Safety in Numbers

Bandit chuffed looking at Rafael. The girl called though perking his ears and he trotted closer barking some.

River padded along toward the trail. She was a short little thing in urban clothing. “Bandit …” She huffed. “ … what did I say about running around like that.” She chided the dog. “Rio’s going to be mad at us now!” She clucked like her mother used to. River straightened, seeing the man who had called her to her dog.

“Sorry about that I hope he didn’t bother you too much.” She apologized on the dog’s behalf.

Bandit panted happily unfazed by River chastising him.

Rafael brushed the dirt off of his sweater and chuckled a bit, “No worries little one, your dog is quite friendly.” He spoke with an odd mutt accent, not particularly discernable to anyone not in the know. “Are you okay? Rather dangerous for you to be out here by yourself, especially with the new flavor of chaos that has descended down upon all of us.”

“Oh me? I’m fine. I’m not alone, I’m with a whole group down over there … which I should get back to. I don’t wanna get in trouble.” River said shyly. “Where’s your group? You alone?” She asked curiously.

Raff nodded his head, still a tad morose at the loss of his trainer. “I had a friend with me, but he didn’t make it. As of right now I’m not really travelling with a group. I’m originally from Texas, I was only here for an event so I’m unfamiliar with the area. I’m heading tow-” Raff stopped himself, perhaps it wasn’t a good idea to disseminate that he was a pilot, headed for an airport. If this girl was traveling with a large enough group, there wouldn’t be enough room on the aircraft for all of them, yet all of them would certainly want to leave.

“-I’m headed toward West Point military academy, I found a map back in a town about 8 miles west of here, and I’ve been following the highway. I figure a military post would be the safest place to go given present circumstances.”

“So are we!” River chimes brightly. “The main highway is really bad we got away from it there was a whole bunch of ‘em walking through. Like a lot. More than what we saw at the camp. I can take you to my friends, maybe Rio and Hannah will let you ride with us.” She suggested.

Raff thought a moment, he knew that it was necessarily more advantageous to travel with a group, but if he decided to do that how could he ever excuse himself unnoticed? He certainly didn’t intend to take a bunch of people with him to Texas. However, he also didn’t know the exact numbers. The girl mentioned a Rio and Hannah, and calling them by their names meant they weren’t her parents. The girl was under the impression that these two were the leaders, assuming that hadn’t already been formally established. Should he ask how many people were in the group? That might come off as suspicious. This was certainly a bit of gamble.

“Uhm, that would be much appreciated, though I would hate to impose. You could probably imagine that resources will start becoming more and more scarce the longer whatever this is continues. Care to introduce us?”

“Sure. They’re good people, they’re nice and smart.” River said and she waved for him to follow her. “Hannah’s really tough so is Rio and he nice to me too. He’s got a nephew Saint … oh and my best friend Bobby. He’s really good and has an Irish accent. Devin … she has all the super cool tattoos!” River said rather proudly. They had been good to her, they didn’t have to be, but they were. They didn’t mistreat her or anything. Even at her age, she knew times like this brought the worst out in people. Her group? It brought out the best in them. “Oh … sorry, I’m so dense. My name is River, you know Bandit … what’s your name?”

“You can call me Raffy, pleased to make your acquaintance River.” He responded as they walked down the trail in tandem. Once the tree line broke, he could see even more people than what she had mentioned. It also appeared that they had transportation. GRACIAS A DIOS! He certainly did not want to walk anymore. River was fortunate that he was not a bad person, as she provided far too much information than she should have to a complete stranger. Of course, could he really expect a preteen girl to have the best judgment when meeting new people? Perhaps the gravity of the situation hadn’t fully resonated with her yet. “So that’s them up ahead?”

River nodded emphatically. “Let me introduce you to the group.” She smiled jogging up to them. “Hey guys! Look who I found in the woods! Well … I didn’t Bandit did. His name is Raffy.” She said pointing to the blonde man. “That’s Rio and Hannah, that’s Saint, Devin and my bestie Bobby.”

Raff waved at everyone, making sure his hands were visible to the entire group. The last thing he wanted to do is make anyone feel threatened. Should this go south, he could find himself crippled in a ditch real quick. Like he’d thought, this was a gamble...

JP Winters and KingCharlemagne

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