“You’re not answering my question!” Annie exclaims, stood in the foyer of 18 Rawson, overcome with grief and anger, “where the hell is my husband!?” Aside from the woman’s yelling, the home remains quiet, littered with people stood in unspecific corners, waiting for Jade’s answer. “He and Ameil never made it back” Jade responds, her head hung out of shame, entirely unable to look Annie in the eyes, “the horde caught up to us before they could get back- we had to leave.”
With a lump in her throat, Annie’s lip quivers, her voice unable to put into words the scattered thoughts that rush through her head. Nearing tears, Annie turns away from the woman, hiding her face from the home’s inhabitants as Heather takes her place in the discourse, leaving Amy in Salem’s arms. “Ameil knows his way around the dead, there’s a chance he and Ryan hunkered down somewhere out there” Heather suggests, her eyes searching for those equally-optimistic.
“We haven’t found bodies, so there’s no reason to presume they're dead” Heather explains, waiting for a voice to speak up in her defence, “I think we should group up and go out looking.” The most reluctant of the siblings, Isaac speaks up first, his voice angelically deep. “We’re not private detectives, Heather. We can’t just stop what we’re doing every time someone gets lost” the man ripostes, an answer that mildly irritates the woman.
“They’re not just someones- they’re your someones” Heather argues, her arms crossing as she approaches the man, “they were lost on your trip. So, as far as I’m concerned, you’re responsible.” The next to align himself with Isaac, Oliver interjects, sat on the centre staircase just a few feet away. “The town’s incinerator just got pushed offline and we’re expecting a call from Nova Scotia by the afternoon” Oliver remarks, leaving little room for reasoning, “we’re too busy for a search party.”
Feeling disregarded, Heather’s arm-cross stiffens, her feet pressing against the ground with more force. “If the town’s people were sent into an uproar, would you be too busy for that?” the woman rebuttals, watching Isaac and Oliver’s eyebrows begin to narrow, Archie’s attention caught in the near-distance whilst Jade’s exterior is unchanged. “Watch your words carefully, Heather” Oliver warns, wishing to quell the threat before it’s too late, “you’ve got a lot riding on us.”
“And as far as I can tell, you’ve got a lot riding on me now too” Heather counters, approaching the still-sat man with a determined look, “what would your citizens think if they knew that their streets were about to start smelling like sewage all because their leader wanted to go out for a hunt and left two of her own behind?”
Grimacing, Oliver pulls himself away from his seat, allowing Heather to get closer toward his face before Jade puts her foot down. “That’s enough- both of you” Jade remarks, leaving her perch near the kitchen’s entrance as she approaches the squabbling pair, “we’ll send out a search party. It’s the least we can do.” The tension alleviated, Heather takes the silence that follows Jade’s order as an excuse to back away, returning to Annie’s side.
“Archie, Isaac- go get ready to head out” Jade commands, trusting the men can take care of the job appointed to them, “as for everyone else, go back to your activities. This meeting is dismissed.” Her priorities elsewhere, Jade retreats to the kitchen, taking a seat at the foremost table as Emilio watches on, noticing the preoccupied look in her eyes.
“Something on your mind?” Emilio asks, gently tapping the kitchen’s passage borders with his knuckle. His presence coming as a surprise, Jade takes her attention away from the map she’d sprawled across the tabletop. “Why? Do you need something?” Jade replies, her face empty, awaiting further comment. “No, I just wanted to check in” Emilio responds, an answer that slightly confuses the woman, “you look... worried.”
Crossing her left leg over her right, Jade’s left hand stretches out to her kneecap, resting on its bend. “I run Cumberland- I’m always worried” Jade replies, unafraid to admit the concern she carries deep within herself, “all it takes is one fuck up for everything to come crashing down. I’m trying to avoid that.”
Sensing the woman’s reluctance to say more, Emilio turns away. “I’ll leave you to it” Emilio ripostes, following the same exit the rest of his group had taken. “I don’t mean to be callous” Jade suddenly calls out, trying to be appreciative of the good intentions the man entered with, “I went out for one afternoon, and not only do I lose two people, but the town’s incinerator goes down while I’m off duty. For obvious reasons, this isn’t my finest hour.”
His lips pressed together, Emilio gives the woman a gentle nod before proceeding toward the exit once more. “It’s not a problem” Emilio replies, wishing not to be of further interruption. Taking her eyes back to the map, Jade listens to the front door open and shut, a few seconds allowed to pass before relief comes over her.
Her right hand balling into a fist, Jade swings her hand down upon the table, a crashing thud emerging from the contact. Throwing her back into the seat, Jade stares at the kitchen window across the room, where the pond in her backyard continues to be assaulted by the droplets that descend from the heavens as the new day begins to dawn.
= Rise is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 from the start of Season 3 onwards =
“There aren’t many jobs out here looking for filler candidates” Lauren responds, watching a string of storefronts zip past the window of the public bus she and Alicia occupy. “So that’s it, huh?” Alicia queries, one foot pressed against the back of the seats ahead of her, “just wait out the outage and hope it doesn’t take long?”
“I’ve got no other choice” Lauren ripostes, holding back her frustration so as not to take it out on her friend, “I just have to wait out the clock.” Defeated, Lauren sinks into her seat, staring down the length of the crowded vehicle with a frown. “How’s Grace taking all of this?” Alicia replies, directing the conversation elsewhere at the sight of Lauren’s dissatisfaction, “is she taking it well?”
“Does she need to?” Lauren is quick to reply, a somewhat sarcastic tone in her voice, “Donnie’s the eighth- was it eighth?- richest person in Cumberland. Why would she- no, eighteenth richest, sorry- why would she need to worry?” Hands in her pockets, Lauren restlessly awaits the vehicle’s next stop, her window seat paying her the responsibility of manning the pull cord just above the glass divide separating her from the outside.
“Because you still need to work if you’re gonna get to Nova Scotia” Alicia responds, looking into the unchanged expression on Lauren’s face, “you’re still trying to get to Nova Scotia, right?” Her blank expression not leaving, Lauren pulls her hand from the pocket and tugs the cord, preparing the pair for their departure. “I don’t know what I want at this point” Lauren replies, squeezing past Alicia as she leaves her seat, preparing to disembark.
“What do you mean ‘I don’t know?’” Alicia retorts, her friend’s confession surprising her, “that’s the whole reason we came here!” Not eager to continue the conversation, Lauren remains quiet, silently waiting for the bus to reach their stop. “Hello? Can you hear me?” Alicia asks, feeling her body pull to the side as their stop appears, Lauren remaining quiet, “why are you ignoring me?”
“Because I sense the judgement in your voice” Lauren quickly replies, stepping off the bus the moment the doors open. “Judg- I’m not judging you” Alicia corrects, following the woman’s lead through the quiet, suburbian streets, “I’m just surprised.” Stopping a few steps ahead of Alicia, Lauren lets other passengers step past her, carrying on with their days as Lauren takes hers to turn back to Alicia.
“I made the wrong choice” Lauren admits, stepping back to the woman with a disheartened look, “I felt more complete out there with Jack than I do here alone.” Her head hung, Alicia lets Lauren continue to speak, the bus’ engine roaring as the vehicle drives past them, their conversation left to them. “For a long time, I thought I just wasn’t used to all this” Lauren concludes, her voice shaky, “but when I go to bed, I know Jack’s still out there- and I’ll never find him.”
“There’s a lot more to you than Jack, Lauren” Alicia replies, attempting to continue before Lauren’s interruption halts her. “I know that, and I don’t care. Everything was simpler with him” Lauren ripostes, the lump in her throat growing the more she persists, “my entire life was a chaotic rollercoaster. School, then work, then the apocalypse, then Tori- then Jack. It’s like everything else wasn’t a problem, and all it took for me to be fine was him. I can’t shake that feeling.”
Becoming aggravated, Lauren tosses her bag onto the ground and takes a seat on the curb, a few moments of sitting in silence persisting before Alicia occupies the spot beside her. “How did you do it?” Lauren inquires, turning her head to Alicia, “how did you get over Frank?” With a chuckle, Alicia’s head begins to hang, her answer taking a few seconds to conjure.
“I didn’t” Alicia replies, holding back a smile as her hand slides into the pocket of her oversized jeans, a glossy photograph retrieved and tucked into Lauren’s possession. Squinting curiously, Lauren stares at the photograph, the image it depicts hidden as it lies face down on her palm. “This isn’t about to-?” Lauren begins to ask, stopping herself as her left hand points toward the photo’s back, “what you’re saying makes sense, but I don’t think I’ve fully processed it yet.”
Unable to hold her smile back, Alicia nods to the woman, forced to push the loose hairs over her ear. “You’re the only one that knows so far” Alicia replies, watching the woman cautiously turn the photograph over, the wave of uncertain worry that inhabited Lauren now quashed with genuine happiness, “I didn’t want anyone knowing until I knew for sure.”
Her left hand covering her widened mouth, Lauren stares at her friend with wide eyes, all her troubles vanishing for one, incredibly fulfilling moment. “You’re pregnant!?” Lauren remarks, finally speaking the quiet part aloud as Alicia’s nod serves to confirm stated suspicions, “holy shit, you’re pregnant!”
Wrapping her arms around her baby-bound friend with joy over the woman’s newfound destiny, Lauren pulls Alicia close, erasing their prior conversation from her mind in an effort to disregard it entirely, still partially incapable of addressing it with the weight required.
“I thought you restricted their gas supply, how’d they manage that?” Jade inquires, sat on the rear patio as the sun emerges, the rain that had crashed upon Cumberland waiting to return another day. “It had nothing to do with gas, their supply was the same as it’s always been” a woman’s voice responds, sharing the same aggravations as Jade, “wherever they got the arms, they didn’t get them with our help, our gas, or our supply.”
“I hardly see why you’d need me to fly out to Nova Scotia for this” Jade quickly responds, sunken into one of the chairs overlooking the pond, “if they have these weapons, there’s nothing coming up there will solve.” The front door to her home opening in the distance, Jade brushes her brother’s re-entry off, continuing her call with no distraction.
“Because we’re landlocked here, Jade. The folks up in Manchester won’t have Portsmouth up and running for months- hell, maybe years!” the woman on the other line replies, clearly simmering with anger, “this isn’t a meeting of negotiation, this is a strategy meeting. Jade, we’re on the brink of war- and Cumberland might be ground zero.”
“You’re not leaving me with a lot of wiggle room here, I’ve already got a problem with-” Jade ripostes, looking to her patio’s entrance before going silent, her wide eyes offered to the sight that stands before her, “-I have to call you back.” Met with reluctance, Jade sets her radio’s receiver down and pulls herself up, both hands raised to her home’s invader.
“Let my brother go” Jade replies, looking into Jessica’s eyes as the widow holds her handgun to the back of Archie’s head, “lower the gun and let my brother go now.” Her cold face continuing to stare at Jade, Jess refuses the woman’s request, her dirt-covered shoes leaving the muddy trail of her entrance behind. “You have someone of mine” Jess responds, her baritone voice showing little empathy, the end justifying the means as far as she is concerned, “I want her back.”
Walking Rockford’s grounds in a sleeveless white shirt, Franklin’s skin glistens with sweat as he makes his way home, his shortened arm temporarily freed from its metal extension. “‘Ay, Frank” Clint exclaims, Franklin’s large frame helping him stand out in a crowd, “can I talk to you for a sec?” With no reason to refuse, Franklin steps forward, severing himself from the unending line of residents that he passes by.
“What’s up?” the man asks, a bead of sweat dripping off his chin, hands placed upon his hips as Clint begins to respond. “Not much- which is kind of the point” Clint replies, glancing at every resident, guard, and high-ranking official that strolls past, “doesn’t the town seem a little normal?”
“When did normal become a bad thing?” Franklin ripostes, humoured by Clint’s discovery. “I never said it was a ‘bad thing’, but it’s definitely off from what I’d thought it would be” Clint replies, his arms crossed at his chest, his back resting against a brick wall to the dirt road’s side, “Rocky’s been worried everyone would be starved into a revolution, yet- here they are- all of the troubles are done with, and no one’s acting any different.”
Squinting at the busy pathway as the sun burns bright just overhead, Franklin shares Clint’s overlook of the pedestrians, admittedly finding their lackadaisical response bizarre. “It’s like nothing’s changed. It’s like today’s no different from any other” Clint clarifies, turning his face toward Franklin, the man’s curious demeanour allowing him to feel like he’d not been the only one to grow suspicious, “excitement- I’d understand, worry- I’d understand, but nothing?”
His concern only growing the more he questions the crowd without an answer to support the conclusions he’s made, Franklin pats Clint on the shoulder, turning back the way he came. “Let me check in with Rocky” Franklin responds, embracing the summer heat in hopes of uncovering answers, “I’ll check back with you later.”
“There’s not much unshattered trust here anymore, so keep the docks off limits” Rocky replies, stood in his quiet home, its walls dating back to the late nineteenth century. “We don’t load anything onto their boats until an agreement is reached, and that is final” Rocky persists, giving the men he’s entrusted to guard Rockford their orders as Franklin knocks at the door, “our days of being fucked over are done with.”
With a gentle tug, Rocky’s door squeaks its way open, exposing the interior of his house to the elements of the blazing outdoors. “Wipe your shoes off on the rug and close the door on your way in” Rocky greets, retreating to the rest of his home as Franklin enters, following the instructions as given. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything” Franklin remarks, watching Rocky sink into the leather cushions of a recently upholstered sofa.
“I’m never anything but busy, so there’s no avoiding an interruption” Rocky ripostes, extending his hand to the empty chair across the room, “is there something I can help you with?” Not wishing to press his sweaty body into the seat, Franklin rests on its edge, his hands folded as his knees part. “I wouldn’t say ‘help with’, but more like ‘makes sense of’” Franklin replies, slightly unsettled by the various deer heads mounted along the walls.
“There’s too much in the world for me to explain enough of, but I’ll do my best” Rocky responds, the friendly smile he wears not as large as Franklin would assume it’d be under the circumstances provided. “Well, I guess I’m just confused. I mean, I see everyone walking on the street today, and it’s like nothing’s changed” Franklin replies, noticing the interesting nod Rocky responds with, “as if taking a cargo plane’s worth of guns and ammo changes nothing. Why is that?”
Letting out a sigh, Rocky’s right arm rests against his couch’s side, his eyes finding the analog clock’s smaller hand pointing toward the number ‘two’. “It’s because they don’t know yet” Rocky ripostes, his left hand moving to his right, where the button to his plaid shirt’s sleeve pops free. “They- why don’t they know?” Franklin replies, the answer catching him by surprise as much as the ease in which it arrived with.
“Because I want to err on the side of caution” Rocky responds, continuing to undo his buttons and roll his sleeves as he leaves the couch, approaching a small table that sits closeby, where he takes a pack of cigarettes into his hand. “I’m only telling you this because I’m deep in your debt. What you and your friends have done for me is more than I could ever ask for- from you or Nova Scotia” Rocky explains, now taking a matchbox into his hand, “I want you to tell me you’ll keep this quiet.”
His lips pressing together, Franklin waits a few moments before giving the man a nod, “I will” the survivor responds, still sat in his seat. Satisfied with the answer he’s given, Rocky proceeds, striking the match and lifting the flame to the stick’s tobacco end. “Nova Scotia makes fucking us over a passtime” Rocky soon replies, a puff of smoke floating from his lips, “this isn’t a new thing, they’ve been doing it for years. Long enough, in fact, for other settlements to get comfortable.”
Reclaiming his seat on the couch, Rocky lets an ashtray sit on his lap as the conversation continues, momentarily breaking to pull a drag from the dart. “Comfortable enough- in fact- to be rather dissatisfied in the idea of Nova Scotia having to take from them to supply for us, even if we’re only taking our fair share” Rocky continues, the stick held between his right hand’s middle and ring finger, “even if we have scheduled a meeting, I’m not so sure Nova Scotia will be too bipartisan.”
His eyes trailing off, Franklin’s concern only grows, his position between Rocky and the sunlit window casting the large man’s shadow upon the floorboards. “I don’t want you to get your hopes down. I’m not saying they won’t, I’m saying I’m not sure enough to just hand them our new toys and stretch out our hands for-” Rocky pauses, another drag taken from the cig, “-for a bigger cut. It’s a lot deeper than that, and that’s how it always is when you play Nova Scotia’s game.”
“And you’re not telling the residents because- because why?” Franklin asks, his original question yet to be answered. “I don’t need their hopes up any more than yours are. They’d assume the same thing you did- that we’ll all be fine when the ships come to dock” Rocky replies, tipping the dart over the lap-top bowl, its transparent bottom strewn with ashes, “high hopes lead to falls from high places. If that happens, that revolution I’ve told you about will draw near- I promise you that.”
“Is Isaac alive?” Jade inquires, the unshaken aim Jess holds her gun with proving the composure she acts with, unphased by the lustre of the sanctuary they reside in. “He’s alive, but he’ll have a headache” Jess responds, her voice kept to the baritone pitch she’d entered with, “now, I want my daughter back. I know she’s here, and I know that you know where she is. Give her back, or I’ll kill all of you where you stand.”
With her hands raised in surrender, Jade chooses her words with care, her voice lowering to a calm, undisturbed tone of voice. “None of us want to die over this, and none of us have to” Jade replies, her brother’s eyes following each step she makes, “but if we’re going to have this conversation, we need to be civil about it.”
The ground rules laid out, Jade keeps her right hand held upward as her left slowly reaches to her side, the gun she wears on her hip easily visible. “I don’t want to hurt you any more than you want to hurt me. We all just want to make it out of this situation alive, alright?” Jade continues, freeing her gun from its holster before laying it on the ground, her foot kicking it to the side, where it falls off the patio’s ledge and into the artificial fountain, “let’s talk about this.”
Blood running from the wound on the side of his face, Archie grimaces in pain as his left eye presses shut, hoping for Jess to meet Jade’s invitation. “Let my brother get help for Isaac, you can hold me at whatever gunpoint you want, and we’ll talk” Jade pursues, quietly hoping the woman will entertain her offer, the reluctance to show emotion making the interaction’s outcome impossible to predict, “you’re here for someone, and you said I know them. I would like to help you.”
“Why?” Jess finally responds, the same tone in her voice left unchanged, “you don’t know the first thing about me aside from my name. Why would you help me?” Letting out a sigh, Jade’s hopeful expression turns to disappointment, almost judging the gun woman in a way. “Because whoever you came here for is clearly important enough to warrant holding my brother at gunpoint” Jade ripostes, “and to add to that, I already tried to help you before. You chose not to cooperate.”
Her hair waving with the calm breeze that begins to roll in, Jess studies Cumberland’s leader, her eyes, her posture, her responses, anything that could provide an insight into the woman’s true motives. “Please let my brother go, and we’ll talk about whatever it is you’re here for” Jade concludes, preparing for the choice she believes Jess to have already made, unable to believe anything she can say would change that decision, “I gave you that chance before, and I’m giving it to you again.”
Her chin tilting up, Jess pulls her sights toward Archie, the man still giving into Jess’ ownership with faith in his sister to ease the situation. Carefully considering her choices, Jess takes three steps away from Archie, her firearm slowly turned onto Jade once pleased with the distance. “Go help your brother” Jess orders the man, his body turning back for the way he’d arrived the moment Jess grants his freedom.
“Thank you” Jade replies as Jess turns back to her, the gun woman's dirt-stained grey shirt entirely opposite that of Jade’s soft, ironed black tank top. “I came here for my daughter” Jess responds, brushing off the woman’s appreciation in favour of whom she’d arrived for, “now that I’ve given you what’s yours- do the same.”
“Sometimes I wonder how most of you survived while everything was still running” Jack quips, carrying a tray with an uncooked chicken atop it, “I worked in a warehouse for minimum wage and I can cook a better chicken than your local bar and grill could. What’s your excuse?” Amused, Clint and Nessie sit beside a wooden tub, washing boards and clothes dampened with soapy water carried in their hands.
“We spent our childhood living off fast food and high metabolism” Nessie responds, the barely-padded chair she sits atop squeaking each time she moves, “went straight from that to living off the land. Ovens weren’t necessary when you have a knife to gut and skin with, and a fire to cook over.”
“That might be the only valid excuse- props to you” Jack replies, rubbing his hands with a wet rag just as Franklin steps through the door. “Franklin, what do you know how to cook?” Jack charmingly calls out, posing over the counter like a catalogue model, his knuckles pressed against the bottom of his chin. “Haven’t we already had this conversation?” Franklin ripostes, discarding his sweat-soaked shirt in the pile of dirty clothes the siblings sit beside.
“We’ve known each other for at least a few years at this point, I’m sure we’ve repeated the same conversations multiple times” Jack replies, continuing to present his smile, “that never changes how much fun I have when you answer.” Rolling his eyes, Franklin ascends the stairs and begins to approach the bathroom, his attempt to wash the day’s dirt from his dark skin thwarted upon the sound of Clint’s voice.
“How’d the talk with Rocky go!?” Clint shouts, watching Franklin peer his head through the space between the bannister and the ground-level ceiling. “It was fine. No, it went well” Franklin responds, climbing back down the stairs to briefly rejoin the group, “he, uh, he told me plenty.” The room quiet, Clint, Nessie, and Jack stare at Franklin, waiting for the man to offer more than he’d explained thus far.
Aware of his inability to get away with such little offered, Franklin leans against the bannister’s base, hesitant to give into the group’s request for more. “He said he wanted to ‘err on the side of caution’” Franklin replies, obviously displeased to rekindle the earlier conversation, “he said that he wanted the supply Nova Scotia owes to the town before he’ll hand them any weapons.”
“Wait, he’s sceptical?- why is he sceptical?” Jack ripostes, his hands now pressing against the edge of the counter as he leans forward, the siblings both taking a break from the laundry to partake in the conversation. “He- well- Nova Scotia’s been dividing the rest of what they owe Rockford amongst the other settlements for a while now” Franklin stutters, still trying to understand the man’s outlook, “he’s worried the settlements will force Nova Scotia to keep the status quo.”
“So- so, what I’m hearing is- the plan is to tell Nova Scotia to fuck off if they don’t give him what he wants?” Nessie replies, wiping the sweat from her face with her forearm, “that hardly seems like something Nova Scotia’s gonna tolerate.”
“It’s not like there’s much of a choice here. Nova Scotia’s used the excuse of ‘you don’t produce enough’ to keep shortchanging this place” Franklin responds, his free hand sliding into his back pocket, “he thinks that, even if they shortchange him again this time, they’ll have to face the music. They won’t be able to excuse it for a lack of production- they’ll have to outright exploit him with nothing to hide behind.”
“Okay, that’s great for Rocky’s ego- now tell me how that helps us” Jack replies, sliding the gloves from his hands as he approaches Franklin, “we still have a trip to Nova Scotia hanging in the balance here. This little ‘stab me in my front, not my back’ routine he’s playing is gonna backfire on us.”
“Yeah, no shit. Go ahead, though- tell me what I can do about it” Franklin ripostes, both hands leaving their respective posts, now held out from his sides, “he’s the law of the land around here!” Too frustrated to begin moulding strategy, Jack rolls his eyes and walks away, tending to the group’s dinner as a way of escaping the mounting anger that begins to fill him.
“He’s stuck to his word this far, and he’s admittedly set us up pretty well” Clint replies, assuming the conversation’s controls, “those guns wouldn’t be his if it weren’t for you. If we sat down with him, we might be able to talk him into a better plan.”
“Oh, I see” Jack scoffs from the kitchen, unable to help himself from listening in, “you wanna reason with the man planning to stick it to the apocalypse’s equivalent of a world superpower- what could go wrong!?” Bracing the cold sweat that covers his body, Franklin crosses his arms, watching Jack’s return. “Do you have a better idea?” Franklin responds, watching Jack unfasten the apron around his waist, “as far as I know, this is the only option we’ve got!”
Stepping forward with his finger pointed at Franklin, Jack attempts to speak, standing like a statue in the same position as he falls silent, a sudden thought dawning. With a sigh, Jack’s hands meet his hips, his head hanging as his right foot taps the ground. “I have to confess something” Jack suddenly replies, sharing a look around the room as the home’s silent residents wait for him to continue, “we didn’t come here by accident.”
Confused, the group continues to look on, yet to comprehend what Jack’s admitting to. This lack of awareness recognised, Jack’s right hand glides into his back pocket, his palm retrieving a folded, glossy paper marked with different colours of ink. Looking Franklin in the eyes, Jack extends the folded guide, “I had Salem take the passenger’s seat for a reason. She must have gotten this from the glove compartment” the man admits, letting the paper enter Franklin’s hand.
“I couldn’t let Lauren get away” Jack murmurs, leaving the group to their discovery as he returns to the kitchen. Huddling together, Clint and Nessie watch Franklin unfold the paper atop the woman’s squeaky chair, what they find not taking long to be understood. “Are these the settlements!?” Clint calls out, his question unanswered as Jack continues to walk away, the trails all leading to various towns throughout the northeast, all leading to their northernmost point.
“We were close enough to Norwood, Cumberland, and Norwich for me to know where they went. I didn’t want to risk getting turned away by Jade” Jack explains, shame ridden through his voice, “this was the safest option we had.” Unsure of how to respond, Franklin sets the map down and walks across the house, caught in a mix of anger and relief.
“Why didn’t you tell us this sooner!?” Franklin shouts, his raised tone matched by the cook, who throws his apron to the floor. “There was no point! We got here like I’d hoped, and the only one hurt in the process was me!” Jack exclaims, the sound of his confrontational voice bringing the room to another silence. “We have people to get back to, and the way there is through Rockford” Jack concludes, his voice calmer than before, “we have to fix this, and we need to do it quickly.”
His hand extended, Jack waits for Franklin to return the gesture. “You have Alicia, I have Lauren, and the siblings have each other. We either take this opportunity or we lose them for good” Jack persists, looking his tall friend in the eyes as his fingers stretch out, “take it or leave it.” Nostrils flaring, Franklin looks to the man’s hand, thinking quietly to himself as his eyes meet Jack’s, the man left waiting for his decision.
== Rise ==