Bugout! California Part 98 – Damage

Ivan made good on his promise, sending the download link to Jules’s leadership team early in the morning. Shelly woke to her phone dinging when it arrived.

“It’s here, honey,” Shelly whispered to Jules.

“How you know I awake?”

“Your breathing,” she said. “Did you send out a meeting notice yet?”

“Not yet,” Jules said.

“Sounds like a Chief of Staff task to me,” Shelly said. “I’ll do it. Tex, Ted, and Sparky, right?”

“Yes,” Jules said, turning to gaze at her. She noticed.

“Wait,” she said. “Let me do this. We can play afterward if you want. It’s still early.”

He nodded as she typed on her phone and broadcasted the message to the leadership team.

“Should we schedule a meeting with the rest of the team?” she asked.

“After the first meeting,” Jules said. “Now come here.”

“My, but aren’t we hot to trot, even after yesterday.”

Jules didn’t say anything, the need showing on his face. Shelly moaned as he pulled her to himself.

Afterwards Jules drifted off to sleep, waking to find Shelly out of bed. He got up and went into the salon, where she was making coffee.

“Hey, sweetie,” she said, turning towards him.

“Good morning.” He sat in the dinette and watched her in her long t-shirt, her short blonde hair swaying as she moved. “You’re so beautiful.”

“Stop it,” she said. “That meeting is coming up in an hour.”

“I know,” he said. “I get dressed.”

“Yes, do that. I’ll get dressed in a few minutes too.”

“Where we meet?” Jules asked.

“Here,” she said. “I thought it would be best for such a small group.”

“You right,” Jules said. “More coffee cups in pantry.”

“Yes, I found them earlier.”

Jules went into the bedroom and got dressed, thinking that they needed to do laundry, and that they needed more clothes. Shelly joined him after a couple minutes, handing him a cup of coffee. “You like it black, right?”

“Yes,” he said, taking it from her. He sipped. “Perfect.”

She nodded and dressed as he left the room.

Tex showed up first, Karen by his side. Then Sparky and Ted, both alone.

“Uh oh, should I leave?” Karen asked.

“No,” Jules said. “No problem. Shelly will stay as well.”

“We in trouble, partner?” Tex asked.

“No, we get gift. You see download link on your phone this morning?”

“Shoot, I haven’t checked,” Tex said, pulling his phone out.

“Been a little busy, huh?” Sparky asked. Karen turned four shades of red. Tex just shot him a smile.

“It’s here,” Tex said. “What is it?”

“Remember applications that General Hogan’s team worked?”

“The ones that read enemy RFID chips?” Ted asked.

“Yes, that it,” Jules said. “They do limited release to Ivan’s leadership team.”

“Oh, really?” Sparky asked. “Do they work?”

“Yes, do,” Jules said. “Pretty good news, no?”

“Very good news,” Ted said. “I saw the download link earlier. Thought it was some kind of spam or something.”

“Yeah, me too,” Sparky said.

“Do downloads, then we install and walk through,” Jules said.

They got to work. Karen nodded to Shelly, and they went into the bedroom.

“How’s it going?” Shelly asked. “Your body language with Tex looks different this morning.”

She smiled. “I’m his.”

“That’s it? You’re his?” Shelly looked into her eyes. “Because you want to be?”

“Of course,” Karen said. “I resisted him for a long time, remember? Kinda like somebody else I know.”

Shelly sighed. “Yeah, I know.”

“Is it going okay between you and Jules?”

“Oh, God,” Shelly said, her eyes misting up. “I’ve fallen so hard for that man.”


“Really,” Shelley said. “It’s still hard for me to believe.”

“I know that feeling,” Karen said. “I wish we were in normal times. I’d rent a hotel room for a week and not let him out of bed the whole time.”

Shelly snickered. “We’re so naughty. I’m anxious for the meeting to be over so we can be alone again for a little while.”

“I know, isn’t it weird? I’m having the same kinds of thoughts.”

“We need to be careful,” Shelly said. “Both of us.”


“So we don’t get hurt too badly if things go wrong,” Shelly said.

“I can’t be like that,” Karen said. “That’s holding back, and holding back isn’t what I want to do.”

Shelly thought about it for a moment. “Dammit. You’re right. We’re cast out on the sea, and we’re going to roll with the waves.”

“It’s like that even when the world isn’t like this,” Karen said. “You know that, right? You’ve been in love before, haven’t you?”

“Of course,” Shelly said. “It’s scary and intoxicating at first, but it always either settles down or ends after a while. Hope it doesn’t end this time.”

“Yeah,” Karen said. “Do you understand what they’re talking about out there?”

“I do,” Shelly said. “We’ve been set up since last night. Wait till you use the long-range app to look at Washington, DC.”

“Lots of traitors?”

“It looks like a blob on the map,” Shelly said. “Want to go back out there?”


They got up and went back into the salon. The men had finished setting up their apps, and Jules was showing them how to work them.

“This is a game-changer,” Ted said.

“You got that right, partner,” Tex said.

“Where are we hitting first?” Sparky asked.

“We hit the Mertins Electronics plant in San Jose,” Jules said. “Timing depend on Ivan’s other teams. Joint effort. That easy part, though.”

“Uh oh,” Ted said. “What else?”

“Ivan know where women being held,” Jules said. “Like our women were, in Torrance.”

Karen got a scared look on her face. Shelly noticed and put her hand on her shoulder.

“We’re going to rescue them, I hope,” Tex said, his face grim. “I hate these bastards.”

“Yes, we do, but this most dangerous of missions,” Jules said. “Not just blow up and kill. Complex operation. Must do by numbers, like assault on Torrance Civic Center.”

“I want to be involved,” Karen said. There were tears running down her cheeks.

“You shall,” Jules said. “We all, but must volunteer. Like I say, more dangerous. We meet with big group this afternoon. Show apps, discuss Mertins plant, then talk about rescues.”

“You don’t look that upset about this,” Karen said, looking at Shelly.

“I found out last night,” Shelly said. “That’s when I had my reaction.”

“Oh,” Karen said. “You’re going in too?”

“Hell yes,” Shelly said. “How could I not?”

“Maybe we shouldn’t be including the women in that operation,” Sparky said. “Some of them are just now getting back to normal, you know.”

“That’s for us to decide,” Karen said.

“I know,” Sparky said. “I’m just worried.”

“Is Dana having problems?” Shelly asked.

Sparky was silent for a moment, then looked over at her. “Yes, I think so, but she won’t talk about it. She’s using me as her life raft. It worries me. This could make things worse.”

“Why worried?” Jules asked.

“I’m a human being,” Sparky said. “I’m not the knight in shining armor that she thinks I am.”

Shelly looked at him, seeing the tears forming around his eyes. “You’re in love with her, aren’t you?”

“I’m not good enough for her,” Sparky said.

“There’s the answer to that question,” Karen said.

“No, really,” Sparky said. “I probably can’t hang in there the way she needs me too. I’m not the selfless hero she thinks I am.”

“You worry too much, no?” Jules said. “If works, works. Don’t pressure self. Love of a good woman make you strong if you let it. Tomorrow take care of self.”

“Easy to say,” Sparky said.

“Do you want her?” Shelly asked.

“That’s not the problem,” Sparky said. “She’s the best woman I’ve ever been with, and that’s the truth.”

“You don’t want to disappoint her, partner,” Tex said. “That’s the best indication of love that there is.”

“Can we talk about something else?” Sparky asked. “Please?”

“All right, let’s move on,” Jules said. “Study apps while we have down time. Get feel for movement patterns of enemy. Share thoughts with others on team, but don’t replicate apps for anybody. Understand?”

“How long do we have before the Mertins attack?” Karen asked.

“I just guess,” Jules said. “Three or four days. Possible it’s earlier, even tomorrow.” His phone dinged. Jules looked at it, a wide smile washing over his face.

“What just happened, partner?” Tex asked.

“General Hogan,” Jules said.

“What about him?” Ted asked, standing up.

“Rescued. Back with team.”

“Thank God,” Sparky said.

“Okay, on your way,” Jules said. “Meeting over. You know what do.”

Everybody stood and got ready to leave.

“Sparky,” Jules said. “Stay for minute, okay?”

He nodded yes as the others left.

“Can you give minute, Shelly?” Jules asked.

“Yes, I’ll go outside for a few,” Shelly said. She followed the others out the door.

Sparky watched them leave, Shelly closing the door behind herself. “Am I in trouble, boss?”

“I worry about you,” Jules said. “I want you to know what others think of you. How much respect they have. You need to know.”

“Oh, come on,” Sparky said. “I’m fine.”

“No, not,” Jules said. “You one of best men I ever work with. Solid. Smart. Loyal. Good heart.”

Sparky sat back down on the couch, on the verge of tears. “I’m a mess.”

“What mess? Just relationship?”

Sparky smiled. “Just relationship. It’s pretty much everything.”

Jules studied him for a moment. “Love deep with you. I didn’t see until this morning. Thought you were reluctant with Dana. Not that way. Not at all.”

“She’s having problems, and I’m not strong enough to cope with them,” Sparky said.

“What kind problem?”

“I don’t think I want to talk about it,” Sparky said.

“It me, Jules, your old friend.”

“I know,” Sparky said.

“Then tell.”

He sighed. “Okay, okay. You’re right. I’m in love with Dana. It took a while, but now she’s the focus of everything that I am, and it makes things all that much harder.”

“This not bad,” Jules said. “I feel like that about Shelly.”

“You notice we aren’t staying in this coach with you whenever possible, right?”

“Shy about lovemaking,” Jules said. “Not unusual, but we have door between us. We knock before going through.”

“It’s worse than that,” Sparky said. “Sometimes when we’re making love, Dana slips back into the captivity and goes kinda crazy.”

“How crazy?” Jules asked.

Sparky stood and unbuttoned his shirt, showing bruises and scratches on his chest. “This crazy. I have to hold her down until she gets over it.”

Jules was silent for a moment, looking away, then back at him. “You stay even with that. It says something.”

“It doesn’t happen every time,” Sparky said, buttoning his shirt. He sat back down.

“How often?”

“Maybe every third or fourth time,” Sparky said.

“You think you aren’t strong enough to help her through,” Jules said. “Not that you aren’t good enough to deserve her.”

“Yeah, probably,” Sparky said.

“Not probably. You know, don’t run away from your feelings.”

“It was easier before I was in love with her,” Sparky said. “Now it’s like watching a family member go through this.”

Jules was silent for a couple minutes, thinking.

“Are we done?” Sparky asked.

“No,” Jules said. “Gathering thoughts. Sit tight.”

Sparky nodded, looking nervous.

“She need therapy,” Jules said. “Probably years of. That tough now. She only have you for time being. Can she survive with just you for short term?”

“I don’t know,” Sparky said. “I’ve tried to limit our intimacy, but she won’t have it, and now it’s hard for me to resist it too.”

“She still wants because of comfort,” Jules said. “Probably because she wants to keep you on hook. She needs you.”

“I guess,” Sparky said.

Jules chuckled. “Always hem and haw with you. Does she know you love her?”

“I’ve never said it,” Sparky said.

“Tell her,” Jules said. “Make her know you not leave her. Make her know you stay no matter what. Then maybe she not worry, not push herself too hard.”

“I’ll try,” Sparky said, eyes misting up. “I know she wants to hear that. Can’t imagine that she doesn’t know it already.”

“You have to tell,” Jules said. “Even if she should know. Very important.”

Sparky nodded.

“Go be with her,” Jules said. “We talk later, no?”

“Okay, boss,” Sparky said, getting up. He walked to the door, then turned back to him. “Thanks. You’ve always been a good friend to me.”

Jules nodded. “Send Shelly back in if you see, okay?”

“Will do,” Sparky said as he left.

Jules plopped himself down on the couch, trembling, then crying. Shelly came back in, not expecting to see him in that state. She rushed to his side.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“War,” he said. “Cruelty. The human soul. It’s so bleak. Society have problems, even after battles over.”

“What did Sparky tell you? Is he having problems with Dana?”

“Dana having episodes,” Jules said. “She slip into when they together.”

“Oh,” Shelly said. “I’m surprised more of us aren’t having that problem.”

“That why I cry,” Jules said. “I worry. About you. And Karen. And others.”

“We’re survivors,” Shelly said.

“Yes, I know, but price to pay. May pay now like Dana. May pay years from now.”

“You’re afraid I’m going to have problems,” she said softly. “I understand. Just know this. You’re helping the situation, not hurting it, and I suspect it’s the same with Sparky and Dana. I know it is with Tex and Karen.”

“Sparky not tell her he loves,” Jules said. “I told him he should. Hope I did right.”

“It was advice, not an order,” Shelly said. “You don’t have that much power there, so don’t worry. Sparky is a smart, sensitive man. He’ll figure it out. The two of them will figure it out.”

“I hope,” Sparky said. He got off the couch. “What do now? Go outside?”

She stood up next to him, standing on her tiptoes to kiss him. “Do we have to be anywhere right now?”

“No,” Sparky said, his arms going around her waist.

“Good, then let’s go back to bed,” she said. “I think I need some more therapy.”

Jules chuckled and shook his head. “That was almost in bad taste, no?”

“So I’m a little naughty. C’mon.”

They went back into the bedroom.


Hasan woke with a start, trying to roll onto his side, stopped by the heavy wrist and ankle irons. Sharp pain hit him in his upper arm. The last several days came rushing back at him. He looked around the room. He was on a twin-sized bed, the chains attached to the brass bedframe. The walls were covered with pictures that a young boy would put up. There was a shelf against the far wall holding toy trucks and cars, a desk next to that with a broken computer sitting on it.

“Hello?” he said as loudly as he could. “Anybody here?” He shook his chains hard, making metallic noises. The door opened, and Anna peeked in.

“How are you feeling, Hasan?” she asked as she walked in.

“The wound hurts like a son of a bitch,” he said. “Do they have to keep me chained up like this?”

“We have to protect ourselves, at least until you prove yourself to us,” Anna said. “I’ve got more pain meds. I’ll go get them, and then we’ll get you something to eat. There’s a water bottle right above your head, on the shelf at the head of the bed.”

Hasan nodded, then reached up with his unchained hand, finding the bottle, taking a large drink. Anna came back in with a pill bottle. She gave him two.

“These will help,” she said.

“Will they put me to sleep again?”

“They shouldn’t,” Anna said. “Unless you need the sleep. We need to keep a close eye on the wound. That was basically an operation we did on you, and it was in a kitchen, not a hospital.”

“I understand,” Hasan said. He took the pills. “Do you know what they’re going to do with me?”

“I heard a couple of the men talking about a jail in Dodge City,” Anna said. “That would be more comfortable than here.”

“I hope so,” he said. “What’s Dodge City?”

“It’s where Garrett’s group is based,” Anna said. She shot him a smirk. “I haven’t seen it yet, but I hear it’s a replica old west town.”

“America is strange,” Hasan said. “Never ceased to amaze me.”

“Did you choose to go to school here?” Anna asked.

“Yes,” Hasan said, “and don’t get me wrong. I actually love this country. I just got pissed, and made some bad choices.”

Anna pulled the chair out from the desk and sat facing him.

“This is a little boys room,” Hasan said. “Where is he?”

“This place belonged to the Williams family,” Anna said. “When the Islamists and the UN first rolled in here, they slaughtered the whole family, as part of taking over the town.”

“Oh, my God, the boy is dead?” Hasan asked.

“You know what’s been going on,” Anna said.

He sighed. “Yes, I know.”

“You say you love this country,” Anna said. “Can you forgive the bad that we’ve done?”

“I didn’t think Americans thought that anything they do was bad,” Hasan said. “No offence.”

Anna chuckled. “I’m an Indian. You know that, right?”

“I know,” Hasan said. “Your people are fighting us everywhere, sometimes even harder than normal Americans.”

“Normal Americans?” Anna asked, flashing a sly smile.

“Sorry, you know what I meant,” Hasan said.

“Governments do bad things from time to time,” Anna said. “All governments. The US Government was very unfair to my people. Sometimes they were downright brutal.”

“And yet you are okay with them now?”

“The Federal Government?” Anna asked. She laughed. “Land sakes no, they’re at least partially behind this mess we’ve been in.”

“But you ally yourselves with the population,” Hasan said. “Why?”

“Our problems were mostly during the nineteenth century,” Anna said. “They were real problems, and we have grievances. In the twentieth century and this century, we’ve made peace. We’re friends. And by the way, my daughter is engaged to a white boy. They’re getting married today.”

Hasan smiled and shook his head. “Like I said, this country never ceases to amaze me.”

Anna stood, smiling at him. “I think you’re a nice young man. Don’t worry, we aren’t going to hurt you. We will protect ourselves, but you can win us over, given some time. I’ll go get you some food, and bring a couple men to escort you to the bathroom.”

She left the room. Hasan took another drink of water, then laid down on his side. What do I do now?

To be continued…


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