Aaron "Sullivan"

"Try undertsanding something before accusing."

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a character in “A Handful of Dust”, as played by Redred33mer



Aaron Sullivan

Role: Male 3
Age: 19
Occupation: Town Guard - "Someone needs to keep things in order, and I'm not the only one to do it."

- Weapons - "That does not mean I'm trying to kill you. Shooting's just fun."
- Knowledge/Reading - "You can't do anything if you don't know anything."
- Hiking - "There's a lot in nature to be admired, and no one disturbs you when you're trying to think."
- Philosophy - "Figuring out how you want to live is important, figuring out why is even more so."
- Games - "One way to apply and use your skill. Everything is a game, some are more fun than others, and some are more serious than others. It's all about what moves you decide to make."
- Ultimate (Frisbee) - "The best sport ever invented. Wanna play?"
- Helping others - "Everyone needs help at one time or another, and I know that."

- Reflecting - "Looking at myself after I do something makes me seem... horrendous to myself."
- The Human Condition - "I understand the imperfection of others, but when I realize my own imperfections and can't fix it... I hate it."
- Sleep - "There seems to be not enough time to do everything you want in a day, and sleeping just gets in the way."
- The Past - "How do I get over it?"
- Elitism - "This is what was contributing to the decline of America before the disease. Idiots."
- Maisy Cartwright - "She's an elitist."

- The Disease - "How are you not scared of something that has destroyed entire societies?"
- The Future - "It's scary to look at myself then not know what's going to happen to me."

Dreams: "Dreams? How do you 'dream' after such atrocities?"

Personality: Aaron has a very analytical view of situations and scenarios presented to him, whether in theory or in reality. Often, he analyzes himself, and how he resolved an event. Sometimes he thinks he did great, other times he doesn't. Although he can be quite depressed, and hikes off to somewhere when he does, he can be quite sarcastic and tries to be humorous, though at times he can go too far with an idea. As a town guard, he tries to resolve verbal outbreaks between two people before it goes too far, and shows his analytical and rather caring side.

Having grown up with such a turbulent childhood, he can be rather touchy. Sometimes, he gets annoyed easily or doesn't have patience. Some days he exiles himself from the town to God only knows where.

Background: Aaron was found by survivors of the apocalyptic event that swept the lands. The people who found him, James and Kasey Sullivan, a young married couple who were in their mid-twenties, took him into their care and has raised him ever since. When he was young, they told Dust's authorities that they were all a family, they told them their story of being survivors, a rather ordinary one, and they were accepted into the town's limits.

At a rather young age, Aaron became interested with the past, how people got to where they were as a whole. Why was life so different then stories his "parents" would tell him of the past. His mother took care of him at home while his father worked as a laborer, moving crates of necessary goods from one place to the next, as at the time, stabilizing society was more important than developing it. Since the town was under the impression that James and Kasey were Aaron's parents, he didn't go through the system of being rotated from one family to the next. However, Kasey did get pregnant with her own child, and the Sullivans did participate in the fostering program of the town.

As Aaron progressed with his reading, he began reading more substantial things. When he was 10, he read Animal Farm by George Orwell, and began developing a view on how he thinks societies should run and how life should carry on. Soon after, his baby "brother" was born, Nick, and shortly after that his parents had a rather serious conversation with Aaron, where it was revealed to him that he was not in fact their child, and that he was found abandoned as an infant. Feeling like James and Kasey have been lying to him for 9 to 10 years, Aaron ran away from home, living on the streets of Dust and hiding from people as much as he could. He learned that Nick had died from a series of diseases and conditions, including diabetes, at a young age, with little medicine to go around. Kasey soon after committed suicide, and not able to handle it, James ran off to somewhere in the wilderness, and is presumed dead, having not been seen for 9 years. Aaron was then sent unto the fostering system of the town.

Resenting how his life had progressed, Aaron grew up and still has a multitude of unaddressed problems. He did socialize, usually through activities. He learned to play ultimate, playing Frisbee with others, and in his different households learned different survival/living skills. He works now as a town guard, trying to give Dust something back because of what the town has given to him, and has grown up almost in the library, reading book after book trying to find answers to his unresolved life. On his days off, he is nowhere to be found. Aaron lives rather mysteriously now.

- M4 Rifle
- M9 handgun
- Hiking backpack
- First-aid kit
- Pocket knife (6 inch blade)
- Compass and map
- Frisbee, made by DiscCraft.
- 1984 by George Orwell and usually one other book he's reading

So begins...

Aaron "Sullivan"'s Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aaron "Sullivan"

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Aaron "Sullivan"

It was still dark out. An abundance of stars could be seen shining overhead as the sun had not risen quite yet. Darkness still pervaded the air, masking whatever obscenities or beauties of nature that could be around. Mountains surrounded the flat lands in which Dust laid, and because of the alteration highlands cause, trees such as Oak could grow on them below the summits. It was like a different world, still dry enough the cuticle by your fingernails would become dehydrated enough to bleed, but still so drastically different than the scorched plains of rugged brush, sand and what is namely dust.

Though it was quite early, it was time for Aaron to get up. And that's what he did; he sat up in his sleeping bag, still inhabiting his small, one man tent tent. Having only ventured to his place on the mountainside two and a half days ago, it was time to return to Dust and resume his work as a town guard. Sometimes he kept newcomers out, as of the order of William Hodge, other times he had to separate combatants in a bar fight or something similar, then resolving how the issue came to be. He's seen plenty of people pass since taking this employment, onto the next eternity. Sophia Hope's loved one, the Smith family who had cared for him once when he was an orphan, died only a year ago from disease which could have been prevented with the technology we had before the Delsis Disease cause the most lethal pandemic ever to be seen, or the elderly man that worked as the librarian, Mr. Kevin Rheidham, who eventually succumbed to old age.

"Knowledge is everything; if you don't have it, then something such as the meaning of life will always escape your understanding."

"Then what is the meaning of life?"

"Does it have to have meaning? Why do you play Frisbee? You could say to be physically fit or simply just to have fun, or that sometimes there is no real meaning to it. There doesn't have to be, you just do."

Aaron eventually crawled out of his sleeping bag to go urinate on whatever unfortunate piece of dirt happened to be in front of him in ten seconds. As he walked, turning his flashlight on, he let his mind wander, as he did whenever he had nothing to do. And when he had nothing to do for three days, when he had his days off, he would hike into the mountains, where he was now. He'd take half as much food as the average person would eat in his travels, as food was hard enough to come by. The feeling of hunger was oh so familiar from this, and his attempt at running away and carving a path for himself when he was ten, where his mind brought him next.

"Goddammit, I'm starving to death you old hag! I found it!"

"It's my food, you numbskull! I'll turn you inside out!"

And so I was pushed to the ground by the old man, who was homeless as I was.

"It's my food... I earned it myself-"

My rock-holding hand struck the side of his head as I turned to him, and he fell to the ground. He was motionless.

"Ugh... sir?"

The old, homeless man was in fact dead from the strike, his skull fractured, but it was never confirmed who killed him because of the lack of technology. Aaron was soon found and returned to the fostering system of the town. He never ran away from a home he was given to again after the incident.

Aaron came back to reality after seeing the memory through from start to end. It was time to zip his pants up then begin packing up his gear and supplies. In four miles, he'd be back at the town, and he'd eat breakfast before resuming work. He had a small dinner last night, and the rumbling of his stomach confirmed his continuous feeling of hunger. He began removing the stakes of his tent, of which he acquired from the Daley's when he lived with them, in the dark, save for his flashlight.

There was almost a self-maligning essence to the memories he frequently thought back to in his psychological wanderings.

"Why do I think of self-destruction? Is thinking of the answer to that even more troubling than... the thoughts themselves?" And the cycle of rampant thought continued.

Eventually, he packed his sleeping bag and finished with his tent. He began walking the distance to where he had bear-bagged his backpack, filled with his weapons, main water supply, and everything else valuable to him, especially his flint and steel. His face began feeling the cold that sank into the ground during the nights. Soon enough, the Sun would rise and he'd be wishing for this sort of coolness again. But the time would pass, and he would resume life as the people around him knew him to live.

When he finally got his bag down from the tree, he grabbed a full liter nalgene of water and put the pack on, clipping it around his waist to distribute the weight more evenly across his body. He began the trek down the path not too far off from his camp site, and down towards the river, and finally back to the town.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sophia Hope Character Portrait: Aaron "Sullivan" Character Portrait: Maisy Cartwright

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Maisy turned over in her bed, eyelids gradually fluttering open as she awoke. Her bed was probably one of the most comfortable in Dust, and a double. Then again, it should be. It had been shared by her parents before her; the founding family. And the founding family deserved only the very best. When the rest of her family gradually departed, people suggested to her, some more subtly than others, she could give the house up. There was Jessica Harston, who’d become a mother at just seventeen, and now she had four children under the age of ten. She’d recently remarried, after the death of her first husband, and the man she was with now had two children of his own. The Harston’s house wasn’t small, but there were three children to a room and Jessica and her husband slept in an alcove connected to the sitting room. Maisy’s house had three bedrooms, one with a double bed. It had a sizeable sitting room, kitchen and two bathrooms. It was no mansion, but it was by far the best and largest house in the village. Yet she lived there, all alone, with much more space than she needed. She knew she could give it up. But, it was her family home. All her memories were here. And what if, one day, she had a family of her own? She was sure Jessica Harston wouldn’t give the house back to Maisy when she needed it.

Maisy sat up in bed, allowing her legs to hang over the edge of the mattress so they just brushed the floor. She glanced towards the window to see light creeping round the corners of the curtains. It was the kind of bright, fresh light that told Maisy it was still very early in the morning. She stood up, making her way over to the window and gently pulling back the curtains. The room was flooded with pale light and Maisy gazed out across beyond Dust, out across the sandy plain to where the sun was just coming up in the distance. It was at this time, Maisy thought, that the new world looked the prettiest. She loved sunrise. Often, she’d get up early and just sit outside, watching the sun slide up from under the horizon, symbolising the start of a new day. The temperature first thing in the morning was perfect. By midday the village would be basked in scorching sunlight and it would be far too hot to do anything useful, but in the morning while the sun was just coming up and a light breeze blew gently through, it was beautiful.

Maisy washed her face and brushed her hair out with a small, makeshift comb her father had made for her out of materials he found lying around. Then, she slipped into a sweet little summery dress she had just finished making for herself a few weeks before and put some pale, red shoes on her feet. Maisy didn’t spend much time on her appearance and she wasn’t especially vain. She didn’t need to look nice when her reputation spoke for itself.

She opened the door to her house, allowing the light sunshine to bask down on her tanned skin. It really was beautiful. She closed the door of her house behind her, but didn’t lock it. None of the houses here had locks; it was a policy of her father’s when he first set up the town. He was trying to build a community based on trust and goodwill. You couldn’t do that if people lived behind locked doors.

Maisy followed the path through town, simply enjoying the morning, without a particular destination in mind. Her gaze flicked towards the distance, beyond the town lines. Her expression darkened slightly at the sight of Aaron Sullivan, making his way back towards town. He’d left town about two days ago, and had slept out there. Maisy strongly disapproved of people leaving town, and especially sleeping out there. How could they possibly keep their town safe when people came and went as they pleased? Besides, Aaron was meant to be the town guard. How could he guard the town if he was off, roaming around the wilderness? Every time he left, he put the town in danger from the disease, strangers and intruders. William Hodge must be stupid to let him do that; then again, he’s not exactly a proper leader, she told herself bitterly.

Her gaze skimmed past Aaron, on to the tiny, broken house that stood a little way from the rest of the town, almost over the town lines. Maisy had been saying for years that they should take the house down and rebuild something else in its place. It was a horrible little home, built poorly with the worst materials, not even big enough for one person to exist in. No member of Dust would live there, and it was hardly fit to be a home to anyone. However, five days ago the horrible shanty had finally come into its own, when a small group of rag-tag travellers had arrived, begging to stay in town. There were two men and a heavily pregnant woman, contesting that if they didn’t stay, she’d die. Maisy had been completely against letting them stay. She wasn’t cruel, and of course she felt pity for them. But this was their town, and they had to protect it from outsiders. If they let some people in, more would arrive, and soon their town would be overrun and destroyed. And how could they know that they wasn’t all some big ploy to get inside the town? And once they were in, they could take everything, kill everyone and destroy their tiny slice of safety in this cruel, new world. Maisy’s father would never have wanted that, and she had to protect what he had started, no matter the cost. If it had been up to her, she would’ve turned them away immediately and sent them on their way. But some of the town’s people took pity and wanted to let them stay, and so the people had been given refuge in the tiny shanty on the edge of town. The people of Dust were due to make their decision in a week from now, and Maisy knew exactly which way her vote would go.

As she made her way through town, she spotted Sophia Hope sat outside her café, smiling into the sun. Maisy approached her, sitting down on one of the small chairs next to Sophia’s. She gave the girl a smile as a greeting. Sophia was one of the few girls in Dust Maisy didn’t have a problem with. She was fairly quiet, sweet girl without very strong opinions, which suited Maisy just fine. Though Maisy highly doubted Sophia saw her as a friend, Maisy liked the girl and would count her as one of her friends, even if the feelings weren’t reciprocated.

“Can I have a pastry, please?” Maisy asked, her tone was polite and respectful, yet still held her air of superiority that she carried with her. “One of the ones with raisins. They were Daddy’s favourite, you know.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marley Larson Character Portrait: Aaron "Sullivan"

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Miss Larson sat with her legs crossed on the counter of her extremely small home. She, like few others did not have a family to raise, nor did she care to at this point. Her house was small, just big enough for herself. Maisey would have thought it should be destroyed, like the other tiny house.

Soon she would need to leave to prep the saloon. The place opened at noon and ran until about two in the morning. Thankfully, Marley did not own the saloon, she just worked there. In fact, she was a trusted employee and often times opened and closed the bar. With that being said, she did not work during all hours of the day; Marley generally opened the saloon, stayed for a couple of hours then worked the last shift of the night and closed the saloon.

She was the only woman that worked at the bar anymore. Mostly because they didn’t put on as many shows, but also because the women of Dust were becoming fragile ladies. They were judgmental and staunch, strangely conservative and sheltered. The saloon, apparently, was too rough for women to work in. Most of the people in Dust believed that women should be taken care of, and they should in turn take care of the children. Don’t get me wrong, Marley loved kids, but that didn’t mean she was ready to have one of her own or devote her life to it. Her eyes watched the sun rise at it’s slow tempo, every morning she did this; took a moment to think.

Today she was dressed a simple outfit, suiting her personality; it was slightly disorganized and rough. She needed sleep, but refused to waste the beautiful day. A free hand ruffled through her hair, leaning even farther back into a totally relaxed position; her legs tangled around themselves. In her other hand was a hot cup of jo, completely black. She had grown assumed to the bitterness of the coffee, and there wasn’t anything around here to sweeten in it anyway. This usually was her time to relax before going on with her everyday life. But today was different, her mind could not stop replaying itself. She was thinking about Peter, one of the outsiders, one that she knew all too well.

When she had been kicked out of Dust, Peter and Jack and Hannah were the ones who took her in. They were unmistakably the most gentle and caring people she had ever met. And Peter, don't even get the little lady started on Peter. All the feelings that she had tried to forget were teasing and torturing her once again. They were here in Dust. She never thought she’d see the day. They were wilderness loving people, and as far as she knew they wanted to stay that way.

Her bare feet smacked against the hardwood floor suddenly and she decided to leave her thoughts behind. Marley quickly gathered her socks and shoes and put them on. Within a split second she was out the door and headed down the street. She lived on the edge of town and had to wind her way through to get to the saloon every morning. Generally, she tried to ignore the main road, seeing as the most proper of women set foot on it. But instead of taking a loop around the general store then to the saloon she took an entirely different route. Though she tried desperately not to seem obvious, Marley carefully and slowly trailed next to the shanty that Peter and his family were staying in.

She felt bad for them, she didn’t want this sort of thing to happen to such good people. At least Jack and Hannah. Her blues eyes grew wide as she realized what she was doing. Marley could not let Peter, that boy get in the way of her happiness. After all, he made his decision. He had the choice to come with her but didn’t. That was his choice to make; though Marley believes his choice to be the wrong one, she tries to convince herself she’s better off without him. It was his loss. Right? Right.

Thankfully the sight of Aaron ahead suddenly caught her attention. He had leisurely walked past her, seeing as she was hidden behind a house from his angle. The sight of this old friend made her feet veer toward his direction. Marley considered him to be one of her own, an outcast and a dear friend. A smile smeared across her face as she tried to sneak up behind him. Soon, she could no longer contain herself, “AaaAAaaron!” she yelled, with a wild laugh following it. As she did this she sprang at him, clinging to his back like a child. Marley was creating more ruckus than usual in the morning. Surely she would be chastised.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marley Larson Character Portrait: Hannah Lake Character Portrait: Aaron "Sullivan" Character Portrait: Jack Lake

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Jack’s blue eyes scanned over his lovely wife as she rose out of bed. He wanted to help her, seeing that the weight of the baby was creating some trouble, but knew that if helped her in every small deed she would soon be offended. Jack knew Hannah, she was very much her own person and slightly stubborn in the ways of being helped. She wanted to know that she could do it herself, and Jack respected her for that. He certainly would have a hard time being married to woman who expected to be waited on.

A crooked smile lit his face as Hannah led him out of the small living space and into the open air. It was nostalgic feelings came over him as his arm was stretched outward and attached to his leading wife. Memories of Hannah leading him through long desert stretches to a secluded water hole, and memories of her leading him to their bedroom were alive in his mind. Though he was natural born leader, he could not help but be directed by the woman he adored most.

Outside was much cooler than in the house, mostly because a morning breeze still existed. Hannah was now leaned against the side of house, Jack cooed at her beauty. There was a certain light that radiated from her when she was pregnant. A mother’s glow, he supposed they called it. Even with all the complications they had experienced before, she was shining as brightly as ever.

Hannah into his arms in a fluid motion, and Jack responded the same. He stretched her arms around her, still able to the clasp his hands together even with the baby between. He prayed that in a few months time, they would be able to be as they were now. The two of the close together with their child between them. Jack’s stubble shuffled some of Hannah’s brown locks as he nestled against her.

“How are you feeling?” He asked simply. Honestly, Jack wanted to ask more than this, he wanted to ask her about the town, the child, and all of her thoughts. He knew she was on edge, but he didn’t want to make her more upset by asking her about her emotions.

A couple of people were now out. Marley being one of them. Just down the road a bit she was playfully attacking another young man that lived in the town. His eyes only stayed on her for a few moments. He was never sure of that girl. Sometimes she was just too much.

His attention was drawn back to his wife within seconds though, eager to know how she was dealing with things.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marley Larson Character Portrait: Aaron "Sullivan" Character Portrait: Wesley Hodge Character Portrait: Maisy Cartwright

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Marley had not expected that. Aaron had fully turned around before she could even finish her pounce. He had caught her like one of those princesses in the books her mother used to read her. A small chuckle escaped her lips as she thought of this. Marley was far from a princess, and Aaron was no prince charming either. “You’re goood!” She said cheerfully, referring to his quick reflexes and ability to catch a leaping woman. As Aaron put Marley down, she answered his question, but in the way that one might expect. “I just thought you’d need more of a welcome back then a couple of glances.”

Her statement was true. Most people didn’t pay attention to Aaron. He was different, and always had been. The townsfolk didn’t exactly detest him, but they weren’t especially fond of him either. As far a Marley knew, even though he was a constant protector of these people, the people in Dust didn’t trust him because he spent nights in the wilderness. And apparently, only God knows what actually happens out there.

It was such a joke to Marley. The wilderness might have a little more deception and little more violence, but there was also freedom and people who were full of life and love. It was definitely difficult to live outside of town, but Marly had managed with the help of Jack, Hannah, and Peter. Good people always get you through the toughest of times. Marley truly believed that.

Feet crunched the particles of dirt below them as Mar’s gaze traveled over to the shanty. Jack and Hannah were at the side, embracing each other in almost a disgustingly sweet manner. Then her green eyes found Peter. He was at the front door, answering to Elle. His features were exactly as she had remembered them, no older and no more tired. He looked pleasant, happy, unscaved. A pang of regret, and some jealousy came over her as she watched Peter interact with Eleanor. Since they came here, Marley had spoken no more than a couple of words to him. After that, she feared that he was ignoring her, though Mar herself made no efforts to speak with the man.

Suddenly Marley looked back to Aaron, nodding her head. Though her eyes were elsewhere, she was still listening to his words. There was no time to lose then. The most logical place to go would be the cafe... But that also meant that Marley would have to acknowledge and maybe even speak with Maisy. Oh the dread. There was some food at the saloon, but she doubted that Aaron would want his first meal back to be alcohol and toast. “To the cafe then!” She said abruptly. Soon she was marching toward the center of town where the saloon and cafe were across the street from each other. Without even looking back to see if Aaron followed Marley interrupted the conversation between Wes and Maisy.

Normally Marley wasn’t too keen on being playful with Wes, but anything to disrupt Maisy’s parade was a risk she was willing to take. “G’morning, Wesley.” She said sitting down next to him, crossing her legs gracefully. “You’re looking handsome as ever.” Her behavior was not unusual, in fact she was rather flirty with the town’s playboy. What else was she to do? She sold drinks to him on a regular basis, and outside of the bar they were good friends, though she never felt the desire to sleep with him like so many of the other girls in Dust. Wes was a dangerous figure, able to make women weep for weeks, and Marley surprisingly knew better than to get involved that way. Anyway it was much more fun to just play games with the boy.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sophia Hope Character Portrait: Marley Larson Character Portrait: Aaron "Sullivan" Character Portrait: Wesley Hodge Character Portrait: William Hodge Character Portrait: Maisy Cartwright

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It was early, but William had been awake for hours. Sleep wasn't coming to him easily. These newcomers to town had turned everything upside down. He wanted to do what was best for the townspeople. He had sworn to protect them at all costs. Sure, these scrappers didn't seem threatening, but it wasn't that easy. He wanted to be fair, but there were so many angles to this problem. If they were dangerous to the town, how could he throw them out, knowing the female was heavily pregnant and ready to give birth any day. He would be sending her out to her death. He didn't know how to make the right decision for everyone involved. Someone was going to get hurt, and it was going to fall on his shoulders alone.

When they had first appeared, he had felt sympathy. They seemed sincere in their plea for help, but how could he trust them? The pregnant woman and her husband weren't his concern. It was the third traveler, the woman's brother that truly gave him pause. He seemed slightly more wild and less willing to follow the rules. He would have to be watched. But as they showed up on the outskirts of Dust, it had been up to William to give an order. So he had done the only thing he could think of at the time. Leave it up to the townspeople to vote. It was only fair, and allowed everyone to have their voice heard. But he knew those who were disappointed afterwards would trace the blame back to him.

Running his hands through his hair, he pushed himself away from his desk and out of the chair, and began pacing back and forth in his cramped office. He swore his hairs would turn gray by the end of this week. He left the office and headed for his room, deciding it was finally time to start his daily morning walk of the town. It wasn't required of him, but it made him feel like he was actively keeping everyone safe by patrolling the border. It felt as if it was the right thing to do. So he quickly prepared himself for the day and stepped outside. Thankfully it was still cool, and he preferred to be up and have the perimeter walked before it got too warm outside.

His house, which was his parents before, was located directly in the center of town. It certainly wasn't the biggest, but he liked being located where everywhere was easily accessible, and he could watch the comings and goings at the shops. He certainly didn't need a large house anyway, sine it was only him. He had once hoped to start a beautiful life with Sophia in that house, but things had definitely not turned out that way. He pushed the thought to the back of his mind, not wanting to relive that memory so early in the morning. He decided to start his walk by the little shack the newcomers had decided to inhabit, so he started in that direction. The walk would take him directly past the shops, and most importantly Sophia's cafe, and he hoped he would get the chance to see her. Perhaps even talk to her alone.

But fate was not going his way today.

Not only was Sophia's cafe bustling with activity, but his brother Wes was there. His own brother who had stolen Sophia from him. He could feel the anger rising in his stomach, and felt the urge to go over and yell, "Why? Why would you do that to your one and only brother?!" He still didn't understand, and it had happened long enough ago. To make things worse, Wes was sitting with the one person William truly despised in this town. Maisy Cartwright. She was a young girl who felt entitled to everything just because her 'daddy' was the founder of the town. In truth, she had done nothing to actually help progress the town, and spent her days walking around acting like she had authority.

Wes and Maisy seemed to have formed a bond over their hatred for him. There wasn't a pair that deserved each other more, in his opinion. Breaking his train of thought, Marley ran into the picture and plopped down beside Wes at the table. Will felt a pang of loneliness, watching them all sit together. He knew he couldn't walk over, because he wouldn't be welcomed. That's how it was for most of the townspeople. He couldn't become their friends, because he was also their leader. He made himself look away, and saw Aaron a little ways away. Just the perfect man William wanted to see. Someone he could just talk business with.He quickly made his way over, and gave Aaron a small clap on the back. "Good to see you're back." He knew Aaron left frequently, and while he openly discouraged it, he wasn't going to tell the man he couldn't leave. That wasn't the ruler he wanted to become. "I need to pick your brain, if you don't mind."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marley Larson Character Portrait: Aaron "Sullivan" Character Portrait: William Hodge

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Aaron "Sullivan"


Aaron walked behind Marley as she ran into the cafe, however, William's presence came to be more immediate as Marley ran inside. Will was competent and virtuous indeed, and as he was in a way thrown into the position of leading the town, Aaron never thought that Will fully understood the present circumstances of reality. Though, Aaron knew it was more important to stabilize town supplies before altering the government structure, and never spoke much of his views of the town. Whoever led Dust held, politically, absolute power, and if abused, may lead to the unfortunate event of townspeople being discontented and result in some sort of physical rebellion. After the society-destroying pandemic, no one could afford this.

"Good to see you're back," Will said. Aaron knew he disapproved of his traveling, he'd call it, but it didn't make a difference to him. "I need to pick your brain a bit, if you don't mind." Perhaps the situation was coming a bit worrisome to Will and he was just looking for advisory of some sort. It didn't make a difference to Aaron, he'd be glad to help with whatever Will needed of him.

"Not at all, Will, just I need to eat something before I do much else. I haven't eaten breakfast yet but I just walked six miles back to the town. C'mon, let's go get something; I was about to go eat something with Marley, and we can talk over food or whatever, doesn't make much of a difference to me. Besides, I bet you haven't eaten either," Aaron said, leading Will towards the cafe.

Having studied history in his free time, Aaron knew that the line between being a leader and part of the group you're leading takes away from the informality you can resort to with them. He experienced this as a town guard, as some of the people he lived with as a child did get into trouble later in life, perhaps with alcohol or overreacting, and he couldn't deal with them as a friend, he had to diffuse the situation as more of a professional. He kept notes on everyone in the back of his mind, because at any time he could be called upon to restrain or incapacitate someone. The town's structure didn't exactly work out for Will, as everything rested on his shoulders always, and no one put effort to try and change it, not even Aaron, and he knew it.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sophia Hope Character Portrait: Marley Larson Character Portrait: Aaron "Sullivan" Character Portrait: Wesley Hodge Character Portrait: William Hodge Character Portrait: Maisy Cartwright

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William stole a glance at the cafe, feeling his palms becoming sweaty. He really shouldn't be this nervous about just going over and having to talk with people. Except he was extremely nervous. Not only was he worried about making a good impression in front of Sophia, which he always attempted to do thew few times they were together, but one wrong word or move could mean the destruction of his leadership and authority. And with his brother over there, it was highly likely it wouldn't end pretty. He looked back at Aaron, who finally responded. "Not at all, Will, just I need to eat something before I do much else. I haven't eaten breakfast yet but I just walked six miles back to the town. C'mon, let's go get something; I was about to go eat something with Marley, and we can talk over food or whatever, doesn't make much of a difference to me. Besides, I bet you haven't eaten either."

Well... that totally backfired William thought as he watched Aaron take off for the cafe. That was the one place he didn't want to have to go. Yes, it was true, he was extremely hungry. But why couldn't they have eaten practically anywhere else in the entire town of Dust? Even eating at the little shack with the newcomers sounded preferable right about then. But, he could't exactly get out of it. So, with a large sigh he started over towards the cafe. Just as he was walking over, he saw Sophia emerge from inside with a bunch of good-looking pastries. He knew she was the best cook in the entire town of Dust, having gotten to eat her meals every single night when they were engaged.

She looked absolutely beautiful - he thought she always did - and he paused for a second just to watch her. She had a smile on her face, and was happily chatting with everyone. Even though she had been through so much hurt in the past few years, she still managed to be positive. She was still one of the brightest lights in the entire town, and it was hard not to feel comfortable and happy in her presence. Of course, it hadn't always been sunshine and rainbows in their relationship either. Behind closed doors they had some of the worst fights. Even now, Will regretted some of the things he had said to her in his anger. Parts of him understood why she left him, but others wished she had never left.

He continued walking until he made it over to the table. Out of some stroke of luck, Maisy had gotten up and left the table while he had been reminiscing of Sophia. He turned to see that she was hurrying away from the cafe, and wondered what had happened. Her normally calm demeanor had shattered. He would bet money that Wes had something to do with it. He was always getting those sorts of reactions from women.

Will would have preferred to sit at a table alone, but knew Aaron was going to want to sit next to Marley, so he grudgingly sat down at the crowded table, leaving a seat empty on either side of him. This is going to be torture... He pushed all his negativity out of his mind and gave the group a small smile. "Good morning, everyone," he said, slowly meeting eyes with everyone at the table. Sophia had brought quite a few pastries out, and just the sight of them made his stomach growl with hunger. So he quickly grabbed one and took a bite, savoring just how delicious it was.

He kept his eyes down towards his plate, slowly eating his pastry. He wanted to talk with Aaron, but not with so many people around. He wanted to discuss the newcomers, but didn't exactly feel like hearing everyone's opinions right now. He heard a chair scooting out, and looked up to see Wes was standing. In his eyes was a look of pure hatred. They just stared at each other for a few seconds, as if willing the other to say something. Wes was the one to break the stare, as he turned and ran off without saying a word.

William's body relaxed; he hadn't even realized how tense he was. Now he only had to worry about Sophia, and it would be much easier to be a gentleman with his brother out of the picture. He looked up at her and smiled warmly. "This is really delicious, Sophia," he said, trying to start any sort of conversation with her.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sophia Hope Character Portrait: Marley Larson Character Portrait: Aaron "Sullivan" Character Portrait: Wesley Hodge Character Portrait: William Hodge

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Sophia smiled warmly as Marley mumbled a ‘thank you’ before tucking in. She relaxed her shoulders, laughing a little as Marley added “Must have!” to her little remark. It wasn’t long before Wesley replied, "Why Sophia, Marley, why would you ever think it was me? I attract girls, not repel them!" feigning a dramatic shock expression, fit for any performance.

"Maybe your pastry just didn't agree with her stomach." She playfully punched his arm, rolling her eyes. But before she could answer, he quickly complimented her, which meant that she couldn’t make a joke. "She's crazy, though, because it's amazing." Smiling, she glanced upwards to see that Aaron and William were now much closer.

As they approached, they both took their seats around the already crowded table, William greeting them all, "Good morning, everyone." She felt herself automatically hold her breath without conscientiously knowing, only to see the reaction between the two brothers. Silently she prayed that nothing big would happen, all in the hopes of them at least trying to get along, but it was clear as day that their relationship was ruined, and all because of her it seemed. Wesley had stood up, drank up his tea and grabbed his pastry, only to stalk away from the group. Trying to relieve a little of the tension, she shouted out a ‘Goodbye’ towards the direction Wesley was headed and sighed quietly.

She had almost forgotten that Marley and Aaron sat there, and as her eyes fell upon William, she noticed he had already started to eat her pastries. Holding the empty tray tightly, she kept her smile. Opening her mouth to start a conversation, William had already beaten her too it. "This is really delicious, Sophia."

Looking over at him, Sophia returned the warm smile, nodding slightly as her blonde locks brushed against her cheek. ”Thank you, freshly baked as always! She exclaimed, grinning ever so slightly.

After a few seconds, she looked at Aaron, ”It’s been a while, how have you been?” She asked, having to raise her voice by a little as a sudden gust of wind howled into her ears. The Town Guard and Sophia didn’t really have a conversation in a long time, it seemed they were too busy and didn’t see of him much, he was pretty much a mystery. Though she knew some amount of his background, it still left her with more questions than answers really.

As she waited for a reply, she gently started to pick up the dishes, Maisy’s empty glass of lemonade, her half-eaten pastry, Wesley’s tea and plate. Again, she reminded herself about the travellers. I need to give them the bakes! It’s would be a nice thing to do...I do hope they come out around Dust, she thought to herself.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sophia Hope Character Portrait: Marley Larson Character Portrait: Aaron "Sullivan" Character Portrait: Wesley Hodge Character Portrait: William Hodge Character Portrait: Maisy Cartwright

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Aaron "Sullivan"


Aaron began walking up the steps, then like a bat out of hell, Maisy made her way out the cafe door and walking down the street, to which he stepped aside to let her go. Will then stepped inside as they both went to grab something to eat for breakfast.

"Mmm, delicious digesitbles," he said, forcing his voice to be lower than it is naturally to make it a more humorous comment. He then took a pastry from the tray Sophia had just put down, and without hesitation began eating. He watched as Will went to take a seat at the table everyone else was sitting at. Aaron thought Will would've wanted a slightly more private setting, but if he's going to be open about his concerns then it only said something about his strength.

"Good morning, everyone," he said, looking at the others sitting at the table. Will's words caused his brother to jump up from his chair, it falling over. For a moment they locked sight of each other, as if a battle of wills to determine the fate of the universe had occurred and ended within five seconds as Wesley took his leave without further notice. After seeing Wesley simply walk out of the cafe, Aaron walked over to his fallen chair, stood it up again, and took his seat.

"What a nice guy," Aaron said sarcastically. He then took another pastry, having finished his first, eating this one a little more slowly. He then waited for someone else's reaction, letting the situation settle down, or perhaps boil over again.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sophia Hope Character Portrait: Marley Larson Character Portrait: Eleanor Isis Roden Character Portrait: Hannah Lake Character Portrait: Aaron "Sullivan" Character Portrait: Jack Lake Character Portrait: Wesley Hodge Character Portrait: Peter Cross Character Portrait: William Hodge Character Portrait: Maisy Cartwright

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A soft chuckle came out of Jack when Hannah became playful with him. There was the girl he adored, he knew that sarcastic piece of her was still in there. Pregnancy couldn’t have changed her that much. Jack had her smooth hand in his as they walked around the house to inform peter of their plans. It was always safe to tell others where you were going in this world. It was too often that people got lost, or dehydrated, or mugged. The sight of Eleanor made Jack smile, she had been one of those ragtag travelers they'd taken in once, and unlike Marley, Jack actually liked Elle.

While Hannah spoke frankly with her brother, Jack nodded toward Eleanor, taking particular notice in the very young girl in her arms. It was almost as if Jack and Hannah’s minds worked in tandem. He immediately thought of how he and Hannah could be bundling a precious child of their own.

Feelings of frustration and excitement ran over him. Excitement for parenthood, for the life they could be living. Children were always something he wanted, and even more so with Hannah. Frustration for the way that the town was treating them. Dust was the only thing in the way of their dreams of a family.

With that, Jack and Hannah left toward the center of town. He had only been here once before, he was a child and his family was only passing through, and thankfully they were easily forgotten. He really knew nothing about the town, beside their private club attitude. He both envied and pitied the people who lived here.

Soon the two were in what one might call downtown. There were a small collection of shops, a cafe, and a saloon. Two strangers, a man and woman were heading away from the cafe as they were closing in on it. Outside there was a group of townsfolk sitting around a couple of tables, chowing on some pastries. Would it be too forward to just introduce themselves? Marley was there, he could see that much. That was comforting... Kind of. Will was also there, maybe he could get to talking to the man.

With a gentle squeeze Jack led his wife toward the cafe. They could kill two birds with one stone; they could both eat and socialize. Boldly, Jack approached the table and casually greeted the group. “Good morning.”

Hopefully no one would be offended, or find it awkward that they joined the people.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sophia Hope Character Portrait: Marley Larson Character Portrait: Hannah Lake Character Portrait: Aaron "Sullivan" Character Portrait: Jack Lake Character Portrait: William Hodge

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Marley was too caught up in her pastry to realize that the entirety of who was at the cafe changed. Instead of sitting with Wesley, making remarks about Maisy with Sophia, Aaron and Will were beside her. She wondered if Wes went after Maisy, that wasn’t unlike him. He would do nearly anything to get what he wanted. Even if that meant actually courting the most snob ridden girl in town. A sigh almost escaped her as she took another pastry, surely she would hear about it later in the saloon.

It was a much different feel with these two men in the area. It was no longer a light, flirtation that linger in the air. It was more like a protective, down to earth feel. Aaron and Will were good guys, putting the safety of Dust front of their own.

She had no hard feelings toward Will, in fact she thought he was a splendid leader. Anyone was better than Maisy, that was for sure. Otherwise this place would be buried in old traditional ways. The world was constantly changing and the old ways of Dust were no longer applicable. Don’t get her wrong, tradition was nice and all, but she couldn’t stand the strict rules and regulations. Marley watched as William and Sophia locked eyes and spoke in polite voices.

Quietly, she watched their body language toward each other. After another drink of her lemonade Marley watched as Sophia moved her attention to Aaron, almost dismissively. It was then that Marley decided to nod toward the leader of the town and say “Good morning, Willum.” Somehow, Marley had developed nicknames for a lot of the townspeople, even if they weren’t close friends.

“I see you left the town to vote on whether the Lakes should stay..” She said quietly, trying to make some kind of conversation, “are you sure that’s a good idea?” The majority of the town was of the first generation, growing old with tradition and security in mind. They were the kind of people who didn’t care if the newcomers were in real need. Marley was only petitioning with Will for Hannah and Jack’s sake. She could care less about what happened to Peter. Or at least that’s what she kept telling herself.

Almost as if on cue, the two love birds approached the cafe. Marley smiled toward the two of them, but had no way of welcoming them into the conversations that were taking place. Without another words she stuffed the rest of her pastry into her mouth. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to speak with them, she just knew that Jack thought her a fool. It was just better if she let Jack do his thing. If Marley tried to help he would probably just get frustrated. Jack liked to do things himself, and Marley assumed that they were here to speak with William.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sophia Hope Character Portrait: Marley Larson Character Portrait: Eleanor Isis Roden Character Portrait: Hannah Lake Character Portrait: Aaron "Sullivan" Character Portrait: Jack Lake Character Portrait: Wesley Hodge Character Portrait: William Hodge

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Hannah felt a small smile play on her lips as she thought about Eleanor's observance of her. As she and Jack made their way towards town, hand in hand, fingers laced together, her thoughts turned to the way Eleanor had cradled her baby in her arms. The gesture was easy and comfortable. Of course, it was loving and she clearly treasured her daughter, but there was no fear to it, and no concept that her child's life might be ripped from her at any moment. Eleanor had fallen pregnant young, and almost certainly by mistake. Yet it had happened for her instantly, while Hannah had struggled to conceive for months. And when it finally did happen, she'd lost two babies, one after the other. Two babies she'd desperately wanted. And now she felt brutally close to losing this one. How was it that Eleanor got to have a baby she didn't even want without any complications while Hannah struggled with heartbreak after heartbreak? The world was so unfair. The second the thought had crossed her mind though, Hannah felt a pang of guilt overwhelm her. Her own emotions, intensified by hormones and the physical and mental strain she was currently under caused tears to spring into her eyes. She turned her head away from Jack so he couldn't see in a clear indication that she didn't want to talk. She didn't feel like sharing this particular thought with him. Eleanor adored Lily-Mae and she would be devastated if anything happened to her. Hannah should be finding an affinity with the woman over her own struggles with motherhood, even if they were not of the same nature as Hannah's, rather than being jealous of her.

By the time they had nearly reached town, Hannah had composed herself and felt she could enter and present a good front, the way she needed to. Just as they reached town, Hannah saw a man and woman leaving the cafe, the man's arm slug loosely round the woman's shoulders. As they passed by them, Hannah saw the woman look both she and Jack up and down once with a particularly disdainful, hostile gaze. To which, Hannah offered a nervous smile, although she was unsure it had helped in any way. It took Hannah a couple of seconds to recognise the woman as the daughter of the founder, someone who'd show particular dislike for them since their arrival. From the back of her mind, Hannah recalled her name to be May-something. Maya? May? Macie? No... Maisy. That was it. The man beside her was the brother of the town leader, though Hannah wasn't sure she'd been formally introduced to him. He seemed too distracted with whatever he was saying to the woman to pay any real attention to them.

As they got closer to the scene, Hannah felt Jack gently squeeze her hand in a comforting gesture. She squeezed his back, to give reassurance that everything would be alright. She quickly took in the scene before her, noting the town leader, Will, sat talking with another man Hannah hadn't seen much of since she'd arrived, though she thought he was one of the people responsible for the security of the town. A blonde girl, who Hannah hadn't really spoken to, although thought seemed remarkably friendly for this town, was stood over them, collecting dishes. Hannah's eyes then fell on Marley, who was leant in, talking to William. Hannah gave her a friendly smile, glad to see someone familiar here.

Jack approached the table people were sat around, offering up a friendly, “Good morning.” Hannah stood close beside him, her grip on his hand tightening. She slipped her other hand to right underside of her swollen stomach, rubbing it gently in an effort to emphasise to everyone just why she needed to be there. Not that it wasn't instantly obvious, the moment they'd entered the cafe.

"Hi," Hannah added, her tone less bold than Jack's, holding more reservation and shyness, as if she was just testing the water. She knew she had to make a good impression on these people, and what she did and said now would be vital to the outcome of the situation. Although, frankly, based on how friendly most of the older members of this town had been to her so far, Hannah just prayed she delivered before the vote in a week, as she was certain they would throw her out. And though she didn't fancy their prospects out there with a newborn baby, she knew it was the actual birth she almost certainly wouldn't survive without this town.

Despite the fact that almost everyone else was sitting down, Hannah made no movement to do so. Though she desperately needed to sit down and take the weight of her slim frame, she didn't dare take a seat, for fear of offending the townspeople and making them feel as though she was intruding. She simply hoped someone would be kind enough to think she might be struggling and offer her one.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sophia Hope Character Portrait: Marley Larson Character Portrait: Eleanor Isis Roden Character Portrait: Hannah Lake Character Portrait: Aaron "Sullivan" Character Portrait: Jack Lake Character Portrait: Peter Cross Character Portrait: William Hodge

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Sophia gave him a wonderful smile back, which made Will feel warm inside. "Thank you, freshly backed as always!" she replied enthusiastically. Her warmth, openness, and positivity were contagious. She was always this way, and it was one of the reasons he had so easily fallen in love with her, and why he still loved being around her today Of course his love had never stopped, but that was besides the point. Every time he saw her, he had the urge to spill all of his feelings for her. He always held back, however, because he knew how much hurt the both of them had gone through the first time. And he had no doubt in his mind that she would reject him pursuing her again. She wouldn't want to risk getting hurt again. And he really couldn't blame her.

Will's thoughts got sidetracked - thankfully - by Aaron getting up to walk over and pick up the fallen chair Wes had toppled over. "What a nice guy," Aaron commented, fixing the chair upright once more. Will wished he could deny Aaron's claim, after all Wes was his brother, yet he wasn't particularly nice, so he couldn't say the comment was untrue.

"Good morning, Willum." He turned his eyes to look upon Marley, who had addressed him. Even though she had left the protection of Dust, there was something about her that was truly endearing, and Will couldn't dislike her. Not that he wanted to, of course. "I see you left the town to vote on whether the Lakes should stay..” she began, almost in a whisper. This is what he had been afraid of. Having to discuss the situation of the newcomers before he was ready. This was why he had wanted to walk and talk with Aaron before the rest of the town. But he had insisted on breakfast at this cafe first. Marley continued on. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” He thought on the words, wanting to give the right answer.

"Well, Marley, I may be the leader, but this is everyone's town, so I figured the right decision wa-" His sentence was broken up by a new voice entering the conversation. "Good morning." That was Jack speaking, the so-called leader of the newcomers to town. He seemed to be the most in control and level headed of the group. Will was sure a conversation with Jack was going to happen at some point within the next week. He looked strong, and confident. His wife Hannah, however, didn't seem as comfortable. She held on to him with an iron grip and seemed to protect her swollen belly with her other hand. Just looking at her, and how close she was to giving birth, gave Will a pang of sympathy. "Hi," she muttered quietly, obviously not feeling as if she belonged in the group.

Will began to feel slightly overwhelmed. He had too many thoughts banging around inside his head. He really needed to sort through them all before this conversation took place. He stood up, moving away from the table. "Good morning to both of you," he said to the Lakes, a pleasant smile on his face. Even if he wasn't sure about the newcomers, he had to show them kindness and respect as the leader. "Hannah, you should sit down. You can have my chair, I need to be heading out anyway." He moved a little farther away, but gestured to the chair he had just left empty. "It's customary that I walk the perimeter of Dust every morning," he explained, not wanting them to think their presence had made him suddenly choose to depart.

He turned his attention to the beautiful Sophia once again. "Thank you so much for breakfast," he said quickly before turning and leaving the others. After he had gotten away from them, he felt it was easier to breathe. He hated not being prepared, and tended to always pre-think about every question he could be asked. He didn't like being caught off guard, and that was precisely why he took his perimeter walk every morning. He was able to think about the day, and sort every single thought in his head. Just seeing Hannah made him sad. If the vote didn't go the newcomers way, everyone who wanted them to stay would blame Will himself. They wold be upset he hadn't just made the decision for them to stay. And he honestly didn't know how he was going to live with the fact that he was possibly killing to human beings by sending the three back out into the desert. He was set into tradition, of course, but sending a young woman and her baby out to die didn't seem right to him either. Yet he couldn't find a middle ground either.

Will reached up to rub his temples. He could feel a headache beginning to form. He was just now reaching the tiny shack on the outskirts of Dust, where Jack, Hannah, and Peter were living. And strangely enough, there was Eleanor at their front door. Talking to Peter, the one William was most worried about. He seemed untrustworthy. The two seemed to be having a conversation, and Will made a mental note to ask her about it at a later time. For now, he walked past the shack to the perimeter of Dust. He began to walk parallel to it, attempting to organize all of his thoughts into something intelligible.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marley Larson Character Portrait: Hannah Lake Character Portrait: Aaron "Sullivan" Character Portrait: Jack Lake Character Portrait: William Hodge

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Jack was not expected the townsfolk to be the least bit welcoming, when both he and his wife were offered seats at the cafe table a sudden feeling of ease came over him. However distant and dismissive William’s walk away was, Jack still appreciated it. Perhaps it was only the older folks they should be wary of. After all, most everyone that was at the cafe was young, full of life, and as far as he could tell, level headed.

A simple nod was thrown to Will before he marched away. Jack did not fully understand William’s responsibilities, but he had no doubt that they were stressful, especially now. Perhaps later he would catch up with the man to have a discussion. Not a discussion about his party’s staying, but something that would stir genuine interest and friendship. Jack supposed this was the best way to get what he wanted; become friends with or at least liked by as many people as he could.

“Thank you,” Jack said toward the guard, his name was escaping him. Jack slid a chair next to his wife then planted himself in it. His posture was neither proper or otherwise. He remained polite though, with erect posture and a pleasant facial expression. “Uh.. Aaron is it?”

Jack was charismatic is a television kind of way. He looked and acted presentable, he was charming without effort, and could answer questions with nice language and pose. He was exceptionally well trained for a scrapper. Or so he had been told. However, he lacked conversation starters, especially with people he knew nothing about. He had no idea what kind of lives they led here. What events were held in town, if any, and what the people were interested in.

He had only heard slight rumors about people when walking through town, but other than that his information was limited. Finally something came to him. “You don’t strike me as a townsman.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sophia Hope Character Portrait: Marley Larson Character Portrait: Hannah Lake Character Portrait: Aaron "Sullivan" Character Portrait: Jack Lake Character Portrait: William Hodge

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Suddenly, the leader of the town stood up and moved away from the table. "Good morning to both of you,” he greeted them, his smile genuine.

Hannah smiled back shyly, hand still firmly in her husband’s, where she felt safe.

"Hannah, you should sit down. You can have my chair, I need to be heading out anyway."

“I-“ Hannah began, instantly panicking that he was only leaving because of their arrival. If the leader of the town hated them so much that he couldn’t even bear to be in their presence for more than ten seconds, it did not bode well for the longevity of their stay in Dust.

But, almost as if he read her worries from her mind, William told her, "It's customary that I walk the perimeter of Dust every morning.” Then he turned to Sophia and thanked her before taking his leave. As he made his way away from the scene, Hannah saw her husband throw him a nod of thanks.

Hannah decided to take the town’s offer of hospitality and sit down in the now vacated seat. It was only polite. And, besides, between the walk to town, carrying much more weight than she was used to, and the way the baby was now moving inside her, she could no longer bear to stand.

"Why don't you pull up a chair too, Jack?" the town guard offered to her husband. At his suggestion, Hannah felt some of the tension she hadn’t even realised was in her body dissipate. "How did the town get to be so... wrong?" Aaron asked out loud.

”Thank you,” her husband told Aaron, taking a seat next to her. Hannah immediately reached for his hand under the table once more, that she’d been forced to let go of in order to sit down. Her grip wasn’t as tight as before, but she still wanted the physical reassurance that he was there.

“Uh… Aaron is it?” Jack asked. “You don’t strike me as a townsman.”

Hannah decided not to say anything. She didn’t want to interrupt Jack’s bid to achieve favour within the town. Instead, she turned to Marley, who she’d found herself sitting beside. The girl had just finished a pastry and had a glass of lemonade stood on the table in front of her. The sight of the food reminded Hannah she hadn’t had breakfast that morning. Although, strangely, she didn’t really feel hungry. In fact, she felt a bit sick; with nerves, she figured. Hannah hadn’t really spoken with Marley much since their arrival, and as one of the people she was already familiar with, Hannah was more than keen to make sure she had Marley’s support.

“Hey, Marley,” she greeted her friend with a smile, leaning against the table.