Bugout! California Part 117 – Foster

Zac, Bradley, and Ryan cruised down the dusty road in their Jeep, the back filled with replacement parts for Ed’s hovercraft.

“Should be just around this bend,” Zac said from behind the wheel.

“Watch the apps,” Ryan said, looking around nervously, M-60 across his lap in the back seat.

“Nobody around,” Bradley said. “I think we chased them away from this area.”

“I don’t,” Ryan said, his brow furrowed, eyes squinting as he scanned the hills on either side. They rounded a big rock outcropping, and there was the hovercraft, stuck on the downside of a berm to the right of the road.

“It’s gonna take all three of us to wrestle that sucker back onto flat ground,” Zac said as he parked.

“We could hook it to the Jeep and pull it up,” Bradley said, climbing out of the passenger seat. Ryan jumped out of the back, Zac getting out of the driver’s seat. They walked to the hovercraft, Zac looking underneath in the morning sun.

“Starting to get hot,” Bradley said.

“Seriously,” Zac said, getting back up. “I think the skids will protect the bottom well enough if we tow it up. Need to move a couple of those rocks, though.”

“On it,” Bradley said, lifting the bowling-ball sized rocks away from the front of the hovercraft, as Zac got behind the wheel of the Jeep.

“I’ll help,” Ryan said.

They worked for a couple minutes.

“Okay, we’re clear,” Bradley said, dusting his hands off against each other. He stood with Ryan and watched Zac back up to the edge of the road. Then Bradley pulled the chain out of the back, attaching an end onto the Jeep’s rear hook as Ryan pulled the other end towards the hovercraft. He got down on his hands and knees and looked underneath. “We need a big bolt or something to attach this.”

“Got something,” Zac said. He rushed from the driver’s seat to the back and opened the floor compartment, pulling out a large bolt with washers and a nut on it.

“That’ll work,” Ryan said, smiling as Zac walked over. He used it to fasten the chain, then rushed back to the driver’s seat.

“Watch for me,” Zac said. He started the engine and moved forward slowly, the Jeep in 2L four-wheel drive. The hovercraft moved when the chain got taut, sliding up the dirt and onto the road.

“Hold it,” Bradley said.

Zac shut down the engine and joined the others.

“We’re gonna have to prop this up,” Ryan said.

Bradley smiled. “That’s what the angle iron is for. We’ll prop it up like a lean-to so we can get to the busted transfer case.”

The three men struggled to get the hovercraft propped up.

“That’s stable enough,” Zac said.

“You guys need me here?” Ryan asked.

“No, not really,” Zac said. “Why?”

“I want to go on that ridge over there and keep watch, just in case. We can’t see those damn UN guys on the apps, remember?”

“Good idea,” Bradley said.

“Yeah, go ahead,” Zac said. “We’ll be done in about twenty minutes, as long as there isn’t something busted that I don’t expect.”

Ryan nodded and trotted down the road, making a left and going up the side of a small ridge. The wind blew his hair around as he reached the top. He looked, squinting again, watching for signs of movement, his M60 next to him. His phone dinged with a text. It was Ed, asking if they got there. Ryan replied yes, and said he was watching from the ridge. Ed replied with a thank you. Ryan went back to watching the area, as the sun rose higher in the sky, scorching the area.

Zac and Bradley had the bottom propeller and the broken transfer case off the hovercraft in about ten minutes, fighting the heat and the sweat which was running into their eyes.

“Damn, this sucks, man,” Bradley said.

“We’ll be done in a few minutes,” Zac said. “Let’s get a drink, though. We’re sweating enough to get dehydrated in a hurry.”

Ryan watched, thinking he was hearing something. What was it? Buckles hitting each other? Rustling? He caught movement out of the corner of his eye. European Commandos. Damn UN. Three coming from the ridge next to the road. Where were they hiding? They were almost to the hovercraft. It was too late to send a text. He leveled his M60, wishing it was a sniper rifle, and squeezed off two rounds, causing Zac and Bradley to whirl around.

“Hold it,” shouted one of the Commandos. They froze, Ryan above trying to get a bead on them, when shots came at him from the other side of the road, one hitting him in the upper arm. He fell beneath the top of the ridge.

“We got that son of bitch,” shouted one of the men in an Italian accent. “Grab them. We take their Jeep.”

The men rushed Zac and Bradley, one frisking as the others covered them.

“Dammit,” Zac said under his breath.

“Shut up,” the commando closest to him said, smacking him in the face with his rifle butt, knocking him out cold.

“Stop, fool,” another commando said. “You want to carry these guys?”

“We’re putting them in their Jeep anyway,” said the man who hit Zac. The men lifted Zac into the back, tossing out the rest of the hovercraft parts and the tools.

“You, get in back,” a commando said to Bradley. He nodded, staying silent, climbing in next to Zac, several guns on them.

“We’ll get them to the van in this,” a man with a German accent said, getting behind the wheel.

“Maybe we should keep this, and follow in it,” another said.

“It might be bugged, idiot,” the German said. “Get in. Now.”

All five commandos squeezed into the Jeep, two of them sitting in the back, guns on Zac and Bradley. The German fired it up and drove forward on the road.

***

Garrett woke up, the sun shining through the window. He threw back the covers, feeling Anna’s matronly body against his side. She stirred, stretching, then rolling towards him, covering one side.

“Good morning,” she said sleepily.

“Yes, it is,” Garrett said, his hand caressing her body as she stretched again. “This is nice.”

“Me?”

“Us together,” Garrett said, finding her mouth and kissing her deeply.

“Our breath,” Anna said, smiling at him.

“Do you really care?”

“No,” she said, coming in for another kiss. “Take me again.”

Garrett moaned, rolling onto her, not taking any time for foreplay. They rushed towards their peak, then came down, lying next to each other on their backs.

“Can we stay here all day?” Garrett asked.

“We’ll have to work up to that. I’m sore. It’s been a while for me.”

“Then maybe we should have breakfast,” Garrett said, getting out of bed. He went to the bathroom for a moment, then came back out and picked his phone off the dresser, looking at the string of text messages. “Dammit.”

“Oh no, what now?” Anna asked, sitting up.

“Zac and Bradley got nabbed while they were trying to fix Ed’s hovercraft. Ryan got wounded, but they didn’t take him. He was up on a ridge. They left him for dead.”

“No,” Anna said. “What’re we going to do?”

“Send in a posse,” Garrett said, getting underwear out of his dresser. “I need to go.”

“Are you going back to the Williams place?” she asked.

Garrett watched her get out of bed and get dressed. She noticed.

“Disappointed?”

“And worried sick,” Garrett said. “Such are the times we live in. We have to take what time we can and hope for more later.”

“Yes, we do,” she said, pulling her top on.

“We have any leads on where they took our warriors?”

“Ryan said they continued on the road where the hovercraft broke down,” Garrett said. He sat on a stool and put his boots on.

“Ryan’s a more experienced warrior than the other two,” Anna said. She walked to him fully dressed. “Ready to go.”

“Good, me too,” Garrett said.

“Somebody already going after Ryan?”

“No, Ed forbid a small group going out there again,” Garrett said. “Shouldn’t have sent three guys out there on their own in the first place.”

“Yep,” Anna said. They walked down the stairs and out onto the veranda, the heat of the day ramping up. Garrett motioned to Tommy and he rushed over.

“Yeah, boss?”

“Tommy, I’m taking off. Two of our guys got nabbed. We’re riding out to find them. Keep an eye on things. When does the main group come back from the hunting trip?”

“They got back early this morning,” Tommy said. “They need to sleep a little while longer.”

“They have any luck?”

“Yeah,” Tommy said. “Four deer. That’ll hold us for a little while.”

“Good,” Garrett said. He helped Anna into the truck, then got behind the wheel and took off.

“What if those people who knocked out Tommy come back?” Anna asked.

“They’ll get killed,” Garrett said. “We’re back up to twenty guys at the bunkhouse, and all of them are good fighters.”

Anna nodded as they bounced along, rolling past the town and onto the highway, heading for the Williams place at high speed.

***

Sam was sitting on the couch looking at his phone screen, Mia next to him with a coloring book in her lap and a box of Crayola’s next to her. Erica came in from the back of the coach, noticing Sam’s worried expression.

“Something wrong?” she asked.

“Let’s go in the back and talk for a minute,” he said, glancing down at Mia.

“Mia, we’ll be right back, okay?” Erica said.

“Okay,” she said, not looking up from her coloring. Sam got up and followed her into the back.

“Let’s have it,” Erica said in hushed tones.

“Zac and Bradley got ambushed and captured by the UN,” he said, his face grim. “While they were working on Ed’s hovercraft.”

“Oh no,” Erica said. “What about Ryan? He went with them.”

“Ryan got wounded, but it sounds like he’s okay. He was up on the ridge, watching for them.”

“Then how did they get the drop on our guys?”

“Not sure,” Sam said. “Garrett and a posse are on their way out there.”

“Sam, when are you coming back?” Mia asked from the couch.

“We done?” Sam asked.

“Wait, we need to talk about something else real quick,” she said.

“Sam!” Mia said.

“She’s scared to be by herself,” Sam said. “There’s still some popsicles in the freezer. I can give her one if we need a few minutes.”

“Bribing that little girl, are we?” Erica asked.

Sam chuckled. “Maybe that’s not a good idea. Can we discuss it in front of her?”

“I can talk around it,” Erica said. “C’mon.”

They went back out, Sam getting on the couch next to Mia. She settled against him, smiling. “Look, it’s pretty.”

“That’s beautiful, honey,” Sam said, looking at the page she’d just colored. He glanced up at Erica, who was smiling. “Ready?”

“We need to discuss our family,” she said.

“You’re not, are you?” Sam asked. “We’ve been careful.”

She smiled. “The birth already happened.” She nodded towards Mia.

Sam shot her a blank look. She raised her eyebrows at him, and his expression changed to one of love. “You want her.”

“So do you,” Erica said, her eyes welling with tears. “Let’s not kid ourselves.”

Sam looked down for a moment, then back up at her, his eyes tearing up too. He shook his head yes. “How? Are those systems even in place anymore?”

“It’ll have to be unofficial until we can get it taken care of.”

“There might be somebody,” Sam said. “More distantly related. They might come out of the woodwork someday.”

“Let’s worry about that if and when it comes up,” Erica said. “For right now, she needs somebody. I think that somebody is us.”

“Are you sure? You wanted to have your own when this was over.”

“And we still can,” Erica said. “She could use a brother or sister.”

Sam was quiet for a moment. “What about us? Shouldn’t we make it official?”

“In due time,” Erica said. “I’m not going anywhere. Are you?”

“No,” Sam said. “Not a chance.”

“So, we can call it settled?”

Sam shook his head yes. “When to we break it to her?”

“I want to chat with Anna about it some,” Erica said. “She might have some ideas on how to broach it with her. She was involved in our preschool back when we had an operating reservation.”

“I’m good with that,” Sam said. “That means I can spoil her a little longer.”

“No you can’t,” Erica said with a grin. “We need to adjust our mindset, and fast.”

“What about the battles?”

“Anna and the others will watch her. We need to get her used to them as soon as possible.”

“They’ll be okay with that?” Sam asked.

“Yes,” Erica said.

“I’m hungry,” Mia said.

“Would you like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?” Erica asked.

“Yes,” Mia said.

“Say please.”

Mia looked at her for a moment. “My mom used to say that.”

“Because it’s what you’re supposed to do,” Erica said.

“Please?” she asked.

“Yes,” Erica said, getting up. She fixed the sandwich, putting it on a small plate, then taking it to the dinette table. “Over here. You can bring your coloring book if you want to.”

She smiled and got up, knocking the crayon box on the floor. “Uh oh.”

“Don’t worry, sweetie, I’ll pick them up,” Sam said. He watched as she climbed onto the dinette bench and set down her book. Then he picked up the crayons, put them in the box, and set them on the dinette next to her book. Erica put her arm around Sam’s waist, pulling him next to her. Mia looked up at them.

“Are you going to be my new mommy and daddy?” she asked.

Sam and Erica glanced at each other, then back at her.

“Would you like that, honey?” Sam asked.

“Yes,” she said. “If you can sing to me at bedtime. My daddy used to do that.”

Sam struggled to keep from crying. “Of course I will, honey.”

“Okay,” she said.

“Well, that was easy,” Erica whispered. She kissed Sam on the cheek. “Maybe it’s time for us to eat lunch too.”

***

“Tex still behind us?” Robbie asked from behind the wheel of their rig.

“Yep,” Morgan said. “Too far back to see, but I just got a text from Karen a second ago. The rest of the rigs are on the road too, about ten minutes behind us.”

“Not all bunched up, I hope.”

“Can’t tell you that,” Morgan said, eyes scanning forward. “You think we’re gonna escape?”

“I’m worried about it. How can we not be under surveillance at this point? There’s video cameras everywhere, and the enemy knows all about these damn battle wagons now. They might be following us the whole way.”

“We’ve done damage,” Morgan said. “Maybe that’s enough to keep them off the trail for a while.”

“Makes me sick that they’ve left the other hostage locations.”

Morgan sighed. “I know. Haven’t heard that they’ve found bodies at the other locations. Hopefully that’s a good sign.”

Robbie was quiet for a moment, his face serious. He looked over at her. “Did you want to just die? When you were a captive?”

“No,” she said quickly. “Not even once. Not even when they were on me.”

“Why?”

“Because of the chance that I was going to get free,” she said. “My love for you helped me a lot. It was a source of strength. You’re thinking that the remaining hostages would be better off dead?”

“I don’t pretend to understand what it’s like to be raped over and over.”

“Every POW who was tortured has a pretty good idea,” Morgan said. “You don’t hear about them wanting to end it all instead.”

“Sometimes you do,” Robbie said.

Morgan sat silently for a moment. “Okay, you’re right. We had a few who had a really hard time. Dana was one. Brooke too. The worst was Lily.”

“Crap, two of them are dead,” Robbie said.

“Lily killed herself,” Morgan said, “but Brooke didn’t. Brooke went down fighting for her life.”

“She did,” Robbie said.

“Lily probably would’ve killed herself eventually no matter what, you know,” Morgan said. “She’d tried more than once before this war started. She was severely bi-polar. The meds weren’t doing enough for her.”

“She told you that?”

Morgan nodded yes, not looking at him. “Dana has night terrors.”

“Who told you that?”

“Sparky,” Morgan said. “You know we’re close.”

“Yes, I know,” Robbie said. “I’m close with Ted.”

“Strange that both of our bosses ended up in this outfit,” Morgan said, shaking her head.

Robbie was quiet again as they drove along, brow furrowed, grinding his teeth.

“You want to ask me more,” Morgan said. “Go ahead.”

“No, we should drop it,” Robbie said. “At least for now. We’re flapping in the breeze. I’d rather keep focused on staying alive.”

“Are you afraid that I’m going to go nutso sometime in the future?”

“I think it’s possible that you’ll have problems,” Robbie said. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. It doesn’t worry me.”

“Then what?”

“I promise we’ll talk about it later, okay?” Robbie said. “I really don’t want to now.”

Morgan looked over at him. “I’m not going to stop loving you because of what happened to me. Please believe me.”

Robbie looked at her for a long moment, then back at the road. “That was never a question in my mind, honey. Really.”

Both of their phones dinged.

“Uh oh, text from Jules,” Morgan said. “Don’t look at it. I’ll read it to you.”

“Okay,” Robbie said.

“Ivan says roadblock coming up, shortly before Concord. He’s got a team on the way to destroy it, but we need to get off the road, and come around the back side. Get off in Walnut Creek, onto Ygnacio Valley Road and head northeast. Wait for further instructions.”

“Here we go,” Robbie said. “Walnut Creek is only two miles away.”

To be continued…

 

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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

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