Location: Wewahitchka, FL (C8 -> C8)
A lot seemed to occur all at once. The first thing that Ash noticed was a remarkable piece of survivor skill use flowing from Tatiana; the sudden change in demeanor and shift to meek, helpless tones from moments before when she was calm and borderline dangerous. He had to hand it to the woman, she was good at this. And scratch borderline, she was someone to watch out for. The barest element of pride flickered in the back of Ash's mind as he considered that she was on their side. Come to think of it, everyone he was with had proven themselves time and time again. As much as he wished that others were still alive and with him, kicking serious ass as only his people could, he knew that these people, his people, were a force of nature given intelligent purpose. He was genuinely proud of these fellow survivors.
The erstwhile Captain turned his head to address his fellow Newnanites (if such a term was even applicable anymore), stating flatly and with clear voice, "This was the objective. One year, four months - couple of days. Find each other, find Mexico Beach. I know it's pure faith right now and it goes against your instincts, but this is where we are. What they're asking of us isn't so different from what we asked other people to do." Ash took two steps forward and set down his pack. His rifle and machete followed. Though he felt a little exposed out in the world without the means to defend himself, Ash understood the necessity of leading by example in this instance. "If it doesn't work out here, we thank them and be on our merry way. There's plenty of Florida to go around. Right, Colonel?" He looked in the direction of the man, hoping for some sort of validation to his statement.
The second that the statement left his lips, Ash was greeted by a sight that was more surreal than anything else. It was a fuzzy orange tomcat, seemingly none the worse for wear, making a beeline for him from behind the chopper. Confusion hit him for a second before he recognized the markings on the animal. "Noooo..." he said in pure disbelief. Kneeling, he allowed the cat to run right up to him and jump into his arms, purring loudly enough to be noticed over the helicopter. Ash let out a genuine laugh, followed by, "Schrody? Holy shit, is that you, Schrödinger?" Obviously, he didn't expect the little guy to answer. He did give a sort of response in the form of an excited sounding, "Meow!", though the interpretation from Cat to English might be met with a barrier. The cat, having re-introduced himself, stepped away from Ash and walked over to Tatiana, perfectly satisfied to rub against her legs.
"I really hope they allow pets." remarked Ash, with the first signs of mirth he'd demonstrated in a long time.
Location: Wewahitchka, FL (C5 -> D7)
God damn duck. Yes, it was stuck to her foot, and yes, it was making noise that she found so personally irritating right then that she was giving consideration to voluntarily losing another limb just to rid herself of it. The comments didn't help too much, either. Sure, they meant nothing by it. But it just wasn't in their social dynamic to forgive and move along without some sort of clap back. "Oh, ha fucking ha guys. Real laugh riot. You do know I spit in your mouthes while you're asleep, right?" She raised her eyebrows and nodded twice to emphasize, "Right?" Holstering her weapon, Thalia reached down and ripped the tape-covered bath toy from her shoe. She stamped down on the ground hard, glad to note that it didn't quack. Not once. "And no, I don't need your help disarming a rubber duck, thanks." This last bit was to Bea.
As it turned out, so was the following subject change: "This looks like a pickup and we're close to Mexico Beach. I think this is Navy's people. If it's bad, I've got the best shot at leading some of them off and disappearing." On the one hand, Thalia thought enough of Beatrice as their de facto squad leader to let her know directly what she intended. On the other hand, getting a thumbs-up first would have been polite. Equal amounts of uncharacteristic impulsiveness and protective tactic were at play. Beatrice still had full use of all of her limbs, making her more valuable to the others, Alexander had to hobble about on a slab of wood for a leg, and Manny was a guy in the autumn years of his natural life. If the situation was good and shiny, then she'd need to make sure that their ride stuck around long enough for everyone in her group to get there. Thalia seemed the logical choice.
She took off at a run, at least at first. Covering ground was the priority, and maintaining a one way line of sight was another. Thalia kept the sharp end of her homemade prosthesis back behind her, knowing full well that in the event of a stumble, painful things could happen. t didn't occur to her that she still had the duck attached to her hand until she was halfway to her goal, all the while letting loose a torrent of ...mmkwack squeakee... ...mmkwack squeakee.... God Damn Duck, indeed. The concept of stealth pretty much pointless then, Thalia shuffled her shield strap over to her shoulder in case it was needed quickly, and strode forward openly. It bothered her that a piece of rubberized plastic covered with adhesive was the deciding factor in a life or death strategy. As she moved closer, Thalia began to see that there were more people than she could detect from further up the road. About double. Her pace slowed as she came up to the scene. There was no hiding now, running would be difficult. This was not the best idea she ever had.
A sharp voice sounded from one of the groups, in clear, authoritarian voice. "I know you." Thalia's head jerked in the direction of the voice. She saw who it belonged to, and while the guy looked passably familiar, she couldn't place the face. But if one thought about the number of living people still left in the world, that should be enough to promote fight, flight, or friendship. The man didn't seem to be going for any of those options, however. "I know who made that shield, too. She was a friend. How do you have it?" The man's voice sounded familiar, too. Slowly, her mind began to piece things together. A look of clarity hit Thalia, and for a moment, nothing else existed but her and this man's group of people. Not the helicopter, not the group of older men (and one woman), nothing.
"Wait! You'ah Ash Holloway - Navy's Ash?" she exclaimed, pointing with her one whole arm, despite the still present duck. "Those people, they'ah from Newnan? You got them out?" Her Boston was acting up again. It happened.
"You're part of the Eden team?" He sounded hopeful.
Thalia looked behind her and called up the road. "Hey, we're cool!" she exclaimed, waving them down to her. Turning back to Ash, "Yah, we got a lot to talk about." Realizing that they weren't the most influential people on the ground there, she flashed a forced smile in the direction of the helicopter crew and gave them a friendly little wave, duck and all.
Location: Wewahitchka, FL (D8)
This situation was beginning to look very cozy for everyone but THEM. Yet another group was emerging from the surrounding area, and just lo and behold, they seemed to know each other. Or at least acquainted with each other well enough to start something close to civil conversation. And while Hank couldn't speak for anyone else, he didn't have a single clue who any of these people were. It looked like a safe bet that if there wasn't enough room on this magical truck ride, they would be the ones left behind. Well, not the first time. Probably not the last, either.
Hank walked to keep pace with Wayne. Sink or swim, it would be with this guy. And Wayne probably stood a better chance with someone running blocker for his social interactions. "The good news there, buddy," he began, nodding in the direction of the newly arriving girl with the rubber ducky stuck to her, "...you definitely heard a duck. I don't know if its good eating, though. You'd need to ask the girl with the knife for a hand. I swear, kids these days..."
The remainder of Hank's concern was awash in a blur of questions from his group mixed with hands on weapons that, considering the situation, didn't strike him as being overly cautious. "Hey, you know what guys? I could have sworn I heard something about 'medical evaluation' and 'walls'. Not to mention food, which I did have once and would like to try again. Now, if he wants me to fork over my shovel and mow a few lawns, I'm perfectly fine with that. Sooo... I'm going to listen to the nice man with the helicopter, handheld radio, and gunnery mount full-auto 50 cal, and politely put my stuff in a nice, neat pile for Mr. 20/20 here, which was the only reason my good friend Sportacus had his hand on his weapon, too. Right?"
Strangely, Hank's thoughts crept back to a time not too horribly far after the outbreak, when they were still slowly ambling their way down the various states, trying to get a handle on things. He wasn't sure who came up with the idea of doing what every other cop did at the end of their career and retiring to Florida, but it seemed like an okay enough thing to do. Before that, they pursued odder, albeit possibly viable alternatives that just didn't work out. "This reminds me, Wayne, of that Amish community that kicked us out, up in Pennsylvania. If these people want us to join a prayer circle and get rid of everything that has a zipper, it could be a deal breaker. Still, I kind of hope old Yedidiah Planksander and his cadre of barn raisers pulled through okay. His wife made a mean plate of mashed potatoes."