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Eric Rand

The last one remaining from Upton

0 · 234 views · located in Haven Universe

a character in “No Haven”, as played by Messiah

Description

(NPC)

Name: Eric Rand

Gender: Male

Age: 7

Date of Birth: April 12th, 2007

Place of Birth: TBA, UK

Approximate Height: 4'1"

Approximate Weight: 48 lbs.

Build: Whatever you'd call the build of a seven year old child.

Hair Color: Brown/Blonde

Eye Color: Brown

Pre-Outbreak: Born to William and Elizabeth Rand, grandson of Kenneth Rand. He was at Upton Abbey with them all when the outbreak struck.

Post-Outbreak: The boy, thankfully, was spared many of the horrors of the apocalypse. Having resided at Upton from the outset, he was protected by the group that also resided there. Unfortunately, with the assassination of his grandfather, chaos soon ensued at Upton and he was brought, along with his mother, to Haven with Dominic Fields. While at Haven, he developed a close relationship with Benjamin Kinney.

Personality: TBA

Skills: TBA (He's a child, so he usually relies on other people for help and protection.)

Equipment: TBA

Other Important Information: TBA

So begins...

Eric Rand's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eric Rand Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney
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#, as written by Messiah
"Eric!"

Ben stood outside the farmhouse that had once been the command center of Haven. Once the center of activity for the Scavengers and the rest of those residing in Haven, now it was a hub of undead activity. After frantically asking Laney about the boy and telling her to get everyone she could find, he went inside the farmhouse, just in time to see Carter, who had helped take some leadership, put the barrel of her pistol to her temple and pull the trigger. Her choice to go out her own way, rather than end up bitten or devoured. She just might end up getting devoured anyway, but at least that way, she wouldn't be in pain during the entire thing.

His raised voice attracted the attention of some of the nearby dead, who converged on him, but Ben was already five steps ahead of them. He darted through the crowd, keeping his arms close to his body, and occasionally lowering his shoulder to knock over any zed that got directly into his path. At a clearing, or what could be best called a clearing, between packs of the things, he stopped and braved a look around. To his left, he saw Dom, fighting the approaching dead with all that he could. Ben could try and help him, but he knew that Dom's chances of survival were low, and running over there might just end up getting himself trapped and killed as well; he was no good to anybody dead. Up ahead was a barn. He noticed that the door was open, just a crack. It wasn't much, but he knew that those doors were usually kept closed and barred. Unless there was someone inside. So, he bolted for the barn before the next roaming pack could catch up with him.

The door swung open as he pushed his weight against it. Immediately, he saw Elizabeth inside, holding her young son with three walkers approaching them from her front. Ben's entrance caught Elizabeth's attention and she wheeled to look at him, only for one of the walkers to sink its teeth into the side of her neck and rip out a chunk of flesh. Blood poured, she gasped, not even having enough thought to scream. In the shock of the attack, she lost her hold on Eric and the boy fell to the ground. One of the two remaining walkers averted its attention from the fallen Elizabeth and brought it on the boy. He scrambled up and raced to the corner of the barn with the walker not far behind him.

Ben saw red.

With an audible growl, Ben marched towards the corner of the barn where Eric was standing and the walker was nearing. He struck out at its knee with a strong kick and sent it toppling to the ground, no longer having a stable leg to stand on. But, that didn't stop it. Except now, it was trying to get at Ben instead of Eric, which is exactly what he'd wanted. In a matter of moments, the attack on Eric was over, the walker's head nothing but a mass of pulp as a result of several heavy stomps on its skull. Ben then turned his attention to Elizabeth again, where the two remaining zeds were tearing into her. She could barely manage a whimper now as they tore pieces of flesh from her

Drawing his hatchet, he headed towards them, lowering his shoulder against one to send it sprawling. In a quick motion, he swung his hatchet at the other, embedding the blade of the weapon into the top of its skull. It fell onto Elizabeth's barely-moving body. Ben then stepped towards the last remaining walker as it stood back up again. Another quick motion from his arm and the hatchet found its way into the walker's temple, sending the body toppling to the side and onto the ground, motionless. He turned back around to see Eric still standing in the corner, staring at the bloody form of his mother, and tears falling from his eyes. Mercifully, the commotion inside the barn hadn't attracted any more attention. At least not yet.

Ben lowered his weapon and put it back away as he approached Eric and knelt down in front of the boy, "Eric, I want you to turn around. I don't want you to see this."

Eric looked to the older male's face, his eyes giving away his confusion.

"Please."

Without a word, Eric nodded and turned around to face the corner of the barn. Ben stood up again and approached Elizabeth, who he could see was breathing, but only barely. He grabbed the dead walker that was lying on top of her and pulled it off by the shoulder. What was before him was a grisly scene. After tearing out part of her neck, they had brought her down and tore a hole in her abdoment, and had begun pulling out her insides, so much that some of them were on the outside now. It was enough to make Ben want to throw up, but he managed to keep his composure, if only for the fact that his stomach didn't have much in it at the moment anyway. Weakly, Elizabeth reached an arm up and Ben knelt down again, beside her this time. Her hand found its way to his arm. He could tell that she was trying to grip, but she hadn't the strength for it. When he looked at her face, he could see that she was doing her damnedest to keep her eyes open, but wasn't having much success.

"I'm sorry," Ben finally managed, quietly. It looked as if she had shaken her head, but that may have just been her head falling to the side. She opened her mouth to say something, but no words came out. Ben spoke again, "I'll do everything I can to keep your son safe. I promise."

A faint smile seemed to cross her face as she looked at him for the final time. Then her eyes closed, her arm fell, and her breathing went still. But Ben remained there at her side for a moment or two longer before finally raising his weapon and putting the woman down to keep her from turning, as gently as he could. When he stood back up and looked back to Eric, he could see the boy still with his back to the scene, but he was peeking, Ben could tell.

Ben approached him again, knelt down, and spoke.

"Eric, we have to go. It's not safe here anymore. I'm going to take you somewhere away from here where we can be safe for a little while, okay?"

Having turned around, the boy nodded. Ben opened his arms and Eric hugged him and buried his face into the man's shoulder. Ben stood up, still holding Eric.

"I want you to listen to me very carefully now. Are you listening?" Ben asked.

"Yes."

"I need you to hold onto me very tightly, arms and legs both. I also need you to be as quiet as you can, no matter how scary things get. Trust me, I know how scary those things are, but noise attracts them. Do you think you can do that?" In response, Eric nodded against his shoulder and squeezed his arms and legs tightly, just like Ben had told him.

With a deep breath, Ben stepped back outside and into the chaos. Immediately, a pack of the dead turned their attention to him and Eric, and he bolted. As he ran, he could only afford a brief glance to where Dom had been fighting just minutes before, but the man was no longer there. Ben could only assume the worst.

His first stop was to see whether or not the truck they had was still there. Quietly, he swore to himself when he discovered that it wasn't, but that meant someone had gotten it and gotten away. Maybe it was Laney. He could only hope. But, that also meant that he would have to go the miles to the safehouse on foot, carrying a nearly 50 pound child, in addition the backpack he had with him.

"Change of plans," he said, partly to himself, but mostly to Eric, "I'm going to have to carry you there on foot. The truck's gone."

All around him now, zeds were converging, taking advantage of the time he was stopped. They moaned and snarled and lumbered at him, but there was room enough for him to get through, out of reach of any of the dead. There may have been a lot of them, but numbers weren't everything. They were smarter than the dead. All of them were. But, the trek wasn't going to be easy.

True to what Ben had asked him to do, Eric remained quiet, but he could feel the boy shaking in his arms. Ben knew how scared he must have been, but he was a brave boy; living around the people of Haven would definitely do that to someone.

On their way, the late afternoon turned into evening, and then evening into night. It was starting to get colder and darker earlier. The darkness kept him from seeing any roamers as well as he would have liked, but his ears were always alert for the telltale sounds of the dead. With Eric, he could only do a limited amount of fighting, to the point that just running from them was the best option. If he put the boy down to fight, Ben might lose him, or the boy might run off or get attacked and Ben wouldn't be able to do much about it.

And the trek was perilous. He could hear sounds of the dead, and was always afraid that they were right on his heels, so he continued to press on, no matter how much his legs and his arms protested. As he got further and further from Haven, the sounds of pursuing dead from behind him got steadily quieter. The fire in his extremities started to wear on him and his pace began to slow. At times, the urge to allow himself to falter and go to the ground was strong, but he wouldn't let that happen. He had to keep pumping his legs, if not for himself, then for the Rand boy that he carried, and for the slim hope that he might get to see somebody, anybody from Haven again. Keep pumping. That's all.

He stopped when he noticed a large object in front of him. The only thing that kept him from running into it was, at the last second, he saw that the form of the object was different than the night and the ground before him. With one hand, he reached out and felt along the cool metal. His eyes refocused and he saw that it was the truck he'd searched for just hours earlier, but it looked abandoned.

His heart nearly stopped as he saw something in the back of the truck that looked like a body, but he couldn't make out who it might be; he had almost missed that there even was a body there.

Quietly, he dared to call out, "Laney! Somebody?" He stood stock still and silent, waiting for any kind of response, but he heard nothing. If he was better at tracking, he might be able to see how many were inside and where they went, but he wasn't. At least his legs were thankful for the respite; his arms continued to complain and pain him. Briefly, he allowed himself to stop there at the truck to rest. It was only the inevitable sound of the encroaching dead that forced him out of it and got him moving again. The house couldn't be too far now, and he would just have to push through the pain for the last leg of the trek.

Finally, with barely a moon to light his way, he saw the form of what was no doubt a house. This was it. It was the only one within miles. On the brink of collapse, he approached, staggering up to the door with Eric in one arm and the other held up in preparation to knock.

He hesitated...

And then, finally, he knocked, hoping against hope that someone he knew and trusted would be there to greet him.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Eric Rand Character Portrait: Shinji Yamada Character Portrait: Delaney Byron Character Portrait: Benjamin Kinney
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0.00 INK

#, as written by Messiah
(Collaboration with Faith Fanon. She did most of the work.)

They reached the stone barn high in the hills as the sun began to dip towards the horizon. They stood panting, looking down the steep incline and finding no pursuers, living or dead. Then Shinji loosened his weapon, lit his torch, and flung open the door. Laney had a brief moment of recollection, the memory of Jake from Eden Valley performing the same movement, only for a pack of the dead to surge forward and overwhelming. A joint party from Haven and Eden Valley had been searching for a mysterious band of hunters, and they'd tracked them down to this spot, with disastrous results. Jake had been devoured alive, and the other Eden Valley representative, Sam, had been shot - her weakened state had caused both her and Toby's deaths. That day, Laney had made what she felt was mistake after mistake.

'It safe, Laney. Come.'

Laney shivered as she followed Shinji into the safehouse. Its stone walls and tiny windows afforded good protection - stopping most noise and light getting out as well as stopping things getting in - but did nothing for its hospitality or comfort. The beam from Shinji's torch lit up the cold, dark interior, revealing boxes of blankets, tinned food, bottled water, a few other supplies, and enough floorspace to sleep 10 people comfortably. There was still ash in the hearth, Laney noted irritably as the weak yellow light flickered across the fireplace. Whoever had been up to check on the safehouse last hadn't performed their duties diligently. The monthly maintenance visits had been Ben's idea, after Laney had suggested the barn as a replacement fallback position when Munroe had blown up the original safehouse last year, and was typical of the competent, self-assured way he'd taken on a leadership mantle in Haven.

Shinji picked up on Laney's grunt of annoyance and stepped towards the fireplace. Laney put a restraining hand on his arm and herself filled a bucket with ash. Grabbing a bottle of water, she went outside and sat on the approach to the safehouse. As she waited and watched, she used the water and ash to scrub Callie's dried, flaking blood from her arms.

The sounds of Shinji tinkering inside the stone barn eventually died away as Laney pondered the fate of the friends she'd woken up with that morning. Stoic, dependable Dom; Alison, the former helicopter pilot who, despite her limp, angrily insisited on going out on missions; the timid Dr Short; Elizabeth Rand and her son Eric who, in the wake of his father's death, had latched onto Ben as some sort of older brother... Ben. Laney swallowed hard as she shucked a thick, grimey mix of ash, blood and water off her arms. She'd last seen him at the door of the farmhouse, calmly but sternly trying to bring order to the defence of Haven. But they'd been caught unawares by the size of the horde. As wave upon wave of the dead hit the walls, the realisation that it was time to flee came only seconds before the perimeter was breached, and all their carefully arranged escape plans had been dashed. She'd run to get the truck and bring it to the back gate, only to find Shinji already there. Callie's failed break for safety had brought a larger pack to them and left the drive away from Haven as the only possible route. Even then, Shinji had had to ram numerous decaying, walking bodies out of the way, no doubt contributing to the truck's eventual breakdown.

The gradually sinking sun filled the valley below with a last blaze of orange light before disappearing behind the hills on the far horizon. As the evening gloom darkened and an autumnal chill fell, Shinji finally broke Laney's reverie.

'We go inside now. We must.'

All part of the plan, Laney remembered as she heaved stiff limbs out of her sitting position. In the dusk, it became impossible to discern between actual movement and the imaginings of a stressed-out, jumpy Scav, never mind between the living and the dead. So they were supposed, according to the plan, to get inside, lock the door, and keep noise and light to a minimum. Late arrivals would knock. That was the plan. Monroe's plan, adapted and finessed for the stone barn by Callie, Ben and Alison. So much for the plan that was supposed to keep them safe in Haven. The only two known Haven survivors sat in deep, uncomfortable silence as Laney pondered the futility of plans.

Hours later, a knock on the door, the agreed the three-knock, two-knock, three-knock pattern, brought them both to their feet. Having spent almost every night next to him in the last 10 months, Laney recognised Ben's breathing before he spoke, before her eyes could pick out his silhouette against the faint moonlight. She threw himself into his arms with a sob.

*

They'd elected not to light the fire, even though previous tests had confirmed the smoke wouldn't be seen against the night sky: somehow, after the trauma that day, even the smallest risk seemed unjustifiable. But, wrapped in two sleeping bags and exhausted by terror, Eric soon dropped into a deep slumber under the watchful eye of the three adults. By the dim light of a single shuttered lamp, they looked from one to the other, none willing to be the first to break the silence and confirm the awful reality of the day's events.

Finally, Ben spoke up, his voice still husky from exertion. 'I passed the truck. Almost ran right into it.'

'It breaks from we hit many of them,' Shinji replied. 'Maybe we can fix?'

'Who's in the back?' Ben asked, ignoring Shinji's question.

'Callie,' Laney replied, biting back a flare of resentment at Ben's terse demands. He was freshly arrived from fleeing the horde; he hadn't had several hours in which to collect his thoughts. 'She was bitten, Ben. Badly. I had to...'

More than a year after the outbreak, there was still no easy way to describe that ultimate act. Toby had spared Laney the painful burden 10 months ago, and Monroe had also taken matters into his own hands when he'd been bitten. She had been doing her best to block out the memory of jabbing a blade through Callie's temple. She closed her eyes and shook her head.

Ben noticed her grief and nodded. The last year had changed them all, but killing the living was the ultimate taboo. He'd killed in anger and he'd killed out of mercy. He knew what his girlfriend was going through.

'We should bury her, Laney,' he said with a gentleness he didn't quite feel. 'And get the truck going again.'

Laney looked up suddenly, her eyes wide in the dim light. 'You want to go out there again? So soon?'

'We can't stay here, Laney. We barely have any supplies. It's not secure. That horde could still come up this way.'

'What if more people come?'

'I saw...' It was Ben's turn to hold back a surge of grief. 'Dom's gone. Elizabeth's gone. Carter... Nobody's left.'

In the heavy silence that followed, Shinji flicked his torch over the small stack of supplies to the toolbox. 'We can fix. I take first watch.'

'I'll take second,' Laney mumbled, in deference to Ben's exhaustion. She hated second watch. Being woken was cruel, and getting back to sleep was difficult.

*

Ben stood up. He was back at Haven, standing right in the middle of it, but it was empty, at least as far as he could tell. There were no zeds and no people. It was just him, alone. He had never seen it like this. There was always something going on, somebody was always out and about, for whatever reason.

Something compelled him from his spot and he wandered, almost aimlessly, to the farmhouse where so much activity amongst the residents of Haven occurred before. Its kitchen was the hub of the little settlement, but it too was empty, strangely enough. What the hell was going on around here?

"Laney!" He called, "Eric! Hoppy!" It all felt natural. There was no click in his brain that told him that Hoppy had died, long months ago. But still, there was no answer, so he went back outside. It was still empty.

"Somebody!" He shouted, his voice echoing over the empty landscape. But, it was no use. He was alone. Stricken, he fell to his knees and looked to the ground beneath him. Quietly, he began to sob.

"What are you crying for?" A familiar voice sounded, a voice he hadn't heard in more than a year. He looked up. It was his brother, Chris. "You're not giving up, are you?" The muscular former Marine offered his hand. Ben took it, his left hand still with all five of its digits. And then, when he was on his feet again, he saw his little sister, Amber, standing just to his brother's side. She was quiet, but she looked at him with that look she got when things weren't going so well; the look that said that everything would turn out okay. It always made him feel better, but not this time.

"It's gone," Ben managed quietly, looking back to Chris, "It's all gone." The buildings all around him suddenly all started to look older and fall apart, as if they hadn't been taken care of in years.

"Not all of it," Chris retorted.

From behind him, Laney approached and laced her fingers in with his. On the other side, Eric had approached and was holding onto his leg. When he looked down to the boy, he noticed that his left hand was missing its pinky finger. And then, behind him, Shinji stood. The only people from Haven he knew were still alive. When he looked back up to his brother and his sister, his heart nearly stopped with who else was standing with them now; everyone from Haven who had died. Callie, Monroe, Tilo, Hoppy, Kiera. They were all there.

"Those people need you. Laney's barely keeping herself together, Eric's just a little boy, and Shinji... He barely knows English. They need you to be strong for them." Chris turned around to look at all of the people that were standing behind him now. "And these people, they wouldn't want you to give up." He turned back to look to Ben. "So, fight. It looks bad, but you still have to fight for what you have left."

It was all too much. Ben stayed silent, but tears welled up in his eyes and started to fall, while he kept his head bowed. When he looked back, his brother and sister were gone, leaving just the dead Haven residents looking back at him, but they said nothing. He extricated himself from Eric and Laney and approached and looked at each of them, but kept his gaze on Tilo and Hoppy longer than the others.

The last thing he saw was Hoppy's grinning face, the one that reminded him so much of his sister.

And then he opened his eyes, tears leaking from his eyes and staining what served as a pillow below. He wiped at his face to clear them away, and then rolled over, expecting Laney to be next to him, but she wasn't. It must have been her turn to keep watch. Gently, he ran his hand over the surface where she'd been resting, and then brought himself to a sitting position. Instead of going back to sleep, he decided he would pay Laney a visit while she kept watch. Maybe he would even take some of her watch time from her, just to give her some more time to rest.

When he had dressed himself, he made his way across the safehouse blindly until his eyes could adjust a little better, and then sought out Laney. She was seated in a chair, holding the rifle they'd all agonised over keeping at the safehouse rather than Haven. It weakened Haven's defences, Ben and Carter had argued, but it meant a better chance for anyone who had to escape. Ben had to concede that Callie and Laney had been right about this one. One more weapon wouldn't have saved Haven today.

"Laney," he whispered, moments before approaching her from behind and putting his arms around her gently, just so as not to startle her.

She looked over her shoulder, only managing a faint smile. "Why are you up? You should be asleep."

"I had a... dream. Couldn't get back to sleep."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"No," Ben said after considering it a moment, "Not right now. I just want to be here, with you."

For a while, it was silent. Laney remained seated and Ben still stood behind her, his arms around her shoulders. It was hard to know what to say, after what had happened that day.

Eventually, Laney spoke, her voice barely more than breath. 'Ben, what the fuck are we going to do?'

He gripped her tighter, but no words came. Beyond fixing the truck, it was hard to look ahead.

'Everything... everything's gone,' she hissed, feeling the panic well up inside again, the defences she'd put up in front of Shinji and Eric crumbling now she was alone with her lover.

A phrase echoed at the margins of Ben's consciousness. 'We still have to fight for what we have left,' he muttered.

Laney reached up and interlaced her fingers through his, a gesture he'd come to know over the last year. She stifled a sob, and he felt, more than saw, her nod her head. Gripping his hand seemed to ease her trembling; she could imagine his strength flowing into her. Suddenly she yawned.

'Hey,' said Ben. 'Your watch must be near done. Why don't you let me take over?'

'Benjamin Kinney,' she grinned, rising and snaking her arms around his neck. 'I do declare you are a gentleman.'

When they'd first met, the sudden emergence of his dominant personality, following his kidnap and torture, had surprised and frustrated Laney. Now, after a year of relying on each other to survive obliteration, she felt she understood him better than she understood herself. Wrapping herself up in his still-warm sleeping back and inhaling his scent, Laney mused that his need to protect, to do right, motivated him more than anything else - more than fear, more than anger - even more than lust, she smiled secretly. There were stoic, masculine role models in his family, she knew. Her eyes played across the back of his alert shoulders until sleep overcame her.

*

The late summer sun of the next morning was incongruous to the mood of the small party that emerged tentatively from the ravine that led to the stone barn. Ever eager to be of use, Shinji foraged ahead as Ben and Laney flanked Eric, who seemed to have buttoned up his emotions, having woken in floods of tears. The adults had exchanged concerned glances; none of them had much experience of children, and had no idea how he was going to react to the loss of his mother, or the dangers and stresses of life on the road as they sought a new home. Ben had filled Laney in on what the boy had witnessed the day Haven had fallen. Currently he had latched onto Ben, dogging his heels like a puppy, pale and frightened, clutching at Ben's hand at every sudden noise and movement. As a result, Laney found herself burdened with most of what they'd taken from the stone barn safehouse. While everyone, even Eric, carried their own sleeping bag, Laney now carried all the meagre food supply, the rifle, a double water supply, the toolbox, and two spare sleeping bags. These last two items she didn't begrudge, though. When she'd initially objected to taking unnecessary weight, Ben reminded her they'd nothing else for Callie's body. The padded coverings would have to serve as a shroud.

As they crested a hill and the abandoned truck hove into sight, Ben turned to Laney. 'Stay here with Eric,' he said softly. I'll take care of this.'

Laney smiled at his kindness, and shook her head determinedly. 'Gotta say goodbye,' she said. 'Gotta put her to bed.'

Ben grinned awkwardly at the joke. It would have been in poor taste for anyone else to make it, but he knew Laney had meant it with love. He helped her out of her gear, handing her back the two spare sleeping bags.

Callie looked smaller than Laney recalled her, now that all the spark had fled her body. She was heavier, too, Laney noticed, as she rolled her into an open sleeping bag, now that dead muscles and tendon no longer assisted movement. Laney shuddered briefly as she smoothed Callie's hair down over the ugly gash she'd inflicted on Callie's temple, but more than anything she felt a calm that contrasted with the panicked grief she'd felt in the back of the truck yesterday. Shinji paused briefly at the foot of the flatbed and, noting that Laney working dutifully to wrap the body, took the toolbox to the other end of the truck. He'd been some sort of low-level engineer back in Japan, they'd ascertained, and he had a talent for mechanical things.

Laney tied off the neck of the second sleeping bag around Callie's feet, which were already wrapped in the first bag, pushed the dead weight further into the flatbed, and waved for Ben and Eric to join them. Ben threw the gear onto the back of the truck, then bundled Eric into the cab.

'Where are we...' Laney began awkwardly. 'We should find somewhere special for her. She deserves it.'

Ben reached out and took her hand. A frown creased his brow. 'We need a shovel too. I looked, but I didn't find one.'

A cry of frustration rose from the front of the truck, where Shinji had his head buried under the bonnet. They joined him at the front, Ben grimacing at the battered, gore-smeared grille. The bodywork was dented, and both headlight were smashed - Shinji had had to drive through or over several of the dead the night before. Now, he had the contents of the toolbox spread out at his feet, and he was tugging at a clump of bone and rotted flesh wedged between the fan belt and and cog.

'It can not go back, not go front,' he grunted, trying to rotate the belt. 'And it tear. I think it don't live long.'

The sun climbed higher as Shinji struggled to clear the engine of fragments of the bodies he'd hit in the panicked escape last night. Ben and Laney kept watch from the top of the cab, and Eric scrambled up to join them. After a number of hesitant false starts, the little boy spoke up.

'What's going to happen to Mum now? Will she know it's me?'

The adults exchanged a look over his head, Laney nodding at Ben.

'Eric, buddy,' Ben began, barely knowing what he could say to ease the little boy's pain. 'That won't happen to her, okay? It won't, I made sure. She's with your dad and your grandpa now.'

'Really?' Hope flashed across Eric's small features.

'Really,' Ben affirmed, warming to his task. 'And before she went, she made me promise to look after you.'

'Does that mean you're my dad now?'

'Uh... More like a big brother, I guess.'

'And friends,' Laney interjected.

'But Eric, that also means...' Ben began, only to be interrupted by the sound of the bonnet slamming shut. Shinji jumped up on the running board.

'Okay go,' he quipped. 'In, in, we go now.'

Piling into the cab, they waited expectantly as Shinji turned the key. The engine coughed into life. A nervous grin flashed across Shinji's face and the truck lurched forward. Laney leant out of the window and watched as the road to Haven disappeared behind them.