Sid, Sam, Ed, Tyler, Ryan, and Garrett were moving slowly in the Jeep Unlimited with its top down, eyes peeled at the tracks coming from behind the ridge.
“Here it is,” Sid said. “Stop. I’m getting out.”
Sam nodded, parking the vehicle. Everybody got out, M60s or M4s in hand.
“There’s an old stagecoach route back here,” Garrett said. “This trail runs into it after a couple miles.”
“Is it drivable?” Ed asked.
Garrett thought for a moment. “It’s rutted as hell in spots, but any four-wheel-drive vehicle could handle it. A heavy-duty two-wheel drive could handle most of it.”
“Where does it go?” Tyler asked.
“Off our land,” Garrett said. “Across Mother Grundy Truck Trail Road, and on into Deerhorn Valley. It kinda links up with Honey Springs Road.”
“Kinda?” Sid asked, stopping.
“It doesn’t get all the way there, because of a seasonal creek. Used to go through, but every year it got washed out. They eventually moved the stagecoach route someplace else. I’d be surprised if that little van could hack it, frankly.”
“We should follow this all the way,” Sid said. “Are there any spurs off this before the stagecoach road?”
“Nothing but hiking trails,” Garrett said.
“Good, then let’s get in the Jeep,” Sid said.
Sam got behind the wheel again, Sid riding shotgun, the rest getting in back. They drove forward.
“How far to your property line?” Ed asked, looking at Garrett.
“Couple miles, give or take.”
“Hell of a spread,” Tyler said. “This is almost as big as our reservation.”
“Heard anything about your reservation?” Garrett asked. “I sure would like to go to your casino again.”
Ed’s expression was sad. “I hope we have enough left of the tribe to re-open it after this.”
“We will,” Ryan said. “Trust me.”
“I hope you’re right,” Ed said.
They road silently for a while, crossing over Mother Grundy Truck Trail Road, heading outside of Garrett’s land. The sun was higher in the sky, the heat beginning to hit them harder with the top off the Jeep.
“Should’ve brought a hat,” Sam said.
“You need one of these,” Garrett said, tipping his cowboy hat.
“Maybe so,” Sam replied.
“Slow down,” Sid said.
Sam took his foot off the accelerator. “You see something?”
Sid nodded. “What’s with the grayish white pebbles all of a sudden?”
“What grayish white pebbles?” Garrett asked.
“Stop the Jeep,” Sid said. Sam put on the brakes and Sid jumped out, walking to one of them. He picked it up and brought it over.
“Crap, that looks like it came from a gravel road,” Garrett said, eyes darting around.
“Maybe somebody filled that creek you were talking about with gravel, so they could drive across it,” Sid said.
“Son of a bitch,” Garrett said. “They’re building a road back here.”
“Who owns this land?” Sam asked.
“It’s BLM. Tried to petition to buy it, but the Feds wouldn’t have it. They tried to force us off our land at one point, to get us to back off.”
“Interesting,” Sid said. “Wonder why?”
“I thought it was because of the stagecoach road, and the ruins on our land. Knowing what I know about those cretins now, could’ve been anything.”
“Let’s keep going,” Sid said.
The men got back in the Jeep, seeing more and more of the rock as they rolled forward, the terrain turning from flat into rolling hills, the road rising and falling ahead of them.
Ivan’s meeting in the saloon was just ending, when his cellphone buzzed. He looked at it, then held up his hand. “Hold it a minute. This is from one of our contacts on the southern border. I’ll put it on speaker.”
Ivan answered and pushed the speaker button. “This is Ivan.”
“Ivan, how are you? This is Conrad.”
“How’s things down by Jacumba?”
“It’s turned into a city,” he said. “You heard we were using artillery on the enemy, right?”
“Yeah, we heard,” Ivan said. “What’s on your mind?”
“We heard that Highway 94 was open again, and wanted to suggest that you bring your battle wagons and off-roaders down that way. The enemy is fanning out wide due to the artillery. We see a pretty large group heading for the area south of Tierra Del Sol Road.”
“I know where that is,” Willard said.
“You sure we want to pull everything away from here, partner?” Tex asked. “We’ve got a lot of people and supplies to protect.”
“I wouldn’t bring them all,” Conrad said. “What do you have?”
Jules came closer. “We have forty-five off-roaders, and thirty-three battle wagons. How many men head to that spot?”
“Hard to tell exactly,” Conrad said. “Couple hundred thousand. It’s the extreme western tip of the enemy advance. We’re bringing people straight south from Ocotillo as well, to widen our presence on the border.”
“No more than half, no?” Jules said.
Ivan glanced over at him, then looked at the phone. “We need to discuss this. How far is the enemy from the border right now?”
“Thirty miles, and they’ve slowed down, now that we’ve scattered them with the artillery.”
Ted looked up from his phone. “Yeah, that’s what I’m seeing on the apps.
“Me too,” Sparky said. “The center section is a little ahead of the west and east tips.”
“That’s where we have our biggest concentration of men,” Conrad said. “I’ll let you go.”
“Talk to you soon,” Ivan said. He ended the call, then sat back down. “I guess we’re not done after all.”
“So it would appear,” Sparky said.
“We can’t make an agreement on this without Sam, Ed, Garrett, and Sid,” Erica said.
“I agree,” Jules said.
Tex nodded, taking off his hat and running a hand through his hair. “Yep.”
Ivan was silent for a moment, thinking.
“You think it’s okay to go ahead without them, partner?” Tex asked.
“No, no,” Ivan said, “I agree with the concerns. The entire leadership team must agree on this. I’m leaning against it, truth be told.”
“What we’ll face down there is a multitude of enemy fighters on foot, spread out in a wide area. They’ll dig in and make us come to them, and we’ll expend all our grenades trying to hit them. I’d rather hit what’s left of them on the road, when they’re more bunched together.”
“I agree, partner,” Tex said. “This is a better job for the citizen infantry. They’ll be more effective.”
“We can’t guarantee no hit here,” Jules said, rubbing his chin. “They try yesterday, no? They try again today or tomorrow.”
“That’s another thing,” Ivan said, “but we can’t take a request from our southern flank lightly either. We need to work this out in detail. When are the others due back?”
“Few hours,” Erica said. “Last text I got from Sam said they were following an old stagecoach road to the northeast. That’s where the van tracks led them.”
“Crap, that’s not good,” Willard said. “That road goes way out into BLM land, and ends up dangerously close to the highway.”
“What highway?” Tex asked.
“Honey Springs Road,” Willard said. “Which, by the way, is reachable from Julian. Go south on Highway 79, make a couple transitions, and you’re on that damn road.”
“How many hours is that?”
“Just a sec,” Erica said, looking at her phone. “Hell, under two hours.”
“Dammit,” Ivan said.
Jules’s phone dinged with a text. He read it, then hit a contact and put the phone to his ear, walking away.
“Wonder who that is?” Tex asked, “didn’t like his expression.”
Ivan shot a glance, his brow furrowed. Jules was back in a moment.
“I have Robbie on line. Seth and Kaitlyn’s program show problem. On speaker.” He set his phone down on the table and pushed the speaker button. “You hear, Robbie?”
“Loud and clear,” Robbie said. “Ben, Seth, Kaitlyn, and Morgan are here.”
“Tell what see,” Jules said.
“Yeah, partner, let us have it. We’ll add it to the pile of other good news.”
Sparky laughed, but then shut up when nobody else did.
“Go ahead, please,” Ivan said.
“We ran the history report late this morning,” Robbie said. “We noticed that roughly seven hundred icons disappeared.”
“Dammit,” Ted said. “When?”
“Early this morning.”
“Julian,” Seth said.
“You think they’re being moved in shielded vehicles?” Ted asked.
“Don’t know what else to think,” Seth said.
“What if they all took out their chips and burned them?” Erica asked.
“No way,” Kaitlyn said. “They disappeared in a window of about ten minutes.”
“I’m still not getting how they’d have the capacity to hide that many fighters,” Sparky said.
“That’s what we thought at first,” Robbie said, “but we did some quick research and found out how many people could be stuffed into semi-trailers.”
“Where’d you get that info?” Sparky asked.
“Article on smuggling illegal immigrants,” Kaitlyn said.
“Oh,” Ivan said. “Makes sense. You’re saying all they’d need is two semis to get them down here.”
“That’s still a lot of lead shielding,” Sparky said. “Where’d they get it?”
“That’s a question for another day,” Ivan said. “We have to assume that they’re coming here.”
“It’s likely that they’re already here, partner,” Tex said. “Getting pretty close to noon.”
“Let’s get Sam on line,” Ji-Ho said.
“Yeah, I think you right,” Jules said. “I patch into this call.” He fumbled with his phone for a moment, then set it back down. “You on, Sam?”
“Yeah,” Sam said. “Was just going to call you guys.”
“Robbie, still on?” Jules asked.
“Yes,” Robbie said.
“Uh oh, what’s going on?” Sid asked.
Ji-Ho got closer to the phone. “History program show seven hundred enemy fighters disappear from Julian early this morning.”
“Son of a bitch,” Garrett said. “We’re about to get hit.”
“Very possible,” Ivan said. “What were you guys going to tell us?”
“We’re on this stagecoach road,” Sid said. “All of a sudden we start seeing grayish white pebbles.”
“That the route the van come on?” Jules asked.
“Yes,” Sid said. “There’s a gravel road back here someplace.”
“They probably used it to get over that dry creek bed off Honey Springs Road,” Garrett said.
“I knew it,” Willard said, “as soon as that road got brought up.”
“Who brought it up?” Garrett asked.
Willard smiled. “I did, when Erica mentioned the old stagecoach road.”
“Okay, time to focus on next steps,” Ivan said. “Time isn’t on our side.”
“I agree,” Ted said. “We need to cover the back door and the front door. We know they’ve got at least two semis on the way.”
“We don’t know that for sure,” Sparky said.
“Okay, we have to assume it, though,” Ted said.
“Ted right,” Jules said.
“I’m texting my guys,” Garrett said. “We’ll get the cannons manned and loaded. They’re all pointing at the entrance roads on that side of the property. I’ll get the cavalry on alert as well.”
“We send off-roaders to where you are,” Jules said.
“All of them?” Ted asked.
“Yes,” Jules said, “off-roaders there, battle wagons here with infantry. We have many now. Enemy won’t win.”
“What kind of cannon do you guys have?” Ivan asked.
Seth chuckled. “Don’t ask.”
“Hey, don’t knock them,” Willard said. “They’ll split a semi wide open with one shot.”
Ivan’s eyes were still questioning. Willard laughed. “We’ve got civil war cannons, sir. With plenty of powder and cannon balls. Knocked the crap out of this enemy with those suckers more than once.”
“Okay, we’ll chat about that later,” Garrett said. “My men just got my text, and they’re getting into position. Let’s get those off-roaders coming this direction.”
“What do you guys have with you out there?” Erica asked.
“Not enough,” Ed said. “Four M60s and half a dozen M4s.”
“I got a crate of grenades and a mortar in the back,” Sam said. “Wish we had more.”
“The off-roaders will be there in hurry,” Jules said. “Don’t get killed. Run for it if need to. That order.”
“Heard you loud and clear,” Sam said. “We’re in a Jeep, and we’re all experienced fighters. Don’t worry about us. Just get those off-roaders out here.”
“Okay, we’re getting off the line,” Ivan said. “Good luck, all.”
Jules ended the call. “To battle wagons.”
“Get the women and children into the mine,” Ted said.
“Well, some of the women, anyway,” Erica said. “Some of us know how to fight.”
“You’re right about that,” Tex said.
“They hit front side first,” Ji-Ho said. “Try to ambush us with back people. We nail them.”
“Yes, that’s what I expect,” Ivan said.
The group hurried out of the saloon.
“Mommy, where are we going?” Mia asked, as Erica rushed her to the mine, Anna following with other women and children.
“You’ll take care of her?” Erica asked.
“Of course, but I wish you’d stay down here with us. We’ve got plenty of fighters.”
“I’m one of the best,” Erica said. “You know that.”
Anna sighed. “I know. You’ve got too much of your father in you.”
“Thank God for that,” Erica said. They entered the dark tunnel, rushing down to one of the larger caverns, where a number of women and children were already gathered.
Kaitlyn came out when she heard them. “Are you fighting?” she asked Erica.
“Yes, but you’re not,” she said.
“I’m as good as you are,” Kaitlyn said.
“You’re better,” Erica said, “only because you’re younger, but that doesn’t matter.”
“I can’t right VB code. We need you down here. If not for that program you and Seth cooked up, we wouldn’t have a chance.”
“She’s right,” Seth said, head poked out of the door. “Get back in here. We’ve got work to do. There’s plenty of people out there to fight, believe me.”
Kaitlyn shrugged and shook her head. “He just doesn’t want me to get hurt.”
“You’re damn straight,” Seth said, “but the facts are the facts. We’re important. We’ve found our niche. Our place is with the data, so come on.”
She went back into the room, turning back to Erica. “You’d better not get hurt.”
“I’ll do my best,” she said. “At least I don’t have to be in one of those tin cans.”
“Mommy, I don’t want you to go,” Mia said, eyes brimming with tears.
“Don’t worry, honey, I’ll be fine,” Erica said, squatting down next to her. “You stay with Auntie Anna, understand?”
“I know,” she said, looking down. “I don’t want you or daddy to die.”
“I won’t die,” Erica said. “Neither will daddy. I promise.”
Anna took her hand. “Come on, Mia, let’s go help the others, okay? You can be a big girl, can’t you?”
She looked at Erica again, longing in her eyes, then turned to Anna and nodded yes. They disappeared into the big room, Erica looking at the empty opening for a moment, before turning and rushing outside. Her phone rang. She answered it.
“Ed, what’s going on. See the enemy yet?”
“No,” he said. “Anna and Mia are someplace safe, right?”
“They’re in the mine,” she said. “I’m just leaving there now.”
“Gather up some of the warriors and guard the mine,” Ed said. “That’s the most important thing you can do.”
“I should be on the front lines,” Erica said.
“I figured you’d argue. Sam, your turn.”
“Hey,” Sam said. “Guard Mia. Please?”
She sighed. “You two are ganging up on me.”
“You’re damn straight,” Sam said. “It’s the best place you can be. Do like Ed suggested. Lead the warriors. Protect the women and children. What could be more important than that?”
“Okay, okay, I’ll do it,” she said. “I’ll go gather the warriors.”
Sam paused for a moment. “Ed already sent them texts. They’re on their way now.”
Erica looked up, and saw thirty warriors rushing over, armed with M60s, RPGs, and M4s. “They’re here. Talk to you later. Don’t get killed.”
“I won’t, honey,” Sam said. The call ended.
“Around the opening?” asked the first warrior.
Erica backed away from the mine, looking at the terrain and the buildings nearby. “Some on the rocks above. Some down the side street to the east. Some in that building across the road. Some in the mill on the west. Sound good?”
“Perfect,” the warrior said. The men moved into position, Erica taking a place just inside the opening of the mine, where she could see the street in both directions. She checked her AK-47, then settled in to watch.
“Sounds like they’re ready,” Sid said, eyes peeled out the front of the Jeep as they rolled along the stagecoach road.
“Where’s Yvonne?” Ed asked.
“She’s in the battle wagon with Clem and Sarah,” he said.
“Get off the road,” Garrett said sharply.
Sam reacted, turning off into the weeds, on the low side of one of the hills. “What?”
“I hear a vehicle coming,” he whispered as they parked.
“I hear it too,” Sid said. “Quiet everybody.”
“Think that’s the semi?” Ryan asked.
“No, that sounds like something else,” Ed said.
“The road ahead won’t take a semi without some work,” Garrett whispered. “There’s another creek bed down at the bottom of the next valley, just over this little hill.”
“We need to sneak up there and look,” Sid said. “Maybe you ought to stay here and let me sneak up there. I’m good at that.”
“So am I,” Tyler said, “I’ll join you.”
“Okay, but no more,” Sam said. “Don’t take anything shiny up there.”
Sid and Tyler both nodded, leaving the others, climbing the gentle slope of the hill, slowing when they neared the top, getting onto their bellies in the weeds.
“Glad the grass is high,” Tyler whispered. Sid nodded in agreement as they inched up further.
Sid peeked over the top. “I knew it.”
Tyler joined him, then both backed down.
Sam was coming up the hill to meet them on the way down. “What was it?”
“Gravel truck, filling in that creek bed,” Tyler whispered.
“There isn’t anywhere else that a semi can’t go, until real close to town,” Sid whispered. “We ought to wait here for them, blast them in the valley.”
“No,” Sam said. “Let’s backup, find some cover.”
“Why?” Sid asked.
Ed chuckled. “I know why. If we take out the rig back here before their front team is in place, they’ll take off, and live to fight another day with their shielded vehicle intact. We should wait until they’re both committed, and destroy them.”
To be continued…
Bug Out! Texas Book 1 is now just 99 cents in the Kindle Store! Free in Kindle Unlimited! This is the story of Texas Patriots and their struggle against enemies, foreign and domestic, during the Bug Out! War. Chock full of action, adventure, suspense, and romance. Pick up your copy of Bug Out! Texas Book 1 today!
The first of my full length novels has been published in the Amazon Kindle store, available now. For those of you have have been readying the Bugout! series, the story involves George and Malcolm, and is set about seven years earlier. This book R rated, instead of the PG-13 of the Bugout! Series, so be warned. Here’s the link to “Never A Loose End”
Copyright Robert Boren 2017