XXI - I Once Was Lost

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JOEY

The Iron Fortress
Joey Hudson's quarters
Holland Valley North

Birds were chirping, insects buzzing. There was a mild break in the storm, which meant the wildlife would quickly run from point to point to hide from the inbound rainfall. To anyone else, it was a marvel to behold, but after spending much of her life in this shithole, to her it was just another day.

When the sunlight peered into the window, deep brown eyes fluttered open behind thick dark lashes. Joey yawned and stretched, her muscles throbbing as she did. She rolled to throw her feet over the edge of her king-sized bed, a minor luxury that was otherwise tainted by the sound of bottles clanking beside her.

It crashed down on her then... it had been a long night.

How did they manage to rally anyone when the Peggies are the scum of the fucking earth?

She often wondered how the Seed family were still alive, and their followers too. She even thought back to 'Day Zero'—she called it—the day they arrived by chopper to that cursed island. That wasn't exactly the time it all went to shit, at least not for them, since the mission was to drop off Deputy Evans to get an inside track on the Project at Eden's Gate. Sure, she, Pratt and Burke had spent some time in each gate set up for the siblings after being kidnapped by them and taken to their respective territories... but Joey considers the backlash that followed the real turning point. They'd gotten out of there alive, save Evans, but the since the Seeds continued to flourish, that rotten old man ordered them to go back, and it was endless bloodshed ever since. Coming into the County all that time ago, she never imagined it taking such a turn. She never wanted this to happen—who the hell would—to a place she treasured so much.

That was when she began her residency here...

Joey pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to shake off the headache that made itself known when she sat up.

After Whitehorse sent word that her colleague Pratt had been wiped off the map by the Seeds, she found solace in the best way she knew how. Granted, the quality of booze in this County was sub-par since the Seeds took everything or destroyed it by casting it into the waters around Joseph's Island. However, the siege of Seed Ranch was successful, so they were able to obtain the contraband John had not-so-sneakily kept at his residence.

Her eyes trailed over the paper she'd kept on her nightstand.

"...If one of us goes first, especially if it's me?

You better take care of that bitch for me. And Jo? Make sure it's for good..."

Pratt wrote, the scrawl barely legible, which almost made her chuckle aloud. She crumpled the note in her hands, one he had so kindly left her during his last visit. They were words of endearment mixed with minor jabs and jeers she found insulting. It was kind of eerie, the whole document, as if Pratt had sensed the end of everything too, having written his own last will. Normally, she would have torn it to pieces, shredded everything and burned it in the furnace downstairs... but now that he was gone, she felt as if she should hold onto the note... for sentimental reasons.

There was a gentle caress at her back, fingertips along the side of her neck, nails lightly scratching at her skin. Teasing. Playful. Joey reached up and placed a hand where those fingers should have been, where she really felt that touch, but it was gone. And that phantom touch brought with it a look into her past.

"I told you to never touch that shit, Cassandra—"

"Come on, give me a break! I just took a little hit. It makes me feel something, it makes me feel good, Joey."

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