Season 2 Premiere
His moccasins shuffling against the hardwood floor, Emilio trails through the hallways and enters the ground-level kitchen. Sat below the crystal-adorned chandelier, John holds his head in his hands, elbows pressed against the kitchen table. Hearing the man’s footsteps, John peeks his head out from behind his fingers, eyes taking a moment to adjust to the light.
“Good morning” John quips, head returning to his hands. “It’s two in the morning” Emilio replies, a quick glance at the microwave confirming that claim, “why are you awake?” Allowing his hands to fall back to the table, John takes a moment to think of an answer, the leaky faucet a few feet away from him allowing pitters of water to fall upon the thin metal sheeting.
“Can I just ‘everything’ and convince you to drop the question?” John asks, his eyes red and puffy, the whites bloodshot. With a grin, Emilio gives the man a nod and walks past him, preparing himself the bland, near-tasteless coffee the New World Order has settled for. “Want some?” Emilio asks, gesturing towards the french press, a shrug returned by the patriarch of the household.
“Sure” John exhaustedly replies, his mind rattled with countless thoughts, none of which allowing him the chance to close his eyes. “How many nights in a row?” Emilio asks, alluding to the man’s poor sleep schedule, the discovery of John wide awake in the early hours of the morning having become more than commonplace. “Tonight is the fourth” John replies, his eyes falling to the hands he’s now let couple together on the table, “tomorrow night will surely be the fifth.”
Throwing a kettle on the stove, Emilio stammers over to the table, taking the seat across from John and looking at him. “Is this how you plan on spending your morning?” John wonders aloud, the smirk appearing through Emilio’s chapped lips. “It’s how I plan on spending my time until the kettle starts whistling, yes” Emilio replies, hiding a chuckle as John’s head falls to the table.
“This can’t be down to just the insomnia” Emilio mutters aloud, John’s head peering up with his coupled hands, “there’s something else keeping you awake through the night. There’s something on your mind.” His eyes rolling, John slinks back into his chair, hands dragged off the edge of the table, falling into his lap with a thud. “I’m in charge of a city in the middle of the zombie apocalypse, Emilio” John replies, leaning forward with an animated glare, “everything keeps me up at night.”
Pushing himself out of his chair, John’s body aches as he throws his hands out, stretching towards the sky, feeling his body ripping at itself from within. “You’re one of the most confusing people I’ve ever tried to read-” Emilio remarks, watching John twist the handle on the kitchen sink, a rush of water leaving the leaky spout, “-and that’s coming from a politician.”
“What can I say?” John humorously replies, turning around with his hands by his sides, shoulders lifted to the sides of his face, “I’m needlessly complicated and hopelessly abnormal.” Scooping the water into his hands, John runs the cool waves over his face, calming his mind whilst restarting it all the same. “You’re like two different people” Emilio responds, John’s washing efforts halting immediately, the conclusion Emilio’s reached having been made before.
“Let me guess? One is the family man, the other is the tough soldier guy?” John asks, the squinted eyes Emilio answers by suggesting the conclusion. “I’ve heard that once or twice” John replies, twisting the faucet and turning away from the sink, preparing to return to the table. “So you agree?” Emilio questions, John thinking over his answer before offering it.
“I can understand where it originates from, sure” John returns, lowering himself into his seat before stopping suddenly, his ears focusing on the room’s sounds, or rather, the lack of sound. “That’s not what I asked, and-” Emilio begins to say, his words falling aside when John’s hand extends through the air, stopping in front of Emilio’s face. “The faucet” John remarks, eyes pulling towards the sink, the leaky sink having magically fixed itself.
“It’s not leaking, so what?” Emilio replies, unable to see the importance John finds. “It’s always leaking” John replies, leaving his seat once more, returning to the kitchen counter. Finally beginning to whistle, the kettle takes the attention away from the faucet momentarily. “The faucet wouldn’t stop leaking unless it was disconnected from the main source-” John replies to himself, making room for Emilio to tend to the kettle, “-and if the main source is shut down, that means-”
Their eyes darting towards the front door, Emilio and John listen to the attention-calling pounds at their front door, a fist bashing against the front door, begging for a response. Rushing through the main foyer and yanking the front entrance open, John encounters one of his panicked militants waiting for him, flames tearing through the air a few hundred yards beyond him.
“Someone torched the crops!” the young militant shouts, Emilio and John finding the hairs on their arms stood tall with those four words. Leaving the whistling kettle on the stovetop, Emilio and John race through the yards, families and other civilians standing on lawns and in public spaces, all eyes set on the uncontrollable blaze. “What the hell happened!?” John exclaims, demanding answers the young man leading him simply does not have.
Finally arriving at the local crop yield, John and Emilio are forced to watch helplessly, every last strand of food they had prepared being rendered to ash, the blaze reaching ridiculous heights, the food fueling the fire completely lost. Unable to truly fathom just what he’s seeing, John backs away slowly, retreating through the compound in an effort to keep from his rage spilling over the edge.
Returning to the front gates, John stands alone staring at the massive border wall, hands having lowered from his head to his hips. In a moment of shock, John begins to take interest in the eerily silent air, not a soul to be heard beyond the front gates. Confused, John walks towards a nearby ladder, scaling each rung until he reaches the catwalk atop, a quick glance over the edge doing nothing to satisfy his paranoia.
Below, not a soul waits for entry, the world beyond the front gates having seemingly vanished without a trace, little more than trash left behind to suggest the presence of a gathered crowd in the first place. His eyes wandering over every inch of the vacated sight before him, John’s head finally stumbles over the very tip of the hill, one figure stood exactly where he’d recalled them standing before.
Armed with a flashlight, the figure above raises her hand into the air, the glowing bulb waving from one shoulder to another, taking on the appearance of a hand waving. Ominously, the bulb continues waving as the figure backs away, disappearing with the curious person above into the downed bramble. Unable to think straight, the only thought that seeps through John’s mind is fear. Flames still filling the air just behind him, John watches on, unable to look away from the figure’s hilltop.
= 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 =
A knock emanating from behind her door, Salem pays little mind to those on the other side, redressing her bed as she would any other morning. “Come in” Salem replies, her pillow falling into its case, gently placed at the head of the bed. Looking back, Salem notices Neville stood in her doorway, the man’s presence not having been expected. “Kicking me out or something?” Salem jokes, walking around the foot of her bed, removing a few hygiene products from her bag.
“Not at all” Neville replies, hands dangling by his sides, eyes inspecting the room. “Then why are you here?” Salem replies, folding a stick of deodorant in a plain white sock, her hair tucked away in a ponytail, her view of the compound’s leader unobstructed. “I’m just checking in” Neville replies, given an unmoved nod back from the woman, “it’s not often you find introverts traveling with more than just themselves.”
Not wishing to open herself to Neville’s line of questions, Salem puts her metaphorical wall up, answering with generic responses. “Well, thanks for checking in” Salem replies, her arms crossed at her chest, “I’m doing fine.” Smiling at the woman, Neville walks further into the room, the floor boards creaking beneath the weight of his rubber boots. “You don’t like me” Neville remarks, reading into the woman’s body language, “it’s either that, or you don’t like anyone.”
With a sigh, Salem looks away and scratches at the back of her head. “So what? You gonna try to fix me?” Salem replies, curious to the man’s motives, not wishing to take him at his word. With a chuckle, Neville shakes his head, lips puckered. “No, not at all” Neville replies, his eyes holding back deeper thoughts, ones he leaves unspoken.
Contorting his lips into a grin, Neville’s expression takes on an unnecessarily eerie position, the woman across from him beginning to grow resilient. “I’ve been chosen to lead this camp for a very good reason, and I just want to make sure there’s no one trying to- oh I don’t know, threaten that?” Neville remarks, Salem’s facial expression changing.
“And you think I’m trying to threaten that?” Salem replies, her question coming off with a defensive tick to it, the suggestion immediately put down half-heartedly. “Oh no! No, no, no” Neville replies, tucking his thumbs into his pockets, the remaining four fingers grazing against the denim of his jeans, “as a matter of fact, I don’t really know you. I don’t think anything.”
His smile returning, Neville approaches Salem, the refusal to budge that the woman presents ensures each second brings his face closer to the woman’s own. “If you don’t leave my room, you won’t be thinking anything ever again” Salem returns, showing her hand, willing to kill the man in the place he stands if necessary. “That’s a funny response-” Neville replies, continuing to approach the woman, unphased by her concrete exterior, “-especially since this is my room, and I let you stay in it.”
The heat of the man’s breath running over her face, Salem stares up at Neville’s taller frame, the distance between them practically non-existent. Aware of the man’s reluctance to view her as any serious threat, Salem feels the pressure to gain the ground Neville had stolen from her back. Her hands thrown in front of her, Salem’s attempt at shoving Neville away backfires, the man catching both of her arms before her fingers can even graze him, the momentum clearly in Neville’s favor.
“That was a stupid idea” Neville declares, pointing out the obvious as he continues staring into the woman’s eyes, his sadistic grin still worn proudly. “Am I interrupting something?” Franklin wonders aloud, stood in the doorway watching over the duo, both Neville and Salem glancing back at him with different expressions. “No, of course not!” Neville says gleefully, gently relinquishing Salem’s arm’s from his grip.
Subtly approaching Neville, Franklin hears the man’s explanation out, Salem backing away to allow Franklin the space to confront the man. “I just wanted to talk to Salem about going on a run with one of the retrieval teams, that’s all” Neville explains, the dynamic having changed, his moderate height, corporate ‘young white-guy with big dreams’ charm outmatched by Franklin’s suave, six-foot-six, well-spoken ‘black-man with a chip on his shoulder’ allure.
“Well that’s a relief” Franklin jokes, a smile emerging from behind his patchy beard, his hand patting Neville on the side of the arm, “I was just going to ask you about the same thing.” Glancing over at Salem, Franklin notices the look the woman gives their visitor, able to understand it resoundingly clear. “As a matter of fact, maybe Salem and I can go together?” Franklin offers, Neville looking away with the expression of a man who’d just been bested.
“I’d love to, but unfortunately, I’m not a big believer in sending cripples out to be munched on” Neville replies, the confidence in his voice having weaned. “Oh, don’t you worry, friend” Franklin replies, lifting his cast-iron nub-cap into the air, resting it firmly upon Neville’s shoulder. A disgusted look on his face, Neville looks Franklin in the eyes, allowing the man to finish his thought. “Let me assure you” Franklin explains, rocking Neville’s shoulder, “I can handle myself just fine.”
His once cocky smile having subsided, an unflattered grin now worn, Neville gives Franklin a nod. “Very well, then” Neville replies, dropping his shoulder to remove it from Franklin’s touch, “meet Cameron and Heather at the front gates in forty minutes.” Clearly wanting to leave the room as fast as possible, Neville takes his opportunity to walk around Franklin, exiting the room with a quick stride, his feet carrying him away without hesitance.
“Thanks” Salem mutters, clearly disinterested in the man’s introduction. “Not a problem” Franklin replies, eyes still placed upon the door, watching Neville round the corner at the end of the hallway, “as a matter of fact, it was my pleasure.”
“Thirty-four bottles of beer on the wall, thirty-four bottles of beer” Reggie muses, his back laid upon the cold, concrete ground, feet kicked up atop a wooden shelf. “Take one down, pass it around. thirty-three bottles of beer on the wall” Shauna returns, standing with her feet firmly pressed against the ground, arms crossed on the same wooden shelves, forehead resting against the edge, the corner leaving a line in her skin.
“Thirty-three bottles of beer on the wall, thirty-three bottles of beer” Tyler continues, hands scraped by the concrete floor, arms shaking as he does push-ups, sweat dripping from his face. “Take one down, pass it around. Thirty-two bottles of beer on the wall” Jack furthers, sitting in the corner with his arm draped over a bent knee, his other leg crossed below his body, head resting against the metal bars of their shared prison cell.
Suddenly bathed in light, the pitch-black darkness cast into oblivion, the foursome direct their attention to the front of the cellar, a shadowy figure emerging from the heaven-like light. “Have we made it out of hell?” Jack wonders aloud, the first to speak up, all of his fellow inmates drained of life enough to remain brutally quiet. “Not exactly” Jess’ voice remarks, every survivor locked away returning to their prior activities, leaving Jack as the only one willing to speak.
Dragging a chair along the ground, Jess takes a seat directly on the other side of the prison bars, one leg crossed over the other. “Well if this is our entertainment hour, I think the other inmates are a little shy of the outdoors” Jack quips, Jess’ head tilt serving to illustrate her disappointment. “I’m sorry” Jess remarks, the eye roll she earns from Jack only making her feel worse.
“Wow, your apology really helps change the fact that we’re locked in prison” Jack replies, pulling himself away from his corner, walking away from the woman. “What did you expect us to do!?” Jess shouts, tensions already escalating, her words spoken to Jack’s back, “you tried to kill the woman in charge of this entire compound!”
His fist slamming into the wooden shelving, Jack spins around in anger, his finger raised towards Jess. “That bitch tried to murder us in cold fucking blood!” Jack spouts off, his spit flying through the air, feet carrying him towards the cell bars, hands wrapping around the thick, steel rungs. His voice calming to a whisper, Jack pokes his face through the bars, looking into Jessica’s eyes.
“What we did, it wasn’t murder” Jack explains, his eyebrows narrowed, his anger directed towards the woman on the other side of the bars, “we were getting even.” Pulling her head away, Jess takes in Jack’s words, her mind racing with thousands of smaller thoughts. “I know you understand that somewhere, it’s hidden inside you somewhere deep down” Jack explains, redirecting the tone of his anger, his head pulling away from the bars, “if you wanted to, you could unlock this cage right now.”
Her head veering away from Jack, Jess goes quiet, each huff that leaves her mouth growing quiet. A defeated grin, Jack nods his head, turning away from the woman once more, speaking over his shoulder. “Of course you won’t” Jack remarks, disgusted with the same woman that lays awake each night, always reminding herself of the suffering that exists within these limestone walls.
“I can’t” Jess replies, nearly jumping the moment Jack juts back, his voice returning to a yell instantly. “Yes, you can!” Jack retorts, the veins in his neck popping, the one in his forehead doing the same, “you’ll convince yourself that you can’t, but you can.” His arm stretching through the steel bars, Jack extends his finger towards Jess, holding the woman as responsible as the men that dragged him within these chambers to begin with.
“It’s not that you can’t, it’s that you won’t” Jack explains, speaking to the woman through walls of contempt, disgusted at the sight of his former boss, “and further than that, you come down here every day and sit on the other side of these bars. You torment us every fucking day, and you walk around wondering why none of us can stand the sight of you anymore.”
A tear falling down the length of her face, Jess stares back at the sunlit doors she entered through, fighting the urge to walk away. “Would you like me to go?” Jess replies, finally looking Jack in the eyes again, the man’s posture changing, her voice breaking. Glancing at the exit, Jack goes silent, his head shaking after a few seconds. Dropping himself back in the corner he’d sat within upon Jess’ arrival, Jack speaks up, looking towards Jess with a wounded smile.
“You never told us how you got here” Jack replies, the woman’s eyes falling, her expression changing. “You said your family got here before you did, so clearly you didn’t make it back to them immediately” Jack explains, the woman slowly returning to her seat, a distressed look on her face. “The four of us knew there was something different about you the moment we got here” Jack explains, Tyler, Reggie and Shauna all glancing up at the notion, “what happened to you out there?”
Her head hung, Jess sits in silence for a moment, wet strands of hair falling over her recently-washed face. Coupling her hands in her lap, Jess collects her thoughts as the rest of Jack’s group joins the man at the cell. Reggie and Shauna leaning against the cell whilst Tyler leans against a nearby wall, the prisoners await Jess’ answer patiently. Giving herself a nod, Jess peers back at those within the cell, her eyes meeting them through her hair, her story ready to be told.
Rejoining with Salem, Franklin tightens the cap on his amputated arm as he approaches the front gates. “Did you find Alicia?” Franklin wonders aloud, the sand beneath his boot crunching with each step. “No, she’s not in her room” Salem replies, eyes falling upon Neville, who stands near a tiny campsite, a smile stretching from one ear to another. “Well, leaving her alone in this camp with Neville wasn’t exactly high on my list of hoped-for outcomes” Franklin remarks, obviously disgruntled.
“She’s a big girl, she’ll be able to handle herself” Salem says, concluding the brief conversation as they approach their escorts. “Heather and Cameron?” Franklin calls out, the pair they wait for throwing luggage into their helicopter. “That would be us” Heather replies, her helmet held at her hip, “I assume that makes you two-?”
“Salem and Franklin, yup” Salem interjects, the emotionless look she gives Heather earning her little brownie points. “Okay then” Heather replies, tossing her new duo a pair of helmets, “you two ever been in a helicopter before?” Climbing atop the helicopter pad, Salem pulls herself into the backseat and straps herself in effortlessly, “once or twice” she remarks with a grin, looking back at Franklin.
With a laugh, Franklin cautiously climbs onto the pad himself, struggling to buckle himself into his seat. Letting the man fight with the restraints for a moment, Salem steps in and straps the man in as if he were a child on his way to soccer practice. “Thanks, mom” Franklin jokes, a menacing glare given by Salem, who shakes her head slowly. His hands held up in a humorous sign of surrender, Franklin prepares himself for the flight ahead.
“Where are we?” Franklin asks immediately upon landing, less than an hour having passed since they’d left Concord. “Boston” Heather remarks, her helmet removed, seatbelt unbuckled. “What are we doing in Boston?” Franklin replies, his persistent wondering beginning to rub Heather the wrong way. “Is asking questions a hobby for you?” Heather retorts, her peckish tone subsiding with Franklin’s response, “when I’m flown to another city on a suicide mission, yeah, it is.”
Shaking her head, Heather disembarks the aircraft, her sneakers tapping against the decaying rooftop she and Cameron had decided on landing upon. “A cargo plane lost a few crates while flying out of Concord” Heather explains, helping Franklin out of the metal bird, “we’re the ones getting sent out to look for them.”
Paying little mind to the discussion shared amongst her peers, Salem’s each step causing more reason for concern, the damp tiles below oozing dirty water with every touch of her foot. “I think we should find somewhere else to park” Salem mutters aloud, drawing Franklin and Heather out of their prior conversation. “Why?” Heather asks, watching the foggy liquid seep from below the ceiling tiles, a squishing sound presenting the true damage of winter, a season they’ve made it to the final days of.
“Hmph” Heather remarks, the splashing sounds emanating from Cameron’s own steps are enough to convince Heather of the risks, “it looks like we better find that crate fast, then.” Staring at the woman with a bitter scowl, Salem takes offense at the disregarding of her concerns, an immediate dislike taken in her fellow compound residents. “Are you sure you wanna hold off on that?” Franklin questions, earning Heather’s ire, “it’s not just Salem and I that get stu-”
“I’m sure about my decision, and it’s not changing” Heather quickly snaps back, glancing at the man over her shoulder. “Just help us look for the damn thing” Cameron remarks from the helicopter, his sleek, green helmet carried at his hip, “if you’re really that scared of the roof, you’ll shut up and keep your eyes peeled.” Demanding, yet hard to argue with, Cameron’s suggestion sparks a hurry within Salem, her jean-covered legs speed-walking around the ledge.
“Found it” Salem quickly remarks, the spot she stands upon less durable than any other she’d walked along thus far. “She did” Cameron shouts back, walking directly beside the woman, the floor below them pushing in further. “Great” Heather replies, still standing beside Franklin, gloves sliding over her hands, “the two of you can go down and attach it to the cargo hook while Cam and I steer the bird.”
Chuckling to herself, Salem earns the remaining survivor’s attention, an unamused glare given back by the co-pilots. “Am I missing the joke somewhere?” Heather asks, her rubber boots stood firmly atop the soaked tiles, hands placed on her hips. “You didn’t honestly think we were gonna fall for that, did you?” Salem asks, Heather’s frustration mounting whilst Cameron’s slowly builds, “it’s not happening. We’ll go down there, but only one of us will. One of you two are going down there, too.”
Her eyes rolling, Heather responds with her eyes pointed at the sky. “Two people need to fly the plane, you s-” the female pilot explains, stopped by the impact of a small leather pouch against her chest. Confused, Heather looks to the ground, a brown wallet left at her feet. Compelled, Heather reaches towards the ground, her thumb sliding into the leather-bound crevasse, peeling the sack open.
“Two people will fly the plane” Salem muses from ahead, both arms hanging by her side as Heather begins to look up, “but the pilots will be Cameron and myself.” Her tongue pressed against the corner of her mouth, Heather takes another look at the centerfold of the wallet, Salem’s pilot’s license staring back at her again. With a nod, Heather accepts the woman’s conditions, closing the leather pack and tossing it back to its rightful owner.
With a sigh, Heather glances towards Franklin, the man looking at Salem with confusion. “I thought you said-” Franklin begins, a quick gesture from Salem telling him to stop. “We’ll talk about it when we get back to the compound” Salem replies, her eyes returning to Heather. “I guess it’s you and me, handicap” Heather remarks, flashing Franklin a smile.
Slamming the sole of his foot against the very last burning flame, John’s chest juts out with each huff, eyes unable to pull themselves away from the sea of blackened crops. Hand shaking rapidly, John loses time staring aimlessly, eyes stumbling upon Emilio, the man’s rake falling from his hands. In disbelief, Emilio sluggishly walks through the charred plants, kicking up ash with each drag of his foot.
Stopping at a wall made of sheet metal, Emilio’s head hangs, a visible anger building deep within the man’s core. “‘Em” John mutters, his words soft and impossible to hear from across the field, the shaking in his hand worsening the longer he stands there, standing alone in the field like a deer in headlights. Letting out a yell, Emilio takes his hand and forces it forward, repeatedly punching at the makeshift wall, loud echoes ringing throughout the burnt field.
‘Emilio!” John shouts, his voice still not loud enough to grab the man’s attention, Emilio’s fist bleeding heavier with each strike he makes, his rage dulling the pain of each swing. Snapping out of his trance, John marches across the field, brunt leaves crunching beneath his feet, hand rattling viciously by his side. “Emilio!” John shouts, throwing the man to the ground without a second thought, the wall stained a deep, crimson red.
“Who the fuck did this!?” Emilio exclaims the moment he lands on the ground, pushing himself back to his feet. “Calm down” John remarks, his voice dulled to a hush, appearing more calm than he truly is. “Calm down?, Calm down?, I’m not gonna calm down!” Emilio says through his dying voice, “we just lost everything! How are you gonna stand there and tell me to calm down!?”
“Because we know who did it” John says sternly, watching Emilio’s mouth contort to form a response, the silence that replaces it equally resonant. “Who?” Emilio asks in a calm tone, the question bringing a squint over John’s eyes, his teeth sinking into his lip.
“Jerome!” John calls out, his skin covered in black ash as if he’d just gotten off work as a chimney sweep. “John!” Jerome exclaims, climbing down from the wall to meet the man below, “we’ve already got a search under way. We’re going door to door-” As John’s shaky hand raises, Jerome quiets. “What do you know about the people on the outside of the wall? Where did they go?” John asks, a lack of confidence returned in the look Jerome gives back.
“We’re still not sure, boss” Jerome replies, unable to offer anything more than that. Little room to work with, John turns to look at Emilio, the pain in his hand finally starting to appear. Racing his arms behind Jerome and Emilio, John pulls the men close and looks towards the hill just in front of them. “I’ve seen someone at the top of that hill every night for the last few weeks” John explains, looking back at Jerome, “I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that they’re the ones behind the fire.”
“How would that even work?” Jerome wonders aloud, a few loose strings being left unmentioned. “How would they have gotten inside?” Jerome inquires, reaching for every shred of doubt that presents itself. “More than that, why are you only just telling me now?” Emilio interjects, looking at John with a disappointed glance, “you could’ve said something earlier.”
“I know that, I know” John replies, trying to ease Emilio’s betrayed feelings before they encompass him, “I just didn’t think to say anything because I didn’t know what to make of it.” Stopping the line of questions instantly, Jerome raises his original question again, determined to find an answer. “How would they have gotten inside?” Jerome questions, the loose thread keeping the entire piece from coming together, “why do you think they’re even after this place at all?”
“Because they waved at me” John quickly answers, the clicking sound Emilio makes with his mouth accompanied by an eye roll. “Believe it as much or as little as you wish, I don’t care” John explains, stubbornly fighting to get those beside him on the same line of thought, “but right after they showed up, the crowd got smaller and smaller until it was completely gone. That’s not a coincidence.”
“Sure it is” Emilio immediately argues, pulling away from John’s reach to look the man in the eyes, “we haven’t let any of them in and summer’s coming in. They probably gave up and went off to take advantage of the warm weather before it was too late.” Shaking his head, John refuses Emilio’s conclusion, Jerome’s addition only further weakening his defense.
“Not to mention, you couldn’t get those people to work with you” Jerome explains, John’s head hanging as the odds bet against him, “I don’t think the most charismatic man in the world could’ve gotten them together.” Crossing his arms, John thinks quietly, both Emilio and Jerome waiting to be convinced otherwise. “They could if there was something they could all benefit from” John responds, glancing back up at the men.
“If that person, whoever they are, or if someone else laid a plan out that everyone could get on board with, they’d be able to get on the same page” John explains, a confident look emerging on his face, “a plan like, burning our food and forcing us to leave so they could take over?” Less hesitant to believe John, the obvious flaws still remain, Jerome’s third attempt at asking his original question made.
“How would they have gotten inside?” Jerome questions, the silent few seconds it takes John to think of an answer allowing a nearby set of people to interject. “Maybe they’re already inside” Troy mutters from afar, all eyes directing themselves towards the young man and Katie. “You’re saying they already snuck in?” John replies, earning a laugh out of the man. “No, I’m saying they’ve been in here since the start” Troy replies, hands tucked in his back pockets, “they’ve got an inside-man.”
“How do you know this?” John asks instinctively, the man that approaches him holding his hands up. “Don’t get your pitchforks just yet, it’s just a theory” Troy replies, a grin plastered atop his face, “but if John’s assumptions are true, having a man on the inside would make the ‘forced evacuation’ idea possible.”
Sharing stares between each other, John, Emilio and Jerome silently consider the plot amongst themselves, Emilio’s voice the first to speak up. “If they had someone on the inside, why wouldn’t they just open the door in the middle of the night and kill us while we sleep?” the former politician wonders aloud, “seriously, if they had a man on the inside, there’d be much more efficient ways of taking over than starving us out!”
“Well, there’s only one way to figure that out now, isn’t there?” Katie replies, matching the smile Troy wears, “send us out there, we’ll wait for your mystery waver and ask them ourselves.” With a laugh, John takes the suggestion as a joke, a few seconds of laughter passing before the truth becomes clear. “Wait, you’re serious about this?” John replies, a surprised look on his face, “of course not, are you fuckin’ crazy?”
“No, but we are more than able to handle ourselves” Troy replies, his arms crossed at his chest whilst Katie’s rest in her side pockets, “and if they are to blame for the fire, I’m sure you’ll want to meet with them.” Shaking his head, John attempts to refuse the offer, his attempt pushed aside by Emilio, who introduces a new line of questions. “If they had a man on the inside, how can we be sure it isn't the two of you?” Emilio asks, the shrug Troy gives suggesting he has nothing to hide.
“You can’t be any more sure that we’re not the inside-men than we can be that the three of you aren’t” Troy replies, the reluctance applying both ways, “any of you are more than welcomed to come along, though.” Keeping Emilio from pushing past what he’s authorized to do, John pushes back into the dialogue, adamantly refusing to give Troy and Katie his approval.
“I know there’s at least one other person with them up there, and we have no idea how dangerous they are” John explains, considering himself the only person with a cool head present. “I’m not letting the two of you wander out looking to put faces to names” John explains, a disappointed shake of Emilio’s head returned, “especially not when you’ve already proven to be fairly important to this community.”
“John, you’re the one that came up with this idea” Emilio explains, looking at the man with a curious glare, “they’re definitely able to look after themselves. If you’re as convinced of this idea as you seem to be, this is your best chance to get a clear answer.” Trying to convince himself to refuse, John’s tremor begins to return, the mounting pressure from those around him to give the greenlight finally swaying his opinion.
“Fine, you go out an hour after the sun sets” John replies, hands on his hips, eyes held towards the ground, his dislike of the plan more than clear. “We’ll go get ready” Katie replies, turning around to return to their shared home. Staying behind for a few seconds, Troy looks at John, locking eyes with the man after a few seconds. “Thank you” Troy says with his lips, nodding at John before turning to join Katie, the knots in John’s stomach making him feel sick.
“You gonna jump, or what?” Salem remarks, arms crossed as she watches Heather, the woman sitting on the lip of the rooftop, mustering up the courage to jump. “We’re two stories high and I’m crash landing on a car” Heather replies, unmoved by the woman’s lack of patience, “give me a damn break.” Rolling her eyes, Salem sits atop the concrete lip, her judgment of Heather kept to herself.
Pressing her hands against the frigid stone, Heather swings her feet out, pushing herself over the edge and curling into a ball. Watching the woman descend, Salem plays spectator to Franklin’s future, Heather falling for what feels like hours before slamming into the vehicle’s roof below. Shattering every bit of intact glass, Heather’s moment to compose herself grows shorter, the car alarm blaring through the streets, hundreds of the dead now beckoning towards one direction.
“Did she make it?” Cameron asks, a subtle concern reflected in his voice. “She’s fine” Salem calls back, watching the woman emerge from the wreckage below, climbing over jagged bits of metal and glass. Patting himself on the chest with his cast-iron peg, Franklin slides over the concrete lip and prepares to descend, only one thought in his mind holding him back.
“Salem?” Franklin calls back, locking eyes with the woman from half the rooftop away. “If I don’t make it back, look after Alicia, please” Franklin replies, the request obviously surprising Salem, who returns a nod. “Of course” Salem replies, her tone matching her curiosity over the odd plea. “Thanks” Franklin says with a close-lipped smile, a momentary glance back at the ground preceding his push-off, Salem’s eyes following him until he falls beyond sight.
Crashing into the hood, Franklin’s weight indirectly kills the alarm, his body bouncing off the thin layer of metal, left to slide onto the asphalt below. “Argh, son of a bitch!” Franklin blurts out, his body sore in every place. “Get up, dude!” Heather shouts, pulling the man up by his good arm. Following Heather’s lead, Franklin swings his iron cap at everything that moves, skulls cracking like egg shells, falling into the melted slush along the ground.
“Hook!” Franklin exclaims to the heavens, watching the rooftop. Emerging from beyond the lip, Salem’s frame rushes to the edge, a bright-yellow cable hurled over the edge, falling a few feet shy of the corpse-surrounded man. His nub now used as a mallet, Franklin swings through the crowd, bodies falling in every direction he ventures through.
“Where do we go when they hook the crate up?” Salem hurriedly asks, climbing into Heather’s seat. “What do you mean?” Cameron replies, a few swipes of his finger starting up the blades. “They can’t get back up here, so where are we picking them up?” Salem clarifies, a confusing look given back to her, a laugh leaving Salem’s co-pilot. “We’re not picking them up” Cameron replies, another flipped switch preparing the helicopter for ascent, “they’re climbing up.”
Before she can reply, the ground below the chopper begins to sink, the sounds of metal convulsing prompting Cameron to take the vehicle up. “Pull back on the yoke!” Cameron shouts, wrapping Salem’s fingers around the steering function, forcing her arm against her own chest. Leaving the rooftop, Cameron and Salem ascend a few feet, watching the roof cave in below them seconds later, a massive warehouse filled with the undead exposed to the elements above.
“Close call” Cameron mutters with a laugh, steering the plane towards their remaining survivors, the blades creating a windstorm below. Pressing down on a yellow button, Cameron unhooks the rope ladder, watching the rubbery vines plummet to the ground below.
“It’s good!” Heather calls out, Franklin guarding her every direction, freeing her time to inspect the crate, “hand me one of the hooks!” Very little room to work with, Heather and Franklin fasten the crate into it’s carriage, fending off the horde around them as best as they can. Catching the ladder on it’s way down, Heather begins her climb, a curiosity coming over the one-armed man.
“How the fuck am I supposed to climb this thing!?” Franklin questions, his concerns ignored as Heather continues her climb, paying no attention to the man below. With no other choice, Franklin pulls himself onto the ladder, his shortened arm wrapping around the side of the support column, the other gradually pulling himself up further, one rung at a time.
“Where’s Franklin?” Salem asks, watching Heather pull herself back into the cabin, the man she’d left with having yet to return. “He’s climbing” Heather says, huffing for the breaths that have evaded her. Glancing back through her window, Salem watches the man struggle to make progress, the air vehicle ascending higher into the air with each half mile, the man below still clinging to the ladder as the ground grows farther away.
“We have to land!” Salem exclaims, the helicopter traveling faster, whipping through the air. “We don’t have daylight to burn, he’ll be able to hang on with no problem!” Cameron replies, guaranteeing the man’s safety. “He has one arm!” Salem exclaims, a fair counter argument being made. “It doesn’t look like that’s stopping him” Salem calls back from the cabin, directing Salem’s eyes back towards the ladder, Franklin’s will overcoming the velocity, his slow ascent continuing.
Dragging himself up each rung, Franklin pushes himself towards the cabin, wrapping his iron cap around the final rung, his hand extended. Sat in the cabin, one hand holding onto a restraint, Heather watches Franklin struggle, ignoring the hand he extends towards her. “Heather!” Franklin shouts, noticing this refusal, calling out her name as to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Again, the woman refuses to take his hand, the look on his face insisting he has little time left to hang on. “Heather, take my fuckin’ hand!” Franklin exclaims again, ingesting the cold stare Heather gives him, coming to grasp with the woman’s true intentions. Growling at herself, Heather fights against her wishes, lunging forward to pull the man into the cabin, her feet pressing against the sides of the bird for support.
Finally pulling the man’s two hundred and forty pound frame into the cabin, Heather slams the doors shut and collapses onto the ground, catching her winded breaths. “Fucking hell, you’re heavy” Heather mutters aloud, looking at the ceiling. Turning her head, Heather locks eyes with Franklin, the man equally drained of energy, though his disgust speaks volumes.
Accepting the man’s disgust, Heather pulls herself back into her seat and straps in for the rest of the ride, disgusted with herself the same way Franklin is.
“The dead were everywhere” Jess recollects, eyes trailing off into the cellar’s dark caverns. “I rummaged through empty cars and overturned corner stores for food. I hid under cars at night to sleep, and I rarely did that” the woman continues, flowing, blonde locks running over her hunched-over shoulders. “I made excuses for myself whenever I did something I knew was wrong” Jess explains further, her mind wandering to specifically dark thoughts, “I did what was necessary to survive.”
“Sounds like you had it real tough” Tyler sarcastically replies, scowling back at Jess, the woman’s response being to look away in shame. “Sorry” Jess mutters back, locking eyes with the burn-covered prisoner, feeling the uncomfortable tension tighten in her chest. “Keep going” Reggie interjects, too invested in deciphering the unspoken early days of Jessica’s time beyond the New World Order’s walls.
“It was uneventful for a few days. I’d go out, I’d pick stuff up, I’d go back to a little house, move onto the next day” Jess replies, sucking on the corner of her lip, “it was just a rinse-wash-repeat ordeal.” Her foot anxiously tapping against the floor, Jess’ heart begins to race, her steady breathing quickening into a frenzy. “After a couple of days, and I hadn’t seen anyone since that first night, I started to feel watched” the woman explains, shaking her head, “I was being followed.”
“Stop the tapping” Jack remarks, diverting Jess from her train of thought, a curious look given back, her head nudging forward. “You’re foot, you’re tapping your foot” Jack replies, assuming Jess had been confused by the original question, “stop tapping your foot.” Apologizing, Jess sets her second foot over the first, keeping the pinned boot at bay.
“Uh, yeah- I was being followed” Jess stammers, finding her way back to the original story, the gap brought on by Jack’s request easing the lingering stiffness in her hands, the dark path she’d been walking along now slightly beginning to brighten. “I’d heard about a settlement a few miles away, so I started walking there” Jess explains, playing with the wedding ring on her left hand, “after, I don’t know, maybe an hour? I started hearing what I can only imagine were cars getting shoved aside.”
“The dead were pushing the cars?” Shauna interrupts, provoking a yell from Jack before Jess has the chance to respond. “Will everyone shut the hell up and let her talk, please?” Jack raises to the room, still dissatisfied with Jess, but eager to hear what she has to say. Nodding in Jack’s direction, Jess moves on, the darkest reaches of her mind beginning to catch up to her.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but it was one of Charlotte’s convoys. They fitted vans with these big battering rams on the hood, like snow plows have” Jess explains, her elbows pressing into her thighs. “I didn’t know that they were looking for anyone, let alone looking for me, so I just reverted to my best instincts” Jess explains, hair falling over her soft face, “common sense would suggest that a line of vans, all fitted perfectly to survive an apocalypse, wouldn’t have good intentions.”
“Did you make it to the camp or not?” Shauna cuts in, defying Jack’s request whilst showing restraint. “I- I did” Jess replies, struggling to answer, her restless eyes not speaking well off her discovery. “They were all dead” Jess replies, her self-deprecating smile fading, replaced with a frown, “must’ve been thirty people there or so, the whole camp, just gone.”
“Was it Charlotte’s people?” Tyler asks from afar, the second onslaught of questions prompting Jack to surrender his position of power, leaving Jess in control of the narrative. “I don’t know, but I’ve got no reason to believe it wasn’t” Jess answers, further confusing Shauna. “If you think Charlotte’s people did this, why would you stay here?” the only woman behind bars replies, looking Jess in the eyes, “you know who she is, why would you fight for her?”
“I’m not fighting for her” Jess quickly snaps back, her former secretary shouting out another question. “This is her camp, as long as you live here, you fight for her” Shauna retorts, watching Jessica’s head hang, “how do you justify that?” Quick to make an attempt at answering, Jessica falls silent, looking at the woman with her mouth agape, silence leaving her parted lips.
“I- I don’t-” Jessica mumbles as the room falls silent, those behind the bars waitting for the woman’s answer, her inability to do so drawing an unintended intrigue. With a sigh, Jessica’s shoulders drop, her eyes fall to the floor whilst her hands lift, swiping the long, blonde locks back over her shoulders. Lips puckered, Jessica shakes her head in revulsion at herself, left foot pressing harder against the right foot.
“I don’t justify that” Jessica replies, tunneling into the deeper reaches of her mind, borrowing into acceptance. “I just don’t think about it” Jessica further acknowledges, the look of disappointment shared amongst the prisoners sticking into the back of the blonde woman’s mind, “I ignore it, and eventually it stops being a problem.”
Already quiet enough for a falling pin to resonate like a grenade, the cell churns with disgust, those who’d once worked beneath Jessica now believing themselves to be of a higher, moral standard. “I’m really glad you get to sleep at night, then” Shauna says with disdain, pulling her arms through the cell and walking into the lightless background, swiftly vanishing beneath the shadowy cover of her limestone purgatory.
Lowering her head again, Jess listens to Reggie’s footsteps part from the cell, softly fading into the background, Tyler’s footsteps doing the same, leaving only one prisoner in Jessica’s graces. “You don’t sleep at all, do you?” Jack remarks, earning Jessica’s attention, the woman’s head turning towards him. “No, I don’t” Jess replies in a faint tone, her mouth beginning to dry, “I hear John get out of bed a few minutes after I get in, and then I look at the ceiling until the sun comes up.”
“Why do you stay here?” Jack wonders aloud, possible answers floating in his head, none of them answers he can imagine leaving Jess’ own mouth. “Amy” Jess replies, little hesitation given to that answer, the name leaving her lips near-instantly, “John is in charge, I know we have what we need to survive. I can provide her with a life. I can provide her a future. I can’t do that out there, in that mess outside.”
With a nod, Jack looks away, thinking quietly to himself for a moment, the look on his face insinuating the silent build up of a rebuttal. “You’re sacrificing your own sanity to give the girl a life” Jack says to himself, digesting the answer for what it’s worth, only looking back to Jess when he’d found his conclusion, “how noble” he says sarcastically, leaving his new seat to join the rest of his group, entering the guise of darkness, leaving Jess to herself in the cellar.
Cautiously stepping out of the helicopter, Salem watches Cameron exit his seat, the empty, fire-damaged factory in the middle of an empty field offering plenty of reason for concern. “Where are we?” Franklin inquires, refusing to disembark the aircraft before Heather, following the woman onto the charred ground. “Help us empty the create first, ask questions later” Heather is quick to reply, having spoken little about the site before, and intending to keep that going.
Pulling smaller boxes from within the crate, Heather begins for the building’s charred remnants, the three people that follow all dragging their own crate along the burnt ground, just as she does. Ash kicked into the air, Heather pulls her arm over her mouth to combat the floating debris, eyes set on a door at the back of the building. “Anyone gonna tell us where we are?” Franklin struggles to mutter, every other breath bringing him into a coughing fit.
“No, stop talking” Cameron blurts out, his crate lowering to the ground once he catches up to his co-pilot, assisting her in unlocking the pristine door. Glancing at each other, Salem and Franklin quietly prepare themselves for whatever lies within the compartment, unable to trust the people they’ve journeyed with. Grunting, Cameron and Heather tear the metal sheets open, the doors parting to reveal a staircase, built from concrete and leading into the building’s pitch black underbelly.
Knowing how little they’re trusted, Heather and Cameron venture into the unknown first, leaving Franklin and Salem to follow their lead. “Eyes peeled” Salem swiftly whispers, following Franklin through the doors, descending into uncertainty with each step. Reaching the bottom, Franklin and Salem are met with a burst of light, the revving motor of a nearby generator illuminating the large basement from one end to the other, mountains of these wooden crates lining the concrete floor.
“Holy shit” Salem mutters, her worries falling for a short moment, in awe of the countless rounds of ammunition, heavy weaponry, and basic supplies stockpiled. “Is all of this from the crates?” Salem asks, her wonder returning to the prior tension upon the pilot’s failure to answer. “Most of it” Heather replies, obviously hiding some truth, standing next to one mountain of boxes, right beside Cameron.
“There must be years worth of goods here” Franklin replies, yet to break from the wonder this sheer magnitude of goods presents. “Does Neville know about this?” Franklin asks, walking deeper into the basement, prompting Salem to walk after him. “Not exactly” Heather replies from afar, watching Salem pass her to catch her friend, the opportunity the pilots had been waiting for finally presenting itself.
“Oh, you’re hiding this stuff from him” Franklin remarks, looking around like a child in a candy store, “smart move, we don’t trust him either” he blurts out, only then spun around by Salem’s hand. “Dude!” Salem mutters, turning the man back towards the entrance, their eyes instantly locking onto the pilots, both aiming pistols at the New World Order’s newest inhabitants.
Instinctively reaching for her hip, Salem’s fingers graze her firearm as Franklin raises his hands, her efforts thwarted upon Heather’s demand. “Hands up, Salem!” the woman exclaims, weapon held firmly in her palm, watching Salem’s arms rise. “Nice job, handicap” Salem mutters, her only words to Franklin shared, attention redirected towards the pilots.
“Was this why you were gonna let Franklin hang out on that ladder? Why do you want Frank and I to set up the ladder?” Salem inquires, every second without a gunshot providing more hope for a decent outcome. “Why kill us?” Salem wonders aloud, refusing to reach for her weapon, intrigued by the hesitancy the pilots show to pull the trigger, “what good does it do?”
“I don’t know” Heather replies, pulling the hammer on her revolver, eyes moving over to Franklin, “repeat what you just said, nubby.” Confused, Salem looks at Franklin, who shares her lack of understanding, a moment passing before Franklin repeats his claim. “I asked if Neville knew about this place” Franklin replies, his course quickly adjusted.
“No, what you said after” Heather specifies, both Salem and Franklin beginning to understand the situation. “I said, ‘smart move, we don’t trust him, either’” Franklin replies, a less hostile glare given from the pilots, who share a few glances to each other. “He threatened me just before we left” Salem interjects, finding common ground with the weapon-holders, “Franklin saw the whole thing, came in to stop it, that’s why we got added to your crew.”
Thinking to herself, Heather considers the options at their disposal, her train of thought broken when Salem speaks up. “That’s what this is about, isn’t it?” Salem wonders aloud, watching Heather’s eyes make contact with her own, “you’re worried we’re gonna snitch.” Swallowing her spit, Heather nods, the situation resoundingly clear.
“Well, I’m glad we’re on the same page then” Franklin replies, taking the rest of the lead in diffusing the confrontation. “If you’re defying Neville, and if you’re being extra careful about it, we’re more than happy to help” Franklin explains, bartering with his life, “and if you’re planning on leaving the place, we’re more than happy to help make that possible.”
“Fuck that” Salem mutters aloud, not satisfied with an escape plan, “we’ll help you kill the bastard if you want, it makes no difference to us.” Conflicted, the pilots weigh the options on the table, each survivor only needing to fire one bullet for their worries to be put aside for good. “You’ll need help” Franklin remarks, noticing the sway in the pilot’s eyes, capitalizing on the advantage it brings, “you’ll need man-power, you’ll need allies, you’ll need strength. We’ll be that.”
Their intention to pull the trigger lessening, Heather speaks up, eyes on Franklin’s more defiance-happy partner. “Why did he say he wanted to talk to you?” Heather asks, testing Salem on her story, “Neville, what was his reason?” With a chuckle, Salem lightens the mood, “he wanted to check in on me” Salem explains, shaking her head with a smile, “he wanted to make sure I wasn’t trying to ‘threaten his leadership’.”
A grin coming along her face, Heather gives the woman a nod, her weapon lowering back to her side, Cameron’s weapon following suit all the same. “Not a word of this, any of this” Heather explains, laying the ground rules out well, “there’s a compound out in New York, same name, some soldier running the place below Charlotte. We’re flying Neville out for a meeting with the man in a few days.”
“That’s where you’re running off to?” Franklin interjects, “won’t he know to look for you there?” Shrugging, Heather shows her lack of care over such an idea, her mind set elsewhere. “It doesn’t matter, the other leader doesn’t really fit Charlotte’s mold-” Heather replies, returning her weapon to the holster on her thigh, “-that must mean he’s good.”
“Can we tag along?” Salem asks, cautious not to step on the toes that had nearly put a bullet between her eyes, “we might head out there if things get rough out here. It’d be useful to check it out ahead of time.” Giving a look towards Cameron, Heather comes to a decision in her head, her expression silently giving Cameron a head’s up.
“In return for almost killing you, I’ll do what I can to get you on board” Heather replies, eyes sliding onto Franklin, “and while I’m at it, sorry for almost letting you die.” With a laugh, Franklin nods to the woman, pleased to still be alive. “No hard feelings, I suppose” the large man replies, following the pilots back to the charred building above, helping carry the remainder of the crates to their well-hidden, concrete confines.
The floor creaking beneath the weight of her boots, Jess steps through the front door, a long stare shot at the other end of the home. “Long day?” John wonders aloud, sat with Amy in the adjacent living room, a rubber doll of a horse grasped in his hand. “Yeah” Jess replies, surprised to hear the man’s voice, rounding the bannister to occupy the open seat beside her husband.
“The employees giving you a tough time?” John asks, having expected the perplexed look Jess answers him with. “You always walk into the tavern around lunch time, at least, that’s what Emilio says” John replies, hearing the breathy laugh Jess lets slip, “so either I’m terrible enough at being a husband to turn you into a day-drinker, or you’re making use of the cellar your employees are conveniently locked up in.”
Curling up beside John, Jess rests her head on the man’s shoulder, the time they get to spend together, just as a couple, becoming more limited as the days pass. “They think that, because we’re staying here, propping up Charlotte’s orders, we’re fighting for her” Jess replies, the look on John’s face not changing.
“Technically, we are” John replies, sitting on the floor, his back resting against the couch, “as much as I don’t like thinking about it, if we’re not fighting her, we’re fighting on her behalf.” Admitting this in a strangely content tone, John’s ease to accept such claims as truth becomes a target, one Jess focuses on feverishly. “No, we’re not” Jess replies, her husband’s face turning towards her own, “we know who she is, we’re just waiting for the best opportunity to take her out.”
Looking away, John refuses to answer his wife, the turned look on Jessica’s face speaking to her confusion. “That’s what we’re doing, right?” Jess asks, her husband’s expression odd and out of place to what she’d been under the assumption of. “John?” the woman calls her husband’s name, his guilty look turning back towards her, eyes locked.
“I don’t know” John replies, watching his wife’s confusion twist into annoyance, a bitter scowl given back to him. “What do you mean, ‘I don’t know’?” Jess replies, her head having left his shoulder, their daughter mindlessly playing with her rubber figures a few feet away. “Jess, someone torched every last bit of food we had ready for the summer” John replies, their plans now in flux, “we’re under attack from one side, and if we don’t get help, we’ll be under attack from each other.”
Her head shaking in disapproval, Jess places her hands over her eyes, her frustration boiling. “Jess, this isn’t what I wanted either, but there has yet to be a worse time to dispose of Charlotte than right now” John explains, trying to convince his wife to see the compound through his view, “we’re gonna starve through the summer, wage war with- I don’t even know who! The last thing we need to do is bite the literal hand that feeds us.”
Too frustrated to respond, Jess pulls herself away from John, wandering down a hallway with her husband following closely behind. “I hate the bitch as much as you do, maybe more” John explains, sharing the woman’s frustration and forcing himself to persevere through it, “but taking on Charlotte right now guarantees this entire compound falls like a ton of bricks, and we’re all right back on the road!”
Turning back sharply, Jess raises her voice an octave, a guttural yell thrown back at John. “I know!” Jess exclaims, unhappy with having to accept the stakes at hand, but strong enough to understand the necessity of doing so, “just because I get it, doesn’t mean I have to like it anymore than you do.”
Pulling back, Jess continues to walk away, her husband left standing between two bedrooms in the narrow hallway, bathed in the moonlight that pierces the old-fashioned glass windows. “Please don’t do this” John remarks, watching his wife slow ahead, eventually stopping between a set of bedrooms herself. The moonlight momentarily turning her blonde locks a brilliant white, Jess turns around to face her husband, a disappointed look on her face.
“Do what?” Jess asks, the way she asks the question insinuating a want to hear the answer, but not a need. “Don’t walk away” John replies, sharing the woman’s disappointment in the reflection of his own voice. Slowly moving one foot in front of the other, John shortens the distance between himself and his love at the end of the light-soaked hall.
“I’m trying, Jess” John explains, his arms dangling by his sides. “Everything used to be simple” John mutters, the pain in his voice presenting a second side to his rugged, family-man facade. “You went out to work, I looked after Amy, you’d come home, we’d have dinner and go to bed” John recalls, a simpler time having allowed for comfort that no longer exists, “and now, I’m in charge of some of the last people to walk this planet. If I’m being honest, I still don’t know how it happened so fast.”
His chest visibly growing heavy, John’s eyes fall into sorrow, bringing to light the darkest reaches of his fears. “I’m worried I’m gonna crumble under the pressure” John explains, holding back a single tear, “I’m worried I’m gonna let this place fall. I’m worried I’m gonna lose the two of you.” Her hand quickly finding the side of the man’s face, Jess locks eyes with her husband, following his tear down the length of his cheek.
“You’re not gonna lose us” Jess replies, the broken smile John looks at whilst portraying the differences in their expectations. “I’m a veteran of the army, and I’m a father, and a husband, for my family” John replies, holding his hand over Jess’ own, his head shaking, “I’ve never been both at the same time.”
Gently pulling her hand away, John wraps his fingers within Jessica’s own, his eyes looking deeply into hers. “The only thing that kept me going when bullets flew, was knowing you and Amy were back at home, safe and sound” John says, biting into his lip, “I was lost when you were out there, and if bullets start flying again, I’m not sure you’ll be safe and sound, and that kills me.”
“John, you need to stop expecting the worst out of this” Jessica explains, trying to anchor her husband’s fears, watching him veer harshly away from hope. “You’re convincing yourself that the only end to all of this is bloodshed, and you can’t do that” Jess explains, already aware of her husband’s refusal to accept what she says as truth.
Taking her hands steadily within his, John pecks his wife on the lips, trying to disarm the rising worries for the moment. “I’m not okay, Jess” John whispers, his forehead placed against his wife’s, Jess’ breath running down the collar of the man’s shirt. “I bought a fedora trying to starve off crippling fear, I’ve tried to play peacemaker with a woman who’s content with maintaining order” John explains, “and every other time I’ve tried to lead, I’ve made things worse.”
“No, you haven’t” Jess replies, not believing her statement to be true or false, but speaking it in desperate hopes her husband will blindly believe it. “I tried working with the mob, and they’ve shot at us, invaded us, and are trying to starve us out” John explains, yet to even cut close to the bone of the issue, “I sucker-punched Emilio because he tried to give me hope, I cooperated with Charlotte when she tried to take that hope away. I’m tired, I’m a mess, and I’m spiraling out of control.”
Pulling in a deep breath, John pulls himself to a hush, slowly letting the air leave his lungs, the sensation of his hand begging to shake beginning to fade into the background. “I don’t know what happened to you out there, and I don’t need to ask because it doesn’t really matter” John explains, his wife having stopped speaking, only wishing to be the ear to his explanation, “I’m broken, somewhere down there, you’re broken too. We are dysfunctional, and that’s-”
“Mr and Mrs Callis!” a masculine voice calls out, his fist pounding against the door. Their moment shattered, John turns back, looking at the door while his wife looks at him, tears running down her face. Following John back into the living room, Jess looks at Jerome the moment the door opens. “What’s wrong?” John asks, his wife standing beside him as Emilio quietly walks through the same hallway John and Jess had, looking as if he heard something he wasn’t supposed to.
“Nothing’s wrong, but there’s survivors outside the gate” Jerome replies, refusing to call attention to the odd manner in which Emilio and the Callis’ greet him. “The crowd came back?” John replies, quickly brought up to speed. “No, just a couple of people” Jerome replies, their presence alone not the reason for his visit, “they say they know you.”
“Who? Jess?” John replies, following Jerome’s eyes towards his wife, his assumptions debunked. “No” Jerome replies, shaking his head feverishly, “all of you.”
“Open the gates!” Jerome calls out, two of his subordinates pulling down on the reinforced gate-system, John, Jessica, and Emilio all standing by, watching the large, metal doors part. “If this is a trap, be ready to-” John remarks, stopping his orders instantly, the picture he and his fellow survivors are greeted by enough to take the words right out of him.
“Oh my god-” Jess mutters beneath her breath, the two armed figures standing at the front of the vehicle instantly appearing familiar, “Oh my god!” With a smile on her face, Meghan lowers the weapon at her stomach, tossing it to the floor and meeting her sister halfway. “Oh my god!” Jess remarks again, embracing Meghan as Janice’s smile spreads across her face, the woman joining the sisters’ reunion.
Catching up to his wife, John greets Meghan and Janice, the sound of Amy’s voice from afar only serving to make the reunion sweeter. “Aunt Meghan!” Amy shrieks, running like an olympian sprinter through the gates, jumping into her aunt's arms with glee. “Ain’t hope great, John?” Emilio enthusiastically calls out, playfully mocking the man.
“I get it, you win!” John sarcastically mutters back, sharing a smile with the man until Emilio’s head turns away, his smile fading into a look of awe. The sudden end to the jokes bringing a silent wonder over the reunited grouping, the Callis’, Meghan, and Janice turn towards Emilio, their eyes following the man’s own. “Em?” Bill emerges from the backseat muttering, having prepared himself in the event of a firefight.
“B-” Emilio remarks, unable to say the man’s name, his emotions sent into a frenzy. Speechless, Emilio begins walking forward, his calm pace soon breaking out into a run, wrapping his arms around Bill as tears stream effortlessly down his face. “Oh my god” Emilio mutters beneath his breath, kissing his partner as the reunited Callis’ watch on, unable to hold back their own smiles.
The words taken out of him, John watches Emilio and Bill’s reunion, a smile breaking through his lips, the sight moving him to another tear. “Yeah, Emilio” John whispers below his breath, nodding towards the man, a look of acceptance worn proudly upon his face, “you win.”
== Rise: Remastered ==