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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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Milo had Aaron's back, it seemed. Granted, this was at best a dubious vote of confidence, since Milo seemed rather lacking in the intellect department, but that was quite alright. Aaron could use an enforcer, someone who'd keep away the troublemakers and dive in front of bullets if need be. In a way, he was probably doing Milo a favor, anyways. Poor guy would have just wandered around aimlessly had he not stumbled upon the group. Heck, Rob would likely have killed him. He'd been more than ready to talk everyone else into doing it. Yeah, and here, Milo could serve a useful purpose, could be, in his own way, a bit of a hero. Especially if he bailed out someone important with his death.

Aileen was ranting at Aaron now, too. Going on about how lucky he was to escape. Blah blah blah. As if he hadn't planned things. As if he'd just set off on a lark, abandoned his team to their fates without making every effort to give them the best shot at surviving. Typical. So much ingratitude. It was rather frustrating.

"Aileen," he said, "luck had nothing to do with it. I know Jacquard. She was unstable before this mess. Then she killed someone. She's also a gimp. Used to carry a cane around in school. When I saw she didn't have it, I knew we could outrun her, and with Rob stalled, or dead, or whatever, we could easily effect our escape."

Framed that way, the whole thing came across not only as reasonable, but as rather brilliant. Some days, fate was kind to Aaron. It seemed he wouldn't look too bad after all. Sure, things would be a lot better if Lily turned up. Richard, too, even if he didn't exactly have anything to contribute to their little squad. Still, he'd cope. Even if they both got murdered by Nick Reid or something, he'd cope. Find Bounce again, and Alice and Will. Then he'd have actually competent followers, people he could rely on to watch his back without that tiny niggling fear that they were waiting for the right moment to put a knife in it (or a hammer in the back of his head).

Turning back to Milo, Aaron said, "What we do now is pull back together. Our next move is going to be complicated, and potentially very dangerous. We'll need to look around some, find an appropriate place, do a little reconnaissance. Maybe get hold of some people who can double check things. No point walking into a trap."

That was probably good enough to keep Milo happy, but vague enough to keep the terrorists and any spies nearby unsure of what exactly he was talking about. Aileen had seen enough of the plan to know he wasn't just blowing smoke. They'd stick around a bit longer, hold out just a little while for the others, then split. Follow the woods north, maybe check the swamp and try the tricky bits under cover of the vegetation assuredly growing there. Then, on to the sawmill, to link up with Bounce.

It was a plan indeed, and a darn good one.
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
Library Vee
Misty Browder drawn by Ryuki
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Could Have Been Worse · The Woods: Coastal