Oh hell. As soon as Aileen had integrated, Aaron found himself faced with yet another new arrival. This one was different. He sounded like he meant business. Was he well armed? Aaron found himself shifting nervously, ready to dive for cover the second things went south. That got him thinking. Here he was, with this huge group of people, but he didn't have the slightest clue what he was really going to do with them. He could lead them. He knew that. But, he'd have to be careful, so very careful, or they'd be on him like a pack of jackals. He was feeling very exposed, all of a sudden, very aware of the fact that he was surrounded by others. Others who were at least as well armed as he was. If he was going to stay in control here, he would need to get his hands on a real weapon. That machine gun would be ideal.
Then it all spiraled out of control. Aileen went over to the new guy, saying she could handle it. Could she? She had a hammer, but that wouldn't do jack if the boy had a gun. Then again, he probably wouldn't blow Aileen away so casually, as it would wreck his chances of getting close enough to do real damage. Aileen was buying them a few seconds to prepare a reaction. Aaron glanced around. If the guy opened up, they were all doomed, time or not, clumped as they were. This was an absolutely awful place to be waiting. It was exposed and easy to access, and the people just kept coming. It was too much. Too soon. He was going to have an army on his hands if he didn't do something.
That brought him up short. He could use an army about now. A personal army sounded pretty dang good in this situation. Even if they couldn't manage to escape, a force would keep Aaron safe. It would let him make it far in this game. He was
going far. He knew that. Some people were born for bit roles, and others were natural stars. Aaron was part of the latter category.
Then Tom was trying to get Aaron's attention, telling him they had to go. Aaron would have been royally pissed about insubordination if he hadn't already come to the same conclusion. As it was, he simply whispered back, "Exactly what I was thinking, Tom. Good call."
Also, Tom had another point. Truth be told, Aaron had forgotten the cameras entirely. Tom's reminder threw another little kink into the escape idea. Whatever. They'd pull it off somehow. They would make it out. It was simply how these things went. They'd take their little band and pull off what nobody had ever done before. They would go home with Danya's head in a basket.
There was a slight problem, though. Their group already had the seeds of dissent sown. Lily had decided that now, when an unknown quantity was approaching, was the perfect time to question Aaron's capabilities and capacity to lead. Sure, she phrased it in generalities, but she wasn't fooling anyone. She spoke, asking him what they would do since none of them had any knowledge of the situation. Aaron immediately felt his temperature rising and his left hand, out of Lily's line of sight, clenching. His fingernails dug into his palm. Just great. Machine gun girl was going to be an issue. Worse, she was the one person he couldn't just kick to the curb. She had the best weapon by far, but she was obviously unstable and dangerous.
The solution was simple. She would have to be disarmed or removed as soon as it became convenient. Surely she'd be distracted at some point. Aaron would just have to get one of the others, probably Tom, alone, and ask him to get her gun away from her when it happened. Tom would be the best choice, since he was trustworthy and already armed, meaning Aaron would almost certainly be able to secure one of the weapons.
Then Francine was talking, too, trying to calm everyone down. She said she wanted a team, and that they should all lower their weapons and be calm. It was a good idea, though Aaron somewhat resented the fact that she'd sprung it on them. She was getting a bit too ambitious, too. He'd have to deal with that. Make her a lieutenant when they got more people or something. Give her a definite place that was clearly not at the head of things. For now, though, he had to stay in the present. He had a group to organize, and worries to quash.
"Alright, people," Aaron said, loudly enough for Aileen and the newcomer to hear. He figured they were fine since they were both still alive. "We're going to move out here soon. This isn't a good location for a defense, and we could use some cover in case the weather gets bad. Also, we'll need somewhere more isolated to plan things out.
"Lily, you say we have no knowledge of the situation. That's partially true. However, I know somebody who does. One of my good friends, Bounce, is a huge fan of SOTF. She knows everything there is to know about it. She's here. I know she is. She'll know a way to make it off of here. We'll just need to find her.
"Also, from this point forward, we're going to have to be a bit more cautious about recruits. I trust you all, because you're doing the right thing now, at the start. Soon we'll have to deal with fakers, though, people who want to kill us and use our group against us. I think we'll ask newcomers to surrender their weapons for a time, just so we can be sure they're trustworthy. We can rearm them once they prove themselves.
"I won't lie. These next few days are going to suck. But we can do this. We can beat Danya and this whole thing. If you aren't trusting enough to be a part of this, fine. Leave now. We won't hold it against you. If you want in, though, follow me. We'll get as many people as we can, and then we'll make something happen. All we have to do is get Bounce and some other people we can trust. If anyone has suggestions, put them forward at any time."
There. Aaron knew how to act the leader. He was, after all, the dungeon master of his D&D group. He was usually the one in charge. Sure, he was bitter at a few of his members right now. Well, mostly Lily. He didn't like the girl one bit. But that just meant he'd have to be extra sure she knew her place. And, as soon as she tipped her hand, revealed how crazy she really was, he'd have to be ready to minimize the damage. Quickly, Aaron dug into his sack, and pulled out a notebook. He tore out a sheet of paper, and stuffed it into one of the pockets on his cargo pants, where he also kept some pencils. He would write Tom a note when he had a chance, and slip it to him. Keep the others out of the loop a bit, just for safety's sake.
With that, they were ready to go. Aaron pushed away from the wall of the gazebo, and picked up his packs. It would be tough, leaving this familiar landmark, but he wasn't going to get gunned down here. No, life over comfort.
"Okay, people," he said. "Let's get going."
Then he started walking. A second later, he realized he hadn't checked his map at all. There was no way to do so now, however, without looking incompetent, so he decided to just wing it. They would hit somewhere safe soon enough, he and whoever chose to follow him. Yes, they would find a good place to prepare, through luck or skill, and then they would find Bounce. And then, everything would be just fine.
((Aaron Hughes continued in My Kingdom for a Plan!