After lunch yesterday, Christopher was continually scanning the horizon for any signs of people moving toward the house. Because of the tracker, he changed his course from due east to south. He was hoping the reason they had not zeroed in on him was the fact he was going toward them.
The southerly heading soon became mountainous. Bud, answering the call, walked further than last night. As the darkness gave way to the light, Christopher looked for shelter. As he searched the terrain, he found a cave.
Christopher laid Bud on the thermal blanket and covered him. The view from the cave gave him the ability to watch vast areas, preventing them from being caught unaware. He thought of staying a few days to let him get his bearings and plan his next move. Finding terrain features during the night was difficult.
Christopher gathered wood and started a fire back far enough in the cave to avoid the fire’s smoke giving away their position. He then laid beside Bud and cover them both with a second thermal blanket from the field pack.
A few hours later Bud was shaking him, “Christopher, Christopher. are we on a camping trip? Can we play hide and go seek?”
Groggy, Christopher sits up seeing Bud running around the fire, which was more smoldering embers than a fire, “We can play later. Let’s explore the cave? Caves are fun.”
Bud, jumping shouted, “Let’s go exploring Christopher. Maybe we’ll find a bear or a dragon. Can we go now?” Bud asked.
Christopher wondering where his energy was last night, “First we eat breakfast, bush our teeth and get cleaned up then we can explore. Come sit on the blanket. I replicated energy bars and meat sticks for our camping trip.”
Bud on the blanket ate his breakfast as Christopher put more wood on the fire. The sun was an hour above the horizon. Christopher could see with the naked eye for miles. With binoculars he could see the house they left twenty-seven kilometers away. He scanned his field of view and saw nothing in the sky or on the ground.
As he sat on the ground thinking of scenarios why he saw no one on the thirteenth day of collection, Bud sat beside him and looking up at him, “I can’t find my toothbrush.”
Christopher shook his head, “You couldn’t find your tooth brush yesterday, but when I looked for it, I found it on the bottom of your backpack. Did you look there?”
“I don’t remember. Maybe I looked there.”
“Let’s find our tooth brushes and brush our teeth together. Then we can go exploring.”
As they brushed their teeth, scenarios kept running through his head. Why was no one to be seen? The collecting usually ran from an easterly to westerly direction around the planet. Christopher’s curiosity got the best of him and he turned on the radio. There was nothing. No chatter of ground troops or Troop transports. There was no chatter or signal period.
He could think of only two explanations. They’ve left or were on the other side of the planet. Either way, he felt better. But Christopher knew caution was the best course of action.
He and Bud started their day of exploration. They explored the cave and found a source of running water, and as they followed the stream, they found pockets in the cave where they could move further back if needed. Christopher, following the stream, saw it drop off into an opening in the earth. As he peered over the edge, he could not see any bottom.
He turned to Bud, “Monsters may live there. We better go back. I don’t want to wake them.”
Bud holding Christopher’s hand with wide eyes nodded his head and started pulling him back from the edge. By his estimation, the cave was 100 meters deep and could give them hiding places if needed.
After they explored the cave, they ate lunch and then set out to explore the mountain from the cave entrance up to the top. When they reached the top, they saw a town of several hundred homes and stores with paved streets. Christopher estimated the town to be 25 kilometers away. From the top of the mountain, he could see in every direction.
Christopher motioned to Bud as he ran back and forth, “Bud, let’s build a fort here on the top of the mountain.”
“Yeah, let’s build a fort and I’ll be the general.” Bud said.
“OK general, let’s get to building your fort. Where do you want the fort?”
“We can build it right here. Ten meters tall and 30 meters long.”
“Wow, general. Do you see any trees? Why don’t we use what we can find and build the fort?”
“I’ll collect the sticks and you collect the stones private.”
“Yes, sir, general.”
The rest of the day they constructed a fort one meter high and two meters in width with an entrance facing the cave. After they covered it with grass, it was perfectly concealed on the top and sides.
Christopher and Bud gathered more sticks for the fire and headed back to the cave to eat dinner.
After dinner, they cleaned their utensils and burned the ration packets. The sun had set and darkness covered the countryside. Soon Bud drifted off to sleep after a hard day of exploring and building. While Bud slept, Christopher using the thermal setting on the binoculars scanned from the cave entrance the 27 kilometers back to the house they left last night. He saw nothing. He then checked to see if Bud was still asleep. After checking on Bud, Christopher headed to the fort to see if there was anyone moving in the town. As he looked toward the town, he saw a dim light in one house. Someone was there.