It takes awhile to adjust their sleep schedules, but they're young and adaptable and desperate. Night allows for easier movement; while the aliens are clearly beyond using only solar power, much of the equipment within the cities they don't care much about runs on solar cells. Chip thinks they may be saving for something big, since they certainly harvest enough energy to power the entire planet a few times over. Sari thinks maybe they eat it, since, you know, Giant Alien Robots, and the others have to admit that this actually makes some kind of sense. Anyways, while human-hunting is obviously a kind of sport for their overlords, it doesn't seem to be all that important to them. Or at least, it's not important enough to waste more energy on tracking a few wild humans running free where they don't cause too much trouble. So, thankfully, scanners and other tracking equipment tend to be easier to get around once the sun sets. Weeks of rain and cloudy skies tend to be met with great enthusiasm, with equipment functioning only in a semi-charged state due to lack of proper power. They get much done during these times, even if they come back to base soaking and chilled.
They’re not entirely certain just how many humans are still free. There are a few wild packs that they’ve come across during their helter-skelter wanderings across the continental United States, but contact is guarded and short. No one really trusts anyone outside of familiar groups, and you can never be sure that the person you met last week hasn’t been seduced by the aliens with promises of food and safety in return for ratting out their fellow humans. Anyways, large gatherings tend to be noticed by the aliens, and being noticed by the aliens brings in more frequent raids to ‘suppress rebellion’. The raids are always messy and quick and more humans die than escape because, despite using humanity as a work force, the aliens seem to have very little regard for human life and are often just as likely to crush a human as to capture one to add to the Camps. The ones canny enough to survive the raids discover it’s easier to slip under the radar when their numbers are small, and their group is no exception. At only six strong, they are tiny even by comparison, but they get by all right.
Chip mostly tends to stay at whatever home base they’ve managed to secure; his wheelchair may keep him from easily navigating the broken asphalt that litters the cities at the speed their missions require, but he can guard a base just fine with an old AK-47 Raoul finds in one of their supply runs. It’s generally enough to scare off any would-be native intruders, and if the aliens discover them he knows all the secret passageways out of the base. But more than that, Chip is a calm and quiet oasis of peace that is a balm for all of them, and a steady hand that propels their group forward, day by day. At seventeen he is eldest, and he takes the mantle of leadership with never-ending patience with all of their antics, smoothing over hurts and mediating fights as if he has done so all of his life. He still studies when he can, ever the consummate learner, but texts are hard to come by nowadays. The others always try to bring him books to pour over when they can, even if they often have to leave them behind when they are forced to move on. Chip simply smiles and says that this way, at least, someone else can have the joy of them afterwards.
Alexis is their mother; she is only thirteen but she is still the one to nag everyone in to sleeping properly, eating their vegetables (yes, Sari, that does mean you, there are starving children just blocks away now eat them before I start spoon-feeding you) and all the other sorts of mother-hen behavior they complain about but are secretly grateful for, because this is normal and a bit of a reminder of life Before. She is smart, too – in the time Before she was in the honors program at school, and even studying a little University curriculum under the tutelage of Chip. She is their planner and tactician; she knows the best ways to get at their objective with the minimum chance of injuries or capture. Sometimes this can give her a big head, but they can always count on Sam or Raoul or even Sari to bring her back down to Earth.
Raoul is the brawn to Alexis’ brain – it isn’t that he’s not intelligent, because he is, but he much prefers to rush in and tackle their problems head-on. This often leads them in to more close-calls then is really necessary, but he always manages to pull through with a grin and a wink and a bit of extra supplies to tide them through the next week. He is fifteen but Alexis swears he’s the youngest of them all sometimes, and Raoul never takes this too seriously, as Alexis really just likes to argue and he doesn’t mind obliging her all that much. He leads them through the murky depths of the human Underworld that has taken over after Before with easy grace; knowing when to bribe and when to fight and when to turn tail and get the hell of out Dodge.
Sam is fourteen and often wonders what the hell his life has become, but he is mostly resigned to their gypsy lifestyle. He misses Before like crazy, but then they all do; he’s just more vocal about it. But when things get too tense he can be counted on to crack some completely inappropriate and awkward joke, often at his own expense, and suddenly it’s a little easier to smile, a little easier to go on. Sam doesn’t really know his own worth to the team, but his hacking skills are improving daily. He is the one to crack in to the alien’s mainframe on rare occasions to gather Intel, always quick and fast and only when they are absolutely desperate and about to leave their current city anyways. He hasn’t been caught yet, but he swears it’s only a matter of time. This never keeps him from slipping in to networks when the occasion demands it anyways, but he likes to let everyone know just how much trouble they’re in whenever possible.
Mikaela knows cars better than most mechanics Before or After, even better than Raoul with whom she originally learned, best friends as they’ve been since forever. She’s more at home elbow-deep in engine parts than at any high school party she had previously attended in her fourteen years, and finds she doesn’t miss the parties all that much. Mikaela misses Before, and she hates the aliens fiercely for what they’ve done to her and hers, but she also kind of likes the here and now, when they’re not starving or freezing or running for their lives. She feels stronger now, and she barrels in to trouble alongside Raoul with her own liberated weapons and a vindictive smile, knowing that she can protect everyone and damn proud of it. She’s even taken on a few of the smaller aliens and proved the victor, although they always steer clear of the larger ones. Someday, though, she’ll take back her world, somehow, and laugh in the faces of those god-damn alien bastards who tried to crush them below their tin-plated heels. But for now she’s happy to have Sam and the others with her, keeping them safe.
Sari is the youngest, six-going-on-seven and as precocious as ever. In the time Before, she had just started studying electronics and computers under Chip’s tutelage at her father’s urging, after he found her tinkering one time too many with various household appliances. Even now Chip continues her education as best he can. She learns fast, and already puts things together with him from salvaged alien tech. Raoul swears that she got all the brains, and Sari agrees with her older brother, swearing loudly in the way of annoying siblings that he must have been adopted. But she really loves him dearly and would do just about anything for him, and she knows that he would do the same for her. She is fearless in the way the young often are, with no real sense of her mortality and often making her friends worry that one day she’ll rush in to the wrong place, curiosity killing the cat as well as the girl. But she has luck and faith and sheer stubbornness; she won’t die now when there’s still so much to see.
They are, collectively, an odd family but a family nonetheless; brought together by ruin and sorrow and pain but knit together by love and friendship and understanding. And they may bicker and argue and swear at each other, but they never doubt the strength of their bond or the value of any one member of their little band. The world is dark and cold and unforgiving, harder than ever to eke out a living under the watchful gaze of their oppressors, but they have each other and that is enough. They are six months together since the end of the world, but it seems like forever.
Sari turns over in their makeshift bed, cuddling closer to Mikaela’s warm body. The rising sun is lightening the eastern sky with bands of pink and gold as the day begins, but it is dark and quiet inside the remains of the abandoned duplex that they have claimed for their base, save only the soft glow of Chip’s computer screen slipping in under the crack of the door as testament to his steady guard. And she is content to have her family all around her as they settle down for sleep, even if Raoul does steal the covers.