The moon had begun to rise in the nighttime sky, its pale light shining down on the ground below. This area of the country was quite rural, and few lights were around to molest the view of the stars which were sprinkled about everywhere. It truly was beautiful. This was a sight that Qi Lian had never really seen. She had lived her entire life in China, and smog had made viewing of the night sky virtually impossible.
Lian breathed in the crisp air as well. She had never breathed like this before, and she was enjoying it immensely. Unfortunately she knew this moment couldn't last for long. Lian was making the mental preparations to die. From her short time with Clayton she had come to realize he wouldn't just run from this fight, even if she told him too, so she would have to die protecting him. There was no other way, Han Xin would be there shortly, he couldn't be too far behind.
In her head she had gone over various scenarios, but she couldn't figure out how to overcome the strength of the forces Han Xin was sure to bring. How many he would bring she did not know, it could be 20, 50, or 100. In any case it would be a relatively small force, but much more powerful than she and Qi Wei could handle.
And what of creating a larger force? Well she knew no normal humans could stand against these soldiers, that would be suicide. So what could she do? She had decided to try and gain the help of the locals in another way. Somehow she needed a place where she could set traps for the incoming forces, to level the playing field a bit. That was what she was arguing about with Clayton now.
Qi Lian looked into the big brown eyes of Clayton. Despite is large size physically and his gruff exterior, Clayton was a sweet man, and Lian could see it in his eyes. She looked at the dark brown skin on his face, certainly no one in the Chinese military that she had seen looked like Clayton, and she liked it.
"You can not be serious Qi Lian. I am not going over there to ask that man for help." Clayton said.
"Clayton time is running short and he seems like a nice man."
"He is missing several of his teeth, I am telling you this guy is a hick!"
"Well I know nothing of what a hick is, but this man may be useful to us, especially considering the number of weapons he has in his vehicle."
"That is EXACTLY my point Qi Lian, this guy is a hick, he has no teeth and he is running around with guns in his truck. He will probably shoot someone like me for coming to talk to him!"
"Please Clayton, I am asking you to please at least try, we will need the help of locals if we are to have a shot."
Clayton walked away from Lian shaking his head, heading in the direction of the man. He was visibly frustrated and yet he still was doing what Lian had asked. She was relieved she had been able to convince him.
"You like Clayton don't you Qi Lian?" Qi Wei asked.
"He is so stubborn."
"But you like him, I can tell."
"Yes I like him. He is the kind of person I wish we had been around us all of the time, instead of spending our whole lives around military personnel and doctors."
"I like him too sister. And I am glad you brought him along with us. I know you fear he will die, but we will do everything we can to ensure that he does not. Do not worry."
"I am worried though."
Qi Lian and Qi Wei walked closer to listen to the ongoing conversation between Clayton and the local.
"Me huh, well my name is Martin Kemp, nice to meet yah." Martin said before spitting some chewing tobacco on the ground.
"Nice to meet you too Martin. We were wondering if you could help us, you see some very bad people are after us..."
"These people from the government? 'Cause the damn government is always trying to take our guns and our freedom!"
Qi Lian could see the wheels turning in Clayton's head after Martin said this.
"Yes, they are from the government Martin, will you help us?" Clayton said.
"He lied, he just lied!" Qi Lian thought, but as she was about to speak up Martin responded.
"That damn government! Well of course we will help you Clayton."
"Wait, who is we?" Clayton asked.
"Well, around here we have our own militia group, we are ready to go at a moments notice in case the government tries to invade us and take our guns! I have got some property a bit south of here if you want to come with me. We can hunker down there."
"Really? You mean it Martin?"
"Well of course Clayton, there is nothin' we hate more than government 'nfringment round here. You bring your friends there with yah too, my wife will cook us all a nice supper, y'all look like yous starvin." Martin stated.
"Well thank you kindly for your hospitality Martin, we will follow you as soon as we grab a few things."
"Aight, see ya in a minute kids."
After Clayton walked away from Martin, Qi Lian grabbed him by the shoulder.
"I can't believe you lied to that man Clayton."
"I don't suppose you ever have heard of a white lie have you now? Listen now we will be able to get what we need out of this guy."
"He seemed awfully nice Clayton, what were you worried about?"
"Well I guess maybe I bought too much into the stereotype, we always have to be on our toes you know."
Qi Lian shook her head in agreement, she definitely knew what it meant to always have to be on your toes. She looked back at Martin, the man that had offered up his kindness to complete strangers. He was an older man, he looked like he was in his 60's. He had a balding head, and sported a completely white beard. He stood a bit under 6 feet tall and wore dirty blue jeans that were full of holes. His light jacket was camouflage. And he definitely stood out among the rest of the people here, even the other locals. To be truthful Qi Lian was grateful this man had turned out to be kind.
Once inside the store Qi Lian looked around. She was trying to figure out what a typical local was like. She didn't seen anyone else with holey dirty pants, nor was a single other person wearing camouflage inside. But the one thing she did notice is that everyone seemed to know everyone else. Qi Lian and her group stood out like a sore thumb, that would likely be a problem.
Qi Lian and Qi Wei quickly began grabbing what gear they thought they might need. Plenty of fertilizer to help making bombs was one of the essentials they needed to restock on. When Han did show up, at least they would give him a run for his money if they had some explosives.
When they got to the front of the checkout line the cashier looked up at them and gave them a little chuckle.
"I see you met Martin." The cashier said.
"Yes we did, uh, Jake." Clayton replied after looking at Jake's nametag. Clayton pulled out some cash. Though Clayton would have preferred to use his watch to pay, he didn't want to help the Red Tide find them faster.
"He is something isn't he?" Jake said.
"He is a very nice man." Qi Lian offered.
"Oh he is nice enough, that is for sure, but he is a bit crazy if you know what I mean." Jake took the cash and pulled out some change.
"Not too many people use cash anymore, you most be one of those old school people." Jake said to Clayton.
"Something like that." Clayton responded.
Qi Lian, Clayton and Qi Wei walked out of the store together carrying their supplies and headed toward their car.
"Oh, looks like you might be cooking up somethin' good. Follow me, we will head down 87 to exit 35, I live in Peru New York." Martin said to the group.
"I sure hope you know what you are doing Qi Lian." Clayton said as he got into the car."
"Me too." Qi Lian said quietly to herself.
Then she got into the car and headed South, following Martin to their next destination.
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