Christopher and Bud headed toward the town as darkness covered the land. Both walked for hours to reach the town before daylight. They entered the house where they thought the girl lived as the night retreated from the sun.
“I am Christopher, the smaller one is Bud. We’ve been watching you for two days. Bud and I are fleeing whoever is taking people away too. I have walked for eight hours and need rest. We’re not here to harm you, and we hope you wish us no harm. Bud and I will sleep in the front room. Can we talk when we wake up?”
Christopher laid Bud on one sofa and himself on another, covering Bud and himself with their thermal blankets.
Four hours later, Christopher felt a tug on his blanket. He made a grunting noise, and the tugging stopped. A minute later he felt another tug, “If breakfast is ready. Just ask me to get up.”
He heard a young girl’s wavering voice, “Put your hands where I can see then and sit up.”
Christopher complied putting his hands above his head and turning onto his back putting his feet on the floor. There before him was a slender girl, he guessed to be sixteen, pointing a rifle barrel a meter from his chest.
Christopher looking up at her, “I assume you heard us come in last night and introduced ourselves. I’m Christopher and my little friend over there is Bud. What is your name?”
She walked over to Bud sleeping, “You have a young boy traveling with you? You’re not one of them, are you? What are you doing here?”
“Yes, Bud travels with me. No, I am not one of them. We are here to talk to you and hope we can help protect each other. It’s just simple safety in numbers. Can you help us, young lady?”, Christopher asked.
Bud then woke up rubbing his eyes, “Can we have breakfast now I’m hungry.” Bud then saw the young girl. “You’re the one we saw playing hide and seek yesterday. Did you have candy in the bags? I told Christopher you had candy in the bags, did you? Why are your arms in the air, Christopher? Wow, is she a bandit?”
The young girl looked at Christopher, “Does he have an off button?”
Christopher motioned Bud to come over and sit with him, “Miss, we mean you know harm, other than a lot of questions. You know our names can you tell us yours?”
As she lowered the gun, “Natalie. My name is Natalie.”
“I see you have a replicator. Bud and I walked all night and we are hungry. Can I fix you breakfast too? Bacon, eggs, juice or do you drink coffee?”
Natalie sitting at the table in the kitchen, “I drink breakfast tea.”
Bud sat beside Natalie at the table, “My sister and mother always had breakfast tea. What is it with girls and tea? I like juice. Christopher drinks coffee, don’t you, Christopher?”
Christopher at the replicator, “Yes, Bud, I love coffee.”
As he placed breakfast on the table, he told Natalie the story of Bud and himself, how they met and how they knew she was there. The only part of the story Christopher left out was the part of him being a Star Fighter Pilot for the invading army.
Bud sipping his juice, “Why are you here alone Natalie?”
As tears formed in Natalie’s eyes, she told the story of the day the soldiers collected everyone in the town. Every night she would open her window and sit on the roof looking at the stars until he grew sleepy, then she would crawl into bed for the night. Early the next morning she heard shouting and furniture being tossed around. Scared, she darted out the open window and onto the roof. She stayed close to the window as the soldiers searched her room. When she heard them leave, she peered inside. Seeing the room clear she ran to her closet hiding behind her clothes, where she stayed quietly for hours. Hearing large aircraft moving around, then away from her house, she spent the night in her closet. The next day when she awoke, she listened for the soldiers. When she heard none, she came out, dressed and went downstairs. Everyone was gone.
Bud patted Natalie’s arm, “You’re not alone anymore. Christopher and me are here.”
Natalie wiped a tear from her eye, “How old are you Bud, six?”
Bud bristled, “Six. I’m six and a half. I’ll be seven in six months. Can Natalie come to my birthday party, Christopher?”
Collecting the dishes from the table, Christopher looked at Natalie, “She is welcome if she wants to come, it’s up to her.”
Bud now tugging on Natalie’s arm, “Will you come? Will you come? Please, Natalie.”
Natalie with a glow coming to her face, “I’ll come to your party”
Bud running around the table suddenly stopped and looked at Natalie. “Are you bringing me a present?”
“I don’t know what you like. We just met. Besides, I have six months to get to know you. After I know what you like and dislike, then I will have a good idea of what you may want or need. Does that sound good?”
“I’ll make a list for you. You can pick a present for me from the list.”
“That’s a good idea too.”
Christopher watching all this unfold, “Bud you know what comes next. We get cleaned up and brush our teeth.”
He looked at Natalie, “Natalie, may we use your shower and a bathroom to get cleaned up. We have been camping. We need to do laundry too. Is that Ok with you?”
“You can use the bathroom on this level. There’s a washer and dryer there. You’re welcome to use it. I have mine upstairs.”
Christopher nodded, “Grab you backpack Bud, time to get the dirt from behind our ears off.”
While Christopher and Bud were cleaning up, Natalie tidied up. She found Christopher’s rifle, a belt with a knife and pistol between the sofa cushions. It startled her. Her mind began racing back to the disappearance of her family. She grabbed the rifle and the belt running to her room, hiding them. As she came downstairs, she took her rifle and sat at the kitchen table with the rifle pointing at the bathroom door, shaking. When they came out Christopher saw Natalie at the table shaking, the gun pointed at him.
Christopher walked to the sofa and sat, “Natalie, why are you pointing the rifle at me again. I thought we were building some trust between us?”
Natalie hardly able to speak, “You have a military rifle, pistol and knife, why?”
“Why, do you have a rifle?”, Christopher asked.
“To protect myself from soldiers. You’re a soldier. You lied to me.”, Natalie said.
“He’s not a soldier. I found him under a rock in his underwear. He was lost too. He found the gun and pistol at my house on a soldier my dad killed before they took him, my mom and sister away. I saw it from my hiding place.”, Bud said.
Natalie looked at Bud, “You saw it?”
“Sure, I saw it. Where do you think I got this?” Bud showed Natalie the tape behind his ear. “Christopher cut it out of a dead soldier and taped it to my ear so I could hear him talk to me. You know kids don’t have a translator until they go to school. Girls, they remember nothing.”