After Bud’s account of Christopher’s acts of kindness toward him. Natalie put down her rifle, “I’m sorry, but when I saw the military rifle, I just freaked. I have been alone and scared for the past week. I guess I’m getting paranoid. Can you forgive me?”
Bud went to her and leaned his head on her hip. “I know I was scared too until I found Christopher under the rock. You won’t be scared anymore.”
Christopher stood, “Being paranoid during times like these is not necessarily a bad thing. What caliber is your rifle? Does it shoot bullets or is it a pulse rifle?”
Natalie put the rifle on the table, “I don’t know? I saw it in the store and thought I might scare the soldiers away. I don’t even know how to load it.”
Christopher picked up Bud, “I think Natalie could use a hug. You in?”
Christopher then looked at Natalie, “You in?”
Natalie lowered her head and fell into Christopher and Bud crying, holding on to them tightly.
After a few minutes she straightened and wiped away her tears, “I’m in.”
Christopher looked at Bud and then Natalie, “This calls for a celebration. I’ll get cookies and milk from the replicator and we will celebrate Natalie joining us.”
Natalie looked at Bud. “You’re right, I had candy in the bags. Would you like some? I always have candy when I eat cookies and drink milk.”
As Natalie and Bud finished the cookies and most of the candy, she took Bud upstairs to show him her brothers’ room where they played together for over an hour. While they played upstairs, Christopher took the map from his field pack, opening it onto the table to view the area on this side of the mountain. The map revealed towns thirty miles to the east and south, but nothing for some distance to the west and north.
Glancing at the clock on the wall. He called out, “Bud, Natalie. I need you both to help me.”
As they came downstairs, “Bud, I need you and Natalie to see if there is anyone playing hide and seek. Did your father have binoculars, Natalie?”
Natalie said, “Yes, he used them to watch Felix play sports and watch birds. He kept them in his backpack. Do you want me to get them?”
“Yes. Bud, here are your binoculars.”
Natalie ran to her father’s room. She came back in the room, showing Christopher the binoculars, “Is this what you are looking for?”
Christopher looked at Natalie carrying the binoculars, “Just what the doctor ordered. Bud, can you show Natalie how we find hide and seekers with the binoculars.”
“You bet. But when I win, I don’t want twenty pieces of hard candy. I want real candy.”, Bud said.
“Real candy it is. Natalie may give you some competition, so you better have a sharp eye out for anyone who is playing.”, Christopher said.
They went upstairs, where they were positioned by Christopher and given an area to scan. Christopher went to the roof’s peak. He wanted to if others were using the same store. Soon it was lunchtime. Christopher asked Natalie for his rifle and to fix Bud and herself some lunch. He continued to look for others as nightfall approached.
Christopher, back in the house, found Natalie and Bud on the sofa asleep, Natalie holding Bud. He gently nudged Natalie to wake her. Natalie slowly opened her eyes to see Christopher, “I’m sorry. We were just sitting here after lunch talking. Bud asked for a story and I guess we both fell asleep.”
“It’s fine. Both of you are tired. Can Bud sleep in your room tonight? He likes to wake up with someone close. I am getting dinner and then I’ll go back on the roof. Can I get on the roof from Felix’s room?”
Natalie holding Bud, “He can sleep with me in my room tonight. Felix’s window faces the other side of the house.”
“It will work. I’ll sleep in Felix’s room. After I get dinner, I’ll scan a few more hours. There must be others in this town.”
Natalie took Bud upstairs. Christopher ate a quick dinner and then went back on the roof. Hours passed. At midnight Christopher saw a young man darting between houses heading toward the store, but because of his angle of sight from the roof he lost him before he reached the store. He thought, “What the hell, I’m going for it.”
He slung the rifle on his back and headed to the store. When he reached the street, he ran at full speed. He entered the store and crouched behind a counter to listen. Something hit the floor. Christopher headed toward the sound slowly. There he saw a young man Natalie’s age filling a backpack with replicator packs. Christopher, with his hands in the air, walked around the end of the aisle, “Hello young man. My name is Christopher. I’m not here to harm you. What is your name?”
The young man, startled, spun around trying to run but fell to the floor with his backpack on top of him. Christopher stood still, “I saw you from Natalie and Felix’s house. Did you go to school with them?”
The young man surprised to hear Natalie’s and Felix’s name, “You know Natalie and her brother?”
“Felix was taken, but Natalie hid on the roof. Bud and I found Natalie and spent last night at her house.”
“Natalie is here?”
“Yes, she’s with Bud at the house now. Would you like to talk to her?”
“I need to get these packs to my aunt and my little sister, but yes, I would like to see Natalie.”
“You take the packs to your family. Does Natalie know where you live?”
“Sure, we studied together last year.”
“I’ll bring Natalie and Bud to your house at 1000 hours tomorrow. What is your name? Natalie can’t show me where you live if she doesn’t know whose house she’s going to.”
“My name is Bryan with a Y.”
“OK, Bryan with a Y. Will you and your family be there when we arrive at 1000 hours?”
“We’ll be there. There’s no other place to go.”
Christopher backed around the aisle, “See you tomorrow.”
He ran back to Bud and Natalie.