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John Callum

Founder and mayor of Sanctuary.

0 · 227 views · located in The Mojave

a character in “The Desert Pilgrims”, as played by Messiah

Description

Name: John Callum

Age: 66

Gender: Male

Description: The mayor and founder of Sanctuary stands tall, at a few inches over six feet. In his age, he has started to get thin, but there are signs of a strength about him, though it has diminished some as of late. His white hair is balding on top, and he possesses a thin beard. His dark bushy eyebrows lie above a pair of dark blue eyes.

John is most commonly seen in suits, wanting to look presentable for the residents of Sanctuary, despite the heat of the Mojave desert. He's commonly seen with a pocket watch, connecting to one of his jacket buttons.

Background: John Callum was born in 1957 on his family farm in Alabama, which his father, Allen, was the owner of at the time. Even though his father owned the property, much of John's extended family lived and worked on it. His parents had the now dubious distinction of being segregationists. However, by the time both of his parents had passed away by 1980, John had gained a different outlook. By then, he had graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a degree in business. In late 1980, he returned to his family's farm, and became the man in charge.

He married Maggie Warren in 1985, and they had three children together, all boys; Thomas (1986), Jared (1988), and Paul (1991). But, in 2005, his wife passed away due to cancer. John fell into a depression after her death, and turned to alcohol.

John and his sons held out at their property when the invasion started. They had faith that the threat would be taken care of. When it became evident that things wouldn't blow over and the alien invaders began getting too near for their comfort, at which point, they left their property and headed west, in the hope that they would find greener pastures. On their way west, John was forced to bury his two oldest sons when they were both killed by bandits.

As they migrated west, John and Paul attracted more survivors. By the time they reached Arizona, they had gathered nearly 20 survivors.

In 2019, they decided, after a brutal few months in which they were under threat from nature and bandits, to found a new town that would be called Sanctuary. The people that had gathered around John and Paul elected him as mayor. Although he had been the one to step up and found the town, he was reluctant to take the position, but after some convincing from his son, he accepted.

Skills: Growing up in the rural south, John Callum possesses knowledge of firearms, though he rarely has occasion to use them. The time he spent on the farm has also given him knowledge of livestock. Of particular note are horses. His most valuable skill, however, is his ability to lead large groups of people, as he had been in charge at his property for more than thirty years. It was this quality that ultimately led to his ascension to mayor of Sanctuary.

So begins...

John Callum's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Moses Finley Character Portrait: John Callum
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#, as written by Messiah
Near the Hoover Dam

"What have we got?" A man with patchwork leather and metal armor asked another with similar armor. They were both partisans and they were scouting out the Hoover Dam. Briggs had a watch on the site constantly, monitoring the movements of the aliens. It was no secret that Briggs was preparing to attack the dam, and he was gathering Partisan forces from all around to help him achieve this.

"What do you think?" The second Partisan snapped back, looking up to his partner from his position, lying on his stomach. He set the pair of binoculars he was holding down and sighed indignantly. Most of the partisans at Fort Defiance saw scout duty at Hoover Dam to be a form of punishment. It was quiet. It was boring. The aliens didn't do much. They didn't move units in or out very often.

The first partisan, standing, raised his rifle and looked through the scope. He could see some warriors patrolling the exterior of the dam. One of them approached the south side of the dam, nearest them and stopped. The scout could see the alien's head turning slowly, as if looking around. And then, looking in his direction, it stopped.

He lowered his weapon, shaking his head, "I don't know, man. I've got a weird feeling."

The prone scout turned his head to look at the other, "Is this your first time scouting here?"

There was a long pause from the standing man before he finally nodded, "Yep."

"See? Everyone gets nervous their first time out. It'll be fine."

"Yeah. You're probably right."

"Of course I'm right." The second scout picked up his binoculars and looked back to the dam. A moment later, he set them down again, "I gotta take a piss. You okay here for a few minutes?"

"Yeah, I'm good."

The formerly prone scout walked away from the spot and down a hill and walked a hundred feet or so from their scouting spot. The problem with being in the desert is that there aren't a lot of viable places. Not a lot of trees.

Before he could even start, a yelp caused the scout to jump and turn towards the sound. "You alright?" he called out. No reply. He waited another minute before calling out again, this time louder, "Hey, man. You okay?" Still no reply. This time, he walked back towards where the sound had come, moving up the crest of the hill. "Come on, this isn't funny."

He reached the top of the hill where the pair had been looking out onto the dam and saw the body of the other scout on the ground in his own blood. The look on his face was one of utmost surprise.

"Shit," the other scout whispered, looking around frantically for any sign of what had done this, holding out his sawed-off shotgun at the same time.

"Where are you?" he shouted out, his voice echoing.

And then, as if in a taunt, a snarl was the response that he got. Turning towards the sound, he caught sight of a large, armored animal, before it leapt at him.

He screamed.

Sanctuary

John Callum sat alone in his home, picking at his meager breakfast. Paul had left early in the morning with a few others and some sentries up north to Bonell Bay to work on the irrigation system from the bay to Sanctuary. It had been a work-in-progress since the start of the settlement, and even though it functioned, it still needed work.

His son wasn't an expert engineer, but he was one of the more knowledgeable in that regard that they had, and the system he'd helped build was a lifesaver - literally.

After finishing his breakfast, he stood up and headed towards the door of his home, pulling his hat off the stand and exited.

The sun beat down onto the town. Even in September, it was still hot, and it didn't rain much, which is why they'd been building the makeshift irrigation system. Admittedly, this wasn't the best place for a settlement, but he had been worried about people surviving the trip north; Wyoming had been an option. Not only that, but if the Mojave was hard on humans, it had to be hard on the aliens, right? He had hoped so.

As he walked down the street, he was greeted by a few passing citizens. Politely, John returned the gesture. As much as he took pleasure in helping all of these people by setting up this refuge for them, he wasn't much of a people person; he was better in dealing with business and money. Yolanda was much better at dealing with people, and with managing a town. As the saying goes, behind every good man is a great woman. She was the great woman behind him. In recent months, he'd been considering resigning and letting her become mayor, but only his son really knew how he felt.

When he arrived at his office building just a block or two down from his home, his assistant Zoey was waiting for him.

"Mister Callum, sir," she said as soon as he entered, having seemingly been waiting urgently for him to show up.

"Yes?" he hung his hat back up once more as he responded.

"There are some men here who wish to speak with you."

"Some men? Who are they?"

"They say they're from Garland," she answered.

Garland was a relatively nearby settlement, and considerably smaller, founded by a man named Robert Garland.

"Did they say what they wanted?" John asked.

"No. They wanted to talk to you."

"Okay," he sighed, "Is Miss Gunn here?"

"No, sir. Sheriff Finley is with them, though."

"Thank you, Zoey." John said with a friendly smile, before passing through the door to his office. Inside, three men, as well as Sheriff Finley, were waiting for him. Two of the men seemed to be the other's bodyguard, as they stood close by with guns. That explained the sheriff's presence.

"Ah, Mister Callum!" the man said, grinning, "Good to see you. I'm Michael Garland, son of Robert."

"Call me John. What is this about?"

"Straight to the point. Can we talk privately?"

John paused, looking between Michael, his bodyguards, and Sheriff Finley, before he nodded.

Once they were alone, John sat down in his chair and Michael sat down across from him.

"Thank you," Michael said, his enthusiastic mask falling slightly. "I'm here for a very simple reason; we at Garland would like to extend an offer with you of free trade and travel between our settlements."

John leaned back, holding his hands together as he considered the offer. It didn't exactly surprise him, and it would benefit both of their settlements.

He opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted, "We believe that it would be a great opportunity for both Garland and Sanctuary, but my father would like to meet with you."

"Why isn't he here with you, then?"

"My father is unable to travel, and to be honest, he is not doing well, but he would still like to speak with you in person. He wants to see what kind of person you are."

"Is he concerned about me?"

"No, that's not what I meant. He just wants to meet you, John."

After a silence of a long few moments, John figured out how he was going to respond.

"I will meet with your father. You are welcome to stay here in town until I'm ready to leave. Short notice, you understand."

"Of course," Michael said, smiling slightly, "Thank you," and he offered his hand forward. John shook it, and Michael stood up and exited the mayor's office.

John remained in his seat. They didn't know much about the settlement of Garland, other than it was close. It could be a trap. Even if it wasn't, the trek was going to be dangerous.

He was going to wait for Yolanda.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lilly Cartwright Character Portrait: Yolanda Gunn Character Portrait: Moses Finley Character Portrait: John Callum Character Portrait: Marina Preston
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#, as written by Messiah
Along the southern wall, a man in his fifties patrolled Sanctuary. John didn't like the idea of having an armed town, but he understood the necessity of keeping people who knew how to use firearms around. The threat of bandits and aliens was ever-present.

At the formation of Sanctuary, he had made a concession to allow sentries to keep watch. Along with the sheriff and his deputies, they were the only ones officially allowed by the people in charge to carry. Though, Callum and Finley were generally okay with citizens carrying as long as they didn't threaten other citizens with them.

On the horizon, this sentry, known as Deacon spotted some moving forms. From that distance, he couldn't rightly tell what they were. But, as they got closer, he could see that they were people sitting astride horses. Well, two of them were sitting - a third was lying slumped over.

He couldn't immediately grant them entrance, and he hated that, but those were the rules. They had all heard stories of how bandits would pretend to be injured to get the sympathy of a town and then ambush. Sort of a Trojan Horse thing.

When the three got within shouting distance, Deacon called out, "Who goes there?"
________________________

Zoey rose to her feet when Yolanda passed through the door and smiled to the older woman.

"Miss Gunn! Mister Callum is waiting for you, I think."

Inside his office, John was seated. He, however, did not stand. Not only did he have the luxury, as the only one that really had more authority than Yolanda. She didn't really have an official position like he or Finley did, but she commanded enough respect that she was allowed to tell other people what to do and they would listen. The sheriff even listened to her, even though he really didn't have to.

John was sixty-six, but he looked older. The ten years since the invasion, and the years since founding Sanctuary in particular, had taken a toll on him. It was like the President of the United States. Even at the end of the first four years, they looked so much older and more tied than when the term had begun.

When she entered, he smiled that tired smile that he always gave. He was much more candid with her than he was with anybody else, save maybe his son. With her, he forced the smile much less.

He'd spent enough time around her that he knew when she had something important to say, so he had to get his in first.

"We had a visitor from Garland today. Robert's son, Michael. They're offering free trade and travel between our settlements." The old man paused, allowing a moment or two for the information to register with her before he continued, "Robert wants to meet and speak with me in Garland. It could be a trap. If it's not, it's a dangerous trip. What do you think?"
________________________

Sheriff Finley took his job seriously. He knew that a lot of people in town saw him as a hard-ass, but in a place like this, there had to be laws, and there had to be someone around to enforce the laws. And that's where Moses came in. He tried to be fair. Everyone here was trying to make a life for themselves, so it wasn't like he was going around hanging people for anything.

After Michael Garland and his bodyguards had left the building with John's office, Finley followed them for a short ways. After a half-block, they stopped, turned, and approached the sheriff.

"You're the sheriff, right?" Michael asked.

"Sheriff Finley."

"Michael Garland, from the town of Garland."

Moses nodded curtly in response, "Can I help you?"

"Well, we could use some directions."

"Where to?"

Michael glanced to his bodyguards and then back to Finley, "Mister Callum invited us to stay until he's ready to leave. Is there a place we can stay for the night? Also, any place to relax - like a bar - would be nice."

"The Pitstop is a restaurant and hotel. That's in that direction," the sheriff replied, pointing north, "And then there's Freedom Incarnate," he said with a sigh, "That's just down the street from the hotel."

"Thanks, sheriff."

"Be careful, though. Freedom Incarnate is a little shady." It was no secret that Finley didn't like Freedom Incarnate, and it was no secret that he didn't have any kind of fondness for its owner, Gary Lane. But, since neither he nor his establishment were breaking any rules, Finley had no recourse to do anything. Not unless someone was causing trouble there.

"What do you mean?" Michael asked, looking a little worried.

"You'll see. It's not dangerous, just shady. Nothing your boys can't handle," Finley said, nodding to Michael's bodyguards. "By the way, if you do run into any trouble in there, it's best you come to me instead of trying to solve it on your own. The folks here might not take kindly to people from another town getting into fights, even if you didn't start it."

"Thanks for the heads-up," Michael nodded, turning back towards his bodyguards.

"It's what I'm here for. Just try not to cause any trouble, okay?"

"Sure thing." And then, with a nod to his bodyguards, they were off.

The sheriff watched them for a while before he turned and headed back the way he'd come, intending to return to Callum's office and see how things had gone there.

Finley walked down the street and, before he could turn towards the mayor's building, a pair of frightened looking men rushed towards him. He recognized them as Dan and Elias. Some how they were related, but he wasn't sure how. They hadn't been in Sanctuary long enough for him to find out.

"Sheriff!" the younger one of them exclaimed, Elias, "That guy Jack just pulled a gun on us."

"Goddamnit," Finley muttered, "Okay. Lead the way."

Jack had become increasingly unstable lately. It was getting bad enough to the point where Finley was going to have to have a serious discussion about forcing him to leave, and this incident might just force his hand. Pulling a gun on another citizen of Sanctuary was bad. And with Jack's state, there was no telling when something worse could be around the corner.

The pair led the sheriff back from where they'd come where Jack's neighbor Marina was, looking as if she'd just exited Jack's home.

Moses motioned to the house, "Marina, can you bring him back out here? I need to sort this out."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yolanda Gunn Character Portrait: John Callum
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Yolanda returned John Callum's wan smile with a far broader one; even though it was obvious something was troubling him, and she also had something on her mind, there was no situation that couldn't be brightened, however marginally, by a flashing smile. So Yolanda gave him one of her best, red lips parting over healthy white teeth. It was almost like a game they played, his taciturn half-greeting countered by her exaggerated good cheer, and it was a game Yolanda was quite happy to play. Though he still had the erect bearing and steely air of a life lived outdoors, full of fresh air and hard work, Callum was beginning to look increasingly frail. Worn, Yolanda thought. Looking down onto his scalp through strands of white hair, Yolanda could clearly see the blue veins beneath parchment-thin skin.

Once the unspoken exchange of greetings was over, Callum spoke gruffly, typically to the point. Just as Yolanda had expected, his business would come first; hers would come second, whatever it was. She was quite happy for this state of affairs to remain, for Callum to bear the official weight of Sanctuary's mayorship, but she suspected he was toying with the idea of retirement, letting a younger, stronger man bear the weight, suffer the stress and strain of keeping the small community safe from threats - internal as well as external, human as well as Invader. His son Paul, perhaps, or the rugged, handsome sherrif.

"We had a visitor from Garland today. Robert's son, Michael," said Callum. "They're offering free trade and travel between our settlements."

She perched one rounded buttock on the edge of Callum's desk, detecting a near-imperceptible rolling of the eyes from Callum. It was all that remained of his resistance to her long campaign of familiarity over formality. "Trade and travel's always good," was all she said, waiting for him to continue. He wouldn't have spoken so quickly - or at all - on her entrance to his office if the matter wasn't troubling him.

"Robert wants to meet and speak with me in Garland. It could be a trap. If it's not, it's a dangerous trip. What do you think?"

There it was, the hook, the catch. Yolanda nodded as she began to unpick the strands of the question. First of all, she reasoned why Callum was asking her at all. He was immediately mindful of the dangers - of a trap, of attack by bandits or Invaders on the journey - and that was even before considering whether the relationship could be good for Sanctuary or not. But therein lay the answer to her first question, Yolanda realised. Callum, like any good leader, could recognise his own weaknesses, and use the resources at his disposal to make up for them. And right now, he was looking for Yolanda's innate optimism to counter his innate skepticism.

"Well, you're right as usual, Callum. It's bound to be a dangerous trip." She lent towards him slightly and smiled again. A frown creased his face, angry that she was teasing him. "But there's a lot to be gained from reaching out to Garland. If nothing else, we benefit from them being strong too."

Callum looked out the dust-smeared window of his office, and nodded.

"As for it being a trap," Yolanda continued. "Well, sure, there's always that possibility, so I don't think you should go. But we shouldn't reject Garland outright. They've shown us trust by coming here. We should at least do them the same courtesy. Perhaps Paul might go?"

Still looking out the window, Callum's frown deepened. Perhaps he wasn't considering his son as a potential leader of Sanctuary.

"I could go with him if you like."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lilly Cartwright Character Portrait: Yolanda Gunn Character Portrait: Paul Callum Character Portrait: Moses Finley Character Portrait: John Callum Character Portrait: Marina Preston
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#, as written by Messiah
A couple miles north of Sanctuary, not far from Bonell Bay, Paul and a few others were working on the irrigation project. The son of Sanctuary's mayor was kneeling while he held a piece of metal tubing, pieced together from salvaged metal.. He was wearing a simple white wifebeater, the light gray shirt he'd had on before had already been tossed into the dirt. It wasn't summer, but it still got hot fairly quickly, especially when you were working.

On his head rested a simple black baseball hat, and he also wore a pair of sunglasses, all at an attempt to keep the sun from interfering with his work.

A woman a few years younger than he was, Kate, approached him from behind and knelt beside him. She squinted as she looked at him, "What's the verdict?"

"It's going to have to do, until I can find a better piece. I really don't have anything better." He tossed the piece aside and stood up. Kate did the same.

"Did Ollie decide to show up?" he asked.

"I haven't seen him."

"Shit," he mumbled, "He's a genius, but he's not really reliable, or stable, for that matter." Paul wouldn't admit it, but Ollie's contributions were invaluable. The problem was, like he said, that the man seemed to be lost in his own world, and only sometimes did his world line up with what other people were thinking and doing.

Kate sighed, "You don't have to tell me that. I know."

Paul looked to the woman standing next to him, while nodding, "Yeah, I think everyone does." He smiled at her faintly, before stepping back towards the pieces of the irrigation system in front of him.

"Well, back to work."
________________________

Deacon squinted at the women as they spoke and argued, and then he turned towards another sentry that was approaching, Luke, a much younger man with light brown hair.

"Luke, lead them to Doctor Gutierrez's office when they come in," he said before turning back to the three outside the gate, "I'm opening the gate now." Then, he took the steps down to the ground, unbarred the gate and pulled it open. The younger of the two conscious women moved toward the gate first. When the mother hesitated, Deacon motioned for her to enter as well, and she did.

The daughter looked as if she were about to express her gratitude when Deacon stopped her, "We wouldn't turn you away, especially if you need medical help." And they didn't look like the type to be spies for a group of raiders, That kind of thinking was dangerous, though; anybody could be. But, Deacon had a feeling.

"But, you'll have to meet with the sheriff, or one of his deputies." He paused briefly to look at Luke, then to the conscious daughter, "Luke will take you the doctor. She'll do what she can for your sister."

It wasn't far from the gate to the doctor's office, but it wasn't a very big town.

Doctor Lisa Gutierrez was a Latina woman in her forties with glasses and a kind face. Sitting in her office, she was reading a piece of paper with her hair tied up in a bun. Luke entered her office.

"Doctor," he began, "There are some outsiders who need to see you."

Her eyes adjusted as they moved from the paper to the young sentry, "What happened?"

"I think one of them said she'd been shot."

Gutierrez stood up immediately, looking concerned, but she remained calm, and sighed, "Okay." They then stepped outside, speaking to all present while motioning to the unconscious girl, "Help me with her."

Luke and the others moved to help the doctor carry the girl. Once she was inside, they brought her to the back room where they laid her down on what amounted to a medical examination table. She looked over at the conscious mother and daughter, "I need you to tell me exactly what happened."
________________________

John stood up and rested his hands on his hips as he slipped into thought, for a little too long.

"John?" Yolanda spoke up after a while.

"I can't send Paul. He's been working on the irrigation project, and he's just about the only one who's worked on it every day of its production." He paused for a moment and he sighed, "And if anything were to happen, I don't believe my heart could take having to bury my last son." The death of his two eldest sons, Thomas and Jared, was not a secret amongst the people of Sanctuary. They knew about it, and he knew that they knew it, but he rarely spoke of it. Not to Paul, and not to Yolanda.

"I don't know that I could ask you to go in my place, either," he said, turning back to the woman, "To be quite honest, I think you're the future of this settlement, and probably better suited for my position than anybody else, even myself." At that admission, he chuckled before continuing, "Paul is a smart boy, but I can't see him being in charge of an entire town. Sheriff Finley is a man of action and would grow restless in my position, I think. And Mister Lane, well..." It seemed peculiar, even to himself that he would consider Gary at that position, but he was a shrewd man, that much John knew, "He lacks the kind of morals needed. I'm not sure he would follow my regulations if Finley didn't keep such a close watch on things."

"With that said," he continued, "If anything were to happen, I think the town would be best served it happening to myself than to you. Robert seems to want to speak with me personally, in any case. That also means that you'll be in charge until I get back." John was going under the assumption that he would return; he didn't want to be the one just assuming the worst would happen all the time, but the threat was very real.

"But, I won't be going alone. I'll have to take along some protection, for the trip over to Garland, if nothing else. You know the people of Sanctuary best. Do you have any recommendations?"
________________________

Finley folded his arms over his chest as he looked to Marina briefly with a deliberately neutral look. As sheriff, it was important for him not to take sides and not to let people get to him. His job was to enforce the town's rules, one of which Jack had broken. He couldn't let that slide, no matter how sympathetic he was to what Jack had gone through. If something happened to Dee, his as of yet unborn child, or his mother, well... It would be hard.

"I appreciate your concern for Jack, but I can't. This is a serious offense, if true. He's going to have to come with me, as are you two," he said, turning towards the two men behind him, whose gleeful expressions soon faded, turning into looks of muted shock.

He looked back to Marina, "I'll give him the benefit of letting him sober up before speaking to him, at the very least. You'll have to come with me as well, if that makes you feel any better."

Finley was hoping she wouldn't fight him on this. He knew that both Marina and himself would prefer it if Jack came out with her, more or less willing. Because if the sheriff had to go in there, he might end up having to drag the man out of his house. It made the sheriff look unreasonably harsh, and it would be humiliating for Jack.

Marina tossed him a look that he discerned as a mix of anger and reluctance, but Finley remained stoic.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yolanda Gunn Character Portrait: Oliver Tatum AKA Oddball Ollie Character Portrait: Theodore Daclaveon Character Portrait: John Callum Character Portrait: Gary Lane
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"Oh, you're an old flatterer, John Callum," Yolanda trilled, leaning further across the desk and slapping the old man on the shoulder. He was little more than bone underneath the faded, but still respectable, suit jacket he wore almost as a uniform of office. Briefly the thought crossed her mind that he might be sick, what with the willingness to undertake an arduous an dangerous journey, not to mention the rare allusion to the heartache of his bereavements. Yolanda and John were friends, she felt - at any rate, they worked well together - but this was one subject that had remained off-limits. In one sense, Yolanda was glad. She'd never had children, and her relationships never lasted more than a few years, so John's hidden pain was alien territory to her. She knew better, too, than to try and dissuade him from going on this diplomatic mission. For whatever reason, he'd made up his mind. He'd only see further argument as a waste of time, an annoyance.

Her train of thought was briefly interrupted by the sight of Ollie Tatum passing outside, his head bumping up and down in his distinctive walk, almost as if he was on puppet strings held by a child. The engineer was a law unto himself, his slightly unhinged mind pinwheeling from one idea to the next, but the novel creations and solutions that sprang out of that chaos had served Sanctuary well and often. Yolanda gave him as much time as possible; when not baffling her with scientific terminology that seemed almost a language of his own making, he could be charming company.

John used the distraction to move the conversation on from his hints at Yolanda's temporary elevation. "But, I won't be going alone. I'll have to take along some protection, for the trip over to Garland, if nothing else. You know the people of Sanctuary best. Do you have any recommendations?"

"Well now," Yolanda murmured, drumming her fingernails on the desk as she ran through a mental checklist of the town's inhabitants. This really was the kind of work she was best at, partly because she loved it. She had a miniature biography of every person in Sanctuary memorised, with their history, family - living and dead - their personalities, strengths and weaknesses, hopes and dreams. She updated as she went about the town, listening to problems big and small, doling out advice, giving assistance and succour. Immediately her mind lit on one name.

"Well now, if you won't take Paul, and I know you'll want Moses to stay here, you couldn't do much better than taking Teddy Daclaveon."

John raised a spiky white eyebrow.

"Teddy. Hunter, survivor-type, makes his own bows and arrows," Yolanda explained. "Used to be Special Forces. Not a lot will get past Teddy on the road."

Moreover, Yolanda had the feeling Teddy had things on his mind he didn't want on his mind. Teaching Sanctuary's children to fire bows and arrows was a worthwhile pursuit, and Teddy appeared good at it - patient, fair, approachable - but some men needed to be busy, to keep moving. Otherwise, they moved to the bar and stopped there, another good man, another able body, gone to waste. Yolanda often thought the aftermath of the Invasion was harder on men than women, their failure in the role of protectors writ large on the changed landscape across the world. Even guarding somewhere like Sanctuary or Garland from bandits, they were still just fighting for second place. She drummed her fingers on the desk again and unfurrowed her brow, pushing the though out of her mind.

"You could take Luke off sentry duty too. The trip out might do him some good." The younger men, the ones who had come to adulthood after the Invasion, sometimes needed to blow off steam; sentry duty and irrigation projects weren't exactly the bright lights of the big city. "But you'll have Garland's men too. Take many more of your own, and they'll think you don't trust them. That's a bad start to a trade mission."

John steepled his fingers and nodded. Yolanda knew he didn't know Luke from the rest of Deacon's sentries, but it was no harm for him to see that she did. If nothing else, it would set his mind at ease about Sanctuary being in good hands while he was gone.

"But," she continued, this time rapping her knuckles on the desk, emphasising that this was her final opinion on the matter, "you could always take another negotiator.

"Not that you're not capable," she said hurriedly, cutting off the objection that seemed to be coming. "But two heads are always better than one. Makes it harder for their talking heads to gang up on you."

He pursed his lips. In the quiet as he thought, they could both hear voices - Zoey, the secretary, and... yes, those were Ollie's unusual inflections - and then a closing door and silence again.

"And you would suggest?"

"My first thought was Bobo." Again, the eyebrow peaked in query. "I mean Barbara Bowery. She used to be a businesswoman - Wall Street, not washtub," she explained, laughing self-deprecatingly. "Mergers, acquisitions, all that high-falutin' stuff. She's bound to have something interesting to say."

"And your second thought?" asked John, playing his part in their little dance to perfection.

"Mr Lane. And his morals. He's crooked enough to think through a corkscrew, and I'm pretty sure he only has his own interests at heart - not that I'd ever let on to him - but why not make that work for us, John?"

"Mr Lane and his morals," he repeated. "How interesting."

"As for Mister Lane and his morals, well, that's why I came to see you," Yolanda said, pushing herself up from her informal perch on John's desk. He'd baited the hook earlier, but she'd known better than to go jumping feet first into the delicate subject. Now that John had dispensed with his own business, Yolanda knew she had his full attention.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lilly Cartwright Character Portrait: Yolanda Gunn Character Portrait: Braxton Briggs Character Portrait: Moses Finley Character Portrait: Jolly Roger Character Portrait: John Callum Character Portrait: Marina Preston
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#, as written by Messiah
Fort Defiance

"Commander," A partisan pushed his way into the commander's office. He was young. Probably wouldn't be old enough to sign up for the military if he was in the old world. Sixteen, maybe seventeen.

The aging veteran, Braxton Briggs, stood up, "What is it, son?"

"Sanders and Jones haven't come back from scout duty. They were supposed to be back an hour ago."

Briggs remained silent for a while before nodding, his lips pressed firmly together. Something could have held them up. Or, it could be worse.

"Give them another hour. If they don't show up, go out there and find them. Take Carson and Reeves with you."

"Yes, sir."

Somewhere in the Mojave Desert

The fearsome bandit leader and two of his most trusted friends, both of whom he'd been with since Boston, stood above a pair of cowering travelers. Behind them and all around them were the rest of the Crossbones clan, numbering nearly forty, and each of them was holding a weapon of some kind. The newer the member, the worse weapon they had.

At Roger's right stood Lane Jackson, nicknamed Calico Jack, and he held an assault rifle. While, at his left, Sam Morgan, nicknamed Black Sam, held a shotgun.

"Now," Roger began, addressing the civilians, "You may have heard of me. They call me Jolly Roger. You've probably heard that I'm vicious and merciless, but that's just not true. I'm giving you a chance to walk away from here alive." He paused, watching their reactions briefly, "All you have to do is agree to join our clan. I can't guarantee how long you will survive with us, but if you don't join us, you will die."

There were five of them. An older man, probably in his seventies. It was likely a miracle that the man had survived even this long. Then there was a woman, probably his daughter; she looked like she was in her forties or fifties. Finally, there were three who looked to be the woman's children, a daughter who looked be in her mid-twenties, and two sons - probably twins - who looked to be no older than nineteen.

"Anybody who wants to be spared, stand up."

There was a long silence as they all looked at each other.

Roger's face turned into a menacing scowl, "Last chance."

At that, the two youngest boys stood up to the horror of his family beside them.

"Why are you doing this?" the sister asked, her eyes pleading.

"They're going to kill us!" one of the boys retorted.

"So you'd rather--" the sister began, only to be cut off by a gunshot. She and her mother screamed as the old man fell to the ground, dead from a bullet wound to the head.

The bandit leader had grown impatient and had executed the man to force them to make a choice. Besides, he was too old to be useful anyway.

"Hurry up and make your choice!" Roger growled.

They all looked to Roger in horror, the boys included, but nobody said anything. Roger sighed, waiting their responses, growing even more impatient.

After another moment or two of horrified looks between family members, Roger fired two more bullets. The first one into the older woman and the second into the younger, killing them both.

The boys stared at Roger, and one of them took a step back. And then he turned and began to run.

Roger looked over to Calico Jack, who raised his weapon and fired. The bullets shredded through the boy's torso and he collapsed to the ground in a heap. His friend even went through the trouble of walking over to the boy's body and firing a few extra shots into him.

"Now," Roger said, looking to the only surviving family member - the same one who had pleaded his case to his family, "Are you going to run?"

Hastily, the boy shook his head, already afraid of the bandit clan leader.

"Good choice. What's your name?"

"Will," he answered quietly.

"Welcome to the Crossbones, Will."

Back in Sanctuary

Yolanda's attentiveness to the details of the town never ceased to both astound and amuse John. He didn't consider himself out of the loop, not by any means, being the mayor of Sanctuary, but her knowledge far surpassed his own, and it even surpassed Finley's, who was supposed to know about everyone in town. That was his job.

John had to consider his options now. All the names Yolanda had said were all at least somewhat familiar to him, except for Gary Lane's - Callum was more than familiar with the proprietor of Freedom Incarnate. With the others, he felt like he'd at least given them a friendly hello on one occasion or another.

As he sat, he leaned forward and placed his hands on what served as a desk in front of him. He knew enough about Yolanda to know that she didn't come to his office everyday, and a lot of times, she came to his office to speak to him about something. It was fortunate that she did come, at any rate, due to the arrival of Michael Garland.

True to his nature, John came right out with the question. "What have you come to talk about?"
________________________

Doctor Gutierrez listened intently before going to inspect the girl's leg. After a moment or two, she looked back to the younger of the two women standing with her. "You have no idea how lucky you all are. A centimeter in any direction and she'd have bled out. I'll do what I can, but I don't think she'll walk right from now on. She likely has permanent nerve and tissue damage." She looked between the mother and her two daughters, "When dealing with bullet wounds, it's a good idea to get it taken care of as soon as possible."

The doctor turned towards one of the cabinets she had in the room, found a pair of gloves, a needle, and some antibiotics. She approached the younger daughter and injected the antibiotics into her leg, "I don't mean to lay a guilt trip on you." After injecting the antibiotics, she retrieved some bandages and wrapped the leg, "She should stay off her feet for a while, just to let it heal - as much as it's going to. I'll bring you some crutches."

Gutierrez then took off her gloves, tossed them into the trash, and exited the room. Several seconds later, she returned with a set of crutches, which she set against the wall. Then, finally, she offered her hand, first to the mother, and then to the daughter, "I'm Doctor Lisa Gutierrez."

"Amber Cartwright."

"I'm Lilly. And that's Holly," the daughter said, motioning towards her younger sister.

"I'm sorry our meeting wasn't under better circumstances, but welcome to Sanctuary. You're welcome to stay here until she wakes up," the doctor announced with a small, friendly smile, looking towards Holly.
________________________

Finley folded his arms as Marina turned to go back into Jack's place, and looked towards Dan and Elias, who smiled nervously at the sheriff. He kept his eyes on the pair, carefully observing their expressions while they all waited. The younger and taller one, Elias, averted his eyes, looking down to the floor, while Dan gave Finley the same nervous smile as he rubbed the back of his head.

The sound of the door opening caused them all to look back. It was Jack, followed by Marina. He spoke to the sheriff directly.

“You don’t need to look no further, I’ll come willingly.”

Moses unfolded his arms and nodded to Jack, grateful for both his and Marina's compliance, "Thank you, Jack." There was more that he wanted to add, but he refrained, wary of appearing biased towards Jack.

Finley had his own theories about what had gone down. Jack had been increasingly unstable lately, but he had a suspicion that Dan and Elias had something to do with what happened, based on Marina's reactions to them, their uncomfortable manner, and Jack's current unwillingness to make eye contact with the pair. Of course that could just be his guilt at drawing a gun on them.

The sheriff led the others to his own office, which was next door to the mayor's, but smaller. The interior was small as well, just a desk that was flanked by a few doors, one of which served as a makeshift cell. But, he didn't want to have to lock up Jack. At least not until hearing what he had to say for himself.

Besides the chair behind his desk, there were a few chairs, which he motioned to, "Sit, please."

After a moment's hesitation and an exchanged look between Dan and Elias, they sat, as did Jack and, eventually, Marina. Finley looked between those sat before him, before his gaze stopped on Marina.

"Tell me what happened."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lilly Cartwright Character Portrait: Yolanda Gunn Character Portrait: John Callum Character Portrait: Gary Lane
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"What have you come to talk about?"

And with that, John abruptly pulled the curtain down on the conversation. Yolanda could almost hear the clang as the town's leader shut away her suggestions in another part of his mind, to be ruminated at his leisure - and in solitude. Growing frail he may be, but John Callum still had a mind like a steel trap.

"Well now, don't you know how to put a girl at her ease, John Callum," she frowned in mock annoyance, folding her arms and pursing her red lips. "In fact, Mister Lane and his morals, well, that's why I came to see you."

An almost imperceptible nod of the head told Yolanda she had John's attention, even while his agile brain was leaping ahead to consider whether her motives for suggesting Gary go to Garland were tied up in her own interests. She ploughed on regardless; John would conclude, in his own time, that nominating Gary hadn't been done out of malice or self-interest.

"I got an angry mother on my hands, John. Ana-Maria Fernández. If I'm not mistaken, I might have a few angry wives on my hands soon too. The back rooms in Freedom Incarnate... well, they're perhaps not as free as all that."

Under John's calm gaze, she elaborated. "Ana-Maria's daughter, Susanna, it sounds like she's turning tricks. Now, I know you allowed the back rooms for a reason" - she paused briefly as memories of her brief, passionate relationship in the back rooms flashed across her mind - "but this sounds like straight-up prostitution, John."

She stepped up to the edge of the mayor's desk, the wooden lip pressing a line into the meat of her thigh.

"The back rooms are like a safety valve for the human needs of Sanctuary, that's why we have them. But this... this is not good. Ana-Maria is fit to stab Mr Lane, and the gossip about who else sees Susanna is only going to grow. You know what people are like. That's what concerns me. That, and it's hard to know how safe she's being."

John lent back in his chair, and Yolanda realised she'd been looming over him. She stepped away, took in a brief circuit of the office while John steepled his fingers again. She instinctively knew what he was going to ask next.

"No, I haven't spoken to Mr Lane yet." She could feel the blood rising in her cheeks, anger on behalf of Ana-Maria, who only wanted to protect her daughter just as Yolanda wanted to protect Sanctuary; anger at the supercilious Mr Lane, who would only duck and dodge and avoid any direct line of conversation, and suggestion of responsibility. "He'll say he's not responsible for Susanna. He's not so foolish as to say he doesn't know what happens, but he'll say he's not responsible for what goes on in the back rooms."

There was silence for a moment as Yolanda struggled to control herself. John would feel such outbursts were unnecessary between friends, that she didn't have to personalise what was clearly a political issue, that losing one's temper was an undignified attempt at extra leverage. Nonetheless, Yolanda couldn't help feeling towards Gary Lane a degree of the same anger that Ana-Maria felt. He had his own short-term benefit in mind, and nothing else, certainly not the long-term peace and prosperity of Sanctuary.

John nodded four times, each nod more definitely than the last. Yolanda imagined the steel shutters coming down on the matter again.

"I'll take my leave, John Callum," she said, slipping into formality in an attempt to mask her irritation. "Take care now."

'Take care, Ms Gunn,' John replied in kind. Just as the door closed, she glanced back and suspected she saw a teasing twinkle in the old man's eyes. As she crossed the dusty street to Doctor Gutierrez's practise, meaning to investigate what precautions Susanna was taking, if any, she conceded a wry smile at John's deft leadership skills, his ability to disarm her potentially disruptive temper.

"Luke Hall? Shouldn't you be on watch?" she asked as the tall young man emerged from the hospital. Not a year ago, she would have described him as gangly, but he'd undergone that growth spurt all young men had at that age, outwards rather than upwards, where his muscles had thickened and his build broadened. He was rangy now, not gangly.

"M- Ms Gunn?" he stuttered, as if guilty for having been caught away from his post. His gaze flicked around her curves, then up to her face, then settled on the dry ground as the safest location. "Ms Gunn, I was bringin' a hurt girl to the Doc. Deacon telled me so."

"Well done, Luke," she smiled warmly at him, which did nothing to stop the red blush from rising from his neck to his cheeks. "Is this hurt girl still inside?"

"Yup," he nodded enthusiastically, proud of his role in the girl's survival. "And her Ma and her, her, her sister."

"Go on, Romeo," Yolanda grinned as she passed and patting Luke on the shoulder. "Back to your post. Keep on keeping us safe." The rangy young man snapped an improvised salute as he jogged back to the wall.

"Hello? Dr G?" she called as she stepped into the sparsely-lit waiting room. "Hi, it's me?"

After a moment, the doctor stuck her head through the door to her office. "Back here, Yolanda," she nodded, and disappeared again. As another senior member of the town, the doctor was on familiar terms with Yolanda.

In the doctor's office, a young woman was laid out unconscious on the couch under a blanket. A woman in her 20s and an elder, obviously family to the girl on the couch, looked on anxiously. The doctor busied herself a final check on a bandage on the girl's leg and pulled the blanket over it. "These here are the Cartwright girls," said Doctor Gutierrez. "Amber and Lilly - " the onlookers stood apprehensively - "and this here napping is Holly."

The older woman, undeniably mother to the others, offered her hand. "Amber Cartwright, ma'am. I just gotta say how mighty grateful we all are you takin' us in like this. Holly - " The words seemed to catch in her throat and she fell silent, tears brimming in her eyes.

"Ms Cartwright, I'm Yolanda Gunn, not 'ma'am', and you don't have to thank me," smiled Yolanda, taking her the proffered hand. "That's just how we are here in Sanctuary. If we can help folks that need helping, we'll help. And Lilly, it's good to have you. Your sister is in safe hands with Doctor G."

Pretty although dust-grimed and drawn by exhaustion, Lilly managed a broad smile. Yolanda could easily understand Luke Hall's stuttering.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Moses Finley Character Portrait: John Callum Character Portrait: Joshua Moore Character Portrait: Gary Lane
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Josh walked up to the bar, laying his rucksack on the counter-top. "Sure, I'll take a freebie."

Gary poured him a screwdriver, a bit on the light side. No one needed to be liquored up too early in the day. The writer sipped at it, then consumed half of it. He grimaced a bit at the taste.

Lane laughed, "Not exactly Skyy Vodka like back in the day, but it does its work. I can throw in a bit of grenadine or sweet juice to help it go down easier, but those goods are in short supply. I try to save them for special occasions." Gary stared at his pack, noting that the clasps were open. He started to reach for it, "Mind if I take a look at what you put down in there?" Josh snapped out of his friendly demeanor, grabbing the bag to his chest. Gary threw his hands up apologetically, though really it was an act. He wanted to test his new friend's limits.

"I'm sorry Mr. Lane, it isn't that I won't share what is in here, but when it is in the rough form I'd rather not. I could orate it for you, but I don't want someone reading inside it."

"What is it you are putting in there? Are you truly chronicling all this," He waved his arms about in a ballerina spin, ". . . wonderland?" He smiled wide like the Cheshire cat. Lane was actually interested, in fact, other than sliding into bed with Suzie this man could be the most interesting thing in town.

"Yes. Sanctuary is perhaps the most significant human stronghold left, other than the Partisans that is. They aren't exactly welcoming people in with open arms, but someday maybe." Gary rubbed his chin thoughtfully at the notion.

"Actually I would bet that if you have actual skill, they would take you in. The military is all about official reports. They may cramp your style a bit though, force you to only use the third person or some shit." Josh watched him astutely.

"I take it you were in the military?" Damn, this guy paid good attention.

"Yeah, a lifetime ago. If you aren't already chronicling peoples' journeys to Sanctuary here, I would recommend it. My story is quite the adventure." And that was just the part he was willing to tell. "Plus, if you come in and pry some lips when the liquor has loosened them, it could help people be more open. If you and I keep an open line of communication, I might even be able to tip you off when certain people are here. Lets say the Sheriff comes in, which is a rare occasion I admit. Getting that stoic man to melt down and tell some stories would make for one hell of a journal entry." Gary looked up as another patron entered the bar. He was waiting for the day that Callum or Suzie's mom came in to try and shake him down. The problem they had was absolutely no proof. Sanctuary could think want they want, but no one could put Gary in a corner. Not right now while he was at the top of his game.

Josh stared off in the distance, thinking of the proposition. "That sounds like a great idea. Any catches?"

Again, Gary smiled as if flies never buzzed around his shit. "Well, wouldn't anyone love a favorable outlook on themselves in the history books? I'm sure you've heard some rumors about me, rest assured, those are rumors." Josh finished the drink and Gary poured him another.

"This one will be my last, I'm not much of a drinker."

Gary ignored him, continuing on. "You see, we don't have TV anymore. There is no Facebook, Twitter, or mass media. Hell, we barely have many books these days. People need to entertain themselves by creating myths and legends. How else do you think shit like dragons were thought up?" Josh butted in.

"If we have aliens upon us right now, don't you think dragons and serpents were a possibility?"

"Only in Dungeons and Dragons kid." Josh went ahead and downed this drink whole, Gary took the glass once he sat it down and proceeded to wash it in the sink. "I am this town's dragon. Give them time and all their woes will be my fault. Oh look, Mr. Lane up there in that cave of danger. There must be treasure hoarded up there. The man spews fire from his mouth, and his talons are oh so sharp."

"A matter of time before they take up the pitch forks, huh?" Josh smiled at the notion.

Gary only smiled back. "This town doesn't realize I'm it's Jack O'Kent."

"Jack O'Kent, who is that?"

"O'Kent is a folk hero back where I'm from in Britain. You see, Kent dealt with the Devil, but he always out-tricked him. I'll tell you more about that later though, I better tend to some of the others." Gary came out from behind the bar to survey the small crowds' needs.

The man lightly touched his shoulder, causing Gary to turn. "Yes?"

"Do you know many myths and legends? I'd like to record some of them. Even if they become a bit twisted from the original source, the world can always look to these stories for imagination. Imagination and wonder that is." Gary nodded, and set off to resume his duties.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Theodore Daclaveon Character Portrait: Moses Finley Character Portrait: John Callum
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Theo walked along the outside of the wall, the boy Thomas in tow. His friend Reggie was with him, likely the most built man in town. He was thick with muscle and fat, as a defensive lineman in football should be. Reggie was a shadow of his former size of course, but the sheer fact that he remained as big as he did was a mystery to all of Sanctuary.

In fact, Thomas wondered about just that and voiced in. Reggie laughed it off, "I eat a lot of bugs. Protein in those little guys!" Thomas's face wrinkled at the notion in disgust.

"Oh come on," Reggie socked the kid lightly in the shoulder. "Just be careful you don't eat an alien bug." The group all started laughing. It was time to get to the point of this trip. Theo was dead serious about the future of Sanctuary, he hadn't done enough to make it apparent in his time here, but he was about to step his game up. It all started with Thomas. The boy was likely the weak link of the children, but he did not have to be a weakness. He was not sickly, jusgt a bit afraid. The world as it is known was just a scary place. No one could fault a child of all people for fear.

"Thomas, do you know why we brought you out here?" He had got the mother's permission before taking him out, the father dead for about a year now.

"N-no. No I don't"

Reggie boomed in with his loud voice. "You've got potential kid."

"Potential?"

Theo nodded and stopped, kneeling in front of Thomas.

"It is no secret to children these days that we're all mortal. The human race will live on and thrive past this alien threat. As time passes, all the adults around here will get old, then you and your friends will become the adults. The protectors of humanity. What I see in you is what I see in a figure like the Sheriff." Thomas shrugged his shoulders, standing loosely. Theo grabbed him by the upper arms, molding him into a straight figure.

"I don't know if I could ever be that important."

"Thomas, you can still be whatever you want in this world. We just have to fight for it more than ever. Walk the land like it is yours, because this land is ours. Not one person holds more value than another. Some have higher positions of authority, but they use that authority for the greater good." Reggie stood by, arms folded.

"What if I wanted to be more like Callum?" The spark had been ignited, as a fire was lit in the child's eyes.

"You could certainly be like John Callum someday, overseeing the town and all its intricacies." He had started with Finley because many male kids wanted to be the strong man that delivered justice. There was nothing wrong with that, but the true aspiration would be to something higher. Finley had power, but he was at Callum's call.

"Lets head on back." Theo nodded to Reggie, who smiled. Many of the citizens of Sanctuary did not like to think about the children, as they saw the future in a bleak state of despair. They left the kids to their own devices until they were strong enough to contribute to the town. More than that needed to be done.

It was only a piece of what Daclaveon planned.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Moses Finley Character Portrait: John Callum Character Portrait: Marina Preston
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#, as written by Messiah
As soon as Yolanda left, John brought his head down into his hands and sighed exasperatedly. This job was going to be the death of him.

"I'm too old for this," he muttered to himself. How did the politicians do it? The men in their seventies and eighties. He was still four years away from seventy and he wasn't sure how much more he could take of it.

For a while, he sat in his office in silent contemplation. After the first few minutes, he really lost track of the time, but he did come to a couple decisions.

First, he would not be taking Mr. Lane. He wanted this meeting to be as friendly as possible. Whether or not Lane would be disposed to being shrewd and harsh in a situation like that, John wasn't completely sure, but he didn't want to take that chance.

Second, he had to speak to Finley regarding this situation with Susana and Lane at Freedom Incarnate. At the very least, the sheriff had to be informed. It was an open secret that Finley disliked Gary and his establishment; he had made his feelings clear to John several times while it was just being built. If he had his way, he would shut the whole place down, or evict Lane, at the very least.

Finally, John stood up, and exited the room. On the other side of the door, Zoey was seated at her desk, reading a book. When she saw John approach, she put the book down, hurriedly.

"Oh! Mister Callum! Sorry, I--"

"It's alright. Was that Mister Tatum I heard earlier?"

"Yes, sir."

"What did he want?"

"Something about a twinkle twinkle. He said it's a tool of some kind."

"Anything else?"

"Just that he was going to go see the Spider."

That was probably Gary Lane. Ollie wanted something and he would be going to Lane to try and get it.

"Thank you. One other thing, Zoey."

"Hmm?" she intoned.

"I'd like you to try and find a Teddy Daclaveon, and Barbara Bowery."

"Yes, sir. Should I tell them what for?"

"If they ask, tell them that I will be discussing it with them in person."

"Alright."

"Have them wait in here if I'm not back by then. I'm going to go take a walk."

With that, John took his hat off the rack and pushed his way out of the door.
________________________

Finley sat patiently, allowing her to finish, "Did you see Jack with Susana, or either of these two men at the bar?"

"No, but Jack told me-" she started, but stopped once the sheriff held up his hand.

"Okay," he said, looking from Marina to the other three now, "Thank you." He then turned his attention in Jack's direction. "Jack?"

Jack was silent. He wasn't even looking at the sheriff, or Marina, or anybody. After a long silence, Finley spoke up again, "Jack, please."

He was still silent.

Finally, the sheriff rose to his feet and put his hands on his desk as he looked down to Jack, his eyes narrowed. "Do you know what's going on here? This is a serious offense. I want to help you, but it's hard if you don't even speak up for yourself."

Jack looked up and finally spoke, prompting the sheriff to sit back down.

"I shouldn't have done it, I know," he began, "I'm sorry."

The sheriff sighed, "Just tell me what happened."

"It's just like Marina said. I was at Freedom Incarnate, and I was with Susana."

Finley knew about Susana and her mother. He knew that the young woman had a certain reputation around town. When he first heard of it, his conscience told him to go straight down to Freedom Incarnate, lock its dubious owner up, and escort Susana out here and back to her mother. But, he couldn't. Callum allowed Freedom Incarnate to be built and to exist, and everything that went on within its walls was technically not illegal. Many of the town's citizens seemed to be of the mind that the place, no matter what went on inside, to be a necessary evil. That may have been true, but there had to be a line somewhere.

"We didn't-" Jack continued, stammering a bit, "We just talked, I swear."

"Is that all?" Finley asked.

"Well, I--" Jack began, only to stop himself.

"What is it, Jack?"

"I gave her Sarah's old necklace."

Finley raised his eyebrows in surprise, but urged Jack to continue on, "Anything else you did with her?"

"No."

"What happened next?"

"I stayed at Freedom Incarnate after that. I was there all night. These two-" Jack said, motioning to Dan and Elias, "-were there, too. When I left, they followed me, stared harassing me. They asked me how she was, how fast I got off, and when I'd be coming back."

Dan scoffed, "Asshole. You still pulled a fucking gun on us."

"I know!" Jack exclaimed, "I know! I'm sorry."

Dan shook his head, his face turned into a scowl, "Whatever," he muttered, "Asshole."

The sheriff then turned his attention to Dan and Elias, "So, is what he's saying true?"

"Yeah, but, I mean, I wouldn't say we were harassing him. We were just joking. We didn't mean nothing by it. If we'd have known he was going to pull that shit, we wouldn't have done it."

"He says you were harassing him."

"That's how he saw it, I guess. Can't say I agree with him."

"That doesn't matter," Finley snapped back, impatient at Dan's flippant tone, "You two are leaving here with a warning. If I hear any more complaints about you, then I'm going to punish you further. Understood?"

Dan sighed and nodded, "Yeah."

"Good, now get out of here."

The pair stood up and scooted their way past the chairs and out the door. Finley was sure he'd heard the older of the two mutter something like "Asshole" on his way out, but he ignored it. It was then, once they'd left, that the sheriff noticed the look Marina was passing his way.

"Don't give me that look. It's worse than they were expecting, and there's not much else I can do. We'll be keeping an eye on them." Finley then redirected the conversation, focusing now on Jack again, "Now, about Jack. I know that things have been rough for you lately and you've been facing a lot of stress, but I can't just pretend this didn't happen. A lot of people here have had it rough, but I can't give you preferential treatment." It wasn't fair to the rest of the people of Sanctuary. Plus, it would only add fuel to the fires of certain citizens that believed the city's government was corrupt.

He continued, standing up, "I don't know that you can stay here. I doubt Callum would allow it. But, I can't send you out into the desert alone to fend for yourself. Not in good conscience. I'm going to recommend that you be conscripted with the Partisans at Fort Defiance. I know some people there, including Commander Briggs. He'll be happy to have you."

"In any case, I'll be speaking with Callum about this. He might be more lenient. One way or another, I'll let you know. I just thought I should tell you what I'm thinking."

After a moment or two of silence, Finley finished, "I'm sorry it came to this."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Theodore Daclaveon Character Portrait: Moses Finley Character Portrait: John Callum
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#, as written by Messiah
The sheriff reclined in his chair as Marina and Jack left his office and then ran his hand over his head once. He then pushed himself up to his feet and headed towards the door. As he neared the door, it swung open to reveal one of his deputies, an enthusiastic young man named Brendan. He was a little clumsy and a little overweight and Finley had to straighten him out on occasion, but he meant well, and he was good at his job, all in all.

"Sheriff!"

"Careful," the sheriff said, stepping back half a step as the door blew air into his face.

"Oh, sorry!"

"What is it?"

"Miss Gunn is with Doctor Gutierrez in her office, and they're with some new people."

Finley pressed his fingers into the bridge of his nose and sighed, "Alright. Go find Walter and talk to them. Can you handle it?"

"Yeah, of course." Brendan's face turned to that of concern as he looked to the sheriff, "Are you alright?"

"Fine. I just need to take a break."

"Okay. We'll take care of it."

"Thanks," the sheriff said, patting Brendan on the back, earning him a smile from the chubby young man.

Finley trekked across town to the building that he called home. His mother, Sharise, and Deandra, the woman who was bearing his child, also lived there.

The latter was seated in the kitchen area. She stood and waddled over to him, raising up on her toes to give him a kiss, which he returned with less than full effort.

"What's wrong?" she asked, sitting down next to him when he took a seat on the nearby couch.

"It's a pain in the ass being sheriff, you know that?"

Dee looked into his eyes, not humored by his poor attempt at a joke.

"I've got to have a talk with Callum," Finley admitted after seeing her face.

"About what?"

"Jack. Gary."

Dee then simply nodded. She knew that he didn't like to talk about work, and the private affairs that the town often came to him with. He was grateful that she knew his position.

Gently, she put an arm around him and he tilted his head so it was resting on hers. Then he closed his eyes.
________________________

Callum hadn't returned when Zoey had led Theo and Barbara back to the mayor's building. She took a seat at her desk and smiled to the pair, "You can sit down," she said, motioning to the chairs nearby, "I'm sure he'll be back soon enough."

And sure enough, just minutes later, the aging mayor stepped in through the door, hung his hat up once again, and turned to greet the two sitting down, "Ah, there you are. Please, go into my office." Then, he turned to Zoey, "Thank you."

He closed the door behind him and took a seat, the other two doing the same immediately afterwards.

"Barbara," he said, looking to the woman, who nodded.

"Teddy."

"I prefer to go by Theo or Ted."

"Very well, Ted. I'll get straight to it," Callum announced, placing his hands together in front of him. "We have some visitors from Garland, the nearby settlement founded by Robert Garland. One of these visitors is his son, Michael, who has told me that his father wants to meet me. For what, I don't know, but it could prove advantageous for both of our settlements. I have spoken with Miss Gunn, and you both come highly recommended."

First, he looked to Barbara, "You for your negotiating ability. I don't predict any sort of hostility, but it doesn't hurt to have someone else there as well."

Then, he looked to Theo, "And you for your combat skills. As I said, I don't predict any sort of hostility while in Garland, but the trek is a potentially dangerous one, and even with Michael Garland's bodyguards present, I would feel more comfortable with someone from town around."

"Obviously, the decision is ultimately in your hands, but I would be greatly indebted to you both, especially if this meeting goes well. What do you say?"