“I want what you’re saying to make sense” Charlotte remarks, her voice emanating from within an office-style telephone, “you’ve been without new crops for four months, how exactly have you managed to keep everyone fed?” Bags under his eyes, John glances towards his wife, the woman sat on the opposite end of his desk, everyone the couple can trust surrounding the room, listening into the conversation without a word of their own.
“We’ve been rationing everything we have, and we’ve been pulling up some crops that have only started sprouting recently” John replies, aware of how poor that sounds, “we’ve cut down to one meal a day, it wasn’t easy at first, but it seems like everyone’s gotten used to it.” A few seconds of silence coming in from the other end, Charlotte considers the man’s explanation, letting it sink in for a short moment.
“And that’s the story you’re sticking with?” Charlotte replies, the man she’d elected as leader of the compound pausing for a moment. “Yes” John replies, his hands supporting his head, elbows pressed against the fine wood of his desk. “Why won’t you agree to trade?” Charlotte asks after a sigh, John’s eyes rolling.
“Charlotte, I’ve already told you this” John cuts back, lashing out at the woman for a brief second, reeling the anger back in, “if you don’t want the crowd in, fine. But I’m not executing them.” The sound of her lips puckering on the other end, Charlotte grows increasingly irritated. “The last I checked, they were willing to tear down walls to get inside the gates” Charlotte explains, using the invasion as a support for her point, “it seems like, if you don’t kill them, they’ll kill you.”
“I welcome them to try, we have trained militants” John remarks, immediately countered. “No, you have teenagers and twenty-somethings that thought they looked good in combat boots and camo” Charlotte replies, openly acknowledging her lack of training. “If you don’t trust they can handle themselves, why bother giving them weapons?” John argues back, earning a laugh.
“If they don’t hold the damn guns, who the hell will?” Charlotte asks, the silence on the other end helping to prove her point. “As I’ve made clear before, you don’t have to like the way I lead” Charlotte explains, returning to the grit of their earlier conversation, “but with that wall still up, and the people being fed properly before you let the crops wither away, you’ve got all the proof to see that I know what I’m doing.”
Not responding, John leaves the floor open for discussion, the woman on the other end jumping at the silence instantly. “Take the goddamn deal, please” Charlotte mutters, earning an enraged John’s shouts of refusal. “I’m not executing people for a food shipment!” John shouts, the veins in his neck popping out, his bloodshot eyes widened for the moment it takes him to scream.
Aggravated, Charlotte shuffles out of her seat on the other end. “Fine” the woman remarks, ending the phone call immediately. Leaning back in his seat, John aims his head towards the ceiling, taking the moment to regain his composure. “She sounds delightful” Troy mutters from the doorway, his prior absence bringing upon an instant attention-stealing presence.
“Any luck this time?” Jess turns around to ask, taking a piece of paper from Troy’s hand as another conversation starts up in the background between John, Janice, and Meghan. “How can you be sure this is going to work?” Janice wonders aloud, her thoughts directed towards the man behind the desk. “They wanted entry before, I’m sure they’d still be fine with entry now” John remarks, referring to the crowd that once lined the New World Order’s gates.
“You don’t even know they exist” Meghan replies, the theory of a hidden army waiting to take over instantly becoming a reality at that moment. “Yes we do” Jess replies, reading the words scribbled on the paper Troy had exchanged with her. “They wouldn’t tell me their names, but there was a blonde girl and a brunette” Troy replies, his hands stuffed into his pockets, “it sounds like the brunette’s the one calling the shots.”
“She’s asking for a meeting tomorrow evening” Jess mutters aloud, stretching her arm across the table, the note finding its way to John’s hands. “Please tell me they want it in here” Emilio whispers to himself, both hands crossing fingers. “No, they want it done in a shack a few miles out” Troy replies, easing any need for worry with his following explanation, “they’re fine with however many guards you bring with you. They don’t intend on attacking.”
“They want a genuine negotiation” John whispers to himself, a confident expression worn on his face. “This is good” the man whispers again, folding the note up and returning it to Troy, “if we can convince them to join forces, we’ll be able to take Charlotte out and send her line of command into shambles.”
The intention of the meeting subsiding, the survivors depart, leaving the room to tend to their remaining matters. On her way out, Janice feels her arm tug back, gently held in John’s grasp. “You’re going to get your shot” John explains, looking the woman in the eyes, the promise made, “just be patient, let’s wait for the right moment.” With a nod, Janice takes her arm back and leaves the room, only Jess remaining in her husband’s presence.
“We’re nearing the fall, we’ll be back in winter soon enough” John remarks, stepping up to a window, looking down at the front grounds of his residence, a mass of citizens calling his name. “We’ll be set with food for the winter, they’ll be able to hold out for a little while longer” Jess replies, walking beside her husband, the angry residents below unaware of their presence, “we just have to make sure we do so, too.”
Kissing his wife, John leaves the office, Jess’ eyes following the man on his way out, his exiting the room allowing her focus to return to the protestors below. “We need food! We need food!” the crowd exclaims, rotating their chants with, “John must resign! John must resign!” Worried, Jess closes the blinds, her eyes unable to look away under their own power. Collecting herself, Jess departs the room, closing the door on her way out, the day just beginning.
= 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 =
Having walked through the poorly lit, concrete-formed corridor just beyond the front door, Salem stops at a particular apartment block, the entrance open to the public, door propped open with an old shoe. Curious, Salem steps inside, the interior more than familiar to her, an uncertainty having overcome her.
The living room lit by only one lamp, stuffed away in the corner of the room, Salem continues further, a knot tying itself tighter in her stomach. Walking through the arch that leads into the kitchen, Salem continues to find little of note, the room tidy and perfect. One room left to inspect, Salem’s eyes take to the bedroom, a faint white light breaking through the narrow opening between the door and its frame, any possible presence in this apartment lying beyond the slender, wooden frame.
Her open palm resting against the firearm on her hip, Salem sneaks forward, each individual floorboard remaining silent, cooperating with her cautious approach. Her hand extending, Salem gently guides the door open, finding the back of a woman staring into a mirror. “The gun’s a bit much, Salem” Alicia remarks, turning away from Salem’s reflection in the mirror, raising her eyes to the real deal, “but I appreciate the protection.”
Rolling her eyes, Salem allows her guard to drop, hand leaving her weapon to direct itself towards the living room. “You left the front door wide open, can you blame me for fearing the worst?” Salem replies, a few seconds passing before her mind notices the confusion. “Wait, why is your front door wide open?”
Pulling her hair out of the collar of her jacket, Alicia walks over to her bed, fumbling through an array of bracelets and necklaces. “I’m going on a date” Alicia replies, instantly sparking Salem’s curiosity. “You’re going on a date?” Salem replies, her mind failing to fully grasp such a conclusion.
“Yes, I’m going on a date” Alicia responds, casually dropping this news as if it weren’t a big deal, “you and Franklin are going off on another mission, so at least I have something to do while you’re gone.” With a laugh, Salem tucks her thumbs behind her waistband, a smile on her face. “You say that like you’re a single mother left behind after her kids move off to college” Salem jokes, helping the woman select her accessories for the evening, “is it really that lonely?”
“Have you forgotten that we’re in the middle of a zombie apocalypse?” Alicia replies, her freshly-curled hair shuffled over her shoulder, “it’s always that lonely.” Amused, Salem changes the conversation, running a bracelet onto Alicia’s arm, sliding it up to others already worn. “Do you like it here?” Salem asks, the question having yet to come up in the five months they’ve been calling Concord home.
“It’s nice, yeah” Alicia replies, her first answer brief, a more convoluted response forming in her head. “I think it’s nice to feel like we’re back to normal again” Alicia replies, that answer sitting both well and horribly in Salem’s mind, “it’s nice to not be afraid of everything for once.” Looking aimlessly at the woman, Salem fails to respond, her intense stare breaking suddenly.
“Sure, but don’t you think that’s also a bad thing?” Salem asks, locking eyes with Alicia, the difference in their expressions comparable to the difference between left and right. “I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but protection is great until it’s not there anymore” Salem replies, separating her eyes from Alicia’s own, looking back at the woman’s armwear, “if it falls, and we get too used to being comfortable, how will we handle that?”
Taking a dislike to the conversation, Alicia tolerates the difference in expectation, humoring Salem by following her illustrated thought. “We still know what it was like on the road, that hasn’t changed” Alicia replies, gently pulling her hand away from Salem’s reach, tending to her wardrobe on her own, “and that’s assuming this place takes a turn for the worst. If that, by chance, happens, we’ll get back on the road and pick up where we left off.”
Feeling the woman’s need to create distance between them, Salem eases up on her theory, trying to lighten the mood. “Do you still have your knife?” Salem inquires, the question bouncing off Alicia at first, the evening-bound woman having briefly disassociated herself from the conversation. “Wh- Oh! Yeah, it’s in my nightstand” Alicia remarks, trying to put on a friendly face.
“Alicia?” a familiar voice calls out from the living room, the attention of both women instantly taken with its voice, different expressions worn upon either woman’s face. “Just a second!” Alicia calls back, grabbing a small purse from atop her comforter, leaving the room. “Who is that!?” a much less-enthused Salem asks, following Alicia back towards the front of the apartment.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me” Salem whispers beneath her breath, watching Alicia step into Neville’s arms, the man looking towards Salem mid-embrace with a grin. “Salem, it’s funny to see you again!” Neville quips, his arm wrapped around Alicia’s neck. “You’re going out with him?” Salem asks Alicia, surprised to see the sight in front of her first hand.
“I know, how lucky am I?” Neville answers on the woman’s behalf, visibly overjoyed to push Salem’s buttons as easily as he has. “Alicia, I-” Salem attempts to interject, her efforts proving futile beneath Neville’s eagerness to depart the building. “Our reservation’s growing close, so we should get going” Neville says playfully, stunting every opportunity Salem has to dissuade the woman from leaving with him, “I’ll have her back by midnight, I promise.”
Already eager to split from Salem, Alicia takes Neville at his word, turning towards the door and leaving beside the man, a speechless Salem left where she stands. After a few seconds, a very confused Franklin creeps into sight, entering Alicia’s apartment with his finger raised in the dating-couple’s direction. “Tell me I’m not seeing what I think I’m seeing” Franklin asks, finally turning towards Salem.
“I knew we should have told her about Neville” Salem mutters to herself, both hands wrapping around her face. “We need to stop her!” Franklin remarks, instantly attempting to run after the woman. “No!” Salem shouts, ending Franklin’s good intentions, “if we try and stop her now, we’ll look like nutjob conspiracy theorists, and you know Neville would have a field day with that.”
“So we just let her go out on a date with a goddamn sociopath?” Franklin replies, quietly hoping for Salem to refuse such action. “Alicia’s a big girl, she’ll handle herself” Salem replies, earning an immediate eye roll from her fellow field-partner, “besides, you were the one that insisted on not telling the girl!”
“If she hated Neville like us, he’d see us as nothing more than a threat, and he’d get rid of all of us” Franklin argues, the woman no longer receptive to the conversation, “as long as one of us was indifferent to him, he’d leave the two of us alone to save face with her.” Pulling her hands away, Salem extends them outwards, putting an end to the discussion. “I know what you were going for, and it failed” Salem explains, “we’ve got a flight to make, so let’s leave this behind for now.”
Giving into reason, Franklin accepts Salem’s request, taking a moment to gather himself. “You’re right” Franklin says with a sigh, following the woman through the front door, forcing his mind to shift focus, the thought of Alicia refusing to leave the back of his mind, just the same as Salem.
“I’m pretty sure we’re in the clear now” John remarks, entering the massive lot just beyond the boundaries of the front gate, other militants and his closest allies joining him. “Troy, Katie, Janice. The three of you are coming with me” John remarks, the rest left to stay behind. Calling her husband’s name, Jess takes John’s hand, pulling him aside. “You need to mean business out there” Jess reminds the man, “if you don’t bring them on board, we’ve got no shot at bringing Charlotte down.”
“Jess, I already kn-” John begins to reply, pausing whilst his wife lifts his hand towards her own face, his tremors having begun once more. Pulling his fingers through her grasp, John opens and closes a fist, easing the buildup of tension. “I’ll be fine” John replies, cutting his prior argument short, his focus centered upon his wife, “I won’t let this fall through.”
Trying to relax, Jess pushes her concerns aside, giving her husband her nod of approval. “M. Callus!” Jerome shouts, a second militant scurrying in the opposite direction, his message delivered. “What’s going on, Jerome?” John inquires, the look on Jerome’s face one of nervousness. “Mrs Walters is on her way” Jerome replies, bringing a flurry of hushed speculation over the small group, “she’s demanded you be in attendance to greet her.”
“Call her back, tell her we’re fine” John immediately argues back, refusing to let this opportunity pass. “She called on her way out, she’s already left Nova Scotia” Jerome responds, the events already set in motion. “Jerome, I’m not missing this meeting” John replies, his refusal placed towards the wrong person, Jerome’s ability to change matters as abundant as his own.
“I’ll go” Jess replies, speaking out from the rest, turning to her husband, who shakes his head. “Absolutely not” John replies, his rank unable to be pulled. “John, you’ve got no experience out there” Jess replies, her husband shamelessly rolling his eyes at the notion, “I’ll take your group, I’ll meet these guys, and I’ll work something out.” Unable to hold back his laughter, John refuses his wife’s plea again.
“Jess, I’m not letting you take my place!” the man replies, no decent reason behind his refusal, the idea of putting his wife in harm’s way being more than enough to deny her request. “It doesn’t really sound like you have a place, actually” Jess retorts, an unpleasant glare given back to her, “we need this deal to be made, and you clearly can’t make it yourself.”
Allowing a sigh to leave his lips, John looks away, his head hanging low, hands pressed against his jean-covered hips. “John, I will get this deal made” the woman explains, letting a few seconds pass before her husband’s eyes meet hers, his unspoken instincts telling him to stand his ground. “Who, right here, do you trust more than me?” Jess asks, now whispering to her silent husband, his eyes not leaving hers for any amount of time, “whoever it is, send them.”
Gritting his teeth, John looks away, remaining silent as he shakes his head. “No one” John finally answers, his wife pleased with the admission. “I’ll get back here, safe and sound, with another army to fight for our cause” Jess replies, her hand resting upon the man’s arm, his tremors having returned once more. “Please” the woman mutters beneath her breath, running her hand down his forearm, the man’s trembling fingers locked with Jessica’s gentle touch.
His heart beating fast, John fights his every urge to give in until the final second, the metaphorical band-aid tearing away from the skin of its host. “Fine” John whispers below his breath, watching his wife’s smile inch from one side to another. “I’ll be back soon” Jess says with a smile, pecking her husband on the lips before breaking off. “Troy, Katie, Janice” Jessica exclaims, pulling the driver’s side door open, “you’re with me.”
Following their new instructions, the trio enter the car, each vanishing into the lavish interior beneath John’s watchful eye. Wasting no time, Jessica soon drives off, pulling her car through the front gates and taking on the road ahead, John stepping beyond his compound’s borders to watch the vehicle speed off, a dread having come over him.
“She’s going to be fine” Emilio remarks, stepping away from the group alone, paying John words of encouragement. “I know she will, that’s not what I’m worried about” John replies, his eyes holding back the pain of what he believes is soon to come.
“I need you and Bill to go back to the house and look after Amy” John explains, turning to the man, pulling Emilio close to whisper his orders, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this visit. If shit hits the fan, I need you and your husband to get Amy somewhere safe.” Pulling away, Emilio gives John a concerned look, silently ingesting what he’s being ordered to do. “Can I count on you to do that?” John asks, waiting for Emilio’s response.
Quietly nodding his head, Emilio pulls away, returning to the inner walls of the compound, his boyfriend’s face easily spotted from within the crowd. Taking in a deep breath, John returns to the New World Order, turning towards the gates the moment he re-enters the lot. Overcome with worry, John watches the massive gates slowly close upon him, the outside world shut away, no turning back from what is to come.
Answering the taps at her door, Alicia finds Salem and Franklin standing in the hallway, patiently awaiting her answer. “Good morning” Salem enthusiastically greets, a half-hearted smile earned from Alicia, who steps aside to allow the pair entry. “We brought you donuts” Franklin mutters, carrying a cardboard box of sweets through the front door, “I mean, they’re the closest thing we could find to donuts, but I’m sure they’ll taste just fine.”
Standing in her living room, Alicia spins towards her group, a quick glance telling her what their intentions are. “Franklin’s uncomfortable being here, and you’re dying to tell me something” Alicia replies to Salem, giving the woman a shrug, “am I right, or am I wrong?”
Her hands coupled behind her back, Salem takes a backseat to Franklin, the man taking the chance to lead the conversation. “We just wanted to talk to you” Franklin replies, a saddened tone carried through his words, “we’ve been pretty distant from each other since we got here.” Taking a seat on her couch, Alicia throws a jab at the couple standing before her. “The two of you haven’t been distant from each other, have you?” Alicia replies, “just me.”
Obviously disappointed in that statement, Alicia keeps quiet, allowing the equally-disappointed pair conjure a response amongst themselves. “That’s true” Salem replies, acknowledging her faults, taking the first step to take a seat near Alicia, “but we’re here now, and we want to change that.” Putting her dissatisfaction aside, Alicia nods towards the woman, her subtle jealousy put away.
“Where do you want to start?” Alicia asks, allowing Salem to start as Franklin occupies a third seat nearby. “How was your date last night?” Salem asks, the common ‘chit chat’ leaving a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth. “It went well” Alicia replies, a grin coming over her face as her arms fold, “he was nice, and the date was fun.” Biting her lip, Salem awkwardly looks at Alicia without a word, a few seconds pass before she throws a smile on, “that sounds really great.”
“Does it?” Alicia quickly replies, taking immediate notice of how uncomfortable her guests remain. “Sort o-” Salem replies, falling silent when Franklin sharply interrupts, speaking his mind. “No, it doesn’t” Franklin cuts in, his hands folded in his lap, body hunched over. Glancing up at Alicia, Franklin sucks on his lips and shakes his head. “I’m sorry to be the one to say this, but it’s important that I do” Franklin explains, cutting to the chase, “Neville is not a good man.”
Surprised by the ease in which the man comes clean, Alicia turns her attention solely upon her one-armed friend. “What Franklin is trying to say is-” Salem attempts to interrupt, quickly silenced by the apartment-renter. “Salem, stay out of this for a second” Alicia replies, her hand extended towards the other woman, attention quickly returned to Franklin, “why do you say that, Frank?”
Looking at Salem, Franklin finds her indifferent eyes staring back at him, the dialogue left within his control. “He threatened Salem about a month after we got here” Franklin admits, Alicia’s eyes never once leaving him, the pause he follows with left in complete silence, “it was the first time we went out with Heather and Cameron, I walked in and-”
“Stop” Alicia remarks, looking away from the man’s large, hunched-over frame, eyes taken to a blank corner of the room. “Why wouldn’t you tell me this sooner?” Alicia asks after a few seconds, her face tightening into an angry frown, eyes darting back to Franklin. “It was my call” Franklin replies, leaving no blame on the table, “I was worried that, if Neville knew you were aware of what he had done, he’d consider us threats and dispose of all of us.”
Again looking away, Alicia lets Franklin’s confession settle in, her body leaning to the side, arm pressing against the soft armrest. “It wasn’t a problem before, but when you started dating-” Franklin explains, again cut off by Alicia, her eyes having taken elsewhere. Struggling to accept what’s being told to her, Alicia lets another bout of silence come over the room, the turn she’d taken requiring a great deal of digestion.
Biting into the skin on her thumb, Alicia’s eyes begin to water, her glare given back to Salem. “Was this what you wanted to tell me?” Alicia asks, watching Salem’s sorrow-filled eyes shake with the rest of her head. “No, it wasn’t” Salem replies, surprising both of the people she shares the room with, her fingers tapping together as she finds the words to follow with.
“Frank and I have been trying to get a ride to another compound, the one over in New York, for a few months now” Salem explains, a broken smile appearing through her lips, “we finally got permission.” This news not yet impacting her as much as Franklin’s bombshell, Alicia shrugs. “Is that it?” Alicia replies, unable to find the will to respond with fake joy, “you want me to congratulate you or something?”
Eyes falling again, Salem shakes her head, the word ‘no’ taking a few extra seconds to leave her lips. “It’s a little bit more than a two-way trip” Salem replies, locking eyes with Alicia before finishing, “when we land in New York, we’re not coming back.” Squinting, Alicia leans back, confused. “You’re leaving me behind?” Alicia replies, quickly corrected by the man to her side. “No, we want you to come with us” Franklin replies, knuckles pressed to his lips, “we can’t stay here.”
Confused, Alicia thinks back to earlier in the conversation, the dots connecting themselves in due time. “You’re leaving because of what Neville did? Or, what you claim Neville did?” Alicia replies, again leaving the door open for Franklin to correct her.
“We’ve got no reason to lie, if you were close to a less-dangerous leader, it’d be the perfect situation for all of us” Franklin explains, laughing through the unpleasant situation, “but it’s not, and it’s also not safe for us to stay here any longer.” Taking her turn to interject, Salem makes an effort to pad her side, “doesn’t it seem odd that Heather and Cameron feel the same exact way about Neville?” the woman asks, watching Alicia’s eyes lift to her own, “They care who you date!”
Leaving her seat, Alicia walks to her kitchen, Salem staying behind in her seat for a few seconds whilst Franklin rushes to join the departing woman. “Alicia, I’m sor-” Franklin begins, falling silent when Alicia takes a swing at her refrigerator, anger having finally boiled over. “Why couldn’t you two have told me this sooner!?” Alicia shouts, the last four months of distance having separated them taking its tole, “why have you two been so fucking distant!?”
Joining the scene, Salem stands beside Franklin, letting Alicia exhaust her frustrations, the moment having been long-overdue. “I’ve been so fucking sick and tired of being the odd-man out! So fucking pissed at being alone!” Alicia continues, slamming her fist against her marble countertop, “I watch the two of you make buddy-buddy with your getaway drivers through this whole summer, and the moment I take my turn to move on, the two of you come back and rip it to shreds!”
Their heads hung, Salem and Franklin accept their shortcomings, continuing to allow the woman’s frustration to throw itself at them. “Get out” Alicia suddenly mutters, voice largely faint in comparison to the shouts she’d recently spoken through, words carried loud enough for her friend to hear. “Okay” Salem replies, easily giving into Alicia’s request, backing away from Franklin and leaving the apartment.
“Frank, I said ‘get out’” Alicia says again, letting the seconds pass after Salem’s exit, hoping Franklin would take the hint. “No” Franklin whispers, earning an intense glare from the woman, who’s aggravation soars again. “Frank, please get the-” Alicia begins, her soft words cut off by the man’s commanding tone, his stubborn refusal bringing conflicting emotions over her.
“I, even without noticing it, let you feel alone, pretty much since the day we got here” Franklin replies, owning up to his mistakes, “I was wrong to do that, and I won’t let you feel that again.” Unsure how to respond, Alicia looks at Franklin with a blank face, her mind playing tug of war with itself. “Why do you care?” Alicia finally replies, her anger having made room for intrigue, her voice returned to her fragile, yet distinct balance.
“Do I really need a reason to care?” Franklin replies, stepping through the archway and leaning closer, their troubles disappearing in the moment. “I don’t know” Alicia replies, Franklin’s arm reaching around her, hand resting on the small of her back as he pulls her close, their indifferences melting away. At a loss for words, Alicia looks into Franklin’s eyes, his hesitancy to make a move spurring her closer.
In a moment, Alicia puts her hands to Franklin’s face and leans in, losing herself in the long kiss for a few, minute-like seconds. Breaking for air, Alicia gently pushes herself away, regaining her composure long enough to stop any further lust. “I appreciate you trying to be there for me now, but I need to be alone for a little bit” Alicia explains, lost for breath, soft-spoken, “okay?”
Recollecting himself all the same, Franklin nods, backing away from Alicia, his hand sliding out from around her. Without a word, Franklin exits through the archway, closing the front door behind himself on his way out, leaving Alicia to process what had just happened. “Ffffucccckkk” Alicia groans to herself, leaning against the counter and pushing her hair away from her face, her inner thoughts racing.
Parking just off the street, Jess emerges from her vehicle first, her focus pointed in the direction of a weathered, aging log cabin just through the trees. Silently following Jessica’s lead, Troy matches Katie’s steps, a rifle-wielding Janice following close behind. “We still have time to call for reinforcements” Katie calls out, her concerns only deepening. “We’re not calling for backup” Jess replies, sticking to John’s original intent, “we’re showing our hand exactly as it is.”
Not one to argue, Katie retires to Jessica’s command, falling in line. Her every step crunching down on an abundance of leaves, Jessica reaches the cabin, it’s inside mostly barron, stripped of everything other than an old, splinter-ridden table and a few metal chairs. “I’m pretty sure we’re ear-” Jessica explains, suddenly halted from entering the decrepit building, her chest colliding with Janice’s extended hand.
Silently, Janice locks eyes with Jess, slowly turning towards the second entrance at the back of the building. Confused, Jess begins to follow Janice’s lead, the armed woman leading the group behind the cover of maimed wood. “If you’re already here, say so or we’re leaving” Janice exclaims, leant against the shack’s exterior, her weapon readied.
Allowing seconds to pass without an answer, Janice calls out again, one last warning given to their guests. “If you’re here, this is your last chance to say that before we leave” Janice explains, refusing to concede ground, “if you’re not here, that means you’re late and don’t care enough about this to begin with. Either answer, or we’re leaving.”
The sky beginning to darken, Janice takes the proceeding silence for her answer, looking to Jessica to make her decision. “Alright, fine” Jess remarks after a few moments, shrugging at her armed friend, “you had your chance.” Taking the lead of the group once more, Jess breaks away from the shack and returns to her car, Troy, Katie and Janice all following.
“You don’t sound like the leader” a voice mutters aloud, emanating from the hidden pockets of the collection of overgrowth. Stopping, Jess turns around, looking out at the eerie forest now steadily growing darker, each minute that passes entrenching each group further in a sightless entanglement. “How do you know what the leader sounds like?” Jessica asks back, speaking into the unknown, still unable to see through the thick fauna.
“I don’t know what he sounds like” the feminine voice replies from afar, still keeping distance between the opposing group and her own, “but I know it’s a dude, and you do not sound like a dude.” Removing a flashlight from her pocket, Jess takes aim at the sky, stepping out ahead of the rest of her group, providing a clear location for the woman to follow. “I’m the leader’s wife” Jess replies, staring out into the dark beyond, “he was called to more pressing matters just before we left.”
“More pressing matters than us?” the woman replies from afar, challenging the New World Order’s priorities. “Everyone has someone higher up than them, someone they answer to” Jessica replies, her past career offering her an understanding of such a fact, “my husband’s ‘higher up’ came calling at the last minute.”
Remaining silent, the hidden group remains cloaked beneath darkness, refusing to move forward until they find reason to. “We consider this meeting to be very important” Jessica explains, steadily keeping her flashlight held beside her, “I may not have the final say, but we cared enough about this to find a replacement, which is more than other priorities would get.”
Her words again followed by silence, Jess waits for an answer, any words she has to offer already having been shared. “Tell them to make the first move” Janice whispers, standing close behind the de facto leader, “you’ve done plenty to make them comfortable, it’s their turn now.” Nodding, Jess turns back to the forest dwellers, her words breaking the discomforting silence.
“I’m showing you where I am, who I am, and why I’m here” Jessica explains, again letting the unknown group dictate their encounter, “it’s your turn to-” Stopping herself, Jess watches a light break through the darkness, aimed towards the sky just as her own. “Here’s how this is gonna work” the woman shouts from afar, standing confidently beneath the night’s cover.
“You’re going to bring one person with you, I’m going to bring one person with me” the woman explains, not a shred of anxiety in her delivery, “the rest will stay right where they are, and if you make any wrong moves, you’re going to die.” Swallowing the build up of saliva in her mouth, Jessica looks to Janice, giving the woman a nod. “I understand” Jessica calls back, turning towards Troy and Katie with a quiet stare.
“If you need us, we’ll be right here” Troy remarks, patting Jess on the shoulder, joining Katie a few steps back, close to large trees for cover. Peering into the night, Jess watches intently, waiting for the light ahead to budge. “You first” Jess exclaims, a few seconds passing before the woman ahead cooperates, slowly guiding herself towards the cabin. Meeting the woman’s pace, Jess and Janice begin to shuffle towards the cabin, their eyes never once leaving the light ahead.
Their collective pace quickening, Jess and Janice soon step through the splintering doorway, entering the domain their guests have chosen, feet scuffling the concrete floor. “Have any better light?” Jess inquires, barely able to make the outline of the woman’s face, their flashlights failing to serve adequately. Striking a match, the flashlight-wielding woman’s ‘plus-one’ begins circling the room, lighting a number of lanterns, slowly embracing the cold interior with a flame’s warm embrace.
“Do you have a name?” Jess asks, she and Janice paying no mind to the lantern-lighting friend. “I’m Victoria, but you’ll call me ‘Tori’” the woman replies, glancing towards her friend. “That’s Lauren, you’ll call her that” Tori furthers, pointing her guests towards her friend, Lauren’s attention placed elsewhere. “What about you?” Tori asks, nothing appearing to be out of place yet.
“I’m Jessica, this is Janice” the woman replies, the familiarity of her voice earning Lauren’s instant attention. “Callis?” Lauren replies, turning sharply towards the women, a second glance at the torch-striking woman bringing a look of awe over themselves. The room finally bright enough to put faces into perspective, Jess looks back with confusion, put off by the mention of heer unspoken marital name.
“How do you know my name?” Jess turns around to ask, confused at first, Lauren’s face striking her as familiar. “You’re Jessic-” Lauren begins, stopping herself when Janice jumps from her seat, instantly putting a name to a face. “Lauren!?” Janice exclaims, watching Lauren’s face contort into equal shock. “Janice!” Lauren shouts, her widened eyes presenting an inexplicable joy, welcoming the hug Janice greets her with, neither able to find the right words to say in that moment.
“You two know each other?” Tori asks, the reunion throwing her for a surprise. “I’m pretty sure she’s my sister’s friend” Jess replies, less confused than Tori, but equally blindsided. “What the fuck happened?” Janice asks as she breaks the embrace, “Meghan, Bill and I thought you were dead!” Letting tears leave her eyes, Lauren shakes her head with a smile. “The dead never got through the front doors!” Lauren enthusiastically exclaims, “I stayed behind and waited for you for weeks!”
“You were there the whole time!?” Janice replies, her smile contorting into a wide, parted-lip look of awe. “It’s fine, I get it now” Lauren replies, forgiving the woman for moving on, “but yeah, I’m fine!” Her glee and apologetic sorrow fighting for room, Janice gives into the speechless awe and pulls Lauren in for another hug, taking in the moment for what it’s worth.
Breaking apart after another few seconds, Lauren looks to Jessica and Janice, concerns lying elsewhere. “What about everyone else?” Lauren wonders aloud, looking to Jess for an answer. “Meghan came in with Janice just a few months ago, John’s back at the compound, Amy too” Jess replies, the answer prompting Lauren to look back at Janice. “Well, I’m glad to see Tyler’s got a friend” Lauren jokes, watching Janice’s face slowly fall, the mood quickly dampening.
Yet to read the room at first, a few seconds of the uneasy silence Janice answers with dawns a sudden, worrisome realization. “He, no-” Lauren stutters, turning to Jess, an equally restless frown worn on her face. “Janice, I’m so sorry” Lauren quickly mutters, her hand placed upon the woman’s shoulder. “It’s fine, enough time has passed for me to see clearly again” Janice replies, a glance shared with Jess, “we know who did it, and I’ll get mine soon enough.”
Responding with an apologetic nod, Lauren changes the topic once more, looking to either of her guests for an answer. “And Alicia?” the woman asks, only Janice able to speak to that. “I haven’t seen her since we broke apart” Janice replies, her confident, business-focused expression returning, “she went off with Salem and Emilio’s vice governor or whatever, she’s gone.”
“My condolences and apologies” Tori interjects, quickly losing her place in the discussion, eager to reclaim control of it, “now, before the morning sun comes up, we’ve got other matters to discuss.” Returning to their seats, Janice sits beside Jess whilst Lauren remains at the head of table, quietly standing between both parties. “Lauren” Tori mutters, patting the chair beside herself, “sit down.”
“It’s fine, I’m-” Lauren replies, speaking to reasons that evade Tori in that moment, cut off by her partner in survival. “Take the fucking seat, please” Tori interrupts quickly and eagerly, dragging it further from the table to make room. Noticing the change in Tori’s demeanor, Lauren does as instructed, sharing the seat beside Tori, the discussion finally having begun.
“Your errand boy says you want to make a deal with us” Tori explains, both arms folded upon the table, her attention aimed at Jess, “you want us to help you take over the compound, and in return, you’ll offer us entry. That’s from what I understand.” Sitting back in her seat, Jess folds her hands in her lap, taking the silence as her opening to respond. “Yes” Jessica replies, a confident gleam in her eyes, “together, we’ll be able to take full-”
“That’s not going to work for us” Tori quickly interposes, shutting Jessica’s response down. “I’m sorry?” Jess replies, confused by the woman’s retort, the profound look on Lauren’s face suggesting a similar loss for words. “We gave you the opportunity to share the compound before, you and your husband chose to ignore our offer” Tori explains, one finger pressed against the tabletop, “we’re not interested in helping those who didn’t help us.”
“I’m not sure I understand” Jess replies, both she and Janice equally at a loss for words, “if you didn’t come here to make a deal, why meet with us?” A breathy chuckle concealed beneath her breath, Tori pulls her hand back, folding it in her lap just as Jess does. “We’re here to make a deal, it’s just not your deal” Tori replies, brushing off Lauren’s whispers for her cooperation, “we’re giving you twenty-four hours to evacuate your camp, and if you don’t, we’ll kill all of you.”
Their mouths agape, Jess shares a look with Janice, neither woman truly accepting such an offer as final. “Tori, this isn’t-” Lauren cuts in, her concerns falling on careless ears. “Lauren, I don’t care what we decided on” Tori replies, looking away from Jess, eyes wandering back upon Lauren’s rigid frame, “they’re only making the offer because they can’t take the place over without us.”
Unable to sway the woman, Lauren quietly admits defeat, leaning back in her chair, staring off into the distance without another word. “If they didn’t have this grand plan, they wouldn’t pay any mind to us” Tori continues, her active vendetta spilling into the discussion like a broken bottle of ink, “but now that they need something from us, all of a sudden, they’re willing to move mountains to bring us on board.”
“You’re not wrong” Janice replies, taking charge of the redirection, telling Tori what she wants to hear. “We’ve been hiding behind the ‘Charlotte won’t let us’ argument since day one, but those are just excuses” Janice explains, her explanation intriguing Tori, “if we had our way, we’d have done nothing differently.”
“Janice, what the hell are-?” Jess asks, her arm grazed by Janice’s hand. “It’s fine” Janice replies, easing the anxious build up deep within Jessica’s core, her place at the front of the conversation now indisputable. “There’s one thing you’re not taking into account, Tori. If I’m being honest, it’s a grave oversight” Janice explains, standing from her seat, the palms of her hands pressing against the table, looking down upon the other woman, “if you take over, your war isn’t finished.”
Her eyes pressing together, Tori places her undivided attention in Janice’s possession, eager to hear the woman out. “You might think you can overtake us, and you may be right if we’re being honest” Janice explains, a smile appearing, “but once we’re gone, you’ll have to answer to someone else. Believe me, it doesn’t matter how big and strong you are in soldiers, or how much ammunition you have to spend, your little army is nothing compared to Charlotte’s.”
Standing from her chair, Tori’s eyes level with Janice’s, the staredown they embark upon bringing both Jess and Lauren to their feet as well. “You don’t seem to be very scared about pissing them off” Tori replies, exploiting the faults in Janice’s warning, “if we’re as helpless as we are against this Charlotte and her people, what makes you think that us, together, will stand any better chance?”
Looking at Jess with a smile, Janice allows Jess to conclude her point, not wishing to steal the woman’s thunder. “Because our troops, and our officials, have inside information. How Charlotte’s people function, where they’d attack from” Jess replies, earning Tori’s interest herself, “your numbers, your experience beyond the walls, matched with our forces and our guns, will be real goddamn difficult to overcome.”
Parting her lips as if she were going to speak, Tori becomes quiet, letting the woman’s point sit with her, festering within her conscience. “Neither of us needs to be wiped out” Jess explains, trying to add the final nail into the decision, one that can sway Tori’s decision permanently. “We want full control from Charlotte, you can give us that” Jess concludes, her eyes staring into Tori’s, her points radiating certainty, “you want a place in the compound, we will give you that.”
Biting her lip, Tori continues to think quietly, never once letting her sights fall from Jessica’s face. “We’ve got to start heading back, Tori!” an armed soldier exclaims from afar, the night having finally set in far enough for their group’s liking, “if you’re gonna make a deal, make it now!” Her eyes piercing through Jessica’s optimistic veil, Tori makes her decision, the silence that proceeds it resounding enough for a pin to be heard dropping from miles away.
“No” Tori replies, pulling back from the table, the hope Jess and Janice had just been engulfed within depleting instantly, their raised shoulders lowering in great disappointment. “You had your chance, you made your mistake, you don’t get second chances in this world anymore” Tori replies, tapping Lauren on the arm on her way to the exit, “you have twenty-four hours, leave or die.”
Hanging their heads, Jess and Janice accept their defeat, the position of the headstrong woman unable to be changed. “Let’s go, Lauren” Tori calls, stopping at the door to look back, her partner standing by her seat, an apologetic look given to her once-friends. “Lauren, I said ‘let’s go’” Tori repeats, waiting for Lauren’s response.
“It’s alright” Jess mutters, giving the woman permission to leave the departing survivor, “if you need in, our gates are open to you.” Unable to stand another second of being confined to the cabin, Jess tugs at Janice’s arm, leaving the building as Janice stays behind, sharing a departing word with her recently-reunited friend. “Just keep your head up high, alright?” Janice whispers, rubbing Lauren’s arm as she backs away, rejoining with Jess.
“I don’t want to have to ask a third time” Tori beckons from the doorway, her eyes kept on Lauren. With a nod, Lauren turns back, returning to Tori. “They made their bed long ago, now they’ve got to lie in it” Tori explains, leaning in to kiss the woman. “Not right now” Lauren mutters, backing away from Tori and proceeding to walk ahead, needing space from her girlfriend.
Dressed in her white tank top, worn-down jeans and a pair of rugged sneakers, Alicia embarks on a night-time walk throughout the compound, venturing the length of the border wall. “Good evening, Alicia!” one man pleasantly greets on his walk past the woman, a smile and wave covering the deeply conflicted expression she wears.
“Lovely night, isn’t it?” another person, this time a woman in yellow tights, remarks a few minutes later. “It’s great weather for walking” Alicia replies, again keeping her dissatisfaction at bay. Nearing a food court, Alicia’s leg develops a shooting pain, what feels like numbing jolts of fire traveling from her knee, running along her thigh before resting at her hip. Her walk becoming a hobble, Alicia drags her leg across the gravel, throwing herself into the court’s metal benches.
Wincing in pain, Alicia nurses her aching leg, pressing her thumbs into the muscles, trying to ring out the sores. Steadily ridding of the burning sensation caught deep within her skin, Alicia begins to take in long, deep breaths. “You look like you’re in rough shape” a woman comments from afar, watching Alicia’s glum, uninterested look momentarily turn towards her.
“Thanks for letting me know” Alicia sarcastically muses, moving her focus elsewhere. “I’m just sayin’, you look like you could use some help” the woman remarks, again earning Alicia’s displeasure. “I thanked you, you can move on now” Alicia replies, hoping the woman simply hadn’t gotten the hint at first. Tossing a bag over her shoulder, the woman purposefully reads into the comment differently, walking up to Alicia and occupying the seat beside her.
“Dude, could you please fuck off” Alicia exclaims, her irritation pushed beyond comfort. Pushing herself up, Alicia’s leg begins to tighten once more, the effort she’d put into easing her pain proving to be worth nothing, the soaring aches forcing her back into her recently-vacated seat. “Godda- Ffuucckk!” Alicia grunts in pain, balling her left hand into a fist, slamming it against the bench’s metal top.
“Yeah, you’re in pain” the woman replies, extending her hand outwards, “I’m Talia.” Rolling her eyes, Alicia lets out a breath, her hair blown to one side of her face. “I don’t wanna know your fucking name” Alicia replies, again trying to push herself out of the seat, this time unable to fully stand. “I know you don’t. You seem like a loner” Talia remarks, this time not earning a response, “I see you walk this path every day, and every now and then, you start limping a bit.”
“Yeah, the pain sort of helped me notice my limp. Thanks for the help” Alicia again remarks, still greatly frustrated, “you a doctor or something? You're gonna diagnose me with being an asshole or what?” Watching Talia’s face turn away, looking off into the distance, Alicia’s guilt begins to grow, the aggravation her pain brings on slowly beginning to subside.
“I’m sorry” Alicia mutters after a few, awkward seconds of silence, “you’re right. I’m in pain, it hurts, and I’m not big on having a chit-chat when my leg feels like it’s gonna explode.” As Alicia goes back to soothing her muscles, Talia reaches into her large bag, the rattling sound that her hand emerges with instantly catching Alicia’s attention. “Here” Talia mutters, holding a bottle of pills out for Alicia to take, “it’ll help with the pain, especially when it gets colder, which it will.”
Just staring at the bottle, Alicia goes numb, words fail to leave her lips and her hands remain grasping at her leg. “Seriously, whether you’re inside or outside of these walls, there’s no surviving like that anymore” Talia explains, an emphasis placed on Alicia’s handicap. Shaking the pill bottle again, Talia waits for Alicia to respond, the woman’s pose reminiscent of that of concrete statues, perfectly still, effortlessly unresponsive.
“Um- No, thanks. I shouldn’t-” Alicia finally replies, a chill coming over her, each bead of sweat feeling like an ice-cube trailing down her soft, goosebump-raised neck. “Seriously, you need them” Talia replies, again rattling the bottle, prompting a huff of air to leave Alicia’s lungs, the sound finding Alicia’s ears like music, sweeping over her every desire.
Sinking her teeth into her bottom lip, Alicia lets a second gust of air leave her lungs, this time through her nose. In an instant, Alicia takes her hand from her leg and swipes the bottle from Talia’s hand. Pulling it close, Alicia just looks at the bottle, not once reaching to undo the cap, but instead, just staring deeply at its burnt orange-coloured shape, the massive, white capsules inside visible through the shaded-transparency the bottle offers.
“You know where to find me when you need more” Talia remarks, leaving the bench and walking off as quickly as she had arrived. “Wait, no I don’t!” Alicia calls back, watching the woman spin around, offering a departing reminder. “Just take a walk-” Talia replies, a warm, friendly grin given back towards her new friend, “-you’ll find me.”
With that, Talia tucks her hands in her coat pockets, venturing down the path Alicia had recently finished walking. Looking back to the bottle, Alicia becomes fixated on the sensation that holding it brings, a bygone time of her life flooding back into her mind. Muscles still aching, Alicia tucks the bottle into her pocket, not wanting to tempt herself any further. Massaging the length of her leg, Alicia’s eyes travel into the distance, aimlessly wandering around the compound, passing time.
“She’s here!” Jerome exclaims, dashing from his perch atop the border wall, climbing to the ground with his focus set on the gate. “Give us the call, boss” a second militant calls out, following Jerome to the pulleys, the final orders resting in John’s hands. “Open the gates” John declares, watching the seconds pass by, the heavy metal entrance parting like a sea, Charlotte’s face the first in a surprisingly long line of New World Order forces.
“Welcome back, we didn’t miss you” John greets, the humored smile he gets from Charlotte easing concerns that grow amongst the compound residents, surprise visits largely uncommon. “Do you care to walk or sit down elsewhere today?” John asks, the earlier smile Charlotte had given yet to fade. “We’ll talk right here, actually” Charlotte replies, her arms crossed at her chest, the slow approach from her accompanying fleet of soldiers spelling worry.
“Okay” John replies, chuckling through the uncomfortability, his hand shaking by his side, “what is all of this about?” Dozens of armed soldiers standing beside and behind her, Charlotte remains silent, thinking quietly to herself whilst John fills the air. “You’ve obviously come for something, and the backup you’ve brought is a bit excessive, even for you” John explains, his chin held high, “I’m interested in wh-”
“You’ve allowed crop yields to burn, outsiders to invade, the residents of this compound starve, and have downplayed all of it to me” Charlotte explains, concerns only enlarging, “do you see a problem with that?” Taking in a large breath, John scratches at the back of his neck, nodding towards the woman. “Yeah, I do, actually. I think that’s unfair” John replies, Charlotte immediately taking on a surprised look.
“We’ve regrown the crops, and we’ve gotten the residents used to eating smaller quantities, which will save us food going forward” John explains, “as for the invaders, I have my wife meeting with them, or at least what’s left of them, as we currently speak.” Shaking his head, John throws his hands out, what he’s offered seems reasonable to him.
“If I told you earlier, you would’ve flown armed forces out to deal with the invaders, flown fresh food in to deal with the hunger, the list goes on” John explains, “my point is, the benefits I’ve made possible wouldn’t have come to fruition because of your intervention.” Nodding, Charlotte puckers her lips, taking the man’s response into consideration. “You’re right, you’re absolutely right” Charlotte responds, those surrounding John beginning to stand firm in their composure, “I commend you.”
“I appreciate that” John replies, looking at the discontent that emerges upon Charlotte’s face, unconvinced, “it doesn;t look like that’s all you wanted to talk about.” Lowering her head, Charlotte grazes the dirt with the sole of her boot, her hair shaking with the rest of her head. “No, Cowboy. It’s not” Charlotte replies, glancing back towards the man, her arms still folded at her chest, “even with what you’ve accomplished, you still are meant to answer to me. I need to count on you.”
“You can” John replies, the look Charlotte gives him suggesting otherwise. “Can I, Cowboy?” Charlotte replies, her head tilted to the right, eyes squinted, “why don’t you tell me what your wife is meeting with those scavengers for?” His concern now beginning to fortify, John becomes skeptical of Charlotte’s intentions, something more definitive becoming apparent.
“She’s negotiating for peace” John replies, his answer amusing Charlotte, who laughs at the gesture. “Peace?” Charlotte replies, a wad of spit thrown from her mouth, coming to rest at her feet, “and what exactly is she negotiating with?” A moment passing before he attempts to speak, John is interrupted anyway, Charlotte’s question branching further.
“Or, y’know, just for fun-” Charlotte continues, her following question putting the nail in John’s metaphorical coffin, “what is she negotiating for peace in return for?” His lips parting ever-so slightly, John’s stomach begins to turn into knots, his attempts to play nice with Charlotte finally having vanished, a villainous glare taking over his rugged face.
“I’m done with your fun, Charlotte” John replies in a commanding tone, watching the gleeful look come over the woman’s face, “why don’t you skip the bullshit and ask me what you really want an answer to.” His plan foiled, John waits for the question to leave the woman’s mouth, only a few seconds passing before it does so.
“Are you staging a coup against me, Cowboy?” Charlotte asks, the defeated look on the rest of the camp’s face giving the answer, Charlotte’s desire left to hear it leave John’s lips.
“Yup” John replies, confidently, his shaky hand finally steadying, all cautions thrown aside. “Thank you for your honesty” Charlotte calmly replies, her lips pressed together, hand moving to her hip. Accepting the terms of his confession, John glances at Meghan, muttering an order to her and the rest of his people. “Let them take you!” John orders, ripping the gun from his hip and turning it towards Charlotte, his target's motion just a second quicker than his own.
Without hesitation, Charlotte fires a single round into John’s face, the man’s gun flying from within his grasp as he’s taken from his feet. “Everybody down!” Tom exclaims, his sister’s gunshot the only one planned from the moment of their entry, “don’t be stupid!” Ordering her men to take the rest of John’s conspirators into custody, Charlotte approaches John’s body, a few steps passing before she gets a decent look at the man’s face.
“You’re a tough piece of shit, Cowboy” Charlotte exclaims, locking eyes with the man, having expected to find him dead. “You… have… no idea” John whispers, spitting a pool of blood from his mouth, some loose teeth falling from the bullet hole in the corner of his mouth. “I’ll get my money’s worth next time” Charlotte replies, stepping over the man’s husk, finishing her sentence as she walks away, reholstering her weapon, “I’ll get more than just your cheek and some teeth when I do.”
Still in shock, John lays in the dirt helplessly, his aid surprisingly coming from the same woman responsible for shooting him. “Get him in the medical tent, I want names, and I want them from him” Charlotte orders her brother, taking a final glance at the wounded ex-leader, “and keep a guard on him at all times.” With a nod, Tom does as instructed, leaving Charlotte to return to her home elsewhere in the compound, the unfolding chaos left in the hands of her militants.
== Rise: Remastered ==