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Protector of New Eden

Chapter Text

It had been five years since Hope AmeliaLansdowne had been back at her quaint suburban home Hope County. 

 

She and her brother had taken it upon themselves to honor their family militant history. Both of their grandfathers had fought in the World Wars. Their Great Grandfather served in World War I, while their Grandfather had fought in World War II and now their father served as a soldier. 

 

And because of this line of service, they felt this family honor now fell upon them to carry out. To make their ancestors proud.  

 

Hope was never just an ‘ordinary girl’. She never played with dolls or other ‘girl’ toys. She and her brother were often dragged out to the aircraft - that was owned by their grandfather - where she and her brother were taught how to shoot guns. She preferred this, it suited her much better – she felt – rather than following the societal norms of how a proper lady should behave or act. She didn’t care, her mother on the other hand was indifferent to this idea. As she continuously expressed her thoughts and feelings on the matter with a statement along the lines of, “Guns were not for girls”, or “Hope, that is not very lady like”.  

 

Hope slowly learned to begrudgingly ignore her mother's statements and continued on. And to her mother's dismay she was taught how to properly use a gun. 

 

She, of course, didn’t jump directly into shooting off rifles. No, she started off slowly – slingshots and a bow – then finally was taught how to shoot a proper gun.   

 

Hope, of course loved it! 

  

 

All of her fondest childhood memories revolved around heading up to the Whitetail Mountains and setting up shop with her older brother and father to shoot targets and then eventually hunting.  

 

 
Years went on continuing this father, daughter and son tradition, under her mother's watchful eye. The amount of times she and her brother stayed up late at night, looking down, hiding in the shadows of the stairs bannister at the sight of their mother and father fighting over letting the two of them – mostly Hope – shoot off guns was, inappropriate for their age – and for Hope – her gender. The fights typically ended with a hug and kiss and the triumphant smirk of their father looking down upon the annoyed face of their mother. He always won the arguments, whether or not she was right.  

 

As she reached the age of fifteen, her father had begun to teach her how to fly the old plane that was passed down from her father's father and so on. From what she remembers, those were some of the best and most memorable days of her childhood. Of course, it took some time for her to truly get the hang of it, but eventually she became very good and finally felt she was a true pilot like her father and ancestors before. 

 

As time went on, she got to prime age of eighteen, where she could finally enlist into the army like she had planned. Her brother had just gotten home from his line of duty, with some visible and invisible scars, but that didn’t scare young Hope. It lit the fire in her heart. It only made her want to go more. She craved adventure.  

 

And so, she went on three tours of duty in the span of five years. 

 

 
Hope of course - in that five-year span - had visited her best friend Mary May a handful of times, who resided in Falls End. However, when Hope finished her five-year service in the army, she felt she had seen enough. 

 

It was truly time to go home. 
 

 

And so, she set off on her long journey back to her home of Hope County.   

 

On the car ride in she couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of happiness to be home again and seeing the county sign that brought back so many memories, she definitely felt it. 

 

As happy as she was, she was unaware of the fact that while she was coming home from a war, she was entering another war, right here in her home of Hope County.   

 

 
Henbane River was completely different from what she had remembered. As she drove and passed many familiar buildings, she couldn’t help but notice the many spray-painted words which read ‘SINNER’, scribbled on almost every home and car she passed. Right then, she knew something was wrong. Something was different. The environment from which she grew, was changed, in the matter of half a decade. The home of whence she grew, had disappeared. Not entirely, but enough to give her a sick feeling in her stomach as she looked around at the atmosphere around her. 

 

As she passed some of the rivers close to the road, she couldn’t help but notice the air was full of something she did not recognize. It immediately made her fill with an overwhelming feeling of content. She swooned over this new feeling. However, when passing by and leaving the area it quickly vanished. She shook it from her thoughts and figured she must just have been tired.   

 

After a few more minutes of driving – which felt like an eternity to her - she finally approached the familiar ranch of her childhood, family home. She quickly shut off the engine and immediately jumped from her car in overwhelming excitement to grab her duffle bag of belongings.   

 

As she reached the front door, she couldn’t help but turn to the breathtaking view of the beautiful Whitetail mountains of which she had grown close with as a child. She sighed with content.  

 

‘I’m finally home’.  

 

A small smile escaped from her lips and as she did so the door from behind her opened quickly. She turned to see the familiar face of her brother. A big smile shone brightly on his face as he looked upon his little sister.   

 

In their time apart, they had been writing to each other continuously, but obviously this was nothing compared to words on paper.   

 

He quickly enveloped his sister into his arms and held her for what seemed like an eternity. For that’s how long they seemed to be away from each other. She heard him speak from above her and felt the rumble of his words vibrate through his chest as he held her.   

 

“Welcome home, little sister.”   

 

She sighed in content just happy to be home again. As they pulled away from each other, she couldn’t help but take notice of the odd attire he had on. A plain red t-shirt, brown leather jacket and shorts. Nothing too out of the ordinary for him, however it’s what he had hanging from his neck that caught her immediate interest – a religious cross with a floral background. She shook it from her thoughts quickly and decided not to ask questions.   

 

“Come on in! What are you waiting for? Your bedroom hasn’t been touched since you left.” He told her in excitement, turning into the house, expecting her to follow.   

 

“Yep, I’m coming!” She giggled to herself, following her older brother inside. “I still can’t believe I’m home. . .”   

 

As Hope took a shower upstairs, her brother, Marcus prepared them something to eat. Knowing Hope would be very hungry from such a long journey back home.   

 

During supper, it was like nothing had ever changed between them. They laughed and spoke about old times. She was in such bliss to be home again and with her brother after so long.  

 

After supper had finished, Hope took it upon herself to put the plates in the sink and with a quick goodnight to Marcus, she headed off to bed for a much-needed rest.  

 

As morning came and the familiar shine of the sun – which she had craved longingly - shone through Hope’s blinds. This was the first time in nearly five years that she had woken up naturally. Looking at the clock next to her bed, she realized that it was nearly mid-day. She chuckled slightly to herself, falling back into her pillow and swiftly moving a fallen lock of her hair from her face. She must have been especially tired.  

 

After lying in bed for a little while longer, enjoying the warmth of her bed and of course the fact that she had no reason to get up, she had no one screaming at her to wake up at the unbearable hours of the early morning, she reluctantly got up and headed downstairs. Expecting to find her brother somewhere in the house. However, that was not the case. Instead of finding him, she found a handwritten note, 

  

“I’ve been called to St. Francis Veteran Centre for some work. I should be home later. I’ll see you soon. -M”.  

 

Hope shrugged it off and decided she would give her best friend Mary May a much-needed visit. She headed back up the steps to her bedroom and put on some tight, dark, blue-jeans, a black t-shirt and her favorite black combat boots. Putting her familiar military jacket on - which she couldn’t seem to be apart from – She Grabbed her keys and headed out. 

 

However, before she started for Falls End, she decided to take a visit to the airstrip that held her esteemed twin-engine aircraft.  

 

When she opened the sliding hangar door, she couldn’t believe what appeared before her eyes.   

 

Her old, but still beautiful plane sat right where she had left it. However, she noticed something different about it. As she circled around her plane, she noticed the bombs attached on the wings, the machine gun attached under the nose, but most importantly - the same symbol her brother had around his neck – was on both sides of her beloved plane's wings.   

 

“Who the fuck. . .” She whispered under her breath as she brushed her fingers over the mark. She was steaming with rage. So much so, that the newly painted symbols on her plane's wings began to get blurry from the sudden tears that brimmed her eyes.  

 

When Marcus comes home, he will have some serious explaining to do.  

 

She reluctantly left the hangar and slammed the metal door before and stomping her way back to her vehicle and with tears streaming down her face, she headed off to Falls End.

Chapter Text

As Hope drove the short distance from her family's hangar, the tears never seized. She couldn't help but succumb to the overwhelming sadness, disdain and hurt that flowed through her body like a raging river - same could be described to the tears flowing from her blues. She didn't understand why how her own flesh and blood could take the one thing she held most dear to her and blatantly vandalize it while she was gone.

 

She thought about pulling off to the side of the road to allow herself to calm down, just enough so she could get to Mary May's home and spill her feelings out to her, but the last thing she wanted to do was show up at her friend's house in tears, after being gone for so long. She had more dignity than that.

 

Sighing, she flicked the radio on in an attempt to pull herself together.

 

As she listened along to the calming song that played over her dying speakers, she couldn't help but hum along to it. The more she listened to the words, the more she realized what exactly they were saying. The lyrics spoke of a collapse that would soon come and explained how all could be saved by those who followed the protector and savior, The Father.

 

The words sounded foreign to her. She had never heard this song before - and she had listened to a lot of music on her time away - however, this one was new to her. She didn't know why this song in particular spoke to her in such a way. Shaking herself from those thoughts, she concentrated more on making it to her friend's house alive, than one strange song she heard playing on the radio.

 

The more Hope drove through the county, the more she realized exactly how much things had changed. She not only noticed more billboards and signs with the same words and statements she had seen coming into the county, but she as well noticed a man who wore a wardrobe nearly identical to the one her brother had on when she arrived yesterday. She typically wouldn't have thought this weird, had he not have had a large bow in one hand and a huge white wolf with a red cross painted on its head, standing next to him.

 

As she drove by him, she couldn't help but stare into the eyes of the man staring back at her. She quickly turned her head forward and gulped slightly.

 

After driving through the boundary of the Whitetail Mountains and into Holland Valley, she noticed to the left of her - where a welcome sign should have been - was an even larger billboard sign that read, "WE LOVE YOU AND WE WILL TAKE YOU", spray-painted on with a similar color to the previous ones she had seen coming into Hope County as well as on her twin-engine.

 

Underneath this billboard stood two sentries that wore similar clothes to the ones of the man with the wolf and of course, Marcus.

 

The more she drove, the more she started to question whether this was her home or not. The familiar red silos that once stood shiny and tall in the County fields, were now spray-painted with the same floral cross she had seen around Marcus's neck and as well the wings of her plane.

The cross was bloody everywhere.

 

When Hope finally reached the sign of Falls End, she couldn't help but gasp softly as she approached the familiar Falls End sign that she had grown fond of. Only . . . now, it wasn't the same sign. It was ruined. Spray-painted across the words of her best friend's town name, was the same word that she had seen numerous times before;

 

'SINNER'.

 

Someone had to know what was happening around here. She intended to find out.

As she found her way around the small town, she quickly parked outside of the bar - Spread Eagle - that Mary May worked at and headed inside.

 

As she swung the doors to the bar open, her eyes immediately began searching through the small building for her friend. Spotting her almost instantly, as she noticed the familiar blonde head of hair, she had grown so fond of, cleaning cups behind the counter.

 

She smirked wildly as all the pain and confusion she felt driving here, faded almost completely.

Mary looked up and her eyes immediately shone bright.

 

"Do my eyes deceive me or is that Hope Amelia Lansdowne?" She said putting one of the cups she was cleaning down.

 

Hope giggled lightly in reply and quickly ran to gather Mary in her arms for a much-needed embrace.

 

"It's good to see you too, Mary". Hope murmured into her friend's shoulder.

 

"When did you get back?" Mary asked, pulling away and holding Hope at an arm's length to get a better look at her.

 

"Late yesterday afternoon." Hope replied as Mary guided her to one of the bar stools in front of the bar counter, she had been working behind, grabbing one of the freshly cleaned glasses and pouring her a nice cold beer.

 

"Well damn, is it good to see you." Mary replied, with a happy sigh, placing the beer in front of Hope, watching her take a nice long swig from it.

 

"I could say the same to you, but honestly this beer has more of my attention at the moment!" Hope said chuckling to herself.

 

Mary rolled her eyes in reply.

 

"Your sass on the other hand is the one thing I sure as hell am not missing . . ." She mumbled to herself, knowing full well Hope could hear her.

 

Hope smiled brightly at her, showing all of her teeth, before taking another long sip from the glass.

 

"Have you seen Pastor Jerome yet?" Mary asked as she leaned against the counter along the wall behind her.

 

"Not yet, but I plan on it".

 

"Well what are you waiting for? He hasn't shut up about you since you left. I know he'll be happy to see you." Mary said, swiftly grabbing her hand from over top the counter and dragging her from off the stool, begrudgingly forcing Hope to drop her cold beer from her grasp.

 

"Was hoping to finish that." Hope said in dismay, as she was dragged out the doors of the bar and quickly put under the arm of Mary as they walked to the church.

 

"I'll get you another there, Soldier." Mary chuckled, rolling her eyes once again at her long-time best friend.

 

"Yeah, I better." Hope replied, laughing with her as they quickly approached the church.

Hope quickly noticed the familiar frame of Pastor Jerome standing outside the familiar white building, she used to attend every Sunday with her family as a child. However, in front of him stood two unfamiliar men, standing tall looking him over as they spoke and another standing next to him, with his eyes glued to the ground in front of him.

 

"Ugh, what are those two doing here. . ." Mary sighed in annoyance under her breath.

 

One of the men standing next to Pastor Jerome, who still had his eyes to the ground, stood awkwardly in between all three men. He was wearing a simple white shirt, with blue trousers.

 

As Mary and Hope approached the three men, Mary addressed Pastor Jerome out loud, catching not just his attention but the other two men as well.

 

"Pastor, look who happened to stumble into my bar!"

 

The two other bearded men turned towards the sudden voice. The other bearded man who stood next to the one with the blue trousers, had a nice pair of yellow aviators on. His silky brown hair was tied into a bun on his head. He wore and white dress shirt, with a printed black vest and black jeans. She couldn't help but notice he was a man of religion as well, looking at the black rosary wrapped around his hand.

 

Hope new by the way this man carried himself, that he was a man of high importance. The aura he produced the closer she got to him, left her uneasy.

 

The second bearded man, had black sunglasses sat atop his head, while his brown flop of hair was slicked back. He was wearing a blue silk shirt, with a black vest - similar to the man next to him - and a blue coat with a pattern of tiny planes, sat comfortably on his shoulder.

 

As soon as Pastor Jerome laid eyes on - the now grown - Hope, he quickly gathered her into his arms.

 

"What a relief it is to see you, Hope. I have been praying for your safe return." He said his chin resting atop of her head.

 

"Thank you, Pastor." She replied, pulling away, standing next to him as she looked at the three other men.

 

"Sorry to interrupt, we just came by to say hello." She said to Pastor Jerome. As he opened his mouth to speak, the man with the yellow aviators spoke instead.

 

"No, that's okay, Child. My brother and I were just about to leave." He said smiling at her before walking they both turned towards the white truck, that had been parked aside the church and pulled out to leave. She quickly took notice of the familiar black cross displayed on the hood as they left. She quickly pulled herself from her thoughts as she felt a hand on her shoulder.

 

"Alright, it's probably time for me to head back to the bar before anyone misses me. Come on back for that beer anytime!" Mary said, winking at Hope before heading back.

 

"Oh, you can bet on that!" She quickly replied to Mary's retreating back.

 

Turning back to the Pastor and the other man who were silently talking to one another. Pastor Jerome gently placed his hands on the other man's shoulders in a comforting manner and slowly spoke to the fragile looking man.

 

"Danny, have faith. We will find where your family was taken. In the meantime, you will stay here. We won't let them take you either." He spoke softly to the man, who seemed more like a boy at the moment. He nodded softly before walking away.

 

Hope couldn't believe her ears. She looked at the Pastors profile as he watched the man, Danny walk away. She slowly turned back to her, sighing under his breath.

 

"What's going on here, Pastor." Hope asked in a small voice. She knew she wasn't crazy. There was definitely something happening. His eyes, which were filled with a mixture of emotions, stared her down.

 

"Hope, this wasn't a good time for you to come home." He said plainly, looking at her sadly and shaking his head.

 

"Pastor. Please, just tell me what's going on."

 

His eyes darted to the ground, before reaching hers again, pulling her to the side and lowering his voice.

 

"Those men that were here before. . . They're behind all of this. They're running the Project of Eden's Gate." He told her, looking at her with a straight and serious face.

 

"That symbol, I've been seeing everywhere . . . That has something to do with them doesn't it?" She asked, curiously.

 

"Yes, they're extremely dangerous. If it were up to me, I would tell you to pack up and leave as quick as possible, but . . . I fear it may be too late for that already." He spoke dryly, pausing for a moment before continuing.

 

"It's too late for Marcus."

Chapter Text

Walking back to the white truck they had arrived in, Joseph stopped dead in his tracks as he felt the familiar sudden pull in his mind. The same pull he had felt before, the same pull he felt before his mind was opened to reveal The Voice that spoke to him.  

 

As John fumbled with the car keys in his hand and began to open the truck door, he noticed his brother wasn’t following, but only that he had stopped a few feet behind him. He had seen that look before.  

 

The Voice was speaking to him.  

 

He watched curiously as he saw Joseph turn back towards the Church and stare at the young girl, they had met just moments ago. She was still standing in a close circle with Mary May, Pastor Jerome and Daniel Woodson.  

 

As Joseph stared credulously at the girl, the familiar pull soon turned into The Voice - the same Voice which had once told him that the collapse would come.  

 

The first seal has been opened, The Protector has come.’ 

 

He shivered hearing The Voice once again after it being silenced for so long. He had wondered when he would hear it again. The moment he laid eyes on the girl, he knew something was different with her. The Voice had confirmed it.  

 

She will take a huge part in the protection of their people during the collapse.  

 

He knew then, 

 

She would be the one to save them all.  

 

“Is everything alright, brother?” John spoke, pulling Joseph from his thoughts.  

 

Joseph looked to his younger brother as John approached him. A ghost of a smile appearing on his lips, looking at his brother once, before looking past his head to the girl. . . the savior beyond. 

 

“Brother?”  

 

“Everything will be okay.” Joseph spoke suddenly, still staring at the girl beyond his brother’s shoulder. 

 

“Everything is falling into place, according to God’s plan. We will be saved.” He spoke, looking into John’s eyes and placing his hands on his shoulders. 

 

“Come now, the word must be spread.”  

 

*** 

 

As Hope drove home, she couldn’t get the words of what the Pastor had told her out of her head; 

 

It’s too late for Marcus. . .’  

 

She didn’t understand. She couldn’t understand. Something about those men she met today, they had a hold on her brother that she didn’t understand.  

 

As Pastor Jerome told her, they were dangerous, but the strange thing was . . . she didn’t feel she was in any sort of danger around them. She felt at home, she felt in peace. She felt the opposite of what Pastor Jerome was feeling, of what the young man was feeling and of what Mary had been feeling as soon as she laid eyes on them outside the Church.  

 

She figured it was only because she didn’t know them. It was impossible to get a proper read on someone after only a sentence spoken to one another.  

 

Her mind was racing, it seemed to do nothing but that during her short time back home.  

 

Hope suddenly realized she had arrived back at the ranch. She put the car in park and sat still in the seat, staring up at the front door of her childhood home.  

 

How could things have changed so drastically here in such a short amount of time?  

 

She looked at the front porch and remembered all the times they had weekend brunches out there. Looking to the lawn, she remembered the fond memories of learning to shoot her bow at the tree as target practice. Looking to the dirt path alongside the house itself, she remembered learning to ride her bike.  

 

All around this place held her fondest childhood memories.  

 

Being gone for five years and it seemed like all of that had disappeared.  

 

Sighing deeply, she looked into her lap, feeling the familiar tears from earlier begin to fill her eyes. She laughed to herself as they fell down her cheeks. Feeling almost ridiculous. She quickly wiped them away and forcefully opened the car door.  

 

She wouldn’t let herself cry.  

 

She had to help her brother and crying wouldn’t help that. 

 

If she could do anything for her home, she had to start with him.  

 

Locking her car door, she lent her head against the top of her door before taking a large breath in and slamming it closed. She walked up the front porch and entered the house.  

 

Marcus wasn’t home yet and so she decided to prepare dinner for when he would return. Looking in the pantry she decided to make his favorite meal. Spaghetti.  

 

If she wanted to have a serious conversation with him, she wanted it to happen over a plate of his favorite cuisine.  

 

Dancing around the kitchen she prepared the meal. As she was finished the dinner, the front door opened, and an exhausted looking Marcus entered. 

 

She sighed lightly to herself, before turning around fully to greet him and plastering a smile on his face.  

 

“Have a good day?” She asked him as he took his coat off and placing it on the bannister. 

 

“Busy.” He replied simply as he took a deep breath in. “Damn, something smells delicious.” 

 

“Well, I decided to make spaghetti, since its technically our real first dinner together after such a long time.” She said, shrugging her shoulders and turning to collect plates and cutlery from the kitchen to place on the table.  

 

“What? Yesterday's dinner wasn’t good?” He scoffed lightly.


  

She looked at him over her shoulder as she scooped a mountain of spaghetti on to his plate.  

 

“I’m sorry, but toast and cereal aren’t what I would call a ‘proper dinner’.” She said laughing and using hand quotations.  

 

“Well, I thought it was delicious . . .” He told her, grabbing the plate she had placed on the counter.  

 

“Of course, you did.” She laughed.  

 

He sat down at the dining room table and immediately dug in. She watched him as he shoveled the food into his mouth. Groaning lightly. 

 

“I’m guessing you like it then?” Hope said, giggling and sitting across from him.  

 

“Just like mom used to make.” He said winking at her with a mouth full of food. She gaped at him and lent across the table to slap his arm.  

 

“Oh, come off that, you know it's better than what she used to make. I at least didn’t burn anything.” She said proudly. 

 

“This time. . .” He said under his breath.  

 

“Yeah and you best not forget it!” She exclaimed as they both burst into laughter.  

 

She missed this. She missed their endless sibling banter. The laughter slowed down and soon it was just the sound of them eating – mostly slurping from Marcus. She investigated her plate of pasta and then back up to her brother.  

 

“Marcus. . . I don’t want to hide anything from you.” She said breaking the silence and the loud slurps form across the table came to a full stop as he looked up at her with quizzical eyes.  

 

“Alright . . .” He responded, nodding slowly.  

 

“So, why are you hiding things from me?” She asked.  

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He said, attempting to laugh it off. She stared at him, raising her eyebrow slightly.  

 

“Marc, you’re my brother and being your designated, annoying, little sister, I know you’re a terrible liar.” She told him, letting a small laugh out before wiping the smile off her face and sighing. “Please Marcus, let me help you.” 

 

He shook his head, glancing down to his lap.  

 

“Hope. No . . . I can’t . . . I can’t tell you.” He said, rising from the table grabbing his plate and heading over to the sink to wash it.  

 

“What do you mean you can’t tell me? Of course, you can! I’m your sister.” Hope said, tears attempting to slip from her baby blues. She quickly blinked them away. It physically hurt her as she looked at upon her brother, struggling.  

 

“Marc.” She spoke again but received nothing from him in return. He leant over the sink with his hands gripping the marble edge, turning his knuckles a ghostly white.  

 

“Marc. Look at me!” She screamed finally, allowing the tears to escape.  

 

“HOPE!” He whipped around and screamed at her.  

 

She stood stunned in front of him. Shaking lightly. He had never yelled at her before. Nothing like this anyways. His eyes, which were filled with rage, slowly softened as he looked upon his little sister’s teary eyes. He sighed once more, looking towards the tile floor.  

 

“You don’t understand.” He softly spoke.  

 

“But I could, if you just told me!” She screamed at him in frustration.  

 

“You will understand in time. . .” he told her as he took a step forward and placed his hands on her shoulders. “You will soon understand, what I’m doing. You can join Eden’s Gate too; just as I did. You will be protec-” 

 

“I am NOT going to join that fucking cult.” She interrupted him, speaking darkly. “The Pastor told me what they are, what they’re doing to people . . . what they’re doing to you!” She screamed.

 

“They’re not doing anything to me! They’re making me see. They’ve awoken me!” He said, breathing heavily.  

 

“I don’t recognize you.” She whispered, stepping away from him and making his hands, which were once planted on her shoulders, fall back down to his side’s.  

 

“Hope, I’m right here. This is me. They’ve showed me what I can become, what I was but didn’t see. They can show you too.” He continued.  

 

“But the Pastor told me-” 

 

“Hope, he’s lying to you! They all are! The whole resistance are liars and they’re weak! We will cull the heard. . .” He said, lowering his voice to but a whisper. 

 

She shook her head, looking into her brother’s eyes. The eyes of someone she no longer recognized. She slowly backed away, tears slipping form her eyes and rolling down her cheeks as she went up to her room and left him in the kitchen.  

 

So much for the spaghetti dinner. 

 

*** 

 

As Marcus awoke early that morning, he couldn’t help but feel that in that moment, lying in bed, knowing his sister was in the room next to him, finally home from war, he was the happiest he had ever been. His life was complete.  

 

Living in their childhood home alone the past few years, after their parents died and she left him. Business at the old summer camp was extremely stressful for him. He had no one. He had nothing. He controlled everything by himself.  

 

He wasn’t mad at Hope.  

 

He could never be angry with her. Not truly, anyways. 

 

He was just alone. He was alone and scared and soon he lost all purpose in his life. He couldn’t tell her that in a letter. She literally did have the world on her shoulders. He just had a summer camp. He knew what she was going through.  

 

Boy, did he know.  

 

But he managed it. He survived and all with the help of The Father. All because he was rescued, protected from himself. He found who he was. He owed everything to them.  

 

As he got up and dressed quickly, he left a note on the dining room table for Hope to find. Knowing perfectly well, she would not be awake for a few more hours.  

 

The day continued like nothing had happened. He hunted animals for food and pelts, trained Jacob’s new recruits and took care of the Judges. He was one of Jacob’s best hunters and he was nothing but proud of that.  

 

After his work was completed for the day, he headed off to Joseph’s compound for the sermon he was holding. Every sermon Joseph held, gave Marcus strength, gave him hope and most importantly continued his faith. It allowed himself to continue to see who he truly was.  

 

Today's sermon was based on one of the messages Joseph had heard before, it spoke to him once again. 

 

The Lamb, The Angel, The Key of Eden’s Gate, The Protector will come.’  

 

As the entirety of the Church heard those words – including Marcus – they were all filled to the brim with joy. They all had been waiting for so long, their time, their savior had finally come for them.  

 

The Judge, The Protector of New Eden . . . was finally here.  

 

As Marcus stood to leave the church and return home, he heard the familiar voice of The Father calling to him from the front of the Church.  

 

“Marcus, my son, come here for a moment.” Joseph spoke softly to him. 

 

“Yes, Father.” Marcus spoke obediently and hurried towards him.  

 

“We have great news. John and I have met your sister today. She was accompanied by those who still resist us.” He told him, holding his shoulder lightly with his outstretched hand. 

 

“Yes, she just arrived late yesterday afternoon, Father.” Marcus replied. 

 

“We wish for you to bring her to us.”  

 

Marcus’s eyes had widened slightly. He had planned on bringing her here eventually. However, he did not think of it being so soon. But he had to do what The Father willed of him. He nodded his head, towards him.  

 

“Yes, Father. I will do my best. It won’t be easy. Hope tends to be really stubborn.” He told him. 

 

When he said her name, he noticed the look in The Father’s eyes.  

 

“Hope . . .” Joseph said to himself. “A beautiful name for a guardian angel.” 

 

Marcus knew then, his true mission was to bring her to the compound to meet truly present her to The Father.  

 

Tomorrow she would go. 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hope hated when her and Marcus fought.

 

Even when they were children, she remembers, whenever he grew cross with her, she would immediately run off to her father and ask for advice on how to establish common ground between them. Otherwise, she found it particularly difficult to sleep, knowing there was a quarrel going on between them.

 

However, they have never fought so intensely over something this serious. She could usually find an answer to resolve the situation, but in this case. She couldn’t really think of one.

 

She loved her brother, but the man she was introduced to not two days ago, was not the same man she once knew growing up.

 

Laying in her warm, soft bed, with the heavy sheets laying over top of her, she kept her glossy gaze held on the window that held the amazing view of the Whitetail Mountains. Staring at them, in awe and admiration. The faint feeling of, sadness, lulling deep in her heart. She wanted so badly for things to go back to the way they were.

 

As a tear slid down her cheeks, she immediately huffed out an exasperated laugh, shaking her head lightly and wiping the falling tear off of her cheek.

 

Shoving the blankets aside, she decided to get on with her day. Showering quickly and putting on her usual attire - white hemmed t-shirt, black tight jeans and combat boots - before grabbing her green military jacket and heading down the stairs.

 

As she entered the kitchen, she could smell the familiar scent burnt toast - clearly, an indication that Marcus was attempting to make something for breakfast.

 

Hope took a breath before entering the kitchen, he had his back turned to her, as he was buttering his pieces of black toast. She silently, walked by him and opened the silver refrigerator, grabbing the milk and opening the pantry for some cereal. At this point, Marcus had turned around completely and was watching his belligerent little sister.

 

“Good morning. . .?” He says, questioningly, as she brushes past him to get to the dining room table. Shovelling a bite into her mouth, she responds.

 

“Morning.”

 

“You know, I made toast, if you want some?” He told her, attempting to lighten the atmosphere.

 

Hope, lifts her bowl of cereal at him and continues eating.

 

Scoffing lightly, he looks to his feet before responding to his little sister passive aggressive, juvenile behaviour.

 

“Are you serious?” He asks. Hope lifts her head in recognition of her brother and raises an eyebrow at him.

 

“Problem?” She says, pretending to not know what he was talking about.

 

“Uh, yes. There is a problem.” He says, taking a couple more steps over to where she sat.

 

“What ever could that be?” She responded, tapping her chin lightly.

 

“Are we really going to do this?”

 

“I have no idea what-”

 

“Hope! Just stop. Talk to me like an adult.” He responds, more aggressively. Hope immediately lifts her head at his words.

 

“I’m sorry? Like an adult?” She repeats, now standing from her seat and placing her hands on the table, knuckles down.

 

Marcus nods.

 

“Yes! Like a fucking adult!”

 

“You know, from what I remember, that is exactly what I was trying to do yesterday, but you had to go all, “Donnie Darko” on me!” She screams, at him. He scoffs once more, looking towards the ceiling.

 

“This is ridiculous. . .” He mumbles before continuing. “ I’m trying to make you understand, Hope!”

 

“Oh, I completely, understand! I understand, that you have been brainwashed into thinking, what you’re doing is good!” She counters.

 

“What I’m doing IS a good thing, Hope. Just because you can’t see that yet. . .”

 

“No! I won’t see it! Not ever.”

 

He sighs and walks closer towards the table setting. Placing his toast at his spot across from her. He, however, continued to stand, looking down at her.

 

“Hope. . . this is my life now. You won’t be able to change that.”

 

“I can damn well try.” She responds, sitting down at her chair again and continued to spoon mouthfuls of her cereal into her mouth with vigor.

 

“Let me take you somewhere tonight. I’ll make it up to you.” He says lightly. Almost a whisper in her direction. She looks up at him, thinking hard.

 

“Where?” She asks, questioningly.

 

“It’ll be a surprise, don’t worry about it.” Marcus said, suddenly standing from his spot and placing the burnt pieces of toast in the trash and leaving the plate in the sink.

 

“I gotta head out, I’ll see you tonight.” He says, grabbing his jacket from the bannister and his keys from the hook near the door.

 

As Hope finished her cereal, she decided she was going to spend the day at the family hangar to help get her mind off of the situation. She used to do that when she was a kid, if she were upset, she would confide in her father and he would always take her up in the plane and spend the afternoon flying over Hope County.

 

Opening the door to the hangar, she shuddered at the god awful designs and extra bits that were placed on her twin-engine while she was away. Trying to ignore it and put up blinders, she hopped inside and smirked lightly as she turned the key and listened to the familiar sound of her twin-engine roaring to life.

 

Driving the plane outside the hangar. She decided she was going to clean the plane and see if the symbols would come off. Getting out, she walked around the hangar to the side and grabbed a bucket and sponge, filling it up and putting some soap inside the bucket. Looking at the beautiful plane she loved so much, she felt the tears welling up as she examined the vandalism.

 

Clenching her teeth, she roughly splashed the sponge into the soapy water and began scrubbing the wings.

 

She scrubbed for what seemed like hours. The best she could do was fade the symbol a little bit. She would have to repaint the entire plane to get what she was looking for. Sighing loudly, she dropped the sponge into the water. Stepping back a couple of steps to take a better look at her plane.

 

A loud shot suddenly rang out into the open air. She jumped suddenly and turned to where she heard the sound. She knew that sound from anywhere.

 

A gunshot.

 

She ran out through the bushes on the property, leading to the forest behind the hangar. Suddenly coming across, five cultist, all dressed the same, holding up large rifles to the head of a young man, wearing a green jacket, blue jeans, black combat boots and a bow lying at their side.

 

She suddenly jumped into action. Crouching low and sneaking up on one of the cultists, kicking him in the back of the knees making him fall to the ground and losing grip on his rifle. She quickly grabbed the rifle off the ground and held it to his head.

 

The other four cultists looked to her, shocked of her sudden appearance.

 

“Let him go, or I swear to god, I’ll put a bullet in this mans head”. She warned them, looking at them all in the eye, one by one.

 

The four cultists looked at each other slowly, before lowering their rifles at the sight of her holding a gun to their friend. When she thought they done, she nodded to the man on the ground to get up and walk away.

 

However, one of the cultists suddenly lifted his gun and turned to point his rifle at her. She was quicker though. Much quicker. She quickly lifted her gun and shot him in the chest, listening to him grunt and fall to the ground, dead.

 

She looked at the other three, who were now watching their friend bleed out on the ground. Hope quickly pointed her rifle at them and shot them all, before any one of them got any ideas.  Pushing the last cultist - who was currently crouching on the ground in front of her - onto his stomach and shooting him in his head, but not before hearing a quick grunt from him and silence then after.

 

She dropped the rifle to the ground and looked at the five bodies surrounding her and the other man. He quickly picked up his bow and watched Hope curiously as she gave him a quick smile. He nodded once, before turning and disappearing into the forest beyond.

 

She made her way back to the hangar, all the while thinking of how right Pastor Jerome truly was.

 

The cult was dangerous and had to be stopped.

 

***

 

Hope had finished for the day at the hangar, soon realizing the sun - that usually hung high over the Whitetail Mountains - was slowly disappearing behind them. She took that as her time to leave and meet Marcus back at the house.

 

As she pulled up to the ranch, she went to the porch and sat on it, deciding to watch the sunset, while waiting for Marc to come home.

 

She didn’t have to wait long however, before sudden headlights appeared around the bend of their ranch. Marcus’s white truck came to a stop in front of her. He rolled the window down, glancing at her.

 

“You sure you don’t want to change into something a little. . . nicer?” He asked. Hope simply looked into his eyes with a straight face.

 

“No.” She responded, monotone, before standing and walking over to the passenger side of the truck.

 

“Oookay.” He responded, elongating the word slightly, before putting the truck into reverse.

 

Marcus attempted to make small talk as he drove. However, Hope either gave short response or didn’t respond all together. Creating a very awkward and passive aggressive environment for the both of them.

 

She sat with her elbow leaning against the passenger door and her head lying limp on her palm, silently staring out the window and watching her surroundings pass by.

 

The truck soon came to a halt outside of a white church. She recognized this church, it was the same one her family used to visit. Slowly, exiting the vehicle, she hesitantly followed her brother up to the doors.

 

She quickly came to a halt when she the large words above the door.

 

CHURCH OF EDEN’S GATE”.

 

She couldn’t believe the nerve of him.

 

She grinded her teeth together and stared at the back of his head as he continued to walk towards the doors, before realizing she wasn’t following her. He turned around and stared at Hope, as she angrily stared back.

 

“Are you . . . FUCKING . . . kidding me!” She screamed loudly. Marcus’s eyes quickly widened, taking a few steps towards her.

 

“No! Don't come near me. You fucking asshole.” She replied lowering her voice and stared with a look that could kill.

 

“Hope, they’re not going to hurt you. They just want-”

 

“I don’t give a FUCK what they want. I thought I made that VERY clear.” She said, angrily backing away from him as he tried to approach.

 

“No! Get the fuck away from-” She screamed at him, but was cut off as the doors to the church suddenly swung open revealing two men.

 

One of which she had previously met - the man with the airplane jacket - and beside him a tall, well-built, ginger man with awful burns and scars covering most of his body. He was a lot bigger than John, wearing dark blue jeans and grey t-shirt and a similar military jacket to her own. She figured they were brothers, looking into his deep blue eyes that resembled John’s.

 

“And what is going on out here?” The man, she assumed was Jacob Seed, spoke first.

 

Marcus quickly spun around and looked to the two men.

 

“John . . . Jacob . . . Meet my sister . . . Hope.” He said, lowering his head and pointing towards her.

 

“Ahh, Hope. I’ve heard so much about you.” Jacob said, smirking at her, glancing her up and down.

 

“Father wanted me to bring her to him.” Marcus spoke up again.

 

Hope quickly swung her head in Marcus’s direction, but he refused to look at her. Not in the presence of two of the Seed brothers.

 

John, however, noticed her sudden movement.

 

“Such anger within you. . .” He said, smirking and taking a couple long strides towards her. “Come, we shouldn’t leave Joseph waiting.”

 

He places his large hand on the base of her spine and began guiding her into the church. She silently looked to her brother for any type of help. He continued to ignore her looks.

 

“Marcus, you can wait here. We’ll be back shortly.” Jacob told him, as he joined Hope on her left side.

 

“Yes, sir.” Marcus said obediently as Hope was guided completely into the the white church. She glanced around at the familiar surroundings she once knew so well. She walked on shaky legs, being brought closer and closer towards the raised platform, which stood the man she immediately recognised as Joseph Seed and beside him a young woman wearing a white dress and bare footed.

 

Both smiling openly at her.

 

“Hope! My child. What a pleasure it is to see you again!” Joseph spoke, as he dropped from the platform and stood directly in front of her, placing his hands on her shoulders. She immediately shrugged them off, feeling John’s hand suddenly slip from her back and two new hands placed on her shoulders from behind, keeping her in place before him.

 

“How do you know my name . . .” She spoke softly, looking at The Father’s bare chest, noticing the different sins carved into his body.

 

“Marcus told me.” He said, watching her carefully, the smile never faltering once from his face.

 

“Why am I here?” She asked. This time the girl who was still on the platform, stepped down and approached Hope.

 

“You’re the girl who will save us all.” She told her, smiling wildly.

 

“What . . . what are you talking about?”

 

“You, my dear, are the one we have all been waiting for.” She heard John speak from above her, brushing his hand through Hope’s blonde hair.

 

“I don’t understand. I’m not special, I’m the same as everyone else.” She spoke, her words becoming garbled as she looked to her feet.

 

She heard a deep chuckle erupt from her left.

 

“Oh honey, we all have a purpose here, and you -” He said, gripping her shoulder tightly. “- are the key to our salvation . . . to all we have been working towards.”.

 

She felt warm hands plant themselves on her cheeks, lifting her head to look into the blue eyes of The Father.

 

“Everything is according to God’s plan.”

 

He leaned slightly, brushing the blonde streaks from the side of her head to reveal her ear. She shuddered under the feeling of Joseph’s lips grazing her earlobe and his warm breath gracing her ear gently. Before, uttering the three words that would change Hope forever.

 

“He chose you.”

 

Chapter Text

 

After the meeting in the church, Hope fell into a uncomfortable, deafening silence in the truck. All of Marcus’s attempts fell short at starting a conversation. He wanted so badly, to know what the conversation they held in the church was about. But, Hope had given up on all forms of communication towards her brother.

 

 

He had ruined things far too well as it was.

 

 

He lied to her.

 

 

He tricked her.

 

 

He did all the things, that she would never even dreamt of doing towards him.

 

 

As Hope sat, in a similar position against the passenger door as she had when she first arrived at the church, she couldn’t help but replay the entirety of the conversation with the Seed’s in her head.

 

 

She was a normal young woman. As far as she knew, she had never noticed any indication that she was even remotely ‘special’. And she walked into the church, they immediately acted like she was supposed to save them from something. That she was their only hope.

 

 

Figuratively, of course . . . or maybe not?

 

 

She wasn’t sure what she was feeling after the meeting. She was obviously feeling an uncontrollable anger towards her brother for lying to her and breaking - what she thought - was an unbreakable bond between them. In the matter of a few days, he managed to loose all the trust she had for him.

 

 

But, on the other hand, she felt a sense of acceptance? Loyalty? Devotion? Towards the Seed family. She didn’t know. All she knew for sure, was the fact that it was a similar feeling she had felt when she was in the army. When she was in the service, she felt a strong bond held together with all of those feelings.

 

 

It made her miss it and most importantly and also most confusingly . . .

 

 

It made her understand the Seeds.

 

 

Her thoughts were eventually cut short to the sound of her brothers rough voice, cutting through the silence like a sword.

 

 

“Are you okay? You seem-”

 

 

“I’m fine.” She cut him off, dryly.

 

 

She heard a brief sigh come from his direction and as if on cue, the truck rounded the ranch’s road and parked in front of their front door. She quickly exited the truck, not saying a word to Marcus and stormed into the house.

 

 

She had a piercing headache from the ordeal her brother had deliberately put her through as well as all the events from the rest of the day. She quickly went to her room and crawled immediately into bed.

 

 

Welcoming the comforting darkness . . .

 

 

                            . . .

 

 

 

                             . . .

 

 

BOOM . . .

 

 

 

The familiar sounds of grenades exploding and the sound of her assigned squad running frantically around her. Opening her eyes lightly, she looked around the small medic tent.

 

 

The familiar and almost calming sound of loud gunfire, brought her back to her senses. Looking around she looked into the eyes of her squad mate Jackson Huntley.

 

 

He was a bright looking young man, fresh out of high school. He was working frantically on his sniper, attempting to unjam it before returning to his position.

 

 

His dirty, blonde, mop of hair falling into his eyes as his wild eyes overlooked his gun. They suddenly looked up into Hope’s sleepy face.

 

 

“Lansdowne, wake up, we’re under fire!”

 

 

Hope quickly swung her legs over the uncomfortable cot she was currently on.

 

 

“What? What’s going on!” She screamed, readying herself before grabbing her sniper from beside the cot.

 

 

“Those fucking idiots waited for a god damn perfect time to attack. So come on! Get your ass up and help me shoot, will ya?” He shouted at her, running to his sniper tower.

 

 

Hope quickly followed behind him and sat next to him, looking through the scope, in the same position as Jackson. As they sat looking through their scopes and making shot after shot at the running body’s on the current, smoky battlefield, she heard the walkie-talkie roar to life next to her.

 

 

“Those motherfuckers! They tried to take out our choppers! We need backup . . . Hamilton’s got this for the time being, he’s still alive . . . we need medical supplies brought pronto! Broody’s dead . . . Kamsky too. I repeat send backup!”

 

 

Listening to the frantic voice of our squads sergeant. Hope looked quickly from her scope to where Jackson’s small, but bulky form sat.

 

 

“Lansdowne, give them assistance. I’ve got this, they need you more than I do!” He screamed, not looking from his scope.

 

 

“Are you sure?!” Hope yelled back in response as she watched him unclip a grenade from his vest before biting the clip off of it and tossing down into a group of enemy soldiers behind a blown up barricade.

 

 

“That’s an order, soldier!” He said, this time lowering the sniper to look her in the eyes. “I’ve got this. You’ve got this, Hope. Make your family proud . . .” He continued, gripping her shoulder in his firm hand.

 

 

Hope nodded lightly, gripping her sniper and running her ass down to her other squad mates.

 

 

She soon saw the chopper, her sergeant had mentioned over the radio, hot flames shooting from all around it. Two bodies of her unit crouching low to the ground. Hope picked up the pace and ran towards their forms as fast as she could, hearing the familiar voice of her good friend, Rose Dechart.

 

 

“Thank god, it’s you Hope! They shot Mickey. I had to drag him out here. I tried to stop the bleeding.” She explained frantically, sweat pouring from her helmet, from the hot flames next to her.

 

 

Hope nodded at Rose and went to Thomas Mickey’s side. Hovering over top of him, gripping his hand and looking into his glossy eyes. His face draining of all color.

 

 

“Thomas, it’s me! You’re gonna be okay, alright?” She quickly, gripped his shoulder and flung his arm over her shoulders and with all her might, pushed up on to his feet, to bring him back to cover. Rose followed close behind, trying to cover them from enemy fire.

 

 

As Hope brought Thomas back into the decerped building, she heard Rose speak again.

 

 

“I think it’s over. They’re retreating back!”

 

 

Hope felt her lungs let out a breath she didn’t even realize she was holding. Dropping Thomas lightly on to one of the cots in the medic bay.

 

 

“Thomas, someone will come and fix this up for you, don’t move it. The bullet missed all the major arteries. You’re going to be fine.” She said, gripping his hand and squeezing it once, looking into his eyes. He nodded lightly, before she turned back towards Rose.

 

 

“I need to see if Jackson’s okay. Stay with Thom. I’ll be right back, I promise!” Hope yelled, out of breath as she turned and ran back to the sniper tower she had left Jackson in. Running back to his spot at the opening of the tower, she noticed a bundle of green and red laying on the ground, the sound of choking evidently audible coming from the bundle.

 

 

Hope gasped, before gliding to a stop on her knees before the body. Her worst fear was confirmed when she looked into the green eyes of Jackson. His sniper laying next to his body in a pool of his own blood.

 

 

Hope tried with all her might to find where the bleeding was coming from, but to her dismay, there was just too much blood for her to know exactly where it was coming from.

 

 

She suddenly felt a hand grip her wrist and squeeze hard, catching her attention enough for her to look back into the green eyes. His smiling face looking up at her.

 

 

“You came . . . back.” He wheezed out. Hope felt the tears suddenly start sliding down her cheeks. She smiled lightly, furrowing her eyebrows at him.

 

 

“Of course I came back.” She responded, holding his hand in one of her own and stroking his stubbled cheek with her other.

 

 

“Listen . . . to me. I don’t have much . . . time. But. . . . I have to . . . say-”

 

 

“No! Don’t you dare talk like that. You’re going to be fine. You hear me? You’re going to be just-

 

 

“Hope. . .” He whispered, gripping her hand tighter. “You know that’s not true. Don’t . . . lie to your. . . self.”

 

 

“No, Jack. Stop. You’re not going to die. You’re going to . . . they will help you!” She screamed, letting go of his hands and fumbling for her radio. But before she could grip it, his hands landed on her arms, one final time.

 

 

“Hope . . . no matter what . . .the others tell . . . you. Always . . . remember . . . you and only . . . you, can choose. . . what you want . . . to do with . . . your life. You are the . . . creator of your . . . own . . . happiness. You will . . . survive this . . . crazy world.” He burst into a coughing mess, blood pouring down his chin.

 

 

“God, am I so lucky to have . . . met you . . . Hope . . . Lansdowne . . .”

 

 

Hope was suddenly awoken to the sound of heavy knocks on the door. The doorknob turning slowly and Marcus peaking through.

 

 

“Are you okay? I heard nois-”

 

 

“I’m fine.” She mumbled, turning over reluctantly in her bed, her back towards him. She heard the wooden door, slowly close. She felt the tears glide over her face and land on the pillow. Slowly closing her eyes again and allowing the darkness to overtake her . . .

 

 

Hope gently awoke once more from her sleep, knowing it was time to wake up with the sun rays on her face. She rolled over and jumped lightly at the sight of her brother, breathing gently, his head pulled back, leaning against the chair, he was currently sat in.

 

 

Sighing to herself, she reluctantly, placed her feet on the cold wood floor and approached her brothers sleeping form. She placed her hand on his stubbled cheek, just as she had in her dream.

 

 

“Marcus, wake up.” She said gently. Marcus slowly opening his eyes and squinting into the light.

 

 

“I’m sorry. I heard noises. I just came to see if you were okay.” He said, his voice filled with sleep. He stretched, before looking into his sisters, bloodshot eyes.

 

 

“You’ve been crying.” He said plainly. He lifted his hand to caress her cheek, but she turned her head away. He slowly let his hand fall back to his side.

 

 

“Hope . . . Who’s Huntly?” He asked, in a soft voice. Hope lifted her head slightly.

 

 

“I don’t want to talk about it. Go to bed. You’ve been here all night.” She responded, before brushing past him and opening the door from her bedroom to the hall. Going to the bathroom to shower, she allowed the warmth of the water to cascade around her for what seemed like hours, before exiting the shower and putting her regular attire on.

 

 

Walking into the kitchen, she noticed the familiar back of her brother, making some sandwiches. She couldn’t help but smile . . . something he couldn’t mess up.

 

 

“Marcus, you should really go to sleep. You can’t work if you barely got any sleep. Take a day.” she said, gliding past him and grabbing a sandwich off the plate next to him.

 

 

“I can’t.”

 

 

“Go. To. Bed.” She said, pointing to the stairs, before going out to the porch. Eating the sandwich in peace, before standing and going back to the kitchen, which was now empty, and writing a note, explaining she would be at the hangar today.

 

 

She needed to clear her mind. The best way she knew how anyways.

 

 

As she was up in the sky, she couldn’t help but reminisce about the days where her father would be next to her, examining the skies of Hope County and looking at the fields, roads and mountains below.

 

 

When she thought back to the conversation’s with all the people in Hope County, who genuinely believed a collapse was to come. She shook her head gently looking around at everything she grew so fond of. It looked as if nothing would ever happen. Sighing to herself, she brought the plane back down to the hangar.

 

 

As she rolled to a stop in front of the hangar doors, she couldn’t help but notice a similar truck to the one John and Joseph had driven in that day in Falls End.

 

 

Parking her twin-engine, she looked to the car and noticed the familiar frame of Jacob Seed, leaning against the car. She jumped out of the plane and slowly approached him.

 

 

“I heard reports that my plane was flying without my permission.” He said, crossing his arms over his chest, eyeing Hope up and down the closer she got.

 

 

“My brother owns the summer camp and I this airstrip AND the plane. From what I remember, I don’t recall ever giving you my plane for your own use?” She replied, tapping her chin lightly.

 

 

Jacob pushed off from the truck and chuckled darkly looking in her eyes.

 

 

“You know, you should be real careful who you talk to. If you weren’t so important to Joseph, I would kill you for those words. . . but maybe I’ll just make you eat them instead. Sound fair, sweetheart?” He said, slowly walking towards her.

 

 

Hope bit her lip to the point of drawing blood, clenching her fists, resisting the urge to punch his ignorant face.

 

 

“Ah ah . . . Careful how you look at me there, kitten.” He responded, as he turned and strode back over to his truck. Opening the door slightly, turning to take one last glance at her. Chuckling to himself, shaking his head.

 

 

“See you soon . . .”

 

Chapter Text

 

It had officially been a full week since Hope had arrived home. A full week since she had returned home and discovered the home she once held so close to her heart, was now gone and replaced with a religious cult, which her own dear brother was committed to.

 

 

Not only that, but this religious cult thoroughly believed she was the key to their salvation and her own brother would do anything to see this through for his new 'family'.

 

Her best friend, Mary May and Pastor Jerome, were some sort of leaders to a group called the Resistance in Falls End.

 

And of course, according to the cultists . . .

 

A collapse was to come.

 

Hope laid in her warm bed, staring at the beige ceiling. She knew it was still early in the morning, but her mind was racing - as that was all it seemed to do since she had arrived - and she couldn't find the will in herself to fall asleep completely.

 

She huffed lightly before grabbing the corner of her duvet and tossing it aside, allowing her feet to touch the wooden floor.

 

The day began as any other had that week. She took a quick shower, got dressed, brushed her hair up into a tight ponytail, before grabbing a banana from the kitchen counter and leaving the house. She had noticed a note - that her brother had written - was left on the kitchen counter, however, she ignored it. Knowing already what the small parchment would have written on it.

 

She held no interest.

 

Today, she decided she was going to attempt to push everything to the side, at least for one day. Whether she would be successful was debatable. She was going to visit a couple of her old friends, Nick and Kim Rye's, which she hadn't seen for almost six and a half years. When they had gotten married, before she was in service, they went on their honeymoon immediately after and were gone for nearly six months.

 

Taking the usual route she had before her service had began, she was surprised, when she actually arrived at the familiar wooden house, that she had actually made it without getting lost.

 

She smiled lightly, as she sat in the driver's seat, looking around the small land, everything was almost untouched. Left exactly as it had been years ago. Other than the one spray painted sign she had seen many times before.

 

Right on their front door were the large words,

 

SINNER.

 

She wasn't surprised of course. It seemed all homes in Hope County - who didn't partake in the cultists actions - had a lovely label spray painted on their homes, cars, etc.

 

As she approached the front door, she could hear the familiar bickering voices of Nick and Kim. She smiled to herself as she brought her dainty fist up to the front door and knocked twice. She listened as the voices came to a sudden halt and the sound of footsteps approaching. The door opened to reveal the gruff looking face of Nick Rye. Hope smiled brightly at him as she watched his eyes turn from confused to surprised in a matter of seconds. He turned to look into the house he had just emerged from.

 

"Kim! Kim you gotta come see this!" He yelled inside. And as if on cue, Kim opened the door wider and took a long look at Hope.

 

"Oh my god! Hope!" She screamed, grabbing her shoulders and bringing her into a much needed hug. Hope couldn't help but notice that her once flat stomached friend, was carrying around a large bump.

 

However, she didn't have time to comment on it as she was suddenly ripped from Kim's grip and brought into the embrace of Nick's strong arms.

 

"When did you get home, partner?" She heard Nick ask from above her.

 

"About a week ago, it's been pretty crazy since I got back, other why's I would have visited sooner!" Hope exclaimed.

 

Their faces fell at almost the exact same time, before looking at each other.

 

"So . . . you're aware then?" Kim asked her. Hope nodded in response. They both fell silent, before Nick broke it.

 

"Well, come on in! Can't just stand out here all day." Nick exclaimed as he moved aside to allow Hope to enter.

 

"Well, I see your family is growing, huh?" Hope said, turning to Kim and placing her hand on her belly softly.

 

"Oh yeah it is! Our baby boy is-" He was suddenly cut off with a light slap to the arm. He turned to look at Kim with a confused look.

 

"Cut it out with that, will ya?" She said, looking him dead in the eyes. She turned to Hope and gave her an apologetic glance.

 

"He won't stop calling our BABY GIRL . . . a boy." She said, glancing at Nick as she spoke. He put his hands up quickly.

 

"Honey, I'm just saying, those things aren't always reliable. The TV was staticky, there's still a chance-" He continued on.

 

"Nick." She said. "She's a girl. And besides, you can still teach our baby girl the same thing." She continued, placing her hand on his shoulder.

 

"I know, you're right." He replied, placing his hand on her belly and rubbing it with his thumb.

 

"If you guys ever need a babysitter, don't be afraid to ask!" Hope said, excitedly.

 

"Thanks, partner. Appreciate that." He said, before continuing, as if he had just remembered something. "You wouldn't happen to be free tonight, would ya?"

 

"Yeah, I should be." Hope responded, nodding her head gently. "How come?"

 

Hope had a sense that they were planning something, because as if on cue, they looked at each other, smirked lightly and nodded.

 

"Just don't plan anything tonight. Be here for 8pm, got it?" Kim said, smirking at her.

 

"Uh yeah sure, I just came to-"

 

"You should probably go now and get yourself ready for tonight!" Nick suddenly cut her off, placing his hand on her back and pushing her towards the door, she had recently come through.

 

"Oh, I was just hopi-"

 

"Go now and don't be late!" Kim said before closing the door in Hope's face. Hope stood staring at the front door for a couple seconds before turning around slowly.

 

"Alrighty then."

 

***

 

When Hope arrived home, she spent the majority of the day wondering about Nick and Kim's odd behaviour towards her. She was jittery for the rest of the day, anxious to know what they had planned.

 

Around 6:30, she proceeded to get ready. Putting on a nice blue summer dress, which fell just below her knees with a short sleeve. She put on some similar flats to the dress and headed back to Holland Valley.

 

As she approached the house for the second time that day, she couldn't help but notice the loud music playing from the house, the delicious smelling food lingering in the air and the bunch of familiar faces outside the house, glancing over to her vehicle approaching with large smiles on their faces. The front door was left wide open and above the porch was a large sign that read,

 

"Welcome Home Hope!"

 

She smiled brightly to herself, feeling the sudden sting of tears burning her eyes. As she noticed the familiar sight of Sharky, she couldn't help but allow the tears to glide down her cheeks.

 

"Listen, I know my presence can be overwhelming to some, but this is a little much." He spoke, approaching her and leaning in for a big hug. Hope couldn't help but chuckle into his chest as he spoke. "Man, am I so happy to see you, Shorty." He continued.

 

"Me too, Sharky." She replied, leaning back, to get a better look at him. He wrapped his hand around her waist suddenly to pull her in the direction of everyone else.

 

"Whats up, Amigo!" She heard her old friend, Hurk say as he approached them. She smiled brightly at him in reply.

 

"I asked the monkey god up there to protect you. . . and he DID!" Hurk continued, pointing to the sky.

 

"Thank you, Hurk. Means a lot." Hope replied, giggling. She leaned in for a hug, releasing herself from Sharky's embrace. As she was leaning back from the hug, she jumped lightly at Hurk's excited voice.

 

"OH! Man, I almost forgot! I'm starting my own cult. It's called Hurks Gate and you're gonna be my first Hurkey. That's what I'm calling my 'flock'. It's gonna be you, me, Sharky and a bunch of hot girls and were just all gonna party the whole night." He exclaimed.

 

"Alright, Hurk. I'll definitely . . . take it under consideration!" Hope answered, smiling brightly. She couldn't help but realize how much she actually missed Hurk.

 

"Cool, cool. Try not to wait too long though, cause I'm gonna need to have-" He was suddenly cut off from the familiar voice of Mary May.

 

"Alright, Hurk. Chill out. You can hassle her more about your plagiarized cult later." She spoke, laughing to herself, while approaching the trio.

 

Hope embraced her friend in a big hug and spent the next little bit talking with all her old friends from before service.

 

Nick was up on the porch grilling the dinner and Kim was off to the side, preparing the table with cutlery, plates and cups, humming and smiling every once and while to Nick.

 

After a few minutes everyone had come together and sat around the large table. Hope took this time to look around at al the familiar faces of the people she loved. The people she dreamed of seeing again, during the long cold nights of service. She was just glad to be back.

 

Everyone was filling their plates to the brim with food from around the table, but stopped before taking a bite, allowing Pastor Jerome to rise from his chair and began to say grace.

 

"Thank you Lord for this food you have graciously given us, for taking care of our friends and family during this difficult time and for bringing our Hope back where she belongs, safe and sound. Please, give us strength when we need it the most and prepare us for what is to come. Amen."

 

"Amen". Everyone said in unison.

 

The food was extremely tasty and soon the entire table was bustling with chatter, laughter and of course drinking, from the bottles of cold beer which Mary May had graciously brought from Spread Eagle. Of course, besides Kim, who sat drinking a glass of juice with her meal.

 

This was exactly the type of night she needed to help forget about everything that had been going on around her.

 

However, all good things must eventually come to the end. Around 10pm one by one, people began to leave. First Pastor Jerome and then Sharky and Hurk. Hope and Mary stayed back to help Nick and Kim clean the table and around the front yard.

 

"Thank you so much, you guys. This was completely unexpected." Hope chuckled to herself as she cleaned the table with a wet rag.

 

"No problem at all. We're just glad you came home safe." Said Kim, as she glided her hand across Hopes shoulder.

 

"Please, come visit again soon." Nick said as he wrapped his arm around Kim's waist. They waved to Hope and Mary and thanked them for the help before going back inside.

 

"Hope, you shouldn't drive. Walk with me, you can stay at Falls End tonight." She suggested, grabbing her arm and wrapping hers around it. They began their short walk to Falls End.

 

As they arrived at Spread Eagle, she showed her to the room she would be staying in, bid her a good night and left to her own bed.

 

***

 

That morning, Hope was awoken by strange noises coming from down the stairs. She curiously, made her way down the stairs and into the kitchen. However, before turning the kitchen she couldn't help but hear the angry voice of Mary May and the familiar voice of a man. Before she could enter the main area of the bar, she heard the front door slam shut and the angry voices suddenly stop.

 

"Uh . . . is everything okay?" Hope asked, rounding the corner and looking into the flustered face of Mary.

 

"Yep, everything's fine. No need to worry." She replied, glancing up at her, giving her a forced smile. Hope nodded once before heading towards the door.

 

"Alright, well I think I'll head out. I gotta grab my car from Nick and Kim's." She said from over her shoulder, but stopping when she heard Mary's voice.

 

"Wait! You're not going to stay for breakfast?"

 

"No, I'm not really hungry, but thank you! I better get back to Marcus or else he'll go crazy." She said, smiling brightly.

 

"Alright . . . but Hope . . . please, just . . . be careful, okay?" She said, allowing a small smile escape from her face.

 

"Always am!" Hope replied, walking backwards towards the door and exiting. As she watched the door close and her friends smiling face disappear, she turned suddenly and the sight she was greeted with made her stop dead in her tracks.

 

In front of her stood the tall and confident looking figure of John Seed.

 

Leaning against the same white truck she had seen numerous times. He smiled brightly before allowing his words to escape his lips.

 

"Hello love, what a pleasure it is to see you again."

 

 

Chapter Text

"Well, look what I found . . ." John Continued after Hope failed to say anything. As a breath was caught in her throat. He approached Hope, with long strides, holding his famous, signature smirk playing at his full lips.

 

As she watched him approach - much too quickly for her liking - she sidestepped him quickly, not dropping eye contact with him. Hope was able to get her breath back, with the sudden room she had given herself, by stepping away from him.

 

"W-what are you doing here . . .?" She cautiously asked.

 

"You know . . ." He continued, gliding his gaze down her figure and back up to her cautious eyes and hovering there. " You look absolutely ravishing in that dress. You should wear them more often." He said, smirking and attempting to step closer to her once again.

 

As Hope went to go back up from his wandering steps, she stopped herself.

 

'Why am I doing this? I'm not scared of him. I could drop him . . . even in a dress.'

 

While she was thinking this, she quickly realized how close he currently was to her - still smiling, of course. She couldn't help but think of how much she would love to wipe that smirk off his stupid face. She gulped in an attempt to salivate her dry mouth, before attempting to continue speaking. She wouldn't let him think he had any sort of effect on her. He didn't.

 

"What . . . are you doing here?" She asked once more, tilting her chin up at him and glaring him in his eyes. He chuckled at this, she could feel his hot breath glazing over her cheeks. She quickly felt them heat up and began to hope that he didn't notice.

 

"Well, you see sweetheart, that is nothing to concern that pretty little head of yours." He replied, allowing his top row of perfectly white teeth to show.

 

Hope raised her eyebrows in response.

 

"Is that so?" She said in almost nothing but a whisper, stepping closer in his direction, their chests almost touching. She could feel the warmth radiating off him, even through his infamous, plane jacket.

 

As he opened his mouth to say something, she quickly heard the sound of black SUV screeching down the dirt road towards them, a young woman peeking her head out the window at them.

 

'She was very attractive'. Hope thought to herself.

 

She had a long ponytail that was currently flying over her shoulder as the truck skidded to a stop, a perfect strawberry blonde, with piercing green eyes.

 

"John, what are you doing? We have to go!" Yelled the woman from the window.

 

Hope noticed the way his eyes rolled at her screeching voice, piercing their eardrums. She was so close to him, she also couldn't help but hear the slight growl that erupted from his throat.

 

"Yes. I'm coming." He said through clenched teeth, never straying far from Hope's gaze. His infamous smirk slowly stretched back onto his face.

 

"I'm afraid this will have to wait 'til later." He told her, slowly walking around her, never breaking eye contact as he hopped into the passenger seat with the strawberry blonde. The SUV quickly squealing down the dirt road and out of sight.

 

Hope eventually let out the breath she didn't fully realize she was holding. Shook her head, lowered it to the ground and continued walking back to Nick and Kim's to retrieve her truck.

 

As she passed through the border between Holland Valley and the Whitetail Mountains, she couldn't help but notice two dark figures in the distance. The first had their hands completely tied and walking in front of the second figure, who - as she got closer - soon realized he had a gun in front of his body pointed directly at the first.

 

She watched with disgust as they disappeared into the Valley. Shaking her head, she decided to keep that - as well as any new events such as this one - close in her mind, to keep them as a reminder, as to why should would never join them. Whether or not, she was some, 'Protector'.

 

She glanced down at her fuel gage and realized she needed to refill her tank. She quickly came to a stop in a nearby gas station and jumped out of the car. As she approached the gas hose, she noticed a sign directly in her face, one which was similar to a wanted poster she had seen before, however the only difference was this one had the familiar red ink she had seen all over town and not surprisingly the same words, she had seen everywhere around Hope County, were scribbled neatly on the white paper.

 

WANTED SINNER

 

ELI PALMER

 

Hope knew him well, her brother and him used to be friends when they were children, he came to the house on occasion and played with Marcus and Hope sometimes would join.

 

As she fueled up her car, she quickly hopped back in and began driving home once again. As she was passing by the F.A.N.G Centre, she heard the familiar and almost comforting sounds of gunfire. As she was so interested in the sudden gunshots she was hearing, she didn't realize the sudden cultist vehicle heading straight for her. Only when there was a sudden smash against the side of the vehicle and her head smashed against the steering wheel, did she then realize something had happened. Go figure. Losing control of the car, she quickly swerved into the ditch and skidded to a sudden stop. Her vision was suddenly foggy, but she refused to close her eyes.

 

She quickly opened her drivers side door and attempted to climb out the car. The cultist already approaching her and grabbing Hope's arm roughly, pulling her to his chest.

 

"Well look what we got here, boys! Found ourselves a pretty little thing." He said in a low voice, looking her over before flipping her around in his arms to face the other two cultist approaching them.

 

"Ah, we'll have fun with this one." One of the other cultists said, twirling a lock of Hope's hair in his fingers. Hope attempted to pull her head back to get her hair out of his grasp, however, he gripped it hard and clenched it in his tight grasp.

 

"Get . . . your fucking hands off me!" Hope screamed, as she continued to try and squirm her way out of the cultist's grasps.

 

"This one likes to fight . . . I like it." The cultist holding her in his tight grasp replied, whisper the last part into her ear. Hope shivered as his hot breath engulfed her earlobe.

 

"Tie her up, put her in the car. We'll deal with her later." The third cultist said, lowering his rifle to grab her other elbow.

 

"I'm afraid we'll have to come back to this later, princess. Don't be so disappointed, though. I don't forget. . ." The one holding her, whispered once again.

 

As they began walking towards the - now dented - cultist vehicle and dragging Hope along with him, a sudden arrow flew through the cultist's head, immediately releasing his grasp around her and falling to the ground.

 

Hope quickly whipped around and searched for the culprit. A man stood a few feet away, still holding the bow up to his face. He quickly lowered it and looked into her eyes. Hope quickly realized him from the wanted poster at the fuel station.

 

"Hey, are you okay?" He asked, approaching her in slow strides.

 

"Eli? It's me, Hope. Hope Lansdowne. Do you remember me?" She asked him, curiously.

 

His eyes glazed over for a split second, before realization quickly replaced them.

 

"Hope . . .?" He replied, shock and confusion lacing his voice. "Marcus's sister, right? Yeah, course I remember you." He continued, a sudden smile gracing his features.

 

As Hope was about to respond, the sudden sound of gunfire shot through the air, piercing her eardrums. Eli looked directly towards the Center and then back to Hope.

 

"Listen, we don't have much time. Come with me, I'll fix you up." He said, glancing towards Hope's bleeding forehead.

 

Hope meekly nodded in response and accepted Eli's hand.

 

As Eli began to walk and kept Hope close to his side, his clammy hand holding hers tightly in his large one. They continued back into the ditch which had a dirt path that led them through the trees. Before they could get any further another man emerged through the trees, looking her dead in the eyes, while she hid behind Eli's shoulder.

 

"Who is this, Eli?"

 

"She's a friend, Wheaty. I saved her from some brain dead fuckers." Eli responded in a gruff voice. Wheaty looked into Hope's eyes once more, before gliding his gaze back over to Eli.

 

"Are we bringing her to the Wolf's Den?"

 

"Where the fuck else." Eli replied, beginning to pull Hope along once more. Wheaty trailing along.

 

"Tammy won't like this." Whispered Wheaty, as silently pattered behind.

 

"Don't worry about Tammy." Eli replied.

 

As they approached a white truck tucked in behind the trees, Eli pushed Hope into the passenger's side before trailing along the front of the hood to climb into the driver's side. Wheaty hopping into the truck bed, behind them.

 

Hope silently watched out the window and thought about all the events that had occured that day. Heading to the said 'Wolf's Den'', she allowed her eyes to hood and silently close over, allowing the tiredness she had felt overcome her.

 

 

***

 

Hope began to blink her eyes open, she was in a dark room, laying on what appeared to be the remnants of a sofa. As she looked around, she noticed the man from before, who she remembered as, Wheaty, approach her with a bottle of water for her to drink. She gingerly took it for his grasp and began to chug it as he watched, smirking lightly.

 

"Thirsty?"

 

She brought it down from her lips, catching her breath from the lack of oxygen and nodded in his direction.

 

"Pace yourself there." He continued after her response. The door suddenly opened aggressively and a woman she had never seen before came into the room, looking particularly angry. Eli pushing his way past her into the room as well. As if this woman would hurt Hope and Eli was attempting to protect her.

 

"Are you out of your fucking mind, Eli?" The woman seethed, talking to the man behind her, however, staring into the wide eyes of Hope.

 

"Now hold the fuck on. Wheaty and I agreed-" He attempted to explain himself before the woman cut him off angrily, spinning around to look at him.

 

"No, you agreed."

 

"Whoah whoah, I was but an impartial observer. Hardly part of this." Wheaty attempted to protect himself, holding his hands up in front of him, backing away from the two. The woman sighed angrily and turned back to Eli.

 

"This is so fucking stupid. And dangerous. You both should know better." She barked at them, scolding them like a mother would.

 

"What the hell was I supposed to do?" Eli asked, keep his voice calm, while staring at the woman, keeping his hands in his trouser pockets.

 

"Oh I don't know! Leave her? We don't know her. We can't trust her." The woman continued.

 

"Well, as I recall. That is exactly what people said about you, but I didn't listen to them and luckily for you, you're here now." Eli explained, once again, calm. This surprised Hope. She would have lost it. But not him.

 

The woman began to open her mouth once more to say something, but Eli cut her off and continued.

 

"This is not open for discussion. We need more fighters. You know this."

 

The woman, opened her mouth and closed it again, similar to a fish. She huffed once, before opening the door and slamming it closed. It was silent for a few moments before Wheaty broke through it.

 

"You're right. She took that real well".

 

"Out!" Shouted Eli for the first time during the entire conversation.

 

"I didn't do anything . . ." Wheaty complained, shuffling over to the door and silently opening it to leave.

 

Eli sighed loudly as he watched him leave. He then looked over to Hope and began to slowly approach her, not breaking eye contact for a second.

 

"I meant what I said. We do need you. Really." He said, returning his voice to the calm one he had before.

 

Hope took a moment to think. She needed this. She could use this moment to get back at her brother, to protect her home, to bring everything back to the way things were before. She nodded to herself. This made sense. She looked back up to the hopeful gaze of Eli.

 

"I'll do whatever needs to be done to help you."

 

Eli smiled wide at her response.

 

"Get some rest, We'll talk more about it tomorrow." He said exiting the room and silently closing the door behind him.

 

 

***

 

Hope once again, woke up in the dark room. But this time she heard the familiar sound of music playing. She looked around the room and noticed Wheaty in the corner of the room, next to the source of the sound. He looked over at her and turned the volume down on it.

 

"Eli wants to chat, head down the hall and turn left. He's already waiting for you." He explained to her. Hope's eyes widened. She had no idea how long she had been asleep for. She silently got up and straightened out her dress.

 

"Thanks, Wheaty." She responded while exiting the room. She figured the room she had been sleeping in was somewhat between a bedroom, dining room, living room and kitchen.

 

As she approached the end of the hall, she heard the voice of Eli beckon her into the room.

 

"Well hey there, sleepyhead."

 

"Hey, how long have I been out?" She asked quietly, holding her head in her hands.

 

"A few hours, nothing crazy." He responded.

 

Hope took that moment to glance down at her dirty blue dress she had on the day before. Eli noticed this.

 

"Tammy will get you something else to wear." He said, standing from his chair.

 

"She doesn't particularly like me. . . Should I be stealing her clothes?" Hope asked, unsure.

 

"Don't worry about her. She's harmless." Elie responded. Waving his hand in the air.

 

"So what will you have me do to help?" Hope asked. Elie chuckled at her response.

 

"Well, first get dressed, we can continue this after."

 

After he had finished, as if on cue, the woman from before, who Hope figured was Tammy, appeared in the doorway. Hope was expecting some more yelling from her, however she was wrong.

 

"I see you're feeling better." She said, holding her hands to her hips. Hope nodded gingerly.

 

"Well, I ain't apologizing for what I said. I don't trust people I don't know from a hole in the ground. But . . . Eli said you're alright, so I'll give you and chance, I guess." Tammy continued.

 

"It's okay, I understand where you're coming from. Especially now. I'm Hope."

 

"Nice to meet you. Tammy." She said, introducing herself.

 

"Tammy, would you be able to help her find some fresh clothes. She won't be able to run around wearing that in the Whitetails." Eli said, from behind Hope, placing his hands on her shoulders.

 

"Follow me." Tammy replied, turning slightly and walking out of the room.

 

Tammy brought her into a room, she assumed was her bedroom and opened the closet in the corner. She handed her - well, practically threw in her direction - some brown jeans, a military type shirt and a beanie with the Whitetail Militia branch print on it. Grabbing some black boots and a scarf with the US flag on it.

 

"This should be fine. It gets cold out in the Whitetails. Need to keep warm." She replied, walking out the room to give Hope some privacy while changing.

 

As Hope finished putting the clothes on, she exited the room, expecting to see Tammy outside waiting for her, but she didn't see her. She shrugged and went back to the room Eli was in. He looked up at her sudden appearance and glanced her over once, before looking her in the eyes.

 

"That's better. Welcome aboard, Soldier". He replied with a smile laced on his features.

 

 

Chapter Text

Eli sat on the edge of his desk, papers laid along with a large map of Whitetail Mountains - similar to the one hanging on the wall behind him - his arms folded on his chest.

 

 

"Hope, I don't know what you know about the cult so far, so I'll go straight to the point. We are bleedin' boodies. The times are desperate to say, at least." Eli replied, sighing at the end.

 

 

Hope nodded meekly, walking to the table, and running her fingers across the several marks - stash or save places or even cut property.

 

 

"I'm trying to get some footholds back, so I've sent some of my guys out to sabotage the Visitor Centre. The cult is using it as a depo for that bliss shit." He scoffed, only at the mention of the cult' advantage.'

 

She hauls up her blues on Eli, frowning her eyebrows.

 

 

"What is that bliss thing?"

 

 

The Whitetail leader sighs, with anguish.

 

 

"It's the drug. Peggies are using it for various experiments. Especially at those who fight against them and against their beliefs."

 

 

He places his warm hand on her shoulder, looking her in the eyes.

 

 

"Hope, promise me, you'll avoid this crap. If you breathe it too much. . ." He cut himself off, shaking his head, staring at the table.

 

 

Eli had been protecting her since she was a kid. He always helped everyone without wanting something in return. She always looked up to him as to the closest friend, or a family member.

 

 

Hope smiled, meekly. Placing her hand on his own. "Don't worry, Eli. I will be careful."

 

 

He nodded and exhales again. "Okay." He replied.

 

 

"The thing is that our boys walked straight into their trap. They had been locked up, and we are up against the clock." He said, looking into her eyes.

 

 

 

"If I send another group there, we risk losing another fearless fighter. But you. . ."

 

 

 

A smile features his face, his deep brown eyes shining like stars in the nighty sky with joy.

 

 

"You'll be my triumph that cult ain't expecting!" He exclaims.

 

 

Hope giggled, softly. Nudging him with her hip. "Don't count your chickens before they hatch, Eli."

 

 

He chortled, looking down at her. "I'm just telling the truth. I still remember how excellent you shot at targets when we were kids. I rely on you, Hope. You are the only one who can handle this. The only one I trust to handle this."

 

 

He reached for the radio on the table, setting it in her hand. "Here, take this. It will help me to get in touch with you and bow." He nods toward the door, where the weapon was resting.

 

 

 

"Get our people back, soldier."

 

 

***

 

Visitor Center remained the same as she remembered. Two spacious cottages, deeply planted in the lap of nature.

 

 

Beautiful sigh at every season.

 

 

Except that damn symbol was fucking everywhere!

 

 

She hid behind a large boulder at the Center's halt, observing her surroundings and looking for another place to move on.

 

 

Two cultists stood at the very bottom of the property. One was putting things into a stabled van, and the other guarded the Whitetail. Higher were three other peggies, chit-chatting and obviously having a good time.

 

 

As she reached the top of the hut, her radio started making buzzing sounds, asking for attention.

 

 

"Hope, Eli here. . . I got an eye on ya. Rigged this whole mountain with the cameras."

 

 

Hope hummed as a response.

 

 

"The Center's up ahead and crawlin' with Peggies, be careful." Eli responded.

 

 

"Roger that." She said, turning off the radio and clipping it to her belt.

 

 

She pulled the scarf on her nose - wearing it like the bandits in old western movies. Setting her beanie lower, she hid her identity as best she could and dashed forward.

 

 

With the ease of the hunter, she rushed toward the dark forest path, noticing her first victim - marching in the same direction. The automatic gun he was pressing close to his chest and head held high with pride.

 

 

The minute her arrow penetrated his head, Hope scurried to him hastily, pulling his dissipating body away from the crime scene, and continuing in her missions.

 

 

"How do you feel, sinner? Have you had enough already?" A woman's jeering voice resonated from the open window.

 

 

"We just started, and we have a lot of time and fun ahead."

 

 

Hope cut the sneer that almost slipped her lips as she pressed herself against the wall of the cabin.

 

 

Was she serious?

 

 

Through a small slit, Hope caught sight of female peggy opponent as she was bearing her teeth at her victim like a hungry beast. Her eyes were full of disgust. The light bounced off the blade of the knife that she was gripping firmly in hand.

 

 

The only entrance to the office was on the other side. So, Hopes only chance to save her female whitetail comrade before the blood-thirsty cultist buried her fangs into her flesh was to go around it.

 

 

When she reached the corner of the building, she stumbled upon another hostage that was shifting from foot to foot, edgily. Like he was trying to find the right moment to set on the run.

 

 

But when he glimpsed at her, his eyes went wide, and he freezes up as if he saw a ghost. Hope, however, beckoned him to come closer, but he did not move an inch. His eyes went frantically between her and the cultist, hunkering at toolboxes, humming a cult song.

 

 

Shortly, he gained all of his last courage to move onward. Tiptoeing, he saunters closer, and Hope pulled him to herself - impatient for his sluggishness.

 

 

Like he was contemplating his choices.

 

 

"Everything going to be alright. Eli sent me to deal with them." She whispered as a reply, and the soldier nodded, rubbing his sore wrists.

 

 

"Those motherfuckers are holding two more downstairs. Go, I'll take care of these." The man said, pulling a small pocket knife out of his back pocket.

 

 

Everything went without a hitch. As in the Army.

 

 

Locate the enemy, eliminate them and cover up all the evidence to not trigger the alarm or, in this case, to call for reinforcements.

 

 

 

With the last Peggie down, Hope could proudly - with a group of free county fighters - claim that the task had been successfully accomplished.

 

 

"Fuck!" Eli cursed after he and the rest of the group along Hope heard the news through the Cult channel.

 

 

 

"They got two of our missing people from the group I send a couple days ago at the Devil's Drop. If the peggies find us, we don't stand a chance. I'm sure our guys won't give up the location, so the fuckers will definitely toss them off that cliff and the research were for nothing. Hope I need you to get there; the Devils Drop is to the south of you." Eli replied.

 

 

***

 

The tunnel was blocked by cult vans and well guarded on both sides by armed patrols. The only path that led to the tunnel and was not barred was a narrow trail around.

 

 

It was her only chance to save Eli's people. But also very dangerous because the pitfall was very narrow and only one tiny mistake and she can fall into the pit.

 

 

Like a ghost, Hope skidded under the nose of the patrol - that was changing. With cautious steps, she reached a small gap in the tunnel that served as a viewing point or a resting place.

 

 

Cultist voices led her directly to their whereabouts.

 

 

"Where's Eli hold up?"

 

 

Hope hid behind a boulder and thick grass, covering her from the side of the tunnel. It was the perfect spot to shoot her enemy down.

 

 

Two hunters stood at the edge of the cliffs, looking into the abyss, and the other stood with prisoners on the plateau. His baseball bat was aiming at the head of one of the prisoners.

 

 

The hostages, however, made no sound. They just kneeled quietly, their heads facing the ground. Their hands were tightly knotted behind their backs and had a significant gash on their skin after the hits.

 

 

"I asked you something, sinner! And when I ask something, I expect an answer!" Peggy snarled and was ready to hit the whitetail soldier in the head, but Hope was faster.

 

 

Much Faster.

 

 

She pulled her bowstring as far as she could, and the arrow flew through his eye. His limp body fell like a moss of garbage – alerting the other two men. But Hope killed them before they could notify the others.

 

 

Two young free-mountain fighters whipped around, searching for the archer.

 

 

Hope stood up from her cover and rushed to help them.

 

 

She quickly enlightened them about the situation they were in and informed them of the armed patrols on both sides of the tunnel. Without hesitation, they both snatched the weapons of the killed cultists - began clearing the tunnel under the hold of the cult. At first, they went quietly - like hunters under the veil of the night to their victims - but later the fight changed, and they had to act according to the situation and use automatic weapons.

 

 

"Everyone is accounted for. That's the whitetail way. Helping us, take care of our own is going to have a big impact on morale. Maybe even get some more folks to join up too. I knew you wouldn't disappoint me. Keep up the good work, soldier." Eli congratulated. After hearing the good news. The unit in charge of the survey of the new territory may now report the news and continue the plan further.

 

 

"Hey, you!" The young man bellowed, sprinting from one end of the tunnel to Hope. His youthful skin was full of scuffs and scars from various battles he had overcome, but his face was beaming with joy and mischief.

 

 

"Thanks again, for the help. Without you, we wouldn't deliver the essential message Tammy asked us to do. We need to destroy those fucking wolf beacons as soon as possible."

 

 

"Ronnie!" The girl - Anna - as she referred herself, scolded her younger brother over his behaviour.

 

 

Then she looked at Hope and exhales.

 

 

"I'm sorry, Hope. My younger brother sometimes can't bite into his tongue and . . ." She slapped him playfully to his head. "And he doesn't know how to behave in front of ladies."

 

 

"Anna!" Complained Ronnie, rubbing his head where his sister hit him.

 

 

"Don't lampoon me in front of a pretty girl. I'm no longer a little kid."

 

 

Hope giggled quietly over the sibling quarrel. It entirely reminded her of her brother. And the situation in which they now stand. On opposite sides of the battlefield fighting for what they believe is right.

 

 

"Uh, huh, sure. Talk for yourself." Anna replied, her hand ruffling her brother's hair.

 

"Hope, don't worry about us, we'll be fine." Anna beamed. "We'll get into the den, somehow. The only thing that agitating me is State Park." Anna retorted after she exhales noisily.

 

 

Hope knitted her brow what made Ronnie without delay answers her question.

 

 

"According to our estimates, the Whitetail State Park should have maps to recourses and most important documents to the entire area around the park. But in this state, it would be more suicide. The park is well fortified by those fucking-uh judges."

 

 

After the siblings relaxed and treated their wounds, they marched into the Den and Hope toward her new mission.

 

 

The Whitetail State Park.

 

 

When no cult had been spreading across the county, Hope remembers going there with her father and brother to shoot at the shooting range. Each hit targets pushed her further and improved her skills. Marcus was more skilled - because he was older - but whenever one of them managed to hit the target, they always praised the other. And when they caught their first deer - when they were teenagers, of course - the feeling was indescribable.

 

 

Coexistence and listening to nature was the motto of their father.

 

 

"Nature will always advise you what will occur before it happens. If you treat her respectfully, she will endow you and feed you."

 

 

As she unhurriedly came up to the park, she perceived a very familiar voice, resonating around her from afar.

 

 

Jacob's.

 

 

His words were full of nonsense. The whole world is soft, sacrifice the weak and blah, blah, blah.

 

 

Utter nonsense.

 

 

Utter Jacob.

 

 

However, Hope doesn't know much to say about the oldest of the Seed brothers. She doesn't really know who's hiding under that name. But from what he looks like he had to survive a lot - and I mean a lot.

 

 

His ugly-looking marks from war are proof of that.

 

 

But Hope had found something alluring about him. Something that attracts her immensely to the mountain of a guy. His eyes seem cold as ice, but she sees something bright and appealing in them. And his red hair – oh, she always had a soft spot for redheads - but she wouldn't tell him that.

 

 

His entire demeanour reminds her of Olgiert whom she met while on duty. And. . .

 

 

Damnit, Hope! Concentrate! You still have a job that will not do itself.

 

 

After investigating the whole park, she fires up. She eliminated every single daydreaming enemy and gave them a deadly blow. Along the way, she defuses the alarms as Rose had taught her.

 

 

After her last enemy collapsed, the park fell into silence. The only thing that was bothering her the whole time was Jacob's annoying voice that kept repeating the same mantra.

 

 

When she stumbled upon the source, she smashed it with the baseball bat into shreds.

 

 

"Here's your cull the herd, dork!"

 

 

Eli was full of joy from the news he got, especially that one of the main bases now belongs them.

 

 

As Ronnie and Anna revealed, the park was full of useful things. Weapons, gears, ammunition, explosions etc. All well-stocked for the army. Other things were burned to the ground.

 

 

Hope sits now, in the shadows on one of the park office porches, escaping from the hot sun that began to shine. Luckily, the mountains endow her with a gentle breeze, stroking her skin.

 

 

The rest of the whitetails sat around the hangars and were relaxing. They were just sitting around and drinking from cold beer from time to time.

 

 

As Hope swung from divine beverage once more, her radio began to screeching again and making strange noises.

 

 

"There is someone out there. . .pretending to be a soldier. They are killing our brothers and sisters and putting this project in jeopardy. . ."

 

 

Hope spit out the full amount of her beer out over the familiar gravelly voice.

 

 

"I want this coward to know that they have my attention. . .My hunters are coming for you. There's nowhere you can run."

 

 

Hope didn't even have to guess what he meant by the little threat.

 

 

Shit!

 

 

She quickly got to her feet and hustled into the forest without thinking, leaving the resistance at the outpost.

 

 

Hope ran through the dense forest for about five minutes, avoiding every sound she heard. Whether it was a car or a quad. But the only sound that haunted her was the sound of nature and her heavy breathing. She now cursed herself for a bad condition as she leaned against a tree to catch a breath.

 

 

Her eyes skipped from place to place, seeking some refuge where she could hide and pass the time after the persecution. However, the clean shot of an arrow - full of some strange substance - instantly sent her to the ground.

 

 

Everything around her began growing fainter, odd sparks obscuring her vision. Her hand gets hold of that forsaken arrow and pulled it out. Afterwards, she tried to stand up but fell again - like a bag of potatoes into the forest floor. All she heard was the rustling of the leaves and the steps that were slowly drawing near her.

 

 

That was the last thing she remembers before she falls into the darkness.

 

 

***

 

Waking up from what she was dosed with was dreadful. It was like waking up from a long night at a Spread Eagle where she drank Hurk's and Sharky's home-made liquor.

 

 

Her limbs were still heavy, as were her eyelids. But when she wanted to reach for her face, she becomes aware that she was bound.

 

 

Through her lips slipped a tiny grunt as she turned her head on the side and tried to open her eyes once more.

 

 

Her hands and legs were tightly knotted by a rope to the chair.

 

 

Everything was still spinning, and darkness was everywhere. But one thing she saw clearly was the silhouette, standing right in front of her.

 

 

The stranger reached out and exposed her face, throwing her beanie and scarf off her. Her curly blond long hair - that had been combed into a messy bun and stuck safely inside the cap - fell on her shoulders.

 

 

And then there was that low chuckle from the back of his throat.

 

 

"Look who we got here? Our little soldier. Hello, kitten."

 

 

Jacob.

 

 

Out of all people, it had to be him! 

 

 

He put his large hands on the armrests, pulling the chair as close to him as possible. Hope could by now feel his stupid smirk on his face.

 

 

"I see you joined those whitetail weaklings." He hummed, displeased - looking her side to side as she tried to avoid his eyes.

 

 

"But don't worry, from now on everything will be as it should be. I'll take care of you. Because I take care of all my soldiers, sweetheart."

 

 

Her anger slowly rose. She hates him. She hates how he plays with her. How he plays with everyone in these mountains. She hates what his whole family does to the county she once called home.

 

 

Eli advised her several times to pay close attention to herself. To avoid unnecessary irritation from him, but Hope is sometimes reckless and very often acts according to her temper.

 

 

"First of all, stop calling me kitten! I'm not your pet!" She sneered with poison, their faces only a centimetre apart.

 

 

"And secondly, I will never be your fucking brainwashed soldier!"

 

 

Jacob smiled devilishly upon her, leaning even closer.

 

"Kitten wants to play. Thus, let's play."

 

Chapter Text

 

"Do you think she still lives?"

 

 

"I do not know. Try to wake her up."

 

 

The muffled voices pierced Hope's eardrums as she slowly but surely gained consciousness.

 

 

 

"Hey, sinner!" Sudden push to her right side made a small grunt escapes her mouth.

 

 

Her weak body fell after being shoved again and fell to the ground. Dust passed through her fingers, and her head turned to the sunlight that was passing through the wooden boards of her spacious cage from above.

 

 

Her hand reached for the rays of the sun, shining directly into her eyes to block it.

 

 

She doesn't remember anything. She doesn't know where she is and what happened. Her whole body hurts as if a train has passed her, and dire hunger vanquishes her. The same feeling overcame her when she was in a prison camp.

 

 

The wolves howled around the property. From behind bars, Hope saw many people wailing from the pain and hunger, suffering from Eden's Gate regime. They barely dwelt alive, lying in dirt or leaning on the bars of their iron houses.

 

 

At that moment, she knew exactly where she is.

 

 

San Francis Veteran's Center.

 

 

Even as a child, she used to go with her father to hike. He told her it was once a well-known hospital for soldiers where they spent time during some of the procedures they had to undergo.

 

 

After a few years, it kept its appearance, but this time its purpose changed. It no longer serves for good but kept people in its cold metal captivity.

 

 

Cult soldiers were conducting searches around the prisoners from time to time, checking the cages to see if anyone had died and could throw someone else there.

 

 

Hope pushed herself into the shadow of her new home. The sobs of her fellow prisoners brought her the worst memories she would rather forget and erase from her memories. Things she doesn't want to remember, but she does.

 

 

Later on, she heard the heavy footsteps coming toward her way, as well as the clicking of metal. She didn't pay much attention to it, and why should she? Surely it will be another degenerate peggie who came to have fun.

 

 

The steps suddenly come to an end in front of her cage, and silence set in again.

 

 

Hope's head was resting on her folded arms, her eyes shut - paying attention to her surroundings. Her shallow breathing calms her at least for a moment, and her mind was somewhere else. The beautiful times she has lived are a reflection of what is happening right now. The memories that no one and nothing could have taken from her.

 

 

Suddenly a hand ran through her hair, stroking her head soothingly. A low voice called from above.

 

 

"Are you up, kitten?"

 

 

The word. That title instantly told her who it is.

 

 

But Hope didn't answer him. She hadn't even moved from the place, hoping he'd get tired of it and leave her alone and go away. But she was wrong.

 

 

"I know you're up. You must be up."

 

 

"What do you want!" She hisses; her voice muffled by the sleeve of her jacket. Her throat is like sandpaper, and every word ache. But she tried to make every word have its weight.

 

 

"Ah, here she is." The corners of his lips began to twitch into a tiny smile; his finger wrapped around her curl, playing with it.

 

 

"I'm sure you're hungry. Come on, look what I brought you."

 

 

He places a metal bowl of food at her feet. Not the kind of other prisoners gets - raw pieces of meat. No. This looks like fetched from the kitchen. The scent filter through her nose and her mouth began to salivate over the delicious food.

 

 

But she didn't give in to him. She resisted the inner voice to reach for it and eat.

 

 

Shaking her head, she squirms away from his reach and turns away from him.

 

 

"I'm not hungry!"

 

 

But her words were different from what her belly did out loud - asking for food that was so close reach.

 

 

There was a moment of silence. The only sounds that were spreading through the Center were those of prisoners and white blood-thirsty beasts locked in pens. The sun was slowly disappearing beyond the horizon of the mountains - the whole property is now bathing in the afternoon sunlight. A gentle breeze was lulling her into sleep again.

 

 

"Remember how you got here?"

 

 

Jacob cut through the silence that occurred between them. His fingers wraps around the cage's bar, tilting his head to one side.

 

 

Hope kept quiet. Her eyes tightly shut, trying to remember something. At least some little hint but nothing.

 

 

"Do you even remember what happened?"

 

 

Hope remained silent. She remembers who she is, her name, her brother, how she came home, how she met the Seeds, and how she joined the Resistance to save her brother and help her friends. But those few hours, perhaps even days, she doesn't remember anything at all. Nothing but darkness.

 

 

Jacob began to hum the melody of an old song as he watched her from behind the bars as if she was a pet in the zoo. And then it hit her. Pictures when she murdered everyone who got into her way. The nameless people faded into nothing - just dust. As if it wasn't her but only a hollow vessel that was headlessly guided by orders. And after every round, praise came - a fleeting whisper or a light touch.

 

 

"You!" She whipsped around, glaring daggers. "What did you do?!"

 

 

His smirk rose on his face. "I didn't do anything. You did, sweetheart. You should see yourself." He whistled before leaning closer.

 

 

"Speed and precision. That's the words I would describe that moment. I must admit that you surprised me. You massacred the entire camp in three minutes. Beautiful."

 

 

"No." Hope choke out, shaking her head rapidly. "No, it wasn't me! It was you!"

 

 

He laughed. He fucking laughed heartily, as if it were something funny to laugh. "Me? No, that was all you." He points the finger at her. "You were tearing those weaklings apart, sweetheart. Not me. You."

 

 

"Oh, what a sight." He gazed up to the skies, inhaling, before looking her in the eyes again. "At that moment, I knew you were the right one. That you will be my triumph, my most prized trophy."

 

 

"NO!" She screeched; her voice thin. "No, no, no, no." She shook her head continually, looking toward the soil, breathing heavily as the memories came in.

 

 

She then rushed forward on her knees, kicking the bowl in the process, and reaching for his army jacket, squeezing it with all her last strength. "What did you do to me!"

 

 

He wrapped his hands around her small wrists, holding her without any force. "I just directed you in the right way, and the rest went by itself. I'm making you strong."

 

 

Hope wriggled away from him and fell to the dirty soil on her ass. Her eyes were full of anger and hatred. "You're a monster!" She snarls.

 

 

Jacob just smiled and leaned his hands on his thighs. "Maybe I am, but back then, it was you, darlin'." With his hands, he brushed off his pants the dust and rose to his feet, casting a shadow on her weakened body.

 

 

"See you in the morning."

 

 

***

 

 

Three days ago

 

 

"Sir, everything is ready. The hunters await you." One of the soldiers answered.

 

 

 

"Good. Stay around and wait for the signal." Jacob turned on his heels and opened the white pickup door where Hope rested.

 

 

The soldier nodded at the command given by the superior and strode to the others — into the deep dark forest where they hid like predators and watched their unsuspecting victim.

 

 

News that the whitetails progressively are crossing and destroying project's plans didn't please Jacob at all. Not only he lost one of the prison camps, but also one of the bases which were very well supplied. The supplies he had stored there were destined to be transported to the Valley that his youngest brother had asked a few days ago.

 

 

But then everything went wrong, and he had to jump at the opportunity he had.

 

 

Gently he pulled Hope out of the car and held her close to his body, around her thin waist. Her eyes were closed, but her body perfectly responded to everything. Under her breath, she was still humming the well-known old song, holding his army jacket tight with her hands as if her life depends on it. Her head was resting on his broad chest.

 

 

Jacob smiled down at her and ran his fingers through her compact hair aside. Slowly, he lowered his head to her ear, humming along with her.

 

 

"Only you can make all this world seem right. Only you can make the darkness bright."

 

 

 

His hand ran from her hair to her shoulder. Progressing along the length of her arm, and finally clasped her hand into his, pulling her forward where everything was going to happen.

 

 

But the song never ended.

 

 

"Only you and you alone can thrill me like you do. And fill my heart with love for only you."

 

 

 

And Hope obediently followed him.

 

 

The soldiers stood on either side of their leader and were looking ahead. The cultist held their automatic weapons close to their chest and waited for the signal as they were told.

 

 

All the whitetails sat around the fire that was shining into the dark night and was sipping from the beers or singing songs. Not knowing what lurks in the darkness.

 

 

"Only you can make all this change in me. For it's true, you are my destiny."

 

 

Jacob stood behind his best soldier he had been waiting for so long, holding her shoulders securely. Today's trial will be different than all the soldiers went through so far.

 

 

Tonight, his enemy will feel a direct hit.

 

 

He reached out to one of the soldiers who handed him the hunting knife and offered it to Hope. Her tiny fingers wrapped around the knife handle and pressed it hard against her chest.

 

 

 

Yes, today, they will taste the strength of his best.

 

 

"When you hold my hand, I understand the magic that you do. You're my dream come true, my one and only you."

 

 

 

His hand held hers firmly, and the song's lyrics never ceased to sound. His lips grazed her earlobe, warmth breath gracing her ear. 

 

 

"Cull the herd."

 

 

 

Hope opened her eyes and was gone. And Jacob just grinned ominously and watched how his little warrior worked. As she was killing her enemy one by one. The knife was cutting through the arteries, and the blood staining the ground, and the tents of her victims.

 

 

And then silence takes root. The only sound that could be heard was cracking wood and chirping locusts in the distance. The bodies lay limp on the ground, and blood was everywhere. Hope stood in the middle of the crime scene. Her hands and the knife stained in blood, and she was just looking blindly into the fire.

 

 

Jacob slowly approached her and took the weapon from her hands. His soldiers had already begun to clear the bodies and acquiring weapons that none of the whitetails could even touch.

 

 

He enfolded her into his arms again, whispering praises in her ear. His hand stroked her back tenderly, and the other tangled into her hair, pushing her head to his chest. His lips touched her forehead for a split second, and later, he buried his nose in her hair, inhaling her sweet scent of forest berries that clung from her locks.

 

"You're my dream come true, my one and only you."

 

 

Chapter Text

A Monster


Blood-thirsty monster.


That's the word that defines her. She let herself so easily to be controlled by someone like Jacob Seed. She thought she was strong, that she will not subdue to his stupid mind games. But oh, she was so wrong.


WEAK!


YOU ARE WEAK HOPE!

Under her hands fell those whom she calls comrades. The one she helps. The ones she protects from experiencing the real terror that war can cause. True, this is not Iraq, where death lurks at every corner. Whether it is death caused by nature or by human hand. Hope saw in her own eyes what the human race can do and how easily can mind be controlled. All her ancestors experienced the cruelty of war. What wounds it leaves – either visible scars and burns or terrors in mind. Hope has always admired her grandfather. As well as her father and her other ancestors who fought like lions to the last breath. With what enthusiasm they expressed their stories, they had experienced during duty.

But she killed, no butchered her mates! How she now looks Eli in the eye? Tammy was right. He should have left her that forsaken day, and perhaps this would not have happened. Perchance? NO! Unquestionably something else would have happened.

Sharp tears of pain skids down her face. Her head buried in the dirt and the dust fill her lungs.


She deserves this. The worst punishment for fratricide. Because she is what Jacob said she is.

A Monstrosity!

The bawl slowly died into small sobs. Her eyes burned. The gentle breeze that once caressed her skin turned into the sharp, cold mountain air. The sun exchanged its throne with the moon, and the stars surrounded it and danced around. Soldiers slowly withdrew to a smaller number but still were in alert mode.

As Hope fell asleep, her weeps slowly ceased. She didn't have the strength to cry anymore. Her hunger began to devour her.

***


That look.

Jacob knows the gaze of rage and hatred. He was looking with the same disdainful eye at the old Seed when he was beating his sons.


He said they were full of sin, and God's hand had to intervene.


Jacob couldn't countenance how his father in a drunken state was beating Joseph with a leather belt just because he was reading a spider-man comic. Or when he had to kneel all night in a storm and pronouncing God's word. Or John's loud cry when he was hungry. Although old Seed had his booze.

He took the punishment for his brothers rather than seeing them in pain. He had no childhood, but he wanted them to keep their innocence.


But the look Hope was giving him. Full of hate and rage, his heart ached. It hit him directly to his soul. He couldn't sleep anymore because he'd always seen the broken look she was giving to him.

But what is done is done.

Hope will understand. She is strong and fearless. Not like the ones she aligns herself with. She's an unfinished masterpiece, and he would be a fool if he would give up on her so easily.

According to Joseph, Hope will save them and help them to go in the right direction. That she is the one they've been waiting for so long. The key to everything they have worked towards.


Jacob, however, does not consider himself a believer like Joseph or John. Still, they are his brothers and will do everything in his power to protect them and help them.


The morning was like any other. A morning run into the woods around the Center. It always calms him after a sleepless night of terror from the war that haunts him almost every night. Quick shower and breakfast. The soldiers had already been assigned tasks for the whole week and knew the schedule.


Jacob stopped by the cages with the prisoners. One part of him was hauling him to the familiar route but quickly shrugged that thought out of his mind and got into the prepared car.

***


The members of the flock were gathering outside the church. They progressively began filling the pews to hear other encouraging words from their Father.


John and Faith were already inside the church, waiting for sermon to begin. Jacob nodded towards his siblings to greet them and walked without a word to his place where he could see everyone.

The words of Joseph began to merge together as he spoke to his people, and Jacob once more lost himself in his thoughts until a hand landed on his shoulder.


"Brother, I see something plight your mind." Joseph's voice was full of sincerity. His eyes were looking through the yellow glasses of his aviators, full of concern. The church was empty, and only the two of them stood there.

Jacob shrugged, descending from the platform - ready to leave. "Just some things in the mountains. I have everything under control."

Joseph smiled, dipping his head down. "I know, brother. But. . . I feel the prophecy is fulfilling every day. The harvest will soon be approaching along with Hell, that will follow the white horse."


Jacob tried not to roll his eyes at those words. He never believed Joseph heard God's voice or even that prophecy of the spoken Hell. But Joseph is his brother, and he loves him.


Joseph sat down in the first pew, looking at his older brother and pulled his aviators down. "But we have our Hope now. She will guide us in the right direction and protect us from the destruction that awaits us. The Sword of God will defeat the Hell and will be victorious. Thy He sends his mighty warrior to protect its people."

Joseph's long sigh filled the silence of his teeny church. The sun's rays were stretching athwart the church pews, the heat radiates from every corner. The voices of the project members were heard from outside.


"We just have to guide her to her path, that was destined for her. Show her she's home here, among us. That she's one of us."

***

Hope was breathing shallowly, her eyes shut, listening to the wildlife. From behind the high walls of the Center, only the tops of the trees whose crowns swung from side to side could be seen. Mother Nature lived on, but captives were forgotten and locked up. Some still held the hope that someone would come and rescue them, but others knew that the only way out of this forsaken place was death.
This world is on the brink, humanity prefers war, violence. Maybe Joseph is right about something. Perhaps the collapse will come, but certainly not in the form he preaches about.

The world in fire.

"Hey, you?!"

A boyish voice come from outside her cage. Sluggishly, Hope opened her eyes to find a boy - a teenager - standing in front of her pen. Brown short cut hair, black jacket, dark blue pants on the edges dirty. He had a bowl of food in his hands, his head tilted to the side. His brown eyes studied her slowly.

Hope didn't move an inch. She starred at him, breathing deliberately.

"You not talk much, do you?" He questions after a moment of silence.

QUIET

The young man nods. "Right." He knelt down, just like Jacob had and placed a bowl of food on the ground through the bars. His eyes full of pain focus on her again, and he wraps his fingers around the bars.

"You should eat something. Four days have passed, and at this pace. . ." He paused, shaking his head with a heavy sigh. The voices of the other soldiers from behind the building - where they built a small training ground – were slowly approaching.

Hope's cage was isolated from the other prisoners. Her neighbouring cages were empty, and she had a view of the Center front yard from her field of vision. In the crack of dawn, she glimpsed Jacob walking with a few men around. She even saw how he stopped halfway. Like he was reasoning about something. But then he marched away and disappeared behind the other cages.

"The boss won't be thrilled. You must at least-"

"Tell your boss to go to hell!" Hope snarled with venom, glaring daggers at the guy.

The lad exhaled, got to his feet and left. Hope pushed herself back into her dark corner. She will no longer cry. She has to pull together and fight.

"Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting."

Hope will remember those words forever. Her grandfather had always encouraged her to never give up. He experienced the Second World War on his own skin. Saw the world collapse and human lives slowly disappearing. He, too, had a moment of weakness but never gave up and fought on. Even when he fought for his own life after the enemy aircraft shot him down. The doctors said he only miraculously survived - born the second time. After finishing, he always looked at the grandmother, who always listened to his old stories with them. She was at that time, a nurse at a clearing-hospital where he was resting as a wounded soldier.

During her service, she went through a lot. Pain, dread, angst, but also joy. But everything changed in one momentous day. The day her whole life changed. The day she was supposed to die. And she was ready to die, but she didn't.

The day was slowly coming to an end. The patrols were swapping their positions, hiding from a storm. Outside, rains cats and dogs, and the soil was turning into mud. Through the boards - serving as a temporary roof - poured water as if it weren't even there. The wolves were hushed, and the sounds of thunders sounded throughout.

Only until the door from her cell opened.

The nameless soldier grabbed her by the forearm and pulled her out. Hope didn't fight him; she didn't have the power to fight anymore. She lost all strength when she refused to eat.

Maybe now she will be punished for what she has done.

The soldier dragged her through the front yard until they reached the Center entrance. As soon as the door opened, the heat engulfed her. No rain, no cold. However, she now looks like a drowned rat.

The first floor reached with the help of the unknown, but the higher they walked, the more her legs were collapsing, and she could no longer stand on her own. After the last step, they reached the very top of the Center - the third floor.

Various voices and laughter were heard from the hall.

The man opened the door and threw her carelessly on the ground - like she worth's nothing. Just another filthy sinner. Hope fell to her knees with soft "uf," and suddenly, silence took place in the room. The voices hushed, and the only sound that echoes in the room was the sound of droplets clattering on the windows and cracking of the wood. The main light was from the fireplace in the back of the room. The smaller from the candles on the table - otherwise, the room was dimly lit.

The door closed again, and shortly someone started looming towards her. Her eyes, though, were staring into the wooden floor. Droplets of water were falling from her hair and her whole body shivered from the cold.

Two large and warm hands planted themselves on either side of her head and lifted her face up.

"Hope, My Child, I'm so glad to see you again." Father spoke. His blue eyes gazed at her with compassion, his fingers circling her cheeks as an act of tenderness. Hope couldn't escape from him, from his eyes. Out of the blue, she was surrounded by warmth as Joseph wrapped her in a warm blanket and helped her to her feet. And only then did she notice four people sitting at the table, watching them without a word.

Jacob, Faith, John and mysterious strawberry-blond woman.

Chapter Text

Give us a chance. 

 

 


Easier said than done. Especially when you're not sitting at one table with your enemies. Those who kill and destroys human lives every day. Disrupting families and creating chaos all around them. 

 

 

 

Disquiet, fear for dear life and the lives of loved ones.

 

 


Hope has no idea how Faith can live among such people as Seeds. A sweet and beautiful girl full of love in the company of criminals and murderers. She is the only one who genuinely expresses her kindness and refuge. As if they had known each other for years.

 

 

Joseph sees in Hope something rare, something special. Each of their meetings brings Hope a sense of uncertainty. As if he knew in advance, what was going to happen. The self-proclaimed Prophet.

 

 


John is, at first sight, a city boy. It screams - luxury and money. His flirtatious smiles and remarks have no effect on Hope.  His gorgeous blues - resembling an ocean or bright sky – and handsome face may seem charming and seductive to somebody, but she will not let herself be charmed by him.

 

 

Jacob is an intimidating looking man - especially his scars he wears for all to see. At first, she thought that his eyes full of sadness were slaking something inside of him and did not want to show his feelings. But after what had happened, she knows he is not worthy of her compassion. He has no feelings. He's a cold and heartless man.

 

 


Hope hadn't spoken a single word as she entered the room yet again. She only stared deeply into space, on a plate full of the most delicious food her body desire, need to gain strength. But then she would break her principle. She would back them up. Her belly begged her for at least a tiny bit of delightful nourishment, but she denied it.

 

 


In her fists, she crumbles the fabric of the dress shirt that Faith had lent to her. Bottling up all her anger inside her. How can they feast and laugh like this? When everyone in the country is starving and fighting for their bare life!? Asking themselves every single day if they will have enough food to survive if they stay alive or will perish.

 

 

A life full of fear and misery.

 

 

 

She is sick of them. Everything they hold and what they do to everyone. Even the fact that her own brother - a person she calls her own blood, the person who she would sacrifice her own life - is part of this madness.

 

 


"I want to go back."

 

 


Those few words stop dinner conversation right away – more likely the strawberry-blond female sitting across from Hope. Though her words were barely heard, everyone stopped and looked toward Hope.

 

 


Faith had begged her before entering the room, clutching her hand in a tight grip to give them a chance. But how she can give people like Seeds a chance. Chance to killers, liars, manipulators. No! She would rather be out in the rain with others, on cold and dirt, starving than sitting with them at one table and playing a happy family.

 

 


"I want to go back to my cage." Hope answered peremptorily. Her throat ached at every spoken word - like a desert.

 

 


"Don't be absurd, dear." John huffed, furrowing his brows in a slight scowl, reaching for his glass of wine. "Be a good girl and eat."

 

 


"No!" Hope snapped, getting up from her seat brusquely. She could no longer contain the anger that was devouring her from the inside. She could no longer pretend the act they started. She is not one of them. She is not part of their family.

 

 


"Hope, Child." Joseph murmured in a soft voice, trying to ease the intense situation.

 

 


"I'm not your child!" She blurted out, her teeth baring in a snarling grimace. "I'm not a member of your cult and certainly not a member of your freakshow of a family!" Her face full of ire and determination as the goddess of retaliation.

 

 


Both Jacob and John promptly rose from their seats, their eyes full of ferocity. They both looked like feral beasts - tearing their victim with their sharp teeth.

 

 


"Hope, please don't do this." Faith pleaded in a whisper, shaking her head, her eyes filling with tears.

 

 


Joseph raised his hand toward his brothers to stop them in their apparent ire. His blue eyes next fixed on Hope - standing in the middle of the room.

 

 


"You preach about love, acceptance, family, but you do nothing else but spreading destruction, death and violence all around you! You executing people as you please. Without blinking you are destroying families every day. You are all murderers!" 

 

 


"Watch your tongue!" John growled, gritting his teeth.

 

 


"You don't know what you saying, Hope." Joseph starts after a long exhale. "The sinners have filled your head with poison and falsehoods that darken your mind. But we are trying to help you, to cleanse you of your sins so you may be safe and protected . . . in our Garden." His words were full of coolness. As if she hadn't called him a killer a while ago. As if she didn't reprimand him that his family is destroying everything they touch.

 

 

 

"No, they told me the truth. They-" 

 

 


"You have become their tool, their weapon of destruction." Joseph slowly rose from his seat, walking cautiously towards Hope. "They are using you against me, against my family and my flock-"

 

 


"No, you're the villain of this story! You've-" Suddenly, two firm hands encircled her from behind, pulling her to the solid chest. She didn't have to guess who it is. He barely spoke two words all night, but Hope could feel his eyes – keeping an eye on her. As if he knew she would defy them at any moment.

 

 


"Get your hands off me!" She screamed, squirming in his clutch, but his firm grip only solidified.

 

 


"Calm yourself down!" Jacob ordered peremptorily.

 

 


"I'm not your lackey! I will never belong to you, and I will never be one of you!" Hope yelped, trying her best to fight against Jacob, but it was futile. He was stronger than her.

 

 


Joseph draws near them, setting his hands on both sides of Hope's face just like before. "Don't worry, my sweet child, you're safe now. We will take care of you and help you find the path that was destined to you." 

 

 


"John," Joseph called out, still looking at Hope tenderly as a father would at his child. His fingers brushing through her blond locks. "Hope will go with you to the Valley, and in the morning, you will begin the purification."

 

 


"Yes, Joseph." John answered. "It will be my pleasure."

 

 


"What?" Hope gazed frantically at John, who was gawking at her with something dark in his eyes, his malicious smirk painting his features - mouthing. "You are mine."

 

 


Her heart began to beat for a life. Her blood began to flow hot in her veins. There is no coming back now. She's officially fucked.

Chapter Text

"Brothers and Sisters, today we are welcoming new members to our family. We will welcome them in open arms and with the love our Father is graciously offering us." John spoke to the crowd of people standing by the stream. His words brought small sparks of contentment to each member, holding their gaze on him and listening to each word carefully as if the Father himself stood before them. Small waves thread its way to the shore of the pond, the morning breeze stroke their skin with a tender touch.

 

 

Armed patrols stood by the sides of the river, watching over everything with a watchful eye like hawks. The crowd consisted of 3 women and 3 men dressed in white. But unlike Hope, they were here of their own free will, and their hands weren't bound like hers. They have voluntarily come to purify themselves from their sins and follow the Father. A man for whom his followers are willing to die for.

 

 

Hope wore a white lace dress with round neckline, short sleeves and a gathered elastic waistline. The lace overlay was pure white, and the lining underneath was a beige colour. The rim of her dress was reaching to her knees and wore a light rosy ballerina.

 

 

The material was pleasant to the touch, silk-wrapped her in its soft embrace, but Hope hated it. She hates the feeling it makes her feel. Be trapped and nowhere to run. The sun's rays slowly rose to the horizon, rising to their throne in the sky.

 

 

"The great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are, brothers and sisters! All who have this hope in him," Two pairs of hands landed on both her shoulders and gripped her firmly, the Baptist's voice never wavered. Hope felt the warmth radiating from John, his chest almost touching her back, rising and falling with every spoken word. His hands held her securely in front of him. "and purify themselves from sins that withdraw us from the path of righteousness."

 

 

The wind was brushing the treetops, the birds singing their songs, and the river rumbling – joining to nature orchestra. What a beautiful day it could be if she forgot all the chaos that was going on. All this sacrifice for a better tomorrow. Hope closed her eyes and took a shaky breath - preparing for the next step of her enemy.

 

 

"Baptism is the first step of obedience, a leap of faith and the beginning of a path with the Father that will last forever. It's an outward testimony of an inward transformation." The tattooed hands at a snail's pace traced the length of her arms - bringing goosebumps to her delicate skin from his touch.

 

 

"Don't be afraid to start over. It's a new chance to rebuild what you want. To reborn again." John declared pompously.

 

 

All the while John was preaching, Hope felt the sharp look of his right-hand woman. The strawberry-blond girl who followed him like a trained dog. Holly, as Hope, remembers right. A look of a jealous girlfriend was written on her face, but her mouth was shut the whole time. Her firearm kept in her thigh holster, and on both sides of her stood men, one head taller than she and armed to the teeth.

 

 

"And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you - removes dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God."

 

 

The sudden tug around her waist brought Hope back to reality as John hauled her into the lap of the river with himself. A small gasp slipped through her lips as she felt the chill run across her spine of the icy water. With each step deeper into the lake, the water began reaching its hands at the length of her body.

 

 

"Today, I will close the door to your past and open the door to your future. Take deep breath brothers and sisters and step through to a new life that Eden's Gate is offering to you."

 

 

The new cohorts slowly began approaching the river, with a follower of Eden's gate standing by their side.

 

 

"Are you ready to purify yourself from sins, my dear?" John purred into her ear. Hope shuddered at the feeling of his lips grazing her earlobe and his beard scratching her neck as he inhaled her scent in. His free hand ran through her blond curls, water dripping from his fingers to her hair and dress.

 

 

She swallowed the lump in her throat and closed her eyes shut. Oh, how she would love to hit him into his smug face, but she can't. Though her hands were tied in front. Armed cultists stood by the river, his words from the morning still resonates in her.

 

 

"The lives of your friends and cronies are now in your hands. If you try to run away or do something, know that your friends will pay for it."

 

 

"Say yes, and everything will be forgiven. Say yes, and I will help you with shackles that burden you." The arm around her waist tightened like a snake squeezing its victim. She could feel every inch of his body, every muscle. His hand reached up, brushing across her chest and skimming the line of her jaw with his thumb – making her to look him in his stormy blue eyes. "Say yes to me, and you will never be hurt again. I promise you that, dearest." he soothed.

 

 

"For all I care. Do what you have to do." She muttered coldly, yanking her head away from his hand. She will let him think that she obeys him than see her friends in pain.

 

 

John clicked his tongue, displeased with her reply. "It's not the answer I asked you about. But that's enough right now. Soon you will say Yes to me. Scream it only for me!" The last sentence growled with something dark in his tone. 

 

 

"We must wash away our past and expose our sin!" The Baptist of Eden's Gate turned toward the crowd standing in the river. The water rose to their waists. "For only then, we can stand in the light of God and walk through his Gate unto Eden!"

 

 

He set his large tattoo hand on Hope's chest and slowly dunked her into the chilly arms of the river. Voices above the water continued, but Hope demarcated them from her head. No longer wanting to listen to their nonsense that reminds her that she is a prisoner. The air was slowly leaving her lungs; the longer she was submerged in the water. John's firm hand held her steadily so that she did not slip away from him. And the weirdest thing was that she felt safe.

 

 

The moment she thought he wouldn't pull her out and let her sway in the water, he hauled her out. Hope took a deep breath, sucking new forces into her lungs as John removed her wet hair from her face, cradling her tightly against his body. Ignoring that, she is soaking his dry and expansive clothes. His lips dawdled across her forehead, uttering few words.

 

 

"Welcome to Eden's Gate."

 

 

***

 

 

Being locked up all day between four walls - especially for a person growing up in the womb of nature, who is craving after a touch of nature - is very tedious. Especially when you're under constant scrutiny - reminding you that you're a captive.

 

 

Nevertheless, this is not a prison, like Hope was bestowed at the Veteran's Center. No sighs of pain, dirt, cold, hunger. . .

 

 

The opposite.

 

 

The spacious metal cage turned into a vast palace. The main area furnished to the last little detail - screaming luxury. John's ranch is much bigger than her family ranch, but Hope does not have the feeling of calling this a home. It's just a beautiful house.

 

 

The living and dining space was divided by a large stone fireplace, heat radiating throughout the room. The wooden walls evoking the touch of nature that Hope longs for, as well as the enormous chandeliers of deer antlers above. Large French windows extending from the ceiling to the ground bordered the front double mahogany door as well as a door leading to the back yard.

 

 

"Your turn." Elijah stated after he shifted the tower figure on the chessboard.

 

 

Elijah - her protector or rather a keeper. Slender man, approximately at Marcus's age. He ran a hand through his hair as he sat comfortably back on the couch, staring at the chessboard with a pair of deep brown eyes. His fingers scratching his beard, contemplating his next move - to not lose the game again.

 

 

The light from the fire illuminated his sun-kissed skin, small scars showing off. Elijah was very different from the other cultists whom Hope had met so far. As if each region had its own methodology to the current situation.

 

 

In the north, Jacob building an army. Only the strongest and most skilful survive, the others will perish. The mountains are not intended for brittle and fragile members of Joseph's project.

 

 

The valley provides supplies for all regions but mainly for the upcoming collapse, as Elijah mentioned during one of the rounds.

 

 

From the very beginning, Elijah was very polite and courteous. His gaze brought a sense of generosity and security, but the little sparks that played in his eyes also had a nip of mischief. Hope has the feeling that he is a decent man but only foolishly trusted Joseph's sweet words like many others.

 

 

Hope pursued her lower lip in thought, staring at each of the chessman at the board.

 

 

"Every single chessman has its purpose and place. Every movement along the board moves you forward. Remember, lionet, this is the game of kings."

 

 

Her grandfather always reminded this to her every time they played together. He was a true master in this game and never missed anything. Hope remembers that she rarely won over him, but she still had the feeling that he let her win on purpose.

 

 

She took hold of the horse chess piece and surrounded his queen with three little hops. "Check Mate." Hope said cheerily, a tiny smirk of victory slowly painted her lips as she settled her legs beneath her and leaned back in a comfortable leather chair.

 

 

Elijah whined softly and threw his hands into the air. "That is not possible! How do you do that every time you win?"

 

 

Hope grinned, leaning on her arm that rested on the armrest of her chair. "Years of training with my grandfather."

 

 

Elijah huffed a laugh and nodded of agreement. "Well, I guess that means unlucky at cards, lucky in love." He exhaled sadly.

 

 

She shifted closer and patted him on the shoulder playfully. "Come now, It's not that bad." She giggled, and Elijah later joined in, finally relaxing his tenseness.

 

 

The front door abruptly opened, bringing a cool breeze from outside.

 

 

"Look what we've got here. Someone's in a good mood." The owner of the ranch walked in with his servant in his wake; one of his famous smirks plastered on his smug face.

 

 

Hope's smile dropped and tried not to roll her eyes at his appearance – always the seeker of attention. She focused on Elijah instead, who immediately went numb after the arrival of the youngest of the Seed brothers.

 

 

John peeled his characteristic coat with tiny planes off of him, strolling toward the pair and placing it on the top of the couch where Elijah had previously sat. He leaned on the chair where Hope was seated, crossing his legs at his ankles.

 

 

"Ah, let's see somebody obviously won here." He grinned. "Did you know that chess is considered a game of kings, love?" John asked, settling himself on the armrest of the armchair, leaning closer to Hope. From that closeness, she could feel his aromatic cologne.

 

 

"I'd say it's a boring game that has no end." Holly muttered, her brows shrinking in a minor frown. She approached the sofa, seating herself at the rim of the couch near John's coat.

 

 

John clicked his tongue, shaking his head. "I must disagree, dear Holly. Chess is an excellent choice for practicing tactics." He remarked as an omniscient. Elijah nodded at the opinion of his Herald, which made John smile even more.

 

 

Hope could no longer listen to their silly conversation. Especially their annoying voices. She quickly got up from the place, taking the velvety blanket she found, in the room, she was assigned to, and was snug as a bug in a rug.

 

 

"I think it's time to hit the sack. Thank you, Elijah, for a great company." A tiny smile played at her lips completely ignoring John and his glances he was shooting her way and set off toward the stairs. She'd rather go upstairs than being in the company of Herald and his girlfriend and watching Holly shoving her tongue up to John's throat. No, thank you very much.

 

 

Elijah smiled and nodded at the corners of his lips. "The pleasure is all mine, miss Hope."

Chapter Text

"We should move. No time to waste." Jackson stated from his rack as he checked the medical supplies they had left for the last time.

 

He recovered very quickly after Hope treated his injuries under the supervision and direction of Thomas - the unit's medical officer. Jackson wasn't in all his strength yet, but he didn't want to lie anymore, even though Hope tried to persuade him to rest. But then again, she can't say no to her Commander-in-chief.

 

"Corporal Lansdowne, you will be the chief pilot and Sergeant Dechart co-pilot. And while we're at her." The Commander stood on his feeble legs with a groan of pain, holding his bandaged chest.

 

"How's the signal? Has she managed to make contact with the main campground?"

 

"Negative, sir." Hope reported, standing in the door of an abandoned building that had become their sanctuary for a few days.

 

"Shit." He puffed, running a hand through his blonde, mop of hair. "All right. Coordinates are already set. We have to go on our own."

 

"Sir, with all due respect," Hope started, leaping off the wall, rushing to help Jackson to sit down. "We haven't perceived any movement in two weeks. They disappeared into thin air. I propose to wait for the Directorate's instructions and. . ."

 

"Hope, this is out of the question." Thomas conveyed from his place on the cot. Leaning at his propped hands on the mattress. His wounded leg has several severe fractures, and his blood pressure didn't look perfect either. "Those assholes killed Jamie and almost killed me! We've been in this shithole long enough, and we're running out of supplies every day. The sergeant's right. We have to leave now!"

 

"Sir, Sir!" Rose's voice echoed from the hallway, her boots thumping on the ground as she ran. "Sir, the Directorate knows about our location. The signal is not good quality, but they sent us the coordinates of the nearest base." She answered gasping for new air, leaning against the doorway.

 

The main base is about 100 miles away from their small paratrooper station. The main base is their only chance of survival, and they still have to report the message of their operation. The camp is well-stocked with materials, ammunition and, most importantly, with medical supplies.

 

Jackson took command after Kamsky's death and took care of the remaining unit.

 

"Hope I always trusted your inner voice but right now we have no choice." Jackson continued, gripping her smaller hand in his firm grasp.

 

She nodded meekly and rushed toward Rose to pushed Thomas up on to his feet, to bring him into the prepared helicopter she'd been putting together all this time. She was replacing parts to parts from the wrecks that were destroyed.

 

Dashboard alarms immediately twirled after turning the key in the ignition, fuel full and the propellers began to spin.

 

"Let's go home." Rose breathed out, bringing a little smile at her lips and placing a helmet with headphones on her head.

 

Hope was all the way anxious. Feeling that something terrible will happen. But it could be just a lack of sleep that plagues her. However, in the middle of their journey, her worst fear was confirmed. A flare shone in the dark night sky. 

 

Their enemy struck again.

 

After a massive explosion, she lost all control of the chopper, the pointers of the gauge went crazy, the helicopter spun in the air like a dancer in a whirlwind dance before it hit the ground.

 

Hope opened her heavy lids, felling hot tongues of flame reaching for everything it could touch, fuel seeping down the iron structure, smoke vaporizing from the engine, and the windshield was shattered into pieces. Her head buzzed and her body ached as if a train had passed. She suddenly felt a hand grip hers, squeezing it hard, catching her attention enough for her to look back into the Rose tearful eyes. 

 

"Hope, Hope, I don't feel them! I can't feel my legs!" Rose cried the blood and tears mixed as it slides down her cheeks. The dashboard stuck their both feet under its heavyweight.

 

Hope looked behind her shoulders, trying to spin toward the rear seats. "Jackson, Thomas!" She called out, coughing blood and smoke that filled her lungs. She blinked with her eyes several times to focus at the seats in the back, but the smoke stings her eyes. Thomas was gone, and Jackson did not respond.

 

The gunfire resounds from both sides as the shouting of the native language of their enemy. Hope grabbed Rose by the shoulders, calming her down. She even attempted to free their feet from the tight hold of the dashboard, but it was useless. 

 

At that moment, Hope peeked at tearful eyes of her friend and squamate, the two friends understood that they would no longer return home to their families. They will never hug them again and say they love them. Hope squeezed both Rose's hands, gripping them tighter and saying goodbyes.

 

BANG

 

***

 

The demons of her errors in the past once again corrupt her sleep. Playing a cruel game with her mind. The sweat was covering her forehead, and her heart pounded painfully against her rib cage, making her chest tighten. She pulled her knees to her chest and hid her face in folded arms, trying to focus on her deliberate breathing. Assuring herself, she is no longer in Iraq's sandy hell but home - in the beautiful mountain nature and golden fields of Hope County.

 

Wiping the last tears off her face, she reluctantly got up off her bed and strolled toward the bathroom to erased the last evidence of her break down.

 

She slid quietly down the hall and made her way into the lower floor. Black coffee will help her into the new day and boost her to do something useful – to forget the memories that have emerged from the deepest and darkest side of her past. The kitchen was bathing in the darkness until Hope lit a tiny light on. The space was enormous and beautifully furnished, everything in its rightful place. The search for a coffee mug seemed endless as Hope searched cabinet by cabinet but couldn't find anything.

 


The only thing that played through her head was Roses crying and calling for help. Hope leant over the sideboard with her hands gripping the black marble edge, turning her knuckles a ghostly white. Tears glide over her face yet again, landing on the surface of the kitchen counter. She tried with all her might to suppress the images of her fallen friend whom she couldn't help. Who died because of her, and only her! Not just Rose but the whole unit that was like a family to her. She wanted to scream, yell, cry. Let herself be taken away, to not hurt anybody else that means everything to her. Her eyes were shut tight, blood running cold as she tried to collect herself, to convince herself that. . .

 


"What are you doing here?"

 


Hope stiffened at her place at the notorious voice. Letting a small laugh escapes her lips, she quickly blinked the tears away. She will not let him see her like this. A broken soldier, wrecked person. 

 


"I – I was just looking for a mug, that's all." She spoke softly, hiding her face behind her compact blond curls.

 


"You were crying." The tone he said it with was full of softness, beyond a whisper. As if he was not the person involved in killing on a daily basis - cleansing and atoning for sins. Her body once more frozen under his touch as she realized that for a split second, he stood right next to her. His touch was full of tenderness that she would never say he is capable of. His fingers hooked under her chin, making her look him in the eyes. "Tell me what happened, sweetheart." His thumb stroked her cheekbone back and fort soothingly.

 


Hope saw something odd. His hair - usually kept back - was now tussled and curled at the ends, hanging to different sides of his face. The blue dress shirt he wore was creased and opened to where she could see countless amounts of scars and tattoos. And his eyes had something mysterious, something she couldn't describe in words.

 


She took a shaky breath. "Nothing, it was nothing." Stepping away from him Hope cleared her throat. His hand fall back down to his side's. "Will you tell me where you're hiding all your precious mugs or should I start the search?"

 

John's face was momentarily expressionless, staring at her with his head tilted, looking for answers to unanswered questions, a flicker of sympathy shined behind his pupils soon after, a sleepy smile stretched on his face. "You got it right in front of your nose." He reached for the cupboard in front of Hopes face and pulled out two mugs from the top shelf.

 

"Ah, so here the great John Seed hides his mysterious mugs."

 

He chuckled lightly before pressing the knob on the coffee machine. 

 

Hope felt like someone else was standing in the front her. Someone with whom she could swap a few words or have some fun with. It was as if he had torn down his mask of perfection he wears during the day in front of all his people. The mask of a faultless, charming Baptist of Eden's Gate. Pastor Jerome said only a few sentences about John, but those few words were enough to fill her with uncertainty.

 

"You must be careful, Hope. He is much more dangerous than he looks at first sight."

 

Undoubtedly, the same could be said about his brothers. At first, they looked 'kind'? But as she proceeded, she felt what they were capable of. They won't stop until they get what they want. But maybe there's something good in them. Something that makes them vulnerable.

 

If she takes this time differently than in the beginning, maybe something will change. She could gain useful information for resistance and end this nonsensical war.

 

"Alright, leave it there for around 30 seconds until the underside is golden then flip it."

 

John nods as Hope went after the rest of the ingredients into the refrigerator.

 

As soon as the pancake was turned at the other side, she scattered over some ham, spring onions and sun-dried tomatoes. Then she spooned over some cheese sauce and scattered the top of the salty pancakes with remaining cheese while John was silently watching her.
He was in a complete trance, his eyes unable to peel off from her, a small smile graced his lips until a hand landed on his shoulder. 

 

"Now fold the pancake in half and be careful not to get burned."

 

"As you say, my lady." He teased, smiling cheekily.

 

Hope hit him playfully in the shoulder, but a small laugh fell out of her lips. "Stop joking around and finish it."