3 December 2023

1 – Welcome to Hope County

Most of the characters, places and several plots belong to Ubisoft.

Warning : this story deals with delicate issues (violence, unsuitable language for young people, drugs, etc.). Please don’t read if you are sensitive to this !

* * *

Hope County, Montana, USA – September 2018

Night had already fallen when Joseph began his first sermon of the month. The members of Eden’s Gate used to meet in the small dedicated chapel of the compound, surrounded by multiple barracks erected by the first cultists to arrive in Hope County, of which the Seeds were of course a part.

Jacob stood as usual behind his brother as he preached, as did his younger brother John and their adopted sister Faith. Joseph was now intoning the recurring chapter about “the prophecy”.

— Something is coming. You can feel it, don’t you?

No sooner had he finished his sentence than the church doors opened, letting two men and a woman inside. The intrusion did not interrupt the Father, who continued to recite.

— We are getting closer to the precipice, and there will be a reckoning. That’s why we have this project, because we know what will happen !

The three strangers were now advancing toward the platform, drawing all the eyes of the faithful to them.

— They will come. They will want to deprive us of everything: of our weapons, of our freedom… of our faith. But we won’t let them !

The spectators gradually rose to their feet and surrounded the three members of the police force who were now only a few steps away from the preacher. One of them wore a bulletproof vest with his job title, “US MARSHAL”, stamped on it. He was about forty years old and his brown skin color and dark eyes suggested that he was from Central America. The man standing next to him was well known to the Seed family : Sheriff Earl Whitehorse, who had already given the members of Eden’s Gate a hard time on several occasions by trying to bother them with the smallest administrative detail. He had been active in the county for many years, closer to retirement than to the beginning of his career. Behind them stood a woman with unremarkable features, whose uniform left no doubt as to her basic rank as a rook deputy.

Joseph was now speaking in a more assertive tone.

— Their greed was over. No more of their immorality. Let us not allow their perversity to pass, we will refuse to suffer !

The tension was palpable, and as the Father’s speech gained in speed and intensity, the two lawmen exchanged a few words in a stressed manner as they crossed the last few meters separating them from him. It was easy to see that the marshal was in a hurry to make the arrest, while the sheriff seemed to be holding back. Was he afraid ? Was he afraid of reprisals from the cult members ?

The Latino man in the bulletproof vest held up a piece of paper before Joseph’s eyes.

— Joseph Seed, I have a federal warrant for your arrest. You are charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment, so I’m ordering you to come forward with your hands in plain view.

Joseph complied and calmly raised his arms in the air. Clamors and protests arose from the entire room. The Father, as he called himself, continued.

— Here they are, the locusts in our garden. They have come for me, they have come to take me away from you, they have come to destroy everything we have built !

The faithful now surrounded the three arrivals, some of them with rifles in their hands. Whitehorse, sensing hostilities mounting, turned to face the marshal and the officer and ordered them not to draw their weapons, while barking at the worshippers to back off and lower theirs.

As Joseph wrapped his arms around the shoulders of two worshippers at his side, his youngest brother, John, slowly came up behind him. The eldest, Jacob, also approached silently and Faith, posted on the other side of the room, joined them with hushed steps. The Father spoke to the followers around him.

— We are not really surprised. We were prepared. Come on… come on… God won’t let them take me away.

The siblings were now gathered as if to form a block behind the preacher, who invited his followers to leave the chapel with a calm gesture. When all were outside or posted in front of the doors, he continued, raising his arms and eyes to heaven.

— I saw the lamb open the first seal, and I heard in a voice like thunder one of the four beasts say “Come and see”. And I saw before me…

He pointed at the marshal with an accusing finger and then stared at Sheriff Whitehorse.

— A white horse.

His icy blue gaze, common to all three brothers, then moved to the young female deputy who was still standing behind the two men. He held out his open palms for her to cuff him.

— And Hell behind him.

The other three Seeds watched in silence, still frozen behind their brother. Jacob nodded as Joseph offered his wrists to the police. John kept his hands behind his back, perhaps to prevent himself from acting on impulse, which his brothers regularly reproached him for. Faith was completely still, she had full confidence in the Father and knew that no one would stop the project.

The marshal, out of patience, ordered the rookie to handcuff the preacher, who let out a “God won’t let you” while still staring at her as she shackled her wrists. “Sometimes the best option is to turn around”, he added.

Jacob watched impassively as the three law enforcement officials led his brother out of the chapel. The scene reminded him of the moment when he himself had been separated from his brothers as a child. The police had handcuffed him in the same way and forced him to follow them. He had turned to Joseph and John and given them a reassuring look, having promised them that they would soon be reunited, that they would never leave each other again and that everything would be all right, but they had immediately understood that they would not see their elder brother again for many years. The only crime he had committed was to have protected them, as best he could, from the monsters that were slowly destroying them.

John’s words brought him out of his torpor.

— I’m taking off immediately.

Jacob held him back as he headed for the service exit.

— Don’t do that. I trust Joseph. I don’t know if he’s really talking to God, but until now he’s always come out on top in any battle he’s faced. Let him fight this one as he sees fit.

His younger brother stared at him calmly. Jacob could see the hatred in his eyes, though. John was impulsive and had trouble keeping his emotions in check, which sometimes caused problems within the Project and reinforced the bad opinion against Eden’s Gate. But he respected and feared his two elders, who regularly curbed his outbursts.

— As you wish, Jacob.

John moved silently toward the back room, which served as an office and offered a more discreet exit.

Jacob remained thoughtful for a few moments longer. He had registered every feature of this female deputy’s face. If events did not unfold as Joseph had planned, he would track her down, hunt her down, and finally execute her without mercy. He would hold her personally responsible, after all she was the one who had handcuffed his brother and taken him away.

The frenzy of an overexcited crowd outside and the crackle of his radio soon gave him a concrete idea of the situation. He had just received word that the helicopter in which the agents had taken his brother had been shot down. The informant added that all the occupants were safe but that several passengers had escaped : Whitehorse, the marshal and the woman. The latter two had taken a pickup truck and tried to lose their pursuers, but the vehicle was chased by too many cult trucks and ended up in the river. The man was quickly found, but the female officer had disappeared.

A grin came over Jacob’s face as his hand unconsciously rested on the hunting knife on his belt. It wouldn’t be long before she was brought back to the Seed by their men. But if not, as he hoped, he would take care of her personally. She was now alone in the dark. If the community of Eden’s Gate didn’t find her soon, the ruthless fauna would give her little chance of escape, and Jacob would give her none.

* * *

He left the church and headed for the barracks that served as a canteen and meeting room, then waited patiently for all the protagonists of the helicopter chase to gather there. The screeching of tires on the gravel soon sounded, the machine had not gone far before being shot down by the overexcited fanatics.

A dark-skinned woman wearing a deputy’s uniform entered the room first, her fists bound. Her wild eyes and the mascara that had run down her cheeks showed her fear. She was followed by a man in his thirties, dressed in the same uniform and also handcuffed. When his eyes met Jacob’s, he knew he would be a good fit for his training program. The elder Seed had acquired a certain ability to read people’s souls and determine their state of mind over the years and from his many missions in the army. The brain of this man would be easily malleable, for as much he showed courage by fixing Jacob without lowering the glance when this one transpierced him of its eyes of steel, which pleased him. The marshal led the way, surrounded by Joseph’s men and the Father himself.

Hands clasped behind his back, Jacob approached the young woman to observe her. He read and inwardly pronounced the name sewn on her deputy’s shirt : “Hudson”. He then moved towards the man who did not cease staring at him then addressed him.

— I see that you do not let yourself be easily impressed. Well, deputy… Pratt. We need men like you on the project. You will join my training unit.

Staci Pratt intended to resist and would not give up his freedom, nor the sense of justice that was the main driving force behind his involvement in law enforcement. And then, he had to show courage in front of his teammate. He smiled at the elder Seed before spitting in his face.

It took only a fraction of a second for Jacob to crush his fist on his face, causing an instantaneous lesion on the bridge of Pratt’s nose which started to bleed abundantly. Pratt howled of pain whereas Hudson had started to cry and to beg. The elder Seed grabbed the prisoner’s chin and forced him to look into his eyes again.

— This is the last time you disrespect me, big guy. Do you understand?

Pratt nodded silently, his eyes misty and his face swollen. Jacob then turned to Joseph.

— I don’t see the deputy who tried to arrest you. Where is she ? And the sheriff ?

Joseph looked at him sadly before replying.

— Unfortunately, they haven’t been found yet. But it’s only a matter of time. God will lead them to me.

He turned to the prisoners, aborting the start of his brother’s interrogation.

— Well, I see that the roles are beginning to be distributed. So this man will join Jacob to assist him in his tasks. Faith has already told me of her desire to help the marshal find the path to bliss. As for you, young lady… I entrust you to our Baptist, John. I count on your cooperation. You will feel liberated when you have been cleansed, confessed your sins and my brother will tear them out of you and absolve you.

Hudson turned her head toward the younger Seed, who had appeared with his sister when his brother had mentioned his name. John wore a sadistic grin, his eyes shining with excitement. He was the most elegant of the siblings, dressed in a blue satin shirt set off by a charcoal suit jacket. A heavy, long coat with indescribable patterns, mixing parts of textile and brown leather, made him more imposing than his actual size would suggest. He seemed to value his appearance. Even his dark hair, reflected in the dim light of the ceiling lamp, was neatly combed back and soaked in styling gel. Like his brothers, his lower face was framed by a neatly trimmed beard.

Anyone would have given him the good Lord without confession, and that was his strength. John was wonderfully handsome and he knew it. His apparent innocence, his devastating smile and the unsettling ocean of his eyes allowed him to get confessions from anyone and on any subject, something he had used all his life, especially when he was a lawyer. He was the spokesman for Eden’s Gate, in addition to performing baptisms, hearing confessions and absolving the sins of the cult members, whether voluntary or not. It was his face that appeared in the recent commercials they had filmed and played over and over again on the only television station still operating in the county, all of whose communications had been cut off when the cult had taken control. He handled all the administrative problems with his law school education and his wealth.

The Baptist went towards Hudson and grabbed her brutally by the arm to drag her outside with him, while she struggled, crying. Jacob imitated him and left the room, pushing Pratt to the nearest vehicle, leaving Faith, Joseph and the marshal there with the rest of the men.

Next chapter

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