Season 1 Finale
“Come in” John utters, his wife stepping through his office door, the room bathed in the orange tint an open flame gives it. “Jerome took Jack and the rest to Charlotte’s cottage” Jess says, her husband sinking back into his chair, “we’ll work on getting them something permanent in the next few days.” An apathetic nod given back, John stares off at the window, his wife closing the door on her way inside, the candle reacting to the brief gust of wind.
“What’re you thinking about?” Jess asks, John’s fingertips tapping along his desk, view still on the pane of glass beside him. Leaning on her husband’s desk, Jess waits for a response, John’s head shaking before a word can be spoken. “Too many things, and all at once” John whispers, his breathing becoming heavy, the weight of the world pressing down on his shoulders.
“You’re being too hard on yourself” Jess replies, unsure what exactly dances around the man’s mind, but knowing him well enough to expect nothing good. “I’m in charge of a camp six hundred people strong, nine hundred if you count soldiers” John replies, finally looking his wife in the eyes, the ware his position made obvious in the bags below his eyes, “I’m not being hard enough.”
Letting a sigh break free from her throat, Jess takes her husband’s usually tremor-bound hand into her own, their eyes locking. “I’m worried about you” Jess remarks, her husband’s eyes falling away, “you’re convincing yourself you can save the world, and it’s only going to get you hurt.” Gently pulling his hand away, John folds his cold palms in his lap, his eyes on the window once again.
“I don’t know what I’m doing, Jess” John confesses, the conclusion one the woman had already come to expect. “This place wasn’t supposed to be the plan, it was the bridge to get back to you” John explains, trying to accept his growing disinterest in leading the New World Order. “We both know how fucked up it is out there, John” Jess explains, her husband hiding an eye roll, “even if this isn’t what you wanted, it’s what’s best for our family. That’s what matters most.”
A deep breath leaving his lips, John leaves his seat and approaches the window, glancing out over the walls surrounding their compound, a darkness cast over the world beyond. “If you can’t bring yourself to lead this place, what have we been working for?” Jess challenges, joining her husband by the vantage point, his hands buried in his pockets, “why try to lead a coup against Charlotte? Why keep the walls standing? Why do you do anything if you can’t believe in your ability to lead?”
“Because someone has to!” John shouts, snapping back at his wife, the questions only adding to his frustrations, a few seconds passing, tension alleviating before John continues. “Even if I can’t lead, a percentage of me is a better alternative to that woman” John explains, Charlotte’s twisted motives never failing to stir him, “she views no life with any modicum of care. Even if this place ends up being a dysfunctional mess with me at the helm, it’ll be over-fuckin’-run with her instead.”
Almost on command, another knock at the door captures the couple’s ears. “Come in” John calls out, walking away from the window and returning to his seat. “I heard yelling, figured I’d check in” Emilio replies, closing the door behind himself on the way in. “Just civil disagreement” John replies, the look on his face giving little reason to believe him, this truth obvious.
“What’s that look for?” John asks the entering man, who shakes his head quietly. “He believes you as much as I do, which is to say he doesn’t” Jess replies, earning a huff from her husband. “Jess thinks I’m pushing myself too hard” John remarks, scrawling notes on a sheet of loose paper. “Wait, do you not?” Emilio replies, John’s eyes drifting up towards him, surprised at the response.
“No, I think it’s perfectly fine to not want anyone to suffer out in the cold while I’m in here, feeding my family and sleeping in a warm bed” John replies, “anything less is criminal.” Taking a seat on the opposite side of the desk, Emilio responds. “Yeah, I don’t disagree with you there at all” Emilio explains, John’s posture implying skepticism, “but I don’t think Jess is saying the problem is your guilt.”
“I know what Jess’ problem is” John replies, refusing to argue the point she makes, “but there’s no such thing as a perfect world. And because of that, the people that lead that world shouldn't sleep soundly.” Hanging his head, Emilio leaves the floor open for Jess to interject, her concerns shot down instantly. “Can the two figure out a way to understand that this wasn’t my choice” John asks, both Jessica and Emilio silent, “as long as I’m in charge, that’s my reality.”
“But it shouldn’t be” Jess replies, her argument falling short of her mark. “Like you said, you didn’t ask to lead, you were forced to lead” Jess explains, her husband rolling his eyes once more, “it’s not fair to ask you to hold every single life on your conscience.” Slamming his fist against the desk, John silences the room again, both his wife and Emilio glancing back at him.
“I never said it was fair, but that’s life. Nothing’s ever fair and it never will be” John explains, his pessimistic view too daunting to overcome, “I’m not equipped for this job, but I have it. I didn’t want these responsibilities, but I have to serve them.” A lighter knock at the other end of his door, John finishes his point before welcoming those on the other side in.
“And I don’t know how to be the leader, but I have to be” John concludes, his office door slowly pushed open, “I have a responsibility to these people, and now I have to provide for them, even if I hate it.”
“Daddy?” Amy’s voice asks, the little girl walking into the room, her father’s voice having woken her. “Why are you yelling?” Amy asks, taken into Jess’ arms before handed to John, the larger man unsure of how to answer. “I’m tired and cranky, it happens sometimes” John replies, apologizing for having woken her up. “Let’s go back to bed, I’ll get you settled in” John promises, approaching his office door, only stopping when called back by his wife.
“How about our daughter?” Jess asks, the man’s turning back, his shoulders shrugging. “What about our daughter?” John replies, not seeing the woman’s point. “You have a responsibility to her, just like I do” Jess explains, her husband’s head hung, “which one comes first?” Looking up, John’s expression carries a disappointment, his heart sinking with that question.
“You come first” John replies, his family never once falling from his top priority, “you’ll always come first, and don’t forget it.” Turning back, John carries Amy back to her room, vanishing into the dark hallway, only Emilio and Jess left behind. “Your husband is a complicated man” Emilio mutters, a passing joke offered to the woman, the mood lightened for it. “My husband’s a good man” Jess corrects, Emilio turning to her as she stares off at the dark hallway, “his mind is just a mess.”
= Rise: Remastered is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
Sat at the steps to an apartment complex with her feet crossed, Tori watches the dead below walk by, her silent observance allowing her to be unrecognized by the dead. “Tea?” Kelsey whispers, two steaming cups held in her hands, joining the woman atop the cold, concrete steps. “Sure, thanks” Tori whispers back, taking the cup into her hand, moving aside to make Kelsey room.
“They move really weird, huh?” Kelsey notes, neither she, nor Tori making any effort to be hidden, their inconspicuousness just keeping them hidden. “They’re like animals” Tori replies, a light snow falling, her hand held over her mug both to shield her drink, and keep her hand warm, “unless we give them a reason to, they don’t split away from their pack.”
A gust of air exiting through her nose, Kelsey shakes her head in awe, their movements profound for walking piles of decaying innards. “Lauren asleep yet?” Tori asks, trying to redirect the conversation. “Yeah, she’s been out for an hour or so” Kelsey replies, the answer bringing on silence, a few minutes passing before Kelsey changes the subject again.
“Things haven’t really felt right since Mark and Brent have been gone, have they?” Kelsey remarks, noticing the sigh that leaves Tori’s mouth. “What?” Kelsey replies, curious to the reaction. “Brent’s been gone for two weeks now, nearing three” Tori responds, looking to Kelsey with an exhausted expression, “can we drop this already?”
“We’d been traveling with them since the start of all this” Kelsey defends, the rubbing of Tori’s own brow indicating her tiredness of the topic. “Fine, whatever. It’s dropped” Kelsey replies, giving into the woman’s wishes, silence filling the space between them again. “Why have you been so distant recently?” Kelsey asks, watching Tori’s eyes narrow, the woman trying to read into the question.
“I’m not trying to pick on you or anything, I just wanna make sure nothing’s wrong” Kelsey explains, the shrug Tori answers with serving to clear the air. “I’m fine, nothing’s wrong” Tori replies, flashing a wide smile to the woman beside her, “is that good enough? Are your troubles clear?”
In the moment it takes Kelsey to form a response, Tori picks up her mug and returns indoors. “Thanks for the tea” Tori mutters, walking back into their shared home, the front step occupied by Kelsey for a few seconds longer. “Tori, what’s wrong?” Kelsey asks, closing the front door behind her, walking off after her fellow survivor.
“Nothing’s wrong, you’ve already asked me that” Tori replies, taking her drink up the main staircase. “I did, and it feels like your answer wasn’t very honest” Kelsey retorts, following the woman up the stairs, a gesture Tori isn’t too keen on. “Well I’m sorry you didn’t like my answer” Tori replies, stepping into her room and placing her hand on the door, “it’s the only one you’re gonna get.”
Pushing the door shut, Tori’s attempt falls short of their intent, Kelsey’s rubber-tipped shoe laid between the door and its frame. “I’m not moving my boot until you give me something better” Kelsey replies, the woman she speaks to completely hidden by the wooden door. “You don’t like my answer, so rather than assert its truth, you want me to change it to something less true?” Tori replies, peeking her head through the small opening, “that doesn’t make much sense.”
A disappointed look on her face, Kelsey repeats her original question, settling on accepting whatever is spoken as the truth. “Are you okay?” Kelsey simplifies the question to, Tori’s less-genuine, still-notable smile given back. “I’m totally fine” Tori replies, waiting a moment before glancing down towards the impeding shoe, Kelsey allowing a moment to pass before sliding it away from the door’s path.
“Thank you, goodnight” Tori remarks, closing the door and locking it shut, leaving Kelsey in the pitch black hallway alone, her eyes kept to the door, holding out little hope that it would open soon enough.
“Welcome back” John remarks, an obviously feigned enthusiasm in his greeting, hands folded by his lap as Charlotte approaches him, an unimpressed face adorned. “You frenzy an army just outside of my border, you redirect my cargo deliveries to an off-site camp, and you let more people in without my clearance and gave them my house” Charlotte explains, the man’s sour expression telling the story, “and you have the gall to stand there and give me that half-hearted bullshit?”
His hand shaking despite being well within the grasp of the more dominant reach, John looks Charlotte in the eyes, not breaking contact. “Relax, shaky. You’ve kept the wall up, that’s better than what others would have expected” Charlotte notes, brushing off the tremors, “walk with me.”
Strolling through the New World Order, swathes of people move away from the path of their two lead figureheads, Charlotte and John both talking as this occurs. “Were any of these people your friend’s husband?” Charlotte asks, forgetting Emilio’s name. “No, they are not” John replies, a specific tone lingering in his words. “You’re disappointed about that” Charlotte says, pointing to the inflection in the man’s voice, “you care about their reunion.”
“We see differently on some things, Charlotte” John remarks, unaware of the woman’s raised eyebrow, “this just happens to be one of them.” Finger raised into the air for dramatic pause, Charlotte corrects the man’s point. “That’s where you’re wrong, handsome chin” Charlotte replies, a specific swagger in her response, “I hope his husband comes in, kicks his shoes off, and spends the rest of his life sipping lemonade next to their yet-to-exist inground pool.”
“Hold on, wait-” John replies, stopping his walk, looking the woman in the eyes with visible loss, “-I thought he was just collateral to keep me in line?” Looking for her response, Charlotte settles on the obvious. “Sure, he’s collateral just as your wife and kid are” Charlotte responds, not seeing the connection John hangs himself up over, “that doesn’t mean I don’t want them to be happy.”
Continuing to walk, Charlotte puts the onus on John to keep up, the curiosity that builds in his head helping keep that from being a problem. “I don’t understand you as much as I’d like to think I do” John explains, the laugh Charlotte gets from that giving her great satisfaction. “I love how dumbfounded you are” Charlotte replies, her hands held behind her back, fingers interlaced to keep them there, “it’s more interesting than I could hope for, ask whatever questions you’ve got, Cowboy.”
Obliging, John gives in, the first question leaving his lips immediately. “How can you care about someone and view them as a bargaining chip?” John inquires, the look Charlotte gives him implying a disconnect. “I know you weren’t out there long, but you do understand what’s going on outside these walls, right?” Charlotte replies, watching John’s head nod.
“Great, so you know that it’s real fucked up out there, right?” Charlotte replies, again watching John’s head nod, her shoulders shrugging. “The people inside these walls are my people” Charlotte explains, stopping in the middle of the path to look at John, “yes, their lives have a specific value, whatever that value may be. But I want them to be happy, just like I want you to be happy. Does that answer your question?”
Turning back to walk the path, Charlotte forces John to keep up again. “How can you just pretend the line between those two things doesn't exist?” John asks, the woman slowing to a halt, her head aimed to the air, “you can’t say you care about life, say you want people to be happy, then leave the people outside the walls to suffer.”
“I didn’t say I cared about the lives of people, I said I cared about the lives of my people” Charlotte explains, licking her lip in the face of bitter cold, “the people outside, they’re not my people. They’re scavengers! They’re heathens! They’re mouths to feed and useless hands.” John having gone quiet, the man allows Charlotte to continue to speak, hoping her point will be made clear.
“Do you know what’s valuable inside these walls? Food vouchers, water vouchers, medical vouchers” Charlotte explains, “how about what’s out there? Guns, bullets, batteries, bandages.” Taking one hand from behind her back, Charlotte waves her fingers towards the square of people walking freely, living their lives to their own accord.
“That’s the one difference between you and I, John. It’s why I can sleep at night and you can’t” Charlotte explains, closing the distance between them, “I want to provide for my people, and you want to be their hero.” Her lip curled, Charlotte looks into John’s eyes, his anger boiling, goosebumps raised on his arms and neck. “I’m every bit the vindictive bitch people assume I am, but that doesn’t make me wrong” Charlotte clarifies, John’s desire to look away growing.
“Look a mile out in any direction you want, and you’ll see what proves me right. It stands six stories in the sky in all directions” Charlotte explains, “and whoever threatens to tear that down, no matter how pretty they may be, will be disposed of.” Pulling his head back, John’s expression changes, the woman’s statement having subtly turned into a warning.
“Leaders make decisions that aren’t easy, but instead, are necessary” Charlotte explains, the wall, which separates the dead from the living, towering above in the distance. “If everyone was let in, no one would eat, everyone would suffer, and these walls would be pointless because everyone would be dead” Charlotte concludes, tucking her hands in her pockets, “you don’t have to like it, but one side gets to suffer, the other side gets to thrive. My side, the side of my people, gets the latter.”
Snarling at the man, Charlotte turns back to the path, challenging John to keep up once more. “Does that answer your question?” Charlotte calls out from afar, John stood where she left him for a moment, begrudgingly following after the woman’s lead.
The car ride silent, Franklin sleeps in the backseat whilst Salem and Alicia occupy the front, the latter woman behind the wheel. “I think we’re in New Hampshire” Alicia inspects, pointing her hand towards a small storefront off the beaten path. “Best eatery in the Granite State” Salem reads aloud. “I don’t know what New Hampshire’s nickname is, but I know Massachusetts isn’t ‘the Granite state’” Alicia remarks.
“Good enough for me” Salem replies, not caring where their vehicle happens to be driving, a file taken to her fingernails. A few minutes pass, neither woman talking to the other, Franklin remaining peacefully tucked away into his slumber. An interest in Salem’s life suddenly sparked, Alicia opens her mouth, beginning dialogue her fellow survivor is indifferent to.
“Why were you alone for nine years?” Alicia inquires, Salem’s ease at answering implying her lack of truth to hide. “I didn’t have many friends when I graduated from high school. I kept to myself through college, and spent the remaining four years doing my job” Salem replies, one foot propped up on the dashboard, file still in hand, “why?”
“No, you said you’d been alone for nine years a couple weeks ago” Alicia replies, returning with a shrug, “I didn’t know why.” Fine with Alicia’s answer, Salem returns her focus to her nails, only beginning to notice Alicia’s attempt at starting a conversation once the woman asks a second question. “What did you do for work?” Alicia asks, Salem’s eyes slowly pulling up, the nail file placed in her lap.
“Software engineering” Salem replies, catching the surprised look Alicia monetarily allows to appear. “What? I can’t be a nerd because I fire a gun?” Salem replies, the corner Alicia tries to break herself out of only growing larger. “No, I just- I wouldn’t have expected, well, that” Alicia replies, easing when Salem’s smile sprouts across her face.
“I liked to go hunting in my spare time, traveled alone a lot” Salem explains, clearing Alicia’s misconceptions, “I had my brother, but- Well, you know the story.” Nodding along, Alicia inquires about the woman’s brother, the question less-enticing to her traveling cohort. “I didn’t see him as much as I would’ve liked to. I sometimes still don’t even consider him part of my life” Salem explains, a frown on her face, foot lowering from the dash, “but that’s easier now, ain’t it?”
The mood lowered, Alicia returns a sympathetic smile, the car going silent again, her eyes returning to the road, conversation dying there.
“We still got the dead?” Tori asks, that question the first thing to leave her mouth since waking. “Yeah, but not as much as last night” Kelsey replies, fingers of both hands wrapped around a heated pack of water. Occupying the space beside the woman, Tori gazes through the kitchen window, a litany of the dead dragging themselves through the snow-covered streets.
“There’s gotta be two feet of snow out there” Tori remarks to herself, her trio stranded inside their makeshift campsite until the elements let up. “What’re you guys looking at?” Lauren mutters, approaching the woman, eyes finding the same abundance of the undead. “This is great” Lauren sarcastically muses, splitting away from the women, her bag thrown over her shoulder.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Tori asks, her snippy attitude a product of the sleepless night prior. “The roof. I’m gonna figure out what we’ve got waiting for us once we get through the front door” Lauren remarks, walking for the staircase, Kelsey and Tori left on their own. “You better this morning?” Kelsey asks, barely a few seconds having passed since Lauren’s departure.
“Yeah, why?” Tori replies, oblivious to Kelsey’s relaunch of the prior night’s conversation at first, a sudden eye roll given once the realization dawns upon her. “Yeah, Kelsey. I’m fine, just like I was last night” Tori replies, taking a warm bottle of water into her possession, “now please drop whatever you think you’re getting at.”
Walking into the next room, Tori splits herself apart from the rest of the conversation, Kelsey’s eyes instinctively pulled back towards the horde outside. “If you don’t want to talk about your feelings, let’s talk about something else” Kelsey replies, eyes firmly kept towards the dead, “it could take days for this snow to melt, how much longer can we afford to wait?”
“How much water have we pre-boiled?” Tori replies, tending to some chore one sheet of drywall over, “we’ve got plenty for the next few days, and if it doesn’t snow tonight, we have even more.” Rolling her eyes, Kelsey touches upon other concerns. “Water’s covered, sure. But we need food, we need warmth, we need defense, must I go on?” Kelsey asks, Tori returning to the kitchen mid-sentence, “how much longer can we truly afford to stay here?”
Forcing herself to take down a swig of piping hot water, Tori takes a seat at the table a few feet behind her fellow woman. “You act like we’re guaranteed to find any of that out there more than we are here” Tori replies, noticing the woman’s disappointed stature, “it’s been six months, the timer was set once everything went to shit, and it’s long been expired.”
“I know, but we’ve used this house dry of anything it had to offer” Kelsey replies, the issue regarding ease of departure weighing on her mind. “No, we haven’t” Tori replies, quick to point out the obvious, despite its underappreciation, “we’ve still got a firepit on the roof and shelter above our heads, that’s still worth something.”
“Yeah, sure” Kelsey replies, unamused with the woman’s findings, her statement only supporting half of the truth, “but neither of those things are worth a damn if we starve to death.” Following Tori’s earlier lead, Kelsey leaves the room, this time directing herself towards the main stairwell. “I can’t argue with that” Tori mutters below her breath, allowing Kelsey to walk off, her mind conjuring up plans on how to pass the time.
Emerging through the roof entrance, Kelsey walks towards Lauren’s seat, the heavily-clothed woman taking her eyes away from the picturesque landscape. “You seem to like coming up here as much as I do” Lauren remarks, dragging a second seat towards the firepit. “You come up here a lot, it’s a pretty good reason to visit” Kelsey replies, laying a kiss onto the woman before taking a seat, the heat from the fire bringing on a blissful sensation.
“So, why did you really come up here?” Kelsey asks, the same answer given as before. “I’m checking out the road ahead” Lauren replies, looking away from her girlfriend once the familiar expression dawns within Kelsey’s eyes. “You say that every day, and yet, the buildings never seem to go anywhere” Kelsey returns, the giggle that she brings over Lauren putting a smile on her own face.
“Okay, maybe I like the view” Lauren replies, watching Kelsey lean into her again. “I think I’ve got a view that’s a little bit be-” Kelsey replies, stopping herself just before Lauren’s face, their lips mere inches apart. “Wait a second” Kelsey mutters below her breath, Lauren immediately growing curious. “You look like a lightbulb just went off in your head” Lauren mutters, watching her girlfriend push herself out of her chair, walking towards the ledge.
“What’s that building back there?” Kelsey asks, pointing towards a tall, square-shaped building just behind an apartment complex just across the street. “I don’t know, just another random building, I guess” Lauren replies, unable to see whatever Kelsey does, “why?” Pausing for a moment, Kelsey looks over the limited view of the area she has, reassuring her initial thought.
“That big building doesn’t look like it’s attached to anything else” Kelsey replies, Lauren still unsure about what she’s trying to get at. “I don’t see whatever it is you’re getting at” Lauren replies, her curiosity not addressed, a silent Kelsey quickly dashing back towards the entrance. Following after the woman, Lauren matches Kelsey’s footsteps back into the kitchen, her girlfriend speaking up once she finds Tori, the woman still sat at the kitchen table.
“What if we tried to draw the horde away from the house?” Kelsey barges in asking, the suggestion peaking Tori’s interest. “There’s a building just behind that apartment complex, as as far as I can tell, it’s not connected to anything else” Kelsey explains, her counterparts immediately recognizing what she’s suggesting, “if we can set it ablaze, we’ll be able to run right around the dead.”
Considering the idea for a moment, Tori finds herself latching onto obvious flaws. “There’s still two feet of snow outside, and we haven’t addressed the issue of how we’re gonna light the son of a bitch up” Tori replies, an answer afforded instantly. “I’ll make the run, don’t worry about that” Kelsey replies, instantly earning a concerned glare from Lauren, “as for the snow, I might have a solution for that.”
“Wait, can we just hop back a few seconds, please?” Lauren replies, her eyes stapled to her girlfriend, “what the hell do you mean ‘I’ll make the run’?” Easing the concerns away, Kelsey turns to Lauren. “The dead are slow, all I need to do is make it to the tower in one piece and I’ll be fine” Kelsey replies, reaching into a nearby bag and removing a flare, “when I get to a safe spot, I’ll strike this bad boy up and lead you two right to the promised land.”
Before she can have a chance to respond, Tori drags the conversation back to Kelsey’s original point. “You said you had a plan for the snow” Tori explains, Kelsey reaching for her bag once more, “how do you plan-” Before Tori can finish her thought, Kelsey dumps countless bottles of hairspray and a collection of lighters onto the kitchen table, the room going silent.
“I figured we’d need these at some point, so I’ve been saving up” Kelsey explains, backing up her earlier claims, “I knew we wouldn’t be able to shovel our ways out at some point, so I thought ahead.” Her hands thrown up, Tori slinks back into her chair, no longer wishing to argue the woman’s plan, “I’m convinced” Tori concludes, leaving the floor open to Lauren.
“Kelsey, we’ve already lost two people getting this far, you’re insane if you think that can’t happen to someone else” Lauren explains, Kelsey taking her claims seriously more so than before, “I don’t want to risk losing you.”
“I’ll go then” Tori replies, Kelsey’s explanation having convinced her of the lessened risks. “No, I want to do this myself” Kelsey replies, immediately refusing Tori’s advancement, a gesture Lauren grows confused by. “What? Why? What difference does it make who goes?” Lauren replies, Kelsey not giving much of a reasonable answer. “I want to, I came up with the idea, I think I should be the one to act on it” Kelsey replies, giving Lauren very little to work off of.
“If we’re gonna do this, we’re going to need to do it soon” Tori explains, “we can’t risk a snowfall putting the fire out. And it can’t be too bright, or else we won’t see the flare. If it’s too dark, we can’t see where we’re going.” The specifics set in place, Kelsey makes her mind up, the decision putting a haste to the process. “Then it’s settled, when the sky turns orange, we get moving” Kelsey replies, watching Tori walk off, Lauren instantly calling for Kelsey’s attention.
“Are you trying to prove something?” Lauren calls out, confused as to Kelsey’s motivations, “I don’t get why Tori can’t do it.” Wrapping her hands around Lauren’s shoulders, Kelsey gives the woman a smile, trying to put her worries to bed. “Anything that puts one of us in danger puts us all in danger, we risk losing each other every time we move” Kelsey explains, admitting the need to get used to such concerns, “and I’m not trying to prove anything, I just know how to start a fire.”
Ending the conversation quickly, Kelsey walks off to prepare for her group’s departure, Lauren remains standing in the kitchen. “But-” Lauren mutters below her breath, watching Kelsey walk out of view, her worries not nearly as lowered as they should be.
“Hi” Jess mutters, the door in front of her pulled open, Jack’s frame being the first to emerge from the other side. “Stopping by to welcome us to the neighborhood?” Jack jokes, noticing the woman’s uncomfortability with this interaction. “Can we help you with anything?” Jack asks, putting the humor aside. “I just wanted to check in. See how you guys were doing” Jess replies, pausing for a moment, thinking to herself during the quiet few seconds, “and to apologize, too.”
“Apologize for what?” Jack replies, not wanting bad blood between them, “you did nothing wrong.” Head lowered, Jess fumbles around with her fingers for a few seconds. “I kind of did” Jess replies, looking up to the man, who doesn’t follow her logic, “can I come in?” Making room for his former employer, Jack allows Jess entry, the ground level left to them.
“Reggie and Shauna are sleeping upstairs, and Jack’s with your doctors” Jack explains, showing the woman to a nearby seat. “I don’t know what you meant just a second ago” Jack explains, sinking into a blue, cushioned chair, “unless you started the end of the world, I don’t see what you have to apologize for.”
Visibly restless, Jess explains her earliest days of the outbreak. “On that first night, I met two people on the freeway” Jess explains, the man across the room from her getting comfortable in his chair, “they wanted to go south, back towards the warehouse, and I went the opposite way instead.” Squinting towards the woman, his finger placed over his lips, Jack fails to see the point the woman is trying to make.
“What about any of that requires an apology to us?” Jack replies. “I could’ve come back for all of you, but that never even entered my mind” Jess replies, pointlessly trying to convince herself of fault, “you were my employees, I should have had you in mind, but I didn’t.” Letting out a deep breath, Jack takes in the woman’s confession, leaning forward with his hands clasped.
“Jess, with all due respect, that’s the dumbest reason to blame yourself I’ve ever heard” Jack explains, the woman nearly laughing at herself. “It’s funny, but I am being serious. I don’t know why you feel the need to blame yourself for what happened to us, but you shouldn’t feel that” Jack explains, Jess’ eyes narrowing as he continues, “you’re not to blame, and we don’t blame you.”
“Hold on, what happened to you?” Jess replies, Jack’s confused glare answering her, “you just said ‘what happened to us’, what happened?” Tilting his head, Jack explains what happened on the first night. “These scumbags showed up, tried to kill us, then fucked off” Jack explains, admitting Jess could have done nothing to change the outcome, “that’s what your apologizing for, right? For not helping us fight them off?”
Not having heard this information before, Jess shakes her head. “No, I was apologizing for not considering all of you when I went north” Jess replies, a shocked look on her face, “who the fuck attacked you guys?” His shoulders shrugging, Jack replies, Jess’ eyes widening. “Some woman and a bunch of combat people” Jack replies, explaining it off as a depressing chapter his group had long since put behind them, “long story short, we made it out, started running for this place.”
“What was the woman’s name?” Jess asks, the man’s face shrinking, his hand rubbing at his head as he tries to recall. “Everything was going nuts, I wasn’t thinking of names” Jack explains, fighting himself for the answer. “Something like Sheryl, or Cindy, or Sammy, or something like that” Jack replies, falling short of his intended outcome, “I don’t remember, but her face, oh fucking hell, her face haunts me at night.”
Giving the man a nod, Jess hastily gets up to leave, a grave look kept on her face. “What’s wrong?” Jack calls out, Jess quickly walking for the door, leaving the man confused. “I have to go somewhere real quick” Jess replies, making up an obvious lie before dashing through the front door. “I’ll be back later, sorry” Jess concludes, slamming the door shut on her way out, Jack left stood in the center of the room, the confused expression he holds slowly dissipating.
“She’s gone” Jack calls out, Tyler, Reggie and Shauna quickly descending the staircase, Jack turning towards them with a disgruntled gleam in his eye. “You all ready?” Jack asks aloud, the three survivors all walking past him, armed with concealed weapons, Tyler handing the man a picture frame. “Let’s get this bitch” Jack replies, tucking his shirt over the grip of a handgun resting on his hip, Charlotte’s portrait left in his hand, “an eye for an eye, Charlotte” Jack whispers.
“Are you ready?” Tori whispers, the woman she prepares easing herself into the situation she’d asked to be placed into. “Yeah, I’m ready” Kelsey replies, her hushed voice showing the concerns she hides deep within. “What’s the plan?” Tori asks, the hint of hesitance in Kelsey’s voice growing worrisome. “Set the tower ablaze, find an open spot, set up the signal flare, then wait” Kelsey replies, the checklist memorized plenty.
“Hey, are you ready?” Tori asks again, spinning Kelsey towards her, their eyes locking, an aggressive certainty shared, “we can’t fuck this up.” With a nod, Kelsey gives Tori her assurance. “We need-” Tori begins, stopped by Kelsey’s insistence, the woman finishing her intended statement, “-perfection” Kelsey concludes, “we need perfection.” Puckering her lips together, Tori’s words fade, a nod given, her hands patting the woman on the shoulders.
Turning to her girlfriend, Kelsey flashes Lauren a smile, refusing to hide her optimism. “There’s still time to turn back” Lauren explains, her arms cradled in the palms of Kelsey’s hands, comforted by the woman’s warm touch, “we can wait out the snow. We can wait out the dead.” Pulling Lauren closer, Kelsey tucks her chin atop Lauren’s shoulder, a tear running down her eye.
“I’m going to be okay” Kelsey whispers, her lips grazing the woman’s ear, her warm breath running down Lauren’s neck, “this isn’t the time to worry about me. This is the time to fight onward.” Her lips pecking the soft skin on Lauren’s neck, Kelsey turns back to Tori, a parting gift offered in the moment. “I’ve got one bullet in the chamber” Tori explains, her arm extending towards her fellow woman, firearm held in her dominant hand, “make that shot worth it.”
An appreciative smirk given back, Kelsey accepts Tori’s gun and finds a place for it in her waistband. Holding Lauren’s hand for a few more seconds, Kelsey stares at the front door, walking out to the front step, the frostbitten horde below struggling through the mountains of snow. With a deep exhale, Kelsey’s breath fogs the air, her hand sliding down the bannister as she descends from safety, embracing the frigid mix below.
Armed with a crowbar, Kelsey melts away the snow before her, the burning sights proving to serve more as a beacon, every sudden burst of light only bringing more attention to herself. Wailing at the dead, Kelsey pulls herself through the street as Tori and Lauren watch, their view only obstructed once Kelsey vanishes down one of many alleyways.
“Get to the roof” Tori remarks, ripping Lauren away from the door. “Why!?” Lauren shouts, the sudden tug at the collar of her shirt surprising her. “They’ve found us!” Tori exclaims, pointing to the very end of the front steps, the largely-melted walkway Kelsey had made now giving the dead a path towards the home. Reluctant, Lauren forces herself to follow Tori up the stairs, their feet dashing through each level, their destination reaching them with a cold gust of wind to the face.
“Can you see her?” Lauren shouts, watching Tori dash towards the edge of the building, eyes peering over the edge. “I can’t see her!” Tori calls back, looking around the fire pit for weapons. “How are we gonna get down now?” Lauren calls out, her hands forcibly wrapped around a sharp stick. “We’ll worry about that later” Tori replies, arming herself with a cinder block, the echoed growls from within the home finally catching the women’s ears.
“You better be ready!” Tori calls out, standing beside Lauren with her eyes glued to the open door. “Now!” Tori shouts, watching a pair of the undead round the corner, her arms ripping the cinder block through the air, the grotesque sound of splintering bones emanating from their victims. “Back up a couple steps” Tori directs, marching Lauren forward like a soldier, taking her through the process again.
“Now!” Tori shouts, putting another set of the dead to rest, stepping away to create distance again. “Now!” Tori shouts, repeating the process over again, their attention dulled to only the immediate moment, every swift shot taking their every second of focus. Swinging her jutted stick across her body, Lauren’s body spins away, her eyes catching the sight of the neighboring tower in a split moment.
“Hold on!” Lauren exclaims, pulling Tori away, pointing towards the other side of the street, the old-fashioned tower slowly burning brighter in the night sky, sending flames through the air. “Keep going!” Tori shouts from beside the woman, preparing the woman to lunge forward again, one set of the dead piled onto the floor after another, minutes passing before Lauren’s eyes fall upon the distance once more.
“The flare!” Lauren shouts, pointing a few hundred yards away, the smokey orange tint emerging from within the concrete jungle offering the stranded women a greenlight. “Let’s go!” Tori exclaims, hurling her cinder block at the ever increasing line of undead, the earlier problem rearing its ugly head again. “How the fuck are we getting down!?” Lauren exclaims, the only exit flooded with bone-frozen corpses.
“Good question” Tori replies, navigating the rooftop whilst Lauren provides cover, wailing on whatever rotten sack of flesh falls in her way. “I’m gonna need an answer, Tori!” Lauren exclaims, the lack of a second voice only providing an avenue for the woman’s concern to mount. “Tori, what the fuck do we do!?” Lauren exclaims, forcing the jagged edge of her weapon through each decrepit skull, tiring herself further.
“Tori, answer the qu-!” Lauren exclaims with one final lunge, her body twirling backwards to allow her sights to set on her fellow survivor. Stood on the ledge of the building, Tori stares towards the ground below, silent in her perspective. “Tori!?” Lauren exclaims, her arms thrown outwards as the other woman looks back at her, answering only with a shrug.
Stepping off the ledge, Tori vanishes below the lip of the building, falling six stories to the ground below, a shriek of refusal given by Lauren. “No!” the undead-chased woman exclaims, looking towards the snow-covered earth below, only a sea of white below. “Tori!” Lauren shouts, begging the woman for an answer, the dead quickly closing in. Huffing and puffing, Lauren’s chest expands and retracts in horror, waiting for any sign of life below.
Following minute-like seconds, Lauren watches a dark figure emerge from the white-covered roads, gingerly digging herself out of a snowy crater. Eyes widened, Lauren glances back to the army of the undead behind her and makes a judgment call, tightly grabbing onto the weapon in her hands. “Lauren!” the woman’s attention is called for from below, Tori waiting hopelessly for any sign of life from above.
Pushing the horde back, Lauren creates separation for herself, fighting further back towards the roof-level entrance. With a few last strikes, Lauren switches course, turning away from the door and dashing towards the edge of the building. Pushing herself off the concrete lip, Lauren dives towards the ground below, watching the ground soar closer, her ears deafened by the air whipping past her face.
Crossing her arms over her chest, Lauren braces for impact, eyes squeezing shut as her face shrivels up, the falling sensation suddenly replaced with a stomach-punching halt. Embraced by snow warmer than the air she’d been guided by, Lauren sees nothing but darkness, a chilly grave encompassing her in every direction. Deep blue rings flashing by her pitch-black view, Lauren listens into the faint sounds closing their way into her.
Hands smacking her back, Lauren takes a moment to gather herself, unsure of how to respond. Ripped from her body-shaped crevasse in the snow, Lauren is spun into Tori’s lap, the woman wiping the snow away from her face with a smile. “You alive, Lauren?” Tori asks, laughing off the shock her friend finds herself entrenched in. “My ribs hurt” Lauren remarks, finally coming back to, catching her breath for a few seconds.
“Yeah, you jumped like a fucking idiot” Tori jokes, laughing at Lauren while she pulls her up, arm pulled over her own shoulder. “We’re in the-” Tori begins explaining, silenced by the sound of a gunshot in the near-distance, both women looking towards the flare with widened eyes. “Was that-?” Lauren begins to ask, her question disregarded by Tori, who changes the conversation. “Let’s go, we’ve gotta get moving” Tori exclaims, gingerly tugging Lauren through the less-occupied roads.
“Kelsey!” Lauren exclaims, traveling under her own power, following the lead of a homemade flamethrower-wielding Tori. Catching up to the flare, Lauren waits for the unreturned response, each call given returned with the same irrevocable silence. “Kelsey!” Lauren cries out gutturally, each step bringing them closer to the flare, yet no closer to a response.
Finally reaching their destination, Tori and Lauren spot the flare, smoke and flames rising out of a small spot in the open, undead-free snow. “Found it!” Tori exclaims, climbing over the fluff and wrapping her fingers around the charge. Surveying the area, Tori and Lauren call out for Kelsey, the woman having seemed to vanish into thin air. “Kelsey!?” Lauren calls out again, waiting endlessly for a response.
“We’re the only footprints” Tori mutters aloud, capturing Lauren’s attention immediately, a sorrowful look worn on the woman’s face, “she’s not here.” Confused, Lauren looks towards every direction, the statement Tori makes proving undeniably true. Left in a small indent in the snow, the flare appears to have been discarded intentionally, no other signs of someone having occupied the area left to be found.
“But the flare! The fucking the flare is here!” Lauren shouts, pointing to the illuminated object cradled in Tori’s palm, “why would the flare be here if she isn’t!?” Going quiet, Tori thinks to herself whilst Lauren brings attention towards them, a deepening expression of anguish written on Tori’s face. “Tori, why isn’t Kelsey here!?” Lauren shouts, finally earning the other woman’s attention.
“I don’t know, Lauren. But you need to stop yelling!” Tori replies, noticing the dead that emerge from their hiding places, all called to the sound of Lauren’s exclamations. “Kelsey!” Lauren calls out, defying Tori’s warnings, hopelessly calling out for her love’s return, the dead closing in further. “Kelsey!” Lauren continues shouting, fighting off the sharp pains in her sides, refusing to leave without her girlfriend’s return.
“Lauren, shut the fuck up!” Tori shouts, tugging at Lauren’s arm to no use, each reach pulled away from. “Kelsey, where are you!?” Lauren exclaims again, giving no care to the undead. Pushed into a panicked decision, Tori dies out the flare’s flame in the snow, wrapping her hand around the base of the object as she walks after Lauren.
“Kels-!” Lauren calls out again, her words hushed the moment her body spins, pulled around by Tori’s grasp. Attempting to speak, Lauren watches Tori lunge at her with the weighted signal flare, every sight of the cold, March night turning to a black nothingness. With a thud, Tori lays into Lauren’s face with the flare, knocking the woman unconscious, every desperate call for Kelsey’s return stopped in an instant.
Saving her skin for the moment, Tori tumbles back into the snow, her left side aching from the fall, a new situation having emerged. Hesitant to waste any more time, Tori fights through the pain to pick Lauren up, the unconscious woman draped over Tori’s shoulders. Blazing a path through the snow, Tori grimaces with each extra-weighted step, carrying Lauren over her shoulders out of defiance, refusing to lose anyone else by the time the morning arrives.
“Get to the car!” Salem exclaims, firing off pot shots at the undead from afar, Alicia and Franklin retreating to the vehicle with bags in their arms. Sliding through the opening in the sun roof, Salem takes over at the steering wheel, both Franklin and Alicia tossing duffle bags worth of supplies into the truck bed. “Drive!” Franklin exclaims, giving the orders the moment Alicia’s door slams shut.
Stepping on the gas, Salem sends the truck flying forward, their lives saved by the skin of their teeth. “We’re getting worse at this” Alicia remarks through bated breaths, this conclusion having already dawned upon the driver. “No, we’re not” Salem defeatedly says, steering the group onto the open road, the sky washed with a midnight darkness, “but what we’re fighting for is.”
Catching her breath, Alicia glances to her left, noticing the loss-accepted expression on Salem’s face, this sight different than ones before. “What are we fighting for?” Alicia replies, not wishing to misconstrue Salem’s words. “Scraps” Salem replies, disappointed in such a conclusion, both Alicia and Franklin unfamiliar with this side of the woman, one willing to accept circumstances rather than defy them.
“What does that mean?” Franklin wonders aloud, noticing a change in Salem’s character, her eyes looking at him in the rear-view mirror. “It means running isn;t working out anymore” Salem confesses, not wasting a moment before looking towards Alicia, “it’s time to find somewhere to settle down.” Mouth agape, Alicia looks towards the open road, a distance marker to Concord passing her in that very moment.
“Do you remember that woman from the gas station?” Alicia asks, eyes falling back towards Salem. “Sure, what about her?” the woman replies, watching the smile widen on Alicia’s face. “I think I have somewhere in mind” Alicia responds, not another word given from Salem.
“Hands up and get out of the car!” soldiers exclaim, their assault rifles aimed forward, sights set on the truck parked at their gate, the sun just beginning to rise upon a new day. Obliging, Salem, Alicia and Franklin slowly depart their vehicles, Salem taking the lead. “We’re here to request entry” Salem explains, her hands steadily held by her head.
“We’re gonna need Neville at the front gates” one soldier speaks into his talkie, approaching the three survivors. “We’re not asking for free entry” Salem calmly explains, keeping an approachable presence over herself, “we’ve got weapons, food, medical supplies, the whole lot in our truck. They’re yours as payment for entry.”
Consenting to a pat down, the survivors gain clearance from the soldiers, who wait a few moments before gesturing towards the front gate. Appearing from within the heavily-guarded entrance, a man in a button-up shirt and dress pants emerges from within the compound, a restrained smile worn on his face. “You say you’ve brought payment?” the man questions aloud, duffle bags of supplies thrown at his feet by the armed men.
Looking down at the supplies, the man nods in approval, looking back towards the three wanderers. “My name is Neville Murdoch” the man introduces, his hands joined behind his back, hair wet from a recent shower, “welcome to the New World Order.”
“Good morning” Tori remarks, biting into a piece of bread near an open fire as Lauren groans, her hands bound together, tied to a nearby tree. “Did you knock me out?” Lauren asks, tucking her face into the small of her elbow, the sunrise catching her right in the eyes. “Yup, I sure did” Tori replies, taking another bite from her pathetic breakfast, “had I not, you would’ve kept screaming until you’d gotten us both killed.”
Grabbing at the bridge of her nose, Lauren comes to a sudden realization, the sunrise just coming overhead only helping to truly illustrate the time she’d spent unconscious. “Kelsey” Lauren mutters below her breath, Tori silently hanging her head instantly, “where’s Kelsey?” Thinking to herself for a moment, Tori gently lays the piece of bread against a plastic plate, crawling over to her fellow survivor.
“Is Kelsey here?” Lauren asks, the woman approaching her refusing to make eye contact,Tori’s head still hung by the time her hand presses upon Lauren’s shoulder. “Tori, tell me you found Kelsey” Lauren demands, the tears threatening to leave the lids of her eyes, desperation now kicking in, “Tori, tell me you found her.”
A tear of her own falling into the snow-covered ground, Tori glances up to Lauren with an apologetic look, Lauren’s answer given just in the expression. “No, Tori. Tori, tell me you found her” Lauren pleads, tears finally breaking through her eyelids, her voice falling to a whimper, “please.”
“The gun I gave her had one bullet in it” Tori replies, her lips pressing together, head shaking, “you don’t use a gun with one bullet unless it’s for yourself.” Voice breaking, Lauren’s head falls, her heart dropping. “Lauren, I’m-” Tori starts to speak, Lauren pushing her away before she can get the opportunity to. “Go away!” Lauren demands, unable to look Tori in the face without breaking down, “get out!”
Giving into the woman’s hysterical request, Tori backs off, walking towards the sunrise through the snowy bramble, a distraught Lauren curling up into a ball. Angrily stepping through the snow, Lauren walks towards the sounds of chanting, walking to the ledge of a massive hill and peering down below. Stood by the gates and demanding entry, a mob of people call for the attention of those within, the sight itself brings a smile over Tori’s tear-filled face.
Able to look over the compound’s border wall, Tori’s eyes fall upon a man standing right behind the front gates, protected by the large sheets of unmoving metal. Arms crossed, the man below looks up at her, spotting her out through the trees, this discovery noticed by Tori. Raising her hand into the air, Tori waves to the man down below, smiling at him before retreating into the woods, returning to the bramble having introduced herself.
“Water on the rocks” Charlotte orders, taking a seat beside John at a local bar and grill, the sizzling meats cooking atop open fires nearby presenting the pair with sensational scents. Left to their own devices, Charlotte and John’s conversation falls away for a moment, the giggling of children and fraternizing of their parents eases the tension between the compound’s leaders, a brief return to normality allowing the moment to feel real again.
The warmth of the grill wafting his face with heat, and a cool glass of water fitted into his hand by the bartender, John finds himself taken back to memories of better days, the words his mind conjures leaving his mouth instinctively. “I wanted this for my family” John explains, the woman he answers to turning to look at him, his eyes filled with hope for the first time since Charlotte had met him, “I wanted this for so, so long.”
Graciously accepting her drink, Charlotte raises the glass to her lips, her eyes kept upon the man beside her, John’s sights set on the lively, joyous campground. “You confuse me” Charlotte finally replies, setting her drink upon a woven square of hay. “Why is that?” John asks in a whisper, his gravelly voice matching the sound of the campfire just a short distance away.
“You talk about how much your family means to you, make it seem like you wanted to give them the world” Charlotte explains, eyes falling away from the man’s face and down to his hand, “but your mind never seems to agree.” Following Charlotte’s eyes to his shaky hand, John remedies the tremor and returns his focus to Charlotte, the woman smiling as if she’d unearthed hidden truths.
“The truth is, all of what you think you want, the promising future, the dreams of a happy family-” Charlotte explains, another swig of her drink taken down, “-it’ll kill you.” The mood having died down, tension having returned, John looks away, stuffing his tremor bound hand into his pocket, elbow jutting out, supporting his weight upon the countertop. “It’s what I want” John replies, clear in his delivery, though his words fail to impress Charlotte, the woman laughing at him.
“No, you handsome fool” Charlotte replies, one finger parting from her condensation-covered glass, pointing towards the man’s hand-stuffed pocket, “it’s clearly not.” With a grimace, John takes a drink from his tall glass of water, droplets running down the glassy finish until they meet his stubble-covered face, falling from his chin.
“Cowboy, you can try to convince yourself otherwise all you please” Charlotte explains, John’s glass finally returning to the counter, “but deep down, you know who you are with a gun in your hands, and who you are with your daughter in your hands, are two different people.” The rising heat creating beads of sweat that run down the length of his face, John silently begins shaking his head, his free hand wrapped around his glass of water.
“You’re wrong” John replies, sharply turning back to the woman, looking her directly in the eyes, an eagerness to prove her wrong overtaking him, “I can be both. I am both.” Rolling her eyes, Charlotte looks back to her drink for a moment, thinking to herself before downing whatever liquor is left in her glass. Giving John an audible sigh of relief of her own, Charlotte turns the cup over and places it back upon the straw coaster.
Removing herself from her chair, Charlotte gives a smirk to John and answers the man in a whisper. “We shall see” Charlotte remarks, walking away from the man slowly, silently gesturing for the man to resume walking with her. Biting his lip, John thanks the bartender and begins catching up to Charlotte, the dirt path they walk upon beginning to be touched by the sunrise behind them.
“I’ll be coming back here in a month's time, Cowboy” Charlotte explains, stopping at the front gate and turning towards the man, “when I do, these walls better still be- Aargh!” Interrupted by a bullet piercing her shoulder, Charlotte topples to the ground with a grunt, the sudden turn of events prompting John to reach for his gun. “Drop it!” Jack shouts from afar, rushing towards Charlotte with his weapon aimed at the man accompanying her.
With a grunt, John aggravatedly removes the firearm from behind his back and throws it across the lot, watching the gunman wrap his arm around Charlotte’s throat, the gun turned towards the side of her head. “You remember me, bitch!?” Jack angrily shouts, Charlotte’s hair strewn over her face, her eyes rolling once she finds Jack’s face. “You look familiar” Charlotte muses, both hands wrapped around Jack’s arm, trying to fight for leverage.
Hurrying to her husband’s side, Jessica discovers the unwanted sight the rest of the compound had grown familiar with. “Jack, don’t do something stupid!” Jess shouts, Reggie, Shauna and Tyler aiming other handguns at anyone with a weapon of their own, “look around, you’re outnumbered, like what, eight to one? This won’t end well for you.”
Breathing heavily, Jack looks in every immediate direction, countless militants and other civilians lining the walls and grounds, all willing to pull the trigger in an instant. “Look at Tyler” Jack orders, pointing Charlotte in the man’s direction, telling the rest to look all the same. “Half of his body is covered in burns, scars, and lacerations” Jack grunts, Charlotte’s hair blown with each breath she takes.
“He was burned alive!” Jack shouts, eyes wide open and voice curdling in psychotic shouts, his grip on the firearm tightened at Charlotte’s head, “and she did that.” Looking back and forth at Tyler and the hostage-taken Charlotte, Jess thinks to herself for a moment, looking for what to say.
“You didn’t this far just to get yourselves killed, Jack” John interrupts, taking his position as leader head-on, proving himself to Charlotte, “take your finger off the trigger, hand over the gun, and you’ll leave this alive.” Giving John a smile, Jack shakes his head in refusal, the gesture immediately taken by John. “I know you want revenge, part of me wants it for you” John explains, watching Jack’s expression shift, “but getting yourself killed is a stupid way to do it.”
His breathing beginning to steady, Jack thinks to himself silently, staring at the side of Charlotte’s head until Tyler calls his name out. Turning Charlotte with himself, Jack watches Tyler set his gun on the ground and kneel, both hands placed over the back of his head. “We look out for ourselves, right?” Tyler asks, recalling Jack’s earlier motto, using it in hopes of sparing the man’s life, “live to fight for each other for another day.”
Taken by this gesture, Shauna and Reggie lower their weapons to the ground and follow Tyler’s suit, Jack now left as the only man keeping the situation in play. “Jack, you told me what you went through, and I can’t shake the feeling that I could have helped everything go differently” Jess explains, stepping forward to extend an olive branch, “let me help things go differently now.”
The only hand at play now being his, Jack weighs his options, a few further breaths taken before his mind is made up. Easing his grip on Charlotte’s throat, Jack begins to slowly back away, his arms parting and his feet sliding away. Picking her moment, Charlotte’s instincts take over, her feet cementing themselves in the packed dirt as she spins around, ripping the gun from Jack’s hand and aiming it directly between his eyes.
“No!” Jess exclaims in desperation, a single shot ripping through the air, echoing throughout the compound. Eyes widened, Jack prepares himself for impending demise within the brief second it takes for the roles to reverse, the woman extending the weapon towards his face, finger nearing the trigger.
“Ah, fuck!” Charlotte exclaims, the fired bullet not having come from her own gun, but from another nearby, the brass jacket ripping through the palm of her hand, allowing the gun to fall from her fingertips. Falling to her knees, hand held close to her chest, Charlotte becomes vulnerable once more, Jack left standing with the unclaimed weapon at his feet.
“Stop!” a distant voice orders as Jack reaches down, the man already halfway bent over by the time the order is given. Slowly standing up with his hands raised, Jack looks across the lot, Troy emerging from deep within the New World Order, gun raised towards the man. “Don’t-” Jack mutters, his words vanishing with one kick to the back of his knee, Jack’s face soon shoved to the ground by Katie’s firm grasp, the outlaw duo having alleviated the situation.
“Don’t even think about it!” Troy calls out to Charlotte, the guards watching on without a clear understanding of who to aim towards. Pulling her unwounded hand away from the unclaimed pistol, Charlotte watches Troy take the weapon into his possession, the sight of Katie forcing Jack to the ground impressing her.
Helping Charlotte to her feet, Troy gives the woman her marching orders. “Go to the medical tent, get those wounds checked, and resume whatever it was you were planning to do” Troy declares, bossing Charlotte around in a way the woman is unfamiliar with, “and if you go near these four at any point, I’ll put one slug straight through your eyes.”
“Sure thing, kid” Charlotte jokes, following through on the directions she’d been given, her wounded hand grasping at her wounded shoulder. Charlotte taken care of, Troy turns to John, the man looking towards himself and Katie with a pleased expression. “Take Jack and his group to the brig” John orders, taking his firearm back and ordering the soldiers surrounding the lot to stand down.
Patting Katie and Troy on their way out, John tries to regain his composure, the escalated tensions simmering down. “I’m gonna walk with Jack and the rest” Jess mutters towards her husband. Turning to look over his shoulder, John’s eyes fall to his tremor-bound hand, its steady, unphased stillness in the face of tension unusual for a common day.
Folding his arms together to hide this fact, John looks towards his wife again and nods, “sounds good.” Staying behind to basque in the sounds of a roaring crowd just beyond the compound walls, John watches the sunrise behind him reflect off the metal compound walls, a breath of fresh air taken in.
Eyes traveling upwards, John’s eyes fixate on one outlier from the rest, the very tip of a large hill peeking out over the compound’s walls, one figure refusing to blend in with the rest of the deceased fauna around them. Eyes squinting, John watches the figure, looking at it just the same as he assumes it to be. Chills sent down his spine, John watches the figure’s hand rise to its side, offering him a gentle wave before vanishing beneath the hill’s lip.
A puff of air leaving his lungs, John shakes his head in disbelief, the growing sounds of the angered mob just a wall away sticking into the back of his mind. Teeth pressing into his bottom lip, John turns away, walking back into the depths of the New World Order. Back turned to the hill, John remains unaware of the figure’s return, a second figure accompanying it this time around, both souls watching his retreat, introduction finalized.
== Rise: Remastered ==