the storeroom and his makeshift bedroom were. “Drinks are always on the house.”
Ivan walked in with Ben, Seth, Kaitlyn, Robbie, and Morgan.
“We’ll set up at the usual table,” Seth said, carrying his laptop to it.
“Sam, good, glad you’re here,” Ivan said.
“Uh oh, something going on?” Sam asked, Erica getting closer with her brow furrowed.
“Nobody’s on the way here or anything like that,” he said. “We heard about some chatter, through my sources and Jules’s sources too.”
“What, enemy chatter?”
Ivan shook his head yes.
“Well?” Erica asked.
“Nobody can raise Saladin.”
Just at that moment, Jules, Sparky, Tex, and Ted rushed in, followed by Shelly, Dana, Karen, and Haley.
“Boss, more info come in,” Jules said, rushing over to them.
“What now?” Ivan asked.
“Saladin in trouble for moving forces here from Colorado,” Jules said, his eyes full of glee. “His own people hunt him now.”
Sam laughed. “Sucks to be him, then, I guess.”
“That calls for a drink,” Sid said, pulling the good whiskey out, lining up shot glasses.
To be continued…
For those of you following Bug Out! Texas, Book 10 has just been published. You can find it here.
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
“Nobody else anywhere near us,” Ben said, watching the satellite feed.
“Good,” Ivan said. “We should have a leadership meeting.”
“Down here,” Ivan said. “We should leave the others out there just in case. Every enemy body needs to be checked.”
“What do we do with them after we check them?” Morgan asked.
“Burn them,” Robbie said. “Then the RFID chips will be destroyed. That’ll make new arrivals stick out like a sore thumb.”
“Yes,” Ivan said, taking out his phone. He sent a text.
“Who are you inviting?” Seth asked.
“Ji-Ho, Jules, Ted, Tex, Sam, Sparky, Garrett, Ed, and Tyler.”
“Might want to add Sid and Erica,” Seth said.
“Yeah, and Susanne,” Morgan said.
“Somebody have their numbers?” Ivan asked. “Go ahead and text them.”
“Want us to leave?” Seth asked.
“Nope, you guys are our intelligence team,” Ivan said. “We need you here, if you don’t mind. At least for this meeting.”
“Hey, honey, it finally finished processing,” Kaitlyn said, pointing to the screen.
Seth laughed. “Damn, that took forty-five minutes.”
“How long did the original setting take?” Robbie asked.
“About fifteen minutes,” Seth said, “and I was running it every couple hours. We’ll have to adjust our timing if we’re gonna run the larger area.”
“Hope we don’t have to run it this way for long,” Ben said. “It will shorten our reaction time too much.”
“We’ll get with the other groups after this meeting,” Ivan said. “I’d like to see this run more like every hour, and we should share data with the others, and vice versa.”
Footsteps and talking approached the room, and Sam appeared in the doorway with Jules, Ji-Ho, and the others.
“Glad we meeting,” Ji-Ho said. “Lot to discuss.”
Seriously,” Erica said, coming in to join Sam.
“Checked on Mia lately?” Sam asked, his arm going around her waist.
“Just came from there. She’s fine.”
“Thanks for coming,” Ivan said. “One thing I’ve always liked to do is a post-mortem. That’s very much needed in this case.”
“Yes, it is,” Ted said.
Tex smiled. “Yep, partner, but we can be proud of what we did out there too, though. Last count I got from the apps says we got hit with over 1300 enemy fighters. It’s almost double what we expected. I’d say we did pretty well.”
“Those off-roaders,” Tyler said, smiling. “Oh my God.”
“Yes, they’ve proven themselves,” Ivan said.
“But battle wagons did not,” Ji-Ho said.
“Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater on those, partner,” Tex said. “We made some human errors that caused a lot of the problems, and remember how little notice we had on this attack.”
“We could use an alarm on the history program,” Ted said. “Wouldn’t have done our sleeping much good last night, but if we’d placed our coaches wisely and put them into siege mode instead of moving them all over the place, we wouldn’t have lost any of them.”
“We lose one turret,” Ji-Ho said.
Jules looked over at him. “Yeah, but that unit still have the mini-gun, the front and rear machine guns, and the side gun slits intact. That pretty effective group of capabilities, no?”
“Let’s start with the battle wagons, then,” Ivan said. “Wish we had a chalk board.”
“I’ll set up a PowerPoint document and cast it to the big screen,” Kaitlyn said.
“Good idea,” Ben said.
Kaitlyn got to work on that as Ivan waited for the talking to die down.
“I’m ready,” she said.
“Okay,” Ivan said, “let’s brainstorm what when wrong with them, and then we can apply some solutions. The floor is open.”
“Moving those rigs in a target-rich environment is too dangerous,” Ted said.
“Put that one down, please, Kaitlyn,” Ivan said.
“You want solutions?” Sparky asked.
“Not yet. Let’s keep up with the problems.”
“We aren’t keeping enough extra ammo in these coaches for the mini gun and the grenade launchers,” Tex said.
“There’s another one to put down,” Ivan said.
“Two or three people not enough for battle wagon while in fight,” Ji-Ho said. “Need four. Maybe even five.”
“Five?” Sparky asked.
“For fast reloading,” Ji-Ho said.
“Put that one down too,” Ivan said.
“You guys know that the coaches will roll along with the tire armor nearly all the way down, right?” Sparky asked. “There’s enough clearance, and it would cut the exposure way down.”
“Should I add that?” Kaitlyn asked.
“Yes, but let’s modify it slightly,” Ivan said, looking at the ceiling, deep in thought for a moment. “Problem is that tire protection is either all the way on or all the way off. There’s no partial protection for those situations where we must move during a battle. Those situations will come up.”
“Yep, they have come up, partner,” Tex said. “More than once, from my recollection.”
“Okay,” Kaitlyn said, typing the problem in. Shelly rushed into the room, getting next to Jules with her laptop. “Should I be taking minutes?”
“Yes, do, and compare with PowerPoint that Kaitlyn is updating after meeting,” Jules said.
Shelly and Kaitlyn glanced at each other and nodded.
“Any other issues with the battle wagons?” Ivan asked.
“The most important one, I believe, not on list,” Jules said.
“What’s that?” Ivan asked.
“Battle wagon good for some operations, not for others. Not strong enough for use as pillbox, not mobile enough during big battle to survive more than small arms fire.”
“That is the most important thing anybody has brought up,” Ivan said. “Even if we solve the problems we brought up, these units will do much better in some situations than they do in others.”
“So maybe we should start brainstorming solutions for that first, since it doesn’t take any hardware upgrades,” Ted said.
Tex shook his head. “Well, partner, that is important, but let’s keep something in mind. We can’t always choose where we use these. Today, for instance, we had to use them, even though their capabilities didn’t match perfectly. No other choice. We would’ve lost the battle if we didn’t have them here.”
Ivan stood, thinking again. “That’s an excellent point, Tex, but understanding the pros and cons will prevent us from making a bad choice when we do have a choice.”
“We had that crop up yesterday, remember?” Ben asked.
“We did?” Erica asked.
“We got a request from our allies on the border to send our rigs, the off-roaders, and most of you south from Highway 94, to shore up that part of the border now that the enemy is fanning out wide to avoid the artillery,” Ivan said. “I chose not to do that, before I knew we were about to be hit.”
“Good call, partner,” Tex said. “That would’ve been a disaster.”
“Why?” Morgan asked.
“It was another target-rich environment,” Ted said. “I saw a couple hundred thousand fighters on that side of their front. We couldn’t have stopped them from rushing these rigs. We would’ve run out of ammo and had to flee, exposing our tires in the process, as the enemy brought up stuff like grenades and RPGs.”
“Yep,” Tex said.
“So what are these rigs good for, then?” Robbie asked.
“Assaults on weak targets without overwhelming numbers,” Sparky said.
“Yes, that right,” Ji-Ho said.
“Like taking out the checkpoints in LA County and up north, or assaulting single facilities, like the CHP headquarters and Folsom prison up in Sacramento,” Sparky said.
“They can even take on larger forces, if we have the advantage of terrain that protects us from a massive assault,” Ted said. “Remember what we did to Saladin’s forces coming over the pass from Nevada before we came here?”
“Yes, that was a very successful operation,” Ivan said. “You guys understand. I propose that we pursue solutions to the problems we’ve highlighted, realizing that we will get forced into using these in non-optimum situations. In the future we will avoid those situations when we can.”
Ted smiled. “So, I heard that we’re going to store more ammo inside the rig, and increase the crew from an average of two people to a minimum of four, with a fifth person when we can. Agreed?”
Everybody nodded in agreement. Tex spoke up. “The other thing we need to do, if we have the time, is to plant ourselves someplace and go into siege mode right away. Only move as a last resort.”
“I agree with that,” Ted said, “but remember that most of us moved because it was a last resort. We couldn’t effectively hit the enemy from the spots we started in.”
“What about the extra tire shielding?” Robbie asked. “Seems fairly simple.”
“We looked at that, during the second round of design changes,” Ivan said. “It’s not a simple problem.”
“Why not?” Robbie asked.
“The suspension,” Ivan said. “We’d have to allow the armor plates to float with that, and the travel is fairly wide. There’s not a lot of room in the space we have to work with to put a complex solution like that in.”
“I could see that, partner,” Tex said, “and since we want these rigs to look as much like a normal RV as possible, sticking the mechanism outside of the wheel well wouldn’t work.”
“Sounds like we need to table that idea, then,” Sparky said.
“For now, but if anybody comes up with a brilliant solution, I’m all ears,” Ivan said.
“What’s next?” Garrett asked. “The off-roaders?”
“Those things are amazing,” Sid said. “Did we even lose any of them?”
“Nope, not a one,” Sam said, “but that won’t last. There are ways to disable them, and their armor isn’t that powerful. If the enemy got a good description of them back to their leadership, we can expect better counter measures next time.”
“And we know that they did,” Sid said. “Remember the drone?”
“Drone?” Ivan asked.
“Oh, we haven’t mentioned that yet,” Garrett said. “The enemy flew a small drone over the ridge at us after we destroyed the first semi.”
“A military drone?” Ivan asked.
Garrett shook his head no. “Looked like a hobby drone to me, with a video camera and no shielding.”
“Ryan shot it down with his sniper rifle,” Ed said.
Sid nodded. “We think that’s what convinced the other two semis to take a powder.”
“Interesting,” Ivan said. “Maybe we should invest in some hobby drones ourselves. It’s not like they’re out of our price range.”
“Wish I still had my drone,” Ji-Ho said.
Ivan chuckled. “Oh, the one you almost killed Saladin with? Sorry, but that was a higher purpose, and it killed off some fairly important UN creeps.”
“I thought they were just Peacekeepers,” Ji-Ho said.
“One of them was the Southern California commander,” Ivan said, “but we’re getting off on a tangent. From what I’m hearing, the off-roaders are a good defense against large scale assaults like this.”
“They’re also good for operations like the one in the Sierra’s that I mentioned,” Ted said. “I look at them as the fighter escorts to our B-17 battle wagons.”
Sparky cracked up. “Yep, that’s about right.”
“So we need to be aware that the enemy might develop counter-measures,” Ivan said. “How does their ammo hold up?”
“They had very long belts,” Sam said. “And since they’re all two-seaters, there’s somebody there who can reload pretty easily on the fly. They did run low in the back country, but that was after forty-five of them took on over three-hundred enemy fighters.”
“And their semis, don’t forget,” Sid said. “The microguns are very effective, but so are the grenade launchers. These are very potent weapons for this kind of warfare.”
“Good,” Ivan said. “What else? What other parts of our operation worked, and what parts didn’t?”
“We need some shielding on our cannons,” Garrett said. “Our largest group of casualties came from that team.”
“Oh, crap, Willard didn’t get it, did he?” Sparky asked.
“No, he’s fine,” Garrett said. “He was one of the six that survived.”
“How about the cavalry?” Sam asked. “We didn’t lose any in the back.”
“Three were hit, but none of them killed, believe it or not,” Garrett said. “They are good at using cover. Some of that we learned when we were laying traps for the enemy at your old RV park. They show themselves when they have surprise and get the enemy running instead of shooting back.”
“Some of them are still using black powder guns,” Ted said. “Not that they weren’t effective.”
“It’s what they’ve practiced with for years,” Garrett said. “We’ve changed over more of the infantry to M60s and M4s, but we had pretty good luck with the old Sharps 1874 plains rifles in the back. That lead shielding takes a fairly heavy bullet to punch through.”
“What’s a plains rifle?” Ivan asked.
“Long gun, a little over .50 caliber, designed for dropping bison,” Ed said. “Damn things did a lot to destroy our culture in the 19th century, but I’m glad we have them now. They punch a big hole.”
“As well they should,” Tex said. “We’re talking the two and a half inch guns, right?”
Garrett smiled. “You know your firearms history.”
“Should we expand the use of them beyond what we have now?” Ivan asked.
Sam shook his head no. “We’ve got enough, and remember that these are single-shot rifles. They’re great for sitting up on a ridge and firing at a tough target, but if you’ve got enemy fighters rushing you, they’re the last thing you want.”
“I second that,” Garrett said. “We’ve got enough of those, but we should keep those squads together.”
“That’s one we’re still reloading,” Susanne said. “That and the dual use rounds like the 44-40s.”
“Saw your cavalry using those old Winchesters,” Tex said. “Impressive.”
Ivan smiled. “Okay, what else did we learn? What else do we need to adjust?”
“Do we have replacement tires coming for the battle wagons?” Ted asked.
Ji-Ho nodded yes. “Here tomorrow. We need to fix one M19 turret. That all.”
“Good,” Ivan said. “We probably should go direct the cleanup now.”
“Yeah, we could use all the help we can get,” Garrett said. “I’ve got my guys with the dozer out back, digging a big hole. We’re gonna burn them, right?”
“If we want to get rid of the chips, yes,” Ted said. “We’ll help with body disposal. We got enough trucks?”
“Trucks and wagons,” Garrett said. “Hopefully the wind stays in its current direction.”
“Eeewww,” Kaitlyn said, Shelly nodding in agreement.
“Thanks, all,” Ivan said. “I need to go make some calls. Keep the satellite view running as long as we have it, though, okay?”
“You got it,” Ben said.
Saladin was sitting alone in his cave at Capitol Reef, his hand trembling as he drank water. He’d need to escape from his own people now. No way would they forgive him for this. His phone rang. He looked at it, his heart in his throat. Daan Mertins. He punched the answer button and put it on speaker.
“You can run, but you can’t hide,” Daan said, anger dripping from his voice.
“Then there’s no reason to talk to you,” Saladin said, reaching for his phone.
“If you hang up, I’ll come down there and kill you myself.”
“You and which army?” Saladin asked calmly. “If this had worked, you’d be celebrating me as a hero.”
“For staging a revenge attack?”
“My sources said there was a sixty percent chance that both Ivan and Ben Dover were at that location, along with the rest of the California resistance leadership.”
“Pulling all of those troops out of Colorado will hand General Hogan a great victory in the southwest. You’ll be hearing from him in Utah quite soon, I expect.”
“They don’t know where we are,” Saladin said.
“Yes they do. Those RFID chips have been compromised, as we thought.”
“Why do you say that?” Saladin asked.
“Think about it. How do you think the Dulzura group knew your trucks were coming?”
“They didn’t know,” Saladin said. “They were just on high alert, probably because of what I told you at the beginning of this call. Ivan and Ben are at that location. Of course, they’re going to protect them.”
“Stop lying to yourself. They were waiting in both places you attempted to enter the facility. They were ready, and they used air power from the US Navy to take out the two semis that got away from the initial battle.”
“That’s the only reason we lost,” Saladin said. “What are we doing to handle the rogue leadership of the US Armed Forces?”
Daan chuckled. “Moron. If something was going to shut them down, don’t you think it would’ve happened after the US Navy sank that EU Navy destroyer in Portland?”
“Your people are running the border incursion, and it’s not moving. Why is that?”
“We’re being cautious, and waiting for other pieces to be put in place,” Daan said. “We’ll have a large force back in California. Not thirteen hundred like you just wasted. Several hundred thousand.”
“Based on the leadership I’ve seen so far, those men will be wasted.”
Daan chuckled again. Saladin could hear his breath on the line, but no words came.
“You still there?” Saladin asked.
“You’re being relieved of command.”
Saladin laughed. “You think my men will follow the infidel?”
“No, but they’ll follow the guy holding your leash.”
“He’d never side with you,” Saladin said.
“I don’t know, he’s pretty pissed,” Daan said. “What makes you think those caves you’re in are so safe, anyway, given the fact that the enemy knows exactly where you are?”
“Western men value monuments over their principals,” Saladin said. “They won’t destroy this area, just like they refused to bomb the Grand Canyon to get rid of the militia base there. They’ll have to come in and root us out. We’ll have plenty of surprises for them.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what,” Daan said. “You’re on your own now. There will be agents of your governing body coming to relieve you of command and arrest you. Have a nice night.
Saladin ended the call, tossing his phone on the cot.
To be continued…
For those of you following Bug Out! Texas, Book 10 has just been published. You can find it here.
Copyright Robert Boren 2017
“Hear that?” Sid asked.
“Sounds like mortar fire,” Sam said.
Tyler laughed. “Sounds like those cannons to me.”
Just then they saw a semi-rig come over the hill, heading straight for them.
“I see hits from the front of the property,” Ed said, checking his phone.
“Let these guys get a little closer,” Sam said.
“Roger that,” Garrett said. They watched as the semi-truck slowed.
“I think they’re gonna park right there,” Sid said, watching them through his rifle scope. “I can take out the driver and passenger. Got them in my crosshairs.”
“Go,” Sam said. Sid pulled the trigger, the driver’s head exploding in the cab, tagging the passenger as he screamed with panic.
“Nail that trailer,” Garrett shouted into his phone, and the large plains rifles fired from the ridges around the truck, shredding the trailer, releasing the RFID signals, all the men’s phones buzzing.
“Let’s get them!” Sam shouted, as panicked Islamists poured out, gunfire from the plains rifles still hitting the trailer and picking off running men. Then the off-roaders roared in, firing grenades, hitting the broken trailer so many times at once that it lifted and fell on its side, breaking free of the truck cab. The microguns fired up now, off-roaders chasing down fleeing Islamists, most of whom had dropped their weapons.
“Sounds like a swarm of bees,” Ed shouted between shots.
“My God,” Sid said, watching as men were cut down, some stopping with their hands up, killed where they stood. The slaughter took only a few seconds.
“Geez, that was about three hundred men, dead in an instant,” Ryan said, watching the off-roaders circling.
“Hey, you hear that?” Sid asked.
“Hear what?” Tyler asked.
“Quiet,” Garrett said. “I hear it too. Crap, it’s a drone. Small one. Look!”
They saw the drone coming down, circling over the ruined semi-truck.
“I can hit it,” Ryan said, aiming his sniper rifle, following it with the scope.
“Do it,” Sam said. Ryan fired, the drone coming apart in the air, falling in pieces.
“There’s another truck back there, or worse,” Ed said.
“Yeah, I think you’re right,” Garrett said, sending a text to his cavalry. “I’m sending them over the ridge to look.”
“The off-roaders are gonna beat them to it,” Sid said, pointing as they raced up the hill, stopping just shy of the ridge, getting off to peek over. They ran back to their machines, one of them stopping to send a text, which hit Sam’s phone.
“Dammit,” Sam said.
“I’m afraid to ask,” Ed said.
“Another semi-truck was back there. It’s turning tail and running the other way.”
“Should we go after it?” Garrett asked.
Sam thought for a moment. “No, feels like a trap. Is there any other way here from that stagecoach road?”
“Not that they could get over with those semi-trucks.”
“Powerful lot of noise coming from town,” Sid said. “Cannon fire, and battle wagons too. Checking the apps.”
Sam nodded, his brow furrowed.
“We can send the off-roaders after that fleeing semi,” Garrett said.
Sam’s brow furrowed. “Dammit, we need a better picture of what we’re dealing with.”
“Uh oh,” Sid said. “There’s more enemy fighters in front of town than we were supposed to see.’
Sam glanced at him. “I was afraid of that. How many?”
“Seven hundred,” Sid said. “That, with the three hundred that we just killed makes a thousand, and there’s another truck back there.”
“At least one more,” Ed said. “I agree with Sam. This is a trap.”
Sam typed a text. “I’m checking with Seth. We need to know where those other Islamists came from.”
“There’s more mortar fire coming from town than we should be hearing,” Sid said. “Maybe we should gather up the off-roaders and hi-tail it back there.”
“Yeah, I think you’re right,” Ed said, “even if the fleeing semi turns around, they’ll be on foot long before they get to town, and we’ll see them on the apps.”
Sam’s phone dinged. He read his screen. “They think a bunch of Islamists came all the way from Colorado, and that’s beyond the range of Seth’s history program.”
“How do they know that?” Garrett asked.
“Ivan got the info from General Hogan’s team,” Sam said. “Let’s get everybody headed towards town right now. Ivan’s got jets from San Diego on the way to wipe out any semi-trucks they see behind the property.”
“Good,” Garrett said, sending a text to his men. Sam texted the off-roaders, and they left, racing back to town.
Ivan had the phone to his ear, standing in a corner of the large mine room, the others working their computers on tables ringing the walls.
“You almost done?” Kaitlyn asked Seth gently. Her hand touched his shoulder, and he turned towards her, nodding yes.
“How far did you extend the range?” Ivan asked.
“I doubled it, to two thousand square miles,” Seth said. “We don’t have the processing power to expand it further than that.”
Ivan nodded. “That will be enough. I see the hurt on your face. This was not your fault. Understand?”
He nodded, then turned back to his screen, as Kaitlyn shot Ivan a worried glance. Ivan’s phone rang. He smiled and answered it, walking back to the corner again.
“Okay, it’s running,” Seth said.
“Hey, Ben, go to this URL,” Ivan said, rushing over to his side. Ben looked at it, typing at his keyboard.
“What is this?” he asked.
“Satellite feed,” Ivan said. “Should give us a view of the whole area.”
“Need a password?”
“No,” Ivan said, “it’s in the URL.”
Ben’s eyes opened wide as he saw the picture. “Holy crap, look at this.”
“Wow, they’ve gotten better with image quality,” Robbie said, looking over his shoulder with Morgan.
“That’s live?” Morgan asked.
“Yep, and we can move it around,” Ben said. “See the two semis on the road in front of the property? One on the driveway and one on the highway.”
“How about the back?” Ivan asked, looking closer.
Ben moved the view over. “Another two. They’re trying to escape.”
Ivan looked at the clock on his phone. “They don’t have long to live. The jets should be here in about three minutes.”
Suddenly there was a flash on the screen.
“Whoa, they’re early,” Morgan said. As the flash died down they could see the broken semis, laying mangled on the ground, engulfed in fire.
“Check the apps,” Seth said. “Let’s see how many were there.”
Kaitlyn looked at her phone. “Only two hundred and change.”
“The explosion and fire probably took out a lot of the RFID chips,” Ivan said.
“Going back to the front of the property,” Ben said, refocusing the view. “That second semi is coming onto the driveway now. Surprised the first one hasn’t opened up yet.”
“Seriously,” Seth said, watching the screen. “What’s that coming in from the east?”
“Cavalry,” Robbie said. “Hate to see them attack first. Where are those off-roaders?”
“They’ll be along,” Ivan said.
“Why aren’t the battle wagons hitting these semis?” Robbie asked.
Seth glanced at him. “Trevor texted me, said they were out of ammo, and most of them have their tires shot up. He’ll probably be down here in a few minutes to grab more ammo. He’s gonna bring up one of the new battle wagons and ferry ammo to the others.”
“How many battle wagons do we have that aren’t being manned?” Morgan asked.
“Trevor said five,” Kaitlyn said.
“Crap, we can man one of them,” Morgan said. “Seth and Kaitlyn know how too, you know.”
“Out of the question,” Ivan said. “The battle wagons are of limited use. Great for certain kinds of assault. Not so great in a target-rich environment. They’re too easy to overrun. This is why I didn’t want to take them to the border.”
“Yeah, it was a good call,” Ben said.
Ivan smiled. “Speaking of that, see if you can view the border. I want to see if the enemy is getting close.”
“What about what’s going on outside?” Morgan asked. “Aren’t those semis gonna unload and kill our people?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Ivan said. “Those off-roaders are perfect for this situation, and there’s about four hundred of Garrett’s people coming too, half of them mounted. Sam told me how they took care of the semi in the back. We’ll be fine, and now we know there’s no more semis coming.”
Ben moved the picture. “It moves pretty slow when you’re going further.”
“No problem,” Ivan said, watching over his shoulder.
“Man, this thing runs slow with this range setting,” Seth said, still looking hurt.
Kaitlyn turned his head towards her. “Look, honey, you need to snap out of this. If not for your program, we wouldn’t have had any warning at all, and we’d probably be dead now.”
“She’s right,” Ivan said. “You didn’t see them all, because you had your program optimized in a realistic way. You saw more than half of them, and that was enough to mobilize us. You, more than anybody else here, saved us. Don’t forget that.”
Seth nodded yes. “Sorry.”
“How far along is it?” Kaitlyn asked.
“Not even half done,” Seth said. “We might not want to leave it this way for long.”
“When we get past this battle, I want our team to work together with teams in the mid-west and Texas,” Ivan said. “Share the program, and spread out the processing. That would solve the problem completely, and it will put your program into wider use. Win win.”
“I’d like that,” Seth said. “We could overlap. Create an air-tight web of surveillance.”
“Exactly,” Ivan said.
“Got that view of the border now,” Ben said. “Hell, the enemy is still pretty far from the border. Can’t tell how many miles, but it’s a considerable distance.”
“They still fanned out?” Ivan asked.
“Yeah, they’re wide and pretty thin. I don’t think that’s gonna work well for them.”
“Conrad thinks they’ll re-converge and try to funnel in where we’ve got our main defenses set up,” Ivan said. “I’m not so sure.”
“Why would they want to do that?” Robbie asked.
“It’s closest to Old Highway 80,” Ivan said, “although what they plan to use for vehicles or a route north might be problematic. From what I’m hearing, this isn’t their A team.”
“So where is their A team?” Ben asked. “Here, attacking us?”
“My sources say central Mexico,” Ivan said. “Not that I buy it.”
Trevor and Kaylee ran down the main street, Willard following. Cody and Alison noticed them run by from their stopped rig, and got out, running to catch up.
“What’s going on?” Cody asked.
“There’re five battle wagons just sitting on the far end of town, and we’ve got gobs more ammo in the mine,” Trevor said.
“Oh, gonna distribute some ammo and get back in the fight, huh?” Cody asked. “I like it. We’ll help.”
There was gunfire behind them. “Dammit, those last two semis must be in place,” Allison said.
“Sounds like it,” Kaylee said. They got to the parked battle wagons just as Sam’s Jeep Unlimited showed up, off-roaders flying past them on main street, towards the battle ground.
“Hey, want to man battle wagons?” Trevor yelled.
Sam shook his head yes, looking at the others. “Ready, guys?”
“We need to stop at the mine and pick up ammo for the others,” Kaylee said.
“Sounds like a plan,” Garrett said. They got into the rigs as more off-roaders roared by, and then the street was flooded with cavalry and cowboys on foot.
Trevor and Kaylee got into one of the rigs, Trevor getting behind the wheel and finding the keys. He started the engine. “Hey, honey, check to see if the guns are loaded.”
“On it,” Kaylee said.
“Want some help?” Willard asked, poking his head in the door.
“Yeah, come on in,” Trevor said, “but no firing that Colt Dragoon out the gun slits. You’ll fill this sucker up with smoke. Use my Winchester or one of the M60s.”
Willard laughed. “Yeah, I got it.”
“The mini gun is fully loaded,” Kaylee yelled from the back, rushing up. She popped the cover on the grenade launcher. “Same with this. We’re ready. Let’s get to the mine.”
Trevor nodded and pulled forward, pushing the massive diesel faster than it wanted to go with no warmup. They made it to the opening of the mine in a couple minutes, and all of them sprinted down the shaft as the other four battle wagons stopped behind them.
“We’re ready and waiting,” Susanne said, just inside the entrance to the mine shaft, belts of mini gun ammo and grenades piled up next to her and the other women.
“Excellent,” Trevor said, smiling as he picked up as much as he could carry and raced it into the rig, Willard and Kaylee doing the same. As soon as they drove away, Sam pulled up in his rig, and he and Ryan rushed into the mine and grabbed ammo too, the other coaches following and doing the same.
“Look, the enemy just parked that first semi,” Kaylee said.
“Parked my ass, look at the cab windows,” Willard said, laughing. They were shot up, the driver hanging bloody over the steering wheel.
“Let’s pull over by where your uncle and Ted’s rigs are and give them ammo,” Trevor said. “Then we should go to the front of the property and get into siege mode.”
“That might work better than what we did last time,” Kaylee said.
They made it between the two battle wagons. Ji-Ho poked his head out, a wide grin on his face. “Now we talking.”
“Stay there,” Kaylee said. “Cover us while we get it to you. That other semi is gonna open up any second.”
Ted and Stacey rushed out of the other rig, grabbing ammo, nodding thanks to Kaylee and the others, and getting back inside to reload.
“Okay, let’s relocate this sucker,” Trevor shouted, and they got in and rolled forward, facing the first enemy vehicle from the front of the pasture. Kaylee opened up with the front machine guns as Trevor set up siege mode, raising the turrets at the same time. Willard went to the driver’s side gun slit with one of the M60s and opened fire broadside on the semi-trailer, the damaged lining inside letting out the RFID signal, all of them getting buzzed.
“Doubt I killed any of them, but that’ll shake them up,” Willard shouted.
“Look, Sam got Jules and Sparky’s rig re-supplied. They just opened fire.”
“Here comes that other semi-rig,” Willard said. “See it?”
“Yeah, that’s one of the reasons I parked this way,” Trevor said. “Let’s hit them. Looks like both Tex’s rig and Justin’s rig are ready to fight again.”
“Angel and Megan’s rig is ready too,” Kaylee said, “and their tires aren’t shot up. They’re moving in to block that semi.”
“Time to end those drivers,” Trevor said, firing the mini gun through the windshield, practically decapitating the driver and passenger, then moving to the trailer. “Crap, that shielding is tough to get through.”
“Hit it with the grenades,” Willard said.
Trevor nodded, flipping the switch and opening fire. “That worked!”
“Damn, started something on fire in there,” Willard said. “Look at those heathens run.”
“What happened to those off-roaders?” Trevor asked.
“They’re by the mill getting more ammo,” Kaylee said. “Noticed them when we came through.”
“Hope they hurry, because we’ve got a flood of enemy fighters on the ground.”
“Yep, here they come now,” Willard said, firing at a couple hundred Islamists as they rushed towards them, Trevor trying to hit them with the mini guns. “Too close again,” he shouted.
“Whoa,” Willard said, watching as the off-roaders rushed into the pasture, their microguns spinning, the fire so fast that it sounded more like a buzz than a machine gun.
“Geez,” Trevor said. “I want one.”
The other trailer is busted open completely now,” Kaylee said. “They’re in front of my guns!” She opened fire, mowing some down, others diving head-first into the cover of the dry creek ringing the pasture. Then the black powder guns and the thunder of horses floated over the battlefield, the Islamists coming back out of the trees, the micro guns killing them as they became visible.
“This battle isn’t gonna last long,” Willard said.
“Sam said that’s what happened in the back,” Trevor said. “Those guns mounted on the off-roaders is pretty tough for infantry to deal with.”
“Shoot, I think I’ll just hold my fire and watch,” Willard said. “I’m afraid I’ll hit those guys, as fast as they’re moving.”
“Yeah, let’s just be here for back up,” Trevor said, watching the carnage through his gun sight. “That sounds like an angry swarm of bees.”
“That’s the description I was trying to find,” Willard said. watching in awe. “Glad the enemy don’t have those suckers.”
The cavalry was out in the pasture, chasing down panicked Islamists with their pistols and swords.
“It’s just cleanup now,” Willard said, watching out the windows.
“They threw about thirteen hundred at us,” Kaylee said, looking at the app. “Geez. That was a hell of a battle.”
The gunfire died down to nothing, and then an all-clear text message hit their phones.
“Well, guess I’ll park this sucker back where it was,” Trevor said.
“I think we ought to leave it here until we meet on this,” Kaylee said. “How badly messed up is our rig?”
“From what I can tell, just a flat tire on one side. Maybe we got one on one of the other wheels now.”
“We need to re-think our strategy with these things a wee might,” Willard said.
“Yep,” Trevor said. “When the battle is so close, we can’t try to be mobile. We need to store double the ammo we’ve been keeping on board too.”
They got out of the rig and joined the others, walking towards town. Ji-Ho, Clem, and Sarah were just getting out of their rig, and joined them.
Kaylee put her arm around Ji-Ho as they walked. “Are you doing okay, uncle?”
“Yes, feel fine,” he said. “It come and go. Right now, go.”
“Good,” Kaylee said.
“I think we’ll need some tires,” Trevor said.
“Already ordered,” Ji-Ho said. “Two day.”
“Any rigs damaged other than tires?” Willard asked.
“One have M19 turret jammed, but happen before. We probably fix here.”
“We need to talk about how we use these,” Trevor said.
“Yes,” Ji-Ho said. “No more battle without siege mode. Especially in close hand-to-hand fight.”
“Live and learn,” Willard said. “Hope at least some of our cannon team survived.”
There was a noise at the front gate, causing them to whirl around in a panic.
“Paramedics,” Kaylee said as they watched a stream of vehicles picking their way past the wreckage. “Good, they’re gonna be busy.”
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.”
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
Bug Out! Texas Book 6 is now in editing. Should be out in about a week!
Here’s a short selection:
“Well, we need to get out of this area,” Richardson said. “Look, the street is blocked up ahead.”
“There’s no other way out of here, with these damn one-way streets,” Lita cried.
Machine gun fire erupted from above, hitting a car three spots in front of them.
“Out of the car,” Richardson yelled. He rushed to the back, getting out his M-16, shooting at the rooftop where the fire was coming from.
“Juan Carlos, help Madison get to the sidewalk. Brendan, help be with the guns. Lita and Hannah, go with Juan Carlos and Madison.”
“Look out!” Brendan shouted, pointing at the roof on the other side of the street. He aimed the SMAW and fired, hitting the façade of the old building, the man with a machine gun tumbling down to the sidewalk with a blood-curdling scream.
Lita and Hannah got to the sidewalk next to Madison as Juan Carlos raced to get his M-16 from Richardson. He saw somebody coming out of the corner of his eye.
“Fighters on the ground!” he cried, turning and spraying fire in that direction. Then there was a shotgun blast, and several more rifle shots. Juan Carlos turned to see a group of citizens running in his direction.
“Yes!” Juan Carlos shouted, aiming at the approaching Islamists. He opened fire, cutting down several as more fire came from the roof. Brendon aimed the SMAW again, firing, a grenade blowing out the machine gun nest. Suddenly a hail of gunfire hit the side of the building, right by the edge, taking out more of the Islamists.
“The citizens have had enough!” Brendon shouted as he struggled to reload the SMAW.
“Look out, Brendan,” Juan Carlos said, aiming his M-16 at another roof. He fired, forcing the Islamists to duck behind the façade. Brendan aimed the SMAW and fired, blowing up that part of the roof.
“Yes!” a citizen yelled as debris and bodies fell down the front of the building.
“Nice shot, dude!” Juan Carlos said, covering him as he reloaded.
“I’d better check on the women,” Richardson yelled, running towards the sidewalk. They were down on the ground, Lita seeing him as he ran up.
“Give us some guns, dammit,” Lita said.
Richardson nodded, handing her his M-16.
“Now you don’t have a gun,” she said.
“Wanna bet?” he asked, opening the case he carried. He pulled out the BMG .50 cal and turned back to the street. There were more Islamists gathering on one of the roofs, getting ready to pour fire down on the citizens, who had all but slaughtered the Islamists on the ground. Richardson dropped the tripod on the .50 cal, ripped off the lens caps on the scope, and took aim, firing as fast as he could pull the trigger, the bullets smashing right through the cheap façade the enemy fighters were hiding behind.
Brendan and Juan Carlos focused on another roof, watching for movement.
“Look, there,” Juan Carlos said, pointing. “They’re setting up.”
“On it,” Brendan said, firing the SMAW, the top of the building crumbling as it exploded. The dust settled, Juan Carlos aiming his M-16 at the area when he saw a face pop up. He fired, hitting the man between the eyes, just as Brendan shot another round from the SMAW. The whole top of the building exploded in flames.
“Torched something up there,” Juan Carlos said.
“I’ve only got a few more rounds,” Brendan said.
“Yeah, I’m running out of ammo too,” Juan Carlos said.
More citizens were coming into the area, aiming guns of all types up at the rooftops, waiting for more fighters. Nobody came.
“We knocked them out!” yelled a citizen holding a bolt-action hunting rifle. “I nailed eight of them!”
“You think it’s over?” Brendan asked.
“It’s not,” Richardson said, aiming further down the street with the .50 cal resting on the top of a car. “I can see them in my scope. They’re setting up down there.”
“I’ll go get in range,” Brendan said.
“No, save your ammo,” Richardson said. “I’ve got this.” He fired several times, men screaming. Then the citizens saw where he was aiming and rushed up, sending a hail of lead at the position.
Richardson rushed over to Brendan and Juan Carlos. “Let’s go check on the girls. They aren’t safe where they are.”
“Yeah,” Juan Carlos said. They ran over to the sidewalk. The women were gone.
“Dammit, where’d they go?” Brendan asked.
“They helped a wounded woman into the drug store,” an old man said, his eyes on the roof tops, hands on his Winchester.
“Thanks,” Richardson said. He rushed in the door, Brendan and Juan Carlos following.
“Oh, thank God,” Lita said when she saw them coming.
“Is it over?” Madison asked.
“I don’t know,” Juan Carlos said. “It’s over on this section of the street.”
“This has awakened the citizens,” Richardson said. “There’s nearly a hundred armed civilians out there.”
“Are we bringing this stuff with us?” Hannah asked, face grim. “San Antonio was quiet for a while before we arrived.”
“Coincidence,” Richardson said. “They don’t know we’re here.”
“What now?” Lita asked.
“How’s the person you helped in here?” Richardson asked.
“She’s gonna be okay,” Lita said. “Flesh wound. Her husband came and got her.”
“We’re stuck in the city, aren’t we?” Madison asked.
“We might be,” Richardson said. “And we’re getting low on ammo.”
More automatic gunfire erupted, but it was further down the street, followed by the thunder of hundreds of rifles.
“Hear that?” Brendan asked, grin on his face.
“You think that was the citizens fighting back?” Hannah asked.
“Yeah,” Brendan said.
Copyright Robert Boren 2016