“You sure there’s no changing your minds?” John asks, watching Emilio and Bill stuff their belongings into the back of some minivan they found along the side of the road. “The scene may have changed, but the truth isn’t going to. We didn’t get ourselves killed this time, somehow, but we’re not about to take that chance again” Bill states, forcing the trunk shut.
“It feels weird not having to watch our backs constantly” Emilio states, overhearing Franklin bury his mallet extension into the brain of one of the many undead stragglers piecing their way up from the home. “Okay, they’re always an issue, but you get my point” Emilio jokes, receiving a pat on the back for his efforts as John asks what the official next step is lining up to be.
“We’re heading out west” Bill states, handing John a map with an outlined route to the midwest. “We’re thinking about trying our hand out by the Ohio-Indiana area. A lot of space, plenty of room for what we’re looking for” Bill states, nodding at John’s first guess of a farm. “Any news from out near Sheol?” Emilio asks, watching John toss his head around. “We get a ton of dead air. Brief recaps throughout the day, not much of a conversation coming out. Seems like they’re keeping things in motion as best as they can” John states, asked how well that entails their performance.
“It’s fair, nothing special, but it’s only been three weeks. We’re giving it the time we can afford to, monitoring it as best as we can.” From down around the roads, Jess and Meghan walk up with half of a container of gasoline to show for it. “Not much of a hauling day?” John asks, wrapping his arm around his wife, aggravated at the truth herself.
“The gasoline’s going bad” Jessica whimpers, “It won’t be too long before we’re out for good.” Tucking his hands into his pockets and falling back against the car, Emilio vents his vexation at yet another new problem looming over the horizon. “You sure you don’t want to head out to the coastline with us?” John asks again, still hoping he can loosely sway the men’s minds. “No, this was always gonna be something that popped up, it’s just annoying that it picked now of all times to happen” Bill admits, “We’ll just find another way to work around it.”
Caught up from the conversation, John finds his radio to go absolutely nuts, with an irate Louis on the other end. “Louis, calm down. What’s going on?” John asks, met before with a barrage of aggravated statements fluttering as static. “Salmanecci and Wahlen are coming, they’re starting to catch on” Louis states, further losing John. “Who the hell are Salmanecci and Wahlen, and what do they have to do with anything?” the man asks, the three people around him listening in on this conversation unfolding.
“The other convoy figure heads! Tony’s buddies or whatever he called them” Louis states, immediately raising alarm bells throughout the group. “Why are they coming to Sheol?” John asks, met with the simple reply of them not being happy about not being in contact with Tony. “So they don’t know that Tony’s dead? Why haven’t you told them that?” John asks, leaving Louis to have to unfold the way of business in the convoy in the simplest of terms.
“Salmanecci has a convoy in Boston, Wahlen has a convoy in Providence. Together, along with Tony, they made up a big triangle in the lower northeast. They’re not… we’ll say favorable with the concept of doing business with an outsider.” Looking up to the men and his wife, John looks to them for any ideas, finding nothing more than silence and a shrug every now and then. “John, this might get bloody” Louis states, prompting Bill and Emilio to respond with the obvious facepalm whilst Jess herself begins joining the pair in dread.
“What do you want us to do? We don’t even have sufficient ammo to sustain ourselves!” John states, informed by the man on the other line that he’s the only person he’s met thus far that might be able to get inside Salmanecci and Wahlen’s head. “What pull do I have on two croanies? If anything, I’m more of an outsider than you are!” John retorts, not noticing the frown on Louis’ face on the other line. “You’re also a much better leader than I am, John… And you get people in ways that I don’t. This is the kind of thing this place needs you to do.”
Sighing, John looks to Emilio and Bill, with the former starting to shake his head in declination once the latter had begun. “Jess?” the man asks, watching the woman contemplate before staring off at the group, looking out at their fellow survivors having been forced to take refuge in a town rendered to ash out of necessity. “Unless it’s their bullets and their homes we’re staying in, we just can’t afford that kind of battle” Jess states, her view of the camp being accompanied by John’s, watching out as the group packs what they can carry into their vehicles and awaits the decision to head out.
“Let me see what I can do, Louis. I’ll get back to you in a few” John states, met with compliance from the man as he stands in the back of his truck and calls for his group to gather around. “Listen, I’m not going to demand you follow me into something that I, and I alone, started. But Sheol’s looking to bring me in as their mouthpiece to speak to a few pricks not happy with how things are running.”
With the group around him granting him their undivided attention, John informs them that before they can depart for the coastline, he’s going to need to try and finish what he started, and that will require them to remain hidden out at the former New World Order in the meantime. “If you wish to join me, I won’t even begin to describe to you how appreciative I am. But if not, I’ll completely understand, and if things go south, I’ll give you the all clear to move out before I let you go down with me.”
“I’m in” Salem states from afar, pulling her rifle over her shoulder and leading the charge of the rest of the group, minus Emilio and Bill, towards throwing their support in John’s corner as well. Without words to use to thank them, John nods and hops off the truck bed, telling everyone to gear up and get ready for a fight. “Think I can join in?” Reggie asks, walking up to John having shaven the stubble from his face. “You coming aboard?” John asks, eyebrow raised as the man shockingly throws his hat in John’s corner as well.
“I may have spent a while away from people, but it’s refreshing to be a part of something again” Reggie states, shaking John’s hand before joining the group in preparing to depart. “I know you guys don’t owe me anything” John says, looking over at Emilio and Bill stood beside their own car, “But is there any way you can stop down by that family’s house on your way? I… I have a feeling this might end up getting ugly.”
With a nod, Emilio and Bill pack up their final things and shake John’s hand, taking a radio from him in hopes of contacting him once they’ve made contact with the family before driving away, leaving behind the group for the final time. Taking Amy from Jess’ hands, John brings her over to Cameron and Heather, asking that they stay behind and watch over Amy, driving off to the border and waiting for the group to make contact in case shit hits the fan. “We’ll see you then” Heather replies, forcing a chill down John’s spine as he recalls the dangers of walking into war.
“We’ll be back soon, okay?” John states, he and his wife saying their goodbyes to their daughter in hopes of making a safe return back to see her again when this is all said and done. Walking away and taking a deep breath, John and Jessica board an SUV and ready themselves to depart in the line of vehicles before John gets the chills again, rattling himself in the front seat. “You alright?” Jess asks, putting her hand on John’s before coincidently feeling his pulse begin to skyrocket. “John?” Jess asks, watching the man silently nod before putting together why.
“You’ve got a bad feeling about this, don’t you?” Jess asks, watching the man slowly turn his head towards her and just stare without saying a word, giving Jess all the confirmation she needs to figure out where his head is. Buckling her seatbelt as John backs out of the New World Order, Jess and John take what could be their final glance at Amy before leading the convoy of their own through the gates of the rundown former community site and in the direction of Sheol, ominously beginning their ride beneath a cloudy sky threatening to drown out what remains below with a good few inches of rain.
= Rise 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 3 onwards =
Exiting their vehicles, with many planting their feet in the dirt of Sheol for the first time, John and his crew walk through the main yard to a thunderous applause from the people scattered around on their way into the main lobby. Ascending the multiple levels of homes, John and his group finally each the top, taking the short walk necessary to find themselves at the front door of what was once the office of Tony Archibald, still baring his name on the door.
Knocking on the front door, the group are united with Louis, Tyler and Angela as the trio tire themselves out discussing the possible precautions necessary to keep Sheol standing. “Hey, cool down for a second!” John says, earning a gracious welcome from the three before reminding them that violence is the farthest thing from their top priority.
“They’re not individuals that simply listen to reason, John. If they don’t like what they see on the first glance, they’ll blow a bullet past your brain before you can extend your hand to introduce yourselves” Louis states, looking over to see Angela nodding in agreeance, further lending gravity to the statement. “Well what were their expectations when he did die, it wasn’t like he was in his twenties?” John asks, “The dude’s heart could’ve put a foot in his ass any day.”
“They’ve got a line of successors” Angela states, with Louis reminding everyone that he was to be the first chosen to take command upon Tony’s death. “Then what’s the problem?” John asks, met with Tyler’s reply, almost infused with an array of salt. “Tony didn’t die of a heart attack or being taken down by the undead, we hung him from a tree and left his body rotting there for ten days. Big difference in the eyes of the greater convoy.”
“Well do they know that?” Katie asks from the back of the line, met with a level of denial that comes with a catch. “While they definitely don’t know that yet, it’s only a matter of time until they do” Louis replies, expecting John’s obvious next line of questioning, so pulling shade past the window in response, he points in the direction of the main grounds the group had just walked over, spraypainted with the people’s declaration of “The People’s Sheol! Death to Archibald’s Regime!” in big, white letters.
“It doesn’t help that they won’t shut up about it, and the fact that they honestly believe they can take down the conjoined greater convoy if they come knocking at the front doors.” Aggravated at the display of the people of Sheol, John states that there’s not much argument to be made against their right to free speech. “John, stop kidding yourself” Tyler says, earning the attention fo a surprised John. “There are no such thing as rights anymore. We have the right to kill if necessary, which was not how it used to be. Those rules don’t apply anymore, and the people don’t have hope at obtaining power in a world with little to go around.”
“You’re starting to sound a lot like Tony” John replies, met with Tyler’s handling of the truth wrapped in a slap to the face. “Just because Tony led a dictatorship doesn’t mean he was wrong about everything he ever said. If that’s what he believed, then that was one of the few things he was right about.” Walking up to Tyler and taking that statement as a fire starter, John reminds Tyler that under Tony’s eye, he was nothing more than currency to buy silence with. “I’d watch the tone you take with me, Tyler…” John begins, closing the gap between their faces as the anger begins flaking from John as if it were peeling away layers. “...Just because we liberated this city doesn’t mean the horrors of what it used to be die with what it once was.”
As he attempts to walk away, Tyler pulls him right back in like a fish on the other end of a fishing line. “Giving people the power lets them think they can get away with whatever they want” the man states, watching John turn around and remind him that the people are what made Sheol to begin with. “Too much power is dangerous for one community in a world without rules to have” Tyler states, immediately argued by John. “The people need a leader they can trust, which is what Louis needs to be if he has any hope of keeping this place going once the greater convoy skips town after this is all over” John states. “Like you?” Tyler asks, waiting for the man to reply before hearing the simple term of “sure” originate from the man’s lips.
“How did that work out for the New World Order?” Tyler asks, hitting below the belt before rubbing salt into the wounds. “Or am I supposed to join the rest of the guys behind you in forgetting the fireball it went up in smoke with?”
Shaking his head in disgust, John turns around and walks through the group, leaving the room as Angela pulls Tyler down onto the seat beside him. Bursting into the main yard, John walks through a chorus of cheers before placing his hand up in an effort to silence them, to no avail. The crowd continues to roar as Jessica finally catches up to him, walking back to their vehicle and hopping into the front seat.
Once inside the vehicle, Jess begins to make an attempt at having a conversation with her husband, but she is quickly halted from doing so as a crowd of people begin to surround the vehicle, chanting John’s name, much to the utter confusion and panic of both passengers, most specifically, John. Shaking from side to side via the weight of the crowd, pushing and pulling vehicle in adoration for the man trying to hide out within it.
Doing what they can to drive past the cars littered all over the streets, Emilio and Bill acknowledge the decision made and finally begin opening up about what the long term effects will be. “We’re going to run out of gasoline eventually, there’s no arguing that problem out of existence. We’re not even sure there’s going to be a farm just out in the middle of nowhere waiting for us to take it over, and if that happens, we’re stuck out there in the middle of nowhere” Emilio says, causing a stir between himself and his husband.
“I get this kind of thing isn’t exactly the most enticing situation we’ve faced, but it’s better than getting ourselves killed out there in-” Bill begins, met with Emilio finishing the same drawn out argument muttered what feels like a thousand times. “Killed out there looking for something we might not live long enough to actually see, I get it Bill” Emilio says, looking out the window at the world around them passing by. “What do you want me to say, Emilio? Do you wanna go back and start risking your life for some pipe dream again”
Rolling his eyes, Emilio listens into Bill assure him that he’s being serious. “If you genuinely want to go back and are fine living out your days wondering if you’ll see tomorrow, I’ll turn the car around right now.”
Tilting his head over to the man in the driver’s seat, Emilio tells Bill that it’s less about the destination that he worries about than it is the speed in which they’ve jumped to it. “We didn’t take the time to plan out a plan B if we need one, and saying that we won’t is just too foolish for our own good. We didn’t think this through, and I can’t help but think that the fact we’re running low on viable gas was supposed to be a sign from whatever heavens we’ve got above us.”
Slowing to a stop in the middle of a littered highway, Bill parks the car and hops out, looking to fill up another canister whilst they’re here. Joining his husband, Emilio walks with Bill, following him to a random car out of the many. “You’re hoping for the same thing that I am, but I’m worried about how quickly we’re jumping into this” Emilio argues, watching Bill try to speed up his pace to end the conversation despite sharing a common end point.
“What’s so crucial about fucking Ohio that makes you want to pack everything up and ditch the only thing you’ve ever been sure of since the world went to shit?” Emilio asks, watching Bill continue to ignore him until he’s inevitably spun around and forced to confront his husband. “I…” Bill begins, pausing for a moment before stopping, dropping his head down in shame before Emilio lifts it back up, reminding him that he can tell him whatever he needs to.
“Please step away from the vehicle!” the voice orders over the loudspeaker, earning very little result in the process. “Please step away from the vehicle right now!” the voice calls again, watching John and Jessica’s vehicles swallowed by the horde of people. Climbing from his seat and opening the sunroof, John pokes his head out and starts waving his hands to direct traffic away from the car, only met with further roaring ovation for his efforts.
Climbing through the gap before helping Jess out, John removes the gun from his belt and fires three shots in the air. “Enough!” John shouts, his words finally being able to be heard as the applause dies down to a lower volume. “Listen, I’m glad to have restored a modicum of freedom to this city, but you cannot, and I mean you cannot start swarming people like a mob.”
Despite not initially being pleased with John’s advice, the people slow down and listen, remembering that their freedom would not have ben possible without intricate actions being taken. “We need to remember that there’s still a sea of the dead outside these walls threatening to take us down from the inside at any moment. Sheol exists because of that, we need to keep it from sinking because of that as well. We’re not going to accomplish that screaming our lungs out and bringing them to our gates.”
“What about the other convoys?” one woman in the crowd shouts, met with compliance rom the majority of the crowd around her. “They’re coming, there’s no challenging that. But we can work this out without drawing blood” John states, finally spotting Louis and the rest of his group emerging from the main compound. “I get they’re not good people. But regardless of what you can hope, we’re too far outnumbered to bring a war worth fighting towards them. It’ll just get all of us killed, and Louis isn’t too fond of that idea.”
“Louis was Tony’s guy!” one man shouts from the crowd, immediately capturing the interest of everyone within shouting distance in Sheol. “He’s not our leader!” another man shouts, immediately bringing a bitter feeling over John and Louis’ group, realizing that the community isn’t just going to follow without being convinced. “Who do you believe is your leader?” John asks, met with multiple people looking towards him and pointing, declaring their answer.
“Fuck” John mutters to himself, placing his hands on his hips as the crowd of thousands grows silent, and the faint sounds of one gunshot after another bringing down the undead at the gates serves as the only background noise. “Okay, fine… If I’m your leader then you need to start trusting that what I say has all of your best interest at heart” John says, immediately met with a spectator in the crowd stating that they should vote.
“Voting isn’t going to work right now. We’ve got two enemies storming to our front gates, we don’t have the time. If you want to vote, we’ll figure out a process after this is taken care of, but we need to do with what we’ve got right now. You’ll all be dead by the middle of the week if we don’t. I get this isn’t how it normally works, but this is a very different world to the one we once lived in.”
Taking a moment to think, John hits home on a few of the basics. From declaring that Louis truly is one of them, to stating that they don’t have to agree with the other convoys, to needing to return to a way of living they did before hand with less fear than they used to have. “There’s no one left to dictate who can do what, so it’s every man for himself in this day and age. We’re better than that, and that is going to be what we show the convoy when they get here.”
Watching the crowd discuss amongst themselves, John catches the loudspeaker radio and asks one simple time for who’s with him. “I am!” one enthusiastic crowd member shouts, followed by a few more before the crowd begins turning their support for John in drives. The unison in which the crowd carries themselves with puts a smile on the other survivor’s faces, realizing they’ve at least stopped the chaos for a moment.
“I’ll never be able to deny how good you are at this” Jess utters, “you’re somehow always able to execute crowd control to a tee.” Leaning in and laying a kiss onto the woman, John smiles before reminding her that it’s the only position he feels naturally capable of taking. “Maybe that’s cocky to say, but when control fell into my hands, I didn’t feel thrown off by it” John replies, watching the woman fixate on how he smiles when he recalls. “I’ll never be the perfect leader, but I’ll never put myself over someone else. And that just feels like how it was always meant to be.”
Unlike other times, Jess stares at John with a sort of satisfaction, finally catching a glimpse of why John’s natural instincts take such a precedent. Without a response, Jess just leans in and returns the kiss to her husband, looking out at the crowd of people who’ve only known him for roughly three weeks, all bend the knee to his guidance and look at the future with John’s brand of glasses.
“Why wouldn’t you tell me sooner?” Emilio asks, watching a shame-ridden Bill wipe tears away from his face as he sits in the driver’s seat, legs hanging out of the car with his hands folded. Not replying, Bill simply looks down and prays, having his attention stolen again as Emilio swipes his hand at his husbands, breaking his folded hands and telling him to stop praying for a miracle. “Bill, if you had told me sooner, I would’ve dropped everything and gone with you” Emilio argues, met with the facts Bill uses to prove the opposite.
“I kept telling you that we needed to go, but you just kept running out and throwing yourself in gunfights. It wasn’t until other shit started hitting the fan that you finally started listening, so don’t give me that ‘devoted-husband’ bullshit” Bill says, dropping his head again as Emilio is helpless to do much more than look at Bill and repeat the same word at nauseum.
“Cancer” Emilio keeps repeating, finally saying it enough to break Bill into shouting at him, demanding that he stop speaking. “It’s bad enough I keep saying it in my head, you don’t need to keep reminding me” Bill shouts, watching Emilio shout back. “I’m gonna lose my husband to fucking lung cancer, this would’ve been fucking great to know!”
“You don’t know that” Bill replies, adamant that it doesn’t need to be a death sentence. “Of course it does, Bill! We never had a cure to begin with, we only stopped it for a bit! What makes you think you’ll get smacked with a miracle when we’ve got even less than we did before?” Emilio shouts, his train of thought, as well as his focus, derailed by a few straggling undead.
Storming over to the undead without a weapon in hand, Emilio just goes off, leveling them out with a few punches, keeping them alive long enough for them to get back up and take another shot. Following a coughing fit, Bill pulls his gun out and takes five shots to put down the five undead, watching Emilio turn around and angrily shout back at him. “Didn’t want to hide those from me?” Emilio asks, arms extended as Bill collapses back into his seat and returns to hacking up a lung.
“Let’s camp out here for tonight” Emilio states, the night sky beginning to roll over after a day of nothing more than tension and hostility. “Em, please” Bill says, watching the man refuse to speak any further as he walks off and removes a boxed up tent from the trunk of one of the random vehicles. “I’m not talking about this anymore, Bill. We’ll get moving at sunrise” Emilio says, walking off the main road and setting up to begin pitching the tent somewhere in the grass.
Watching on, knowing there is nothing further that he can say to stop Emilio, Bill watches on trying to wipe away the tears as they keep refusing to stop.
“Are you ready?” John whispers, watching Louis shake his head, hiding a disappointment well below the surface as the bight sky begins to make itself present. Through the dark, lifeless woods grows an audible rumbling from the flashes of light. Before long, what seems like a never-ending line of convoy vehicles appear through the main gates, coming to a stop wherever there is room.
Before anyone else has a chance to remove themselves from their respective vehicles, the convoy leaders Georgio Salmanecci and Eric Wahlen plant their feet in the ground first. Looking out at the main grounds of Sheol, the leaders find the entire community, other than a few guards stationed along the fences, standing their their hands folded having awaited for their arrival. “What the hell is all this?” Salmanecci asks, the loose skin below his ancient chin waving with his jaw’s motion.
Behind him, Eric Wahlen and his younger, more life-infused eyes survey the area, watching both John and Louis approach them, refusing to unfold their hands before finally coming face to face with the two leaders. Behind Salmanecci and Wahlen, their convoys peak their heads out from the vehicles, not having been permitted to exit, but readying their firearms in case the occasion calls for it. “This is the community of Sheol, and I trust that you are convoy leaders Georgio Salmanecci and Eric Wahlen” John says, welcoming them to the home in a way neither convoy leaders expected to walk into.
“What the hell am I looking at, smartass?” Salmanecci answers, refusing to take any further sarcastic tone as Wahlen and Salmanecci finally close the remaining distance between them. “This is Sheol now that Tony Archibald has died” John states, immediately spotting the surprise on their face. “What did you expect to drive into?” John asks, his genuinity very noticeable from both men. “We had no idea, which is why we showed up” Wahlen replies, dressed slightly sharper than Salmanecci, but appearing more like a company executive than Salmanecci does with the older gentleman’s dress shirt and khakis combination.
“So, you couldn’t tell us Tony was dead in the past three weeks we’ve been trying to make contact?” Salmanecci asks, watching John admit that there was very little way to say it without perhaps running into communication errors overstating the dangers. “I’m sorry, who are you?” Wahlen asks, watching the man introduce himself as the new leader of Sheol. “No, no you are not the leader of Sheol, he is” Wahlen replies, pointing at Louis. “The people have chosen that I am not to be viewed as the leader of this community” Louis replies, putting a smile on Salmanecci’s face whilst Wahlen audibly laughs.
“Oh, so the people have choices now?” Wahlen jokes, tapping Salmanecci on the arm as the older gentlemen wastes little time in pulling his gun and taking aim at John, who immediately disarms him, holding Salmanecci’s own gun on Wahlen whilst putting the blade of a knife to his stomach. “Drop it!” John replies, watching Wahlen be left little more choice than to drop the firearm. “I served in the military, you’re not getting away with your slight of hand bullshit with me” John replies, finally having said something to amuse Salmanecci that wasn’t at the expense of the community.
“Tell your men, both groups, to drop their weapons or I’ll drop you both” John demands, watching both men do as instructed. “Now here’s what’s going to happen” John begins, telling both men that there doesn’t need to be bloodshed when having a civilized conversation is still on the table. “We’re going to return to the office space, your men will remain here waiting for you to return and we are going to discuss what happens from this point on. Have I made myself clear?”
“This guy might be worth at least a few words” Wahlen states, humoring Salmanecci who tells John to lead the way. “If we don’t come back, start firing at whatever moves” Wahlen instructs his men, following John as the four men enter the main compound and make the long ascent to their negotiating table, waiting to decide whether or not Sheol will become the sight of a massacre or a bright day in the new world’s step towards a return to humanity.