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By AmericanWordsmith

Romance / Adventure

Chapter 1

First the rains had come and, for awhile, it seemed that they would never stop. Hope Mikaelson had only been a little girl during the years of the flooding and it was her memories from that time that were the last she had of New Orleans. She remembered having to leave their grand mansion, The Abattoir, of which her father still often spoke so fondly. But she also remembered the water coming up high on the banks of her mother’s wolf pack’s camp. She remembered clinging to her mother as everything was packed up and moved out.

Hope had been born in an unhappy family on the cusp of even unhappier times. Her birth was less than a decade before the first of the flooding seasons. The hybrid daughter of a werewolf and the Original Hybrid himself, Hope didn’t remember much of her early life but, when she’d been born they were living in New Orleans. It had apparently been beautiful there — the very portrait of halcyon southern charm.

She’d had a huge family back then, an entire flourishing wolf pack alongside her Original vampire family. Born out of a one-night stand,  Hope’s mother was never one to remain too close to Hope’s real father. She instead chose to live outside the city with her step-father Jackson and the rest of the pack in a beautiful woodsy area called the Bayou. When she thought back to the few cloudy memories she had of Louisiana, it was usually the magnetic, almost magical, scene of the Bayou.

That had been over 200 years ago. Her mother wasn’t with her anymore, neither was most of the pack.

It was from the rains and the years of flooding that the virus was born. The rains brought tsunamis. Tsunamis brought contamination. Contamination from a leaked virus research center off the coast of Maryland near DC gave birth to the disease — Carcinoma Influenza or C-Flu, colloquially. It was a mutated virus that manifested its symptoms in the form of a rapid onset cancer. The only way to keep it from spreading was to wipe compromised areas off the map, to burn them clean.

So when the rains finally stopped, they gave way to smoke — the Inferno as history would forever remember it. The air was thick and black and heavy with it all the time. There came a point when Hope could not remember what it had smelled like before the burning. There were days at a time when you could not see the sun.

They’d been forced to move inland, as the coastline around them collapsed under the weight of rising tides. Asia was out of the question, the disease had multiplied there most quickly of all. Europe was too populated as well so Klaus decided to stay in America and took them all to Las Vegas. The deserts, like the coastlines, were seeing the nasty effects of climate change as well. But it was only humans that couldn’t survive the horrific and volatile sandstorms that passed through on almost a daily basis. The Original family, and their most trusted friends, were strong enough to survive in almost any environment. They were able to seek refuge in the wasteland of the former City of Lights while the rest of the world and its governments collapsed around them.

At first, supernaturals were nonplussed about the presence of a new virus infecting the human population. But then, the unthinkable happened. The virus mutated again and it struck the wolves. That was when they’d lost most of the pack. Hybrid status still carrying a wealth of unexpected benefits, Hope and her mother and father were immune. To date, all vampires still remained unaffected. But that wasn’t enough to keep her mother alive in the end.

Wracked with grief, Hope wasn’t entirely sure she’d survive the loss of her mother. But death wouldn’t come as easily to her — nor would her father ever conceivably allow it to — and she survived. Over the decades she grew, from the smiling innocent baby she was in New Orleans to a young, beautiful Hybrid that looked no older than 25 now, over 200 years later. Everyone said she looked like her mother, the same nose and chin and, of course, the same dark eyes. But she fit in well with her Mikaelson aunts, favoring their coloring and inheriting their long golden locks.

Of course, she never left her hair cascading down beautifully like they did. She was always on the move, always up to something — usually sneaking out of Vegas where it was no use trying to keep the sand out of your hair anyway — so she always had her hair haphazardly tied up on top of her head, secured with whatever objects were at hand.

Right now, Hope had all her hair piled up into a loose bun secured with a scrunchy and old take-out chopstick. When she was sneaking out of their home in Vegas, she made more of an effort to look grungy than put together. Not only did it help her blend in on the streets, it helped her escape from The Luxor. (Leave it to her father to appropriate the most absurd landmark in Vegas as his home, she would frequently think to herself, growing up in the pyramid over the decades.) As Klaus Mikaelson’s daughter, she was maybe the most well-known face in the city after Klaus himself, and it frequently made it difficult for her to get away with anything.

Because she was still in only a teenage state of mind, Hope tended to think of her Mikaelson fame as a curse. It was hard to go unnoticed on the street, for example. Nevertheless she was, of course, aware of the bonuses to her privileged family name. The only other benefit afforded to Hope in this new world besides her vampire-immunity and Hybrid powers, was her status as a Mikaelson. The human governments of the world were virtually no longer in existence. Even the witches weren’t immune to the disease, their magic unable to save them. As a result, the covens were in chaos as well. Most of the werewolf packs had dissolved. With vampires remaining largely unaffected, being an Original carried real weight in the new world… and Hope was a Hybrid with witch powers, no less. There was a very real chance that one day she might be the only witch left in the world.

Essentially, their family was like royalty. Her father regularly assured her that as long as she stayed by his side, no harm would come to her. Wherever he was, he’d make sure she was treated rightfully as the princess she was. The problem was, Hope had no desire to be treated like a princess. Hope just wanted a life back. She wanted to be able to travel the world as her father had during his first millennia as a vampire. She wanted to enjoy being alive.

Hope adjusted the single chopstick supporting her mess of hair. She was crouching behind some shelves in the now abandoned kitchens of The Luxor. There was a loading dock in the back of the main kitchens where they used to bring in their food shipments and Hope was an expert at getting out of the hotel that way.

She paused to adjust her shorts and tank-top; it was so hot these days, she couldn’t bring herself to cover up too much. She also had a couple of bandannas loosely knotted around her neck, with goggles resting atop her head, in case a sandstorm caught her unaware.

After she’d finished adjusting herself, she crouched quietly to listen for another minute. No one was down here right now, she didn’t know why she was being so cautious. Klaus — as she often referred to her father much to his chagrin — had grown complacent over the last few days. He was on another one of his drinking benders. The anniversary of his wife’s passing had just come and gone. It had been over 180 years since Hope had last seen her stepmother. She’d only been a child when she was alive but, she missed her as well.

Unfortunately, she didn’t miss her enough not to take advantage of her father’s depressed state of inebriation. Klaus was a watchful, extremely protective father and he did not like to let her out without someone with her. Hope, in the past few years, though, had hit her most rebellious stage and she was itching to get out and see the world whenever possible — preferably by herself.

Across the kitchen, something metal abruptly clattered to the floor. Hope’s heart leapt into her throat but she didn’t visibly jump. She’d been in too many situations before in her life when she’d actually needed to hide and she’d learned to stay hidden well. She shifted only her eyes towards the source of the noise, staying completely motionless. A flash of red hair peeked out behind some pots and pans hanging across the room.

“Vale,” she hissed, suppressing a giggle. “I’m over here!”

There was a soft whoosh and he vamp sped over to her, knocking her softly onto her butt from her crouching position as he leaned over her and enveloped her in a kiss. She sighed into him with happiness, flushing with pleasure. Hope hadn’t seen Vale in days. Vale lived out in The Waste — the windiest and most dangerous outskirts of the city, a treacherous stretch of badlands which rogue vampires and witches lorded over, only overruled in the most loose sense by Klaus’s reign over what was left of Southwest America.

“Hello,” he said with an easy smile once they parted. “I have a surprise for you.”

His eyes were glowing with excitement and he looked about ready to burst open waiting to tell her whatever surprise he had. She smiled and pressed a finger to her lips, gesturing that he should follow her outside. Keeping close to the walls and staying low, they made their way over to the doors of the loading dock where they quietly unlocked them and raced out.

Once they were on the streets and several blocks away, Hope could see that Vale was attempting to direct them towards The Waste. She wanted to spend the evening with her boyfriend but, she hadn’t been trying to go all the way back to his place. The sandstorms had picked up in their intensity lately and, if one popped up while she was out there, she could end up stuck until late the following day or more.

“Vale, can’t we just stay in the city? My dad will kill me if I’m out overnight again,” she said. “He’s not doing so well right now.”

“Don’t you want to see your surprise?” he asked, picking up her hand to place an imploring kiss to her palm.

“Is the surprise outside of the city?” she asked skeptically.

“It is…” he replied mysteriously, his green eyes sparkling. Vale was a tall lanky Irish kid who had never completely lost his lilting accent. He’d been turned in his late 20s in the early 2100s to avoid the virus. “The surprise would also be taking us away from the city for more than just one night.”

Hope stopped, putting her hands on her hips and waiting for him in the middle of the sidewalk. Damn it was hard to say no to that accent but she needed some more answers from him before they kept going. It was early dusk but the streets were already abandoned for the evening. Infected wolves remained scarce during the day but, at night, they would sometimes flood the streets and no one wanted to mess with them. When packs started getting infected by C-Flu it didn’t have the same rapid cancer-growing symptoms that it did with humans. It turned the wolves into something different… something dangerous and feral.

“Alright, as much as I appreciate the effort to surprise me,” Hope said, putting her foot down, “I’m definitely not leaving the city until I know what it is.”

Vale sighed, looking annoyed but still vibrating with excitement. He turned back to her with a smile.

“Okay, okay,” he said giving her a wolfish grin. “Ezra and I got a plane.”

“A plane?” she asked, squealing in excitement. Hope hadn’t been out of the state, much less the country, in years. Klaus and the family had access to a number of jets and helicopters but, with communication to the rest of the world grossly cut off in the aftermath of the viral apocalypse, Klaus preferred that trips outside the safety of their city be kept as limited as possible. “How the hell did you get a plane?”

“We built it,” he said, proudly as he wrapped an arm around her shoulder to pull her to his side. “Ezra and I have been collecting all the parts and putting it together since a couple years ago. We actually finished it last month but we wanted to give it a few test runs.”

“Test runs?” Hope demanded. “You went somewhere without me?”

“Nowhere far,” he promised with a sheepish grin. “We just flew out over the Pacific for about an hour and back. Hope, you’re not gonna believe this thing. Ezra pulled together a bunch of scraps from an old abandoned military yard out in Cali — this thing goes fast.”

Ezra was their good friend, a one-time witch who had been forcibly turned into a vampire a couple of decades ago when her coven was struck with C-Flu. Her mother had struck a deal with a vampire, against Ezra’s wishes, before the disease had gotten Ezra herself. But, residents of The Waste were quick to embrace the new vampire. The vampire community was honestly stronger than ever these days thanks to the crumbling systems of the rest of the world. As it turned out, Ezra was extremely suited to being a vampire anyway. She was quick to adapt because she had been born to be a survivor.

“Okay then,” Hope said, her smile widening. In the haze of her excitement, she was already forgetting about the family waiting for her back home at the hotel. Her father would be mad at whenever she returned but Hope had never had a difficult time keeping him from becoming too angry. “And where are you suggesting we go?”

“Ah, the best part,” Vale replied. His eyes lit up. “Thailand.” 

Hope swallowed a thick lump in her throat. Thailand… that sounded amazing. She wasn’t even sure how much of the country was left since the flooding over 50 years before. But everyone knew Asia was where the worst of the outbreak was and, though Hope and her friends were immune to disease, that didn’t make it any less dangerous. She had no idea what the werewolf climate was like in Thailand. Not to mention, most of Asia had been rendered a dangerous waste of anarchy and riots since the virus and the floods and the burning season. The burning season had been particularly ruthless overseas and any survivors left in those parts of the world were forces to be reckoned with.

All in all, it sounded like an amazing adventure.

“My dad would kill me, Vale,” she said. “For real this time.”

“You do have a penchant for hyperbole, don’t you?” he asked. “I can’t think of anyone else in the world who can honestly say they don’t have to fear Klaus Mikaelson. Do you know how lucky that is?”

“My dad isn’t having a great time right now,” Hope deflected with an eye roll. “He might not kill me but he’ll be pissier than usual.”

“Well, that’s the best part,” Vale said with a smirk, “You might just be able to bring back a present for him.”

“What did you have in mind?” she asked. They weren’t meandering any more. They were making a direct beeline for his home in The Waste. Vale wasn’t an idiot; he’d have known she wouldn’t be able to resist this offer, no matter her concerns. Hope hated nothing more in the world than growing restless and she hadn’t been let out of Vegas in quite some time.

“You know, we’re not the only ones researching for a cure,” Vale began to explain. “The base in LV maintains contact with a couple of other spots around the globe… like Chiang Mai.”

“Chiang Mai? Is that tonight’s destination?” she asked.

“It is indeed. It’s also where we might be able to bring back a present for your father…”

“You’re just gonna let that dangle?” she asked when he trailed off in silence for a few moments. “Vale, just tell me! What could I possibly bring back to my dad that would keep him from being angry with me?”

Vale laughed at her insistence, “Well, not a what but a who…” he said. “If memory serves me correctly, you have a tendency to do a lot of sneaky research when you’re bored. Particularly about your very secretive, very old family?”

“Uh huh…” she said, not at all sure where he was going with this.

“Then I’m sure you must be familiar with this name from dear old dad’s past,” Vale said, “Caroline Forbes?”

Hope all but stopped in her tracks at that. Yes, the mysterious Caroline Forbes, the woman her father had apparently pined over for the past two centuries without ever seeking her out… no one would explain to her why, though her Aunt Rebekah and Uncles Elijah and Kol clearly knew the reason. Hope had never spoken with her father about Caroline but she’d seen her, in her father’s studio. He painted and drew portraits of her and kept them hidden but, Hope was pretty sure she knew where he kept everything he thought was secret.

But though she was an expert at uncovering her father’s secrets, that didn’t always bring her any closer to understanding his true emotions. He was an extremely guarded man, though he did his best to be a demonstrative and loving father with her. She considered them to be close but… Klaus was just the kind of father that would always seem like he was holding something back.

Truth be told, there were many times she could remember throughout the decades where she’d watched her father grow forlorn. It didn’t seem to be because of the apocalypse around them, the world falling apart. Sometimes it was for her stepmother but not always. No, sometimes Klaus would grow depressed in a way more difficult to pin down. It was during these times that Hope had always grown most curious about the enigmatic blonde vampire from Virginia who had apparently stolen her father’s typically guarded heart and then disappeared from his life forever.

“Caroline Forbes?” Hope asked, immediately intrigued but also highly skeptical. “What makes you think we could get her to come back to Vegas with us? My father hasn’t seen her since before I was born. Hell I don’t think they’ve even spoken to each other since I was born. For all I know, they hate each other!”

“They don’t,” Vale said, immediately.

Hope quirked an eyebrow.

“What do you know that I don’t know?” she asked.

“Look, ever since Ezra and I started getting close to finishing the plane, she started talking about taking a trip to the other research bases working on a cure. It’s a whole flight across the pacific but Chiang Mai is actually the closest,” he said. “We’ve been talking to them and researching this trip for months, it’s not a spur of the moment decision.”

“And why am I just finding out about this tonight?” she asked.

“Because I wanted it to be a surprise!” he insisted. He cracked when she gave him a pointed look. “Alright and because… if you had known about it, you would have wanted to be helping out all the time. We couldn’t risk having you down at The Waste too often. If your dad found out… he’d want control over the whole thing.”

Hope rolled her eyes. It wasn’t that she didn’t agree with their reasoning… it just hurt. For every opportunity and privilege her family afforded her, the fear her name carried would always weigh on her relationships. 

“Anyway,” Vale continued, “Talking to them via radio these past few months, someone mentioned the name Caroline Forbes. She works there. And, the thing is, we’ve been talking to them about sending someone back to Vegas with us. We’ve been going over our research and, let me tell you, they’re way ahead of us there. We need someone to come back and improve the work we’re doing, why not Caroline?”

“Sure, why not? Except you still haven’t told me why you know they’re not on bad terms,” Hope said.

“I didn’t recognize the name when we first heard it,” Vale explained. “Ezra did. When she did she started asking some questions. Apparently Caroline’s been there for a pretty long time now. They clearly don’t know about her entire history with Klaus but Ezra asked if Caroline had ever mentioned him. Your dad’s “thing” with her is practically an urban legend, Hope, everyone knows about it.”

“Yeah because Klaus Mikaelson doesn’t just let the people he cares about go off to live life as they please, without a single call for two centuries,” Hope said. “It’s weird. I don’t understand what went on with them.”

“The people we’ve been talking to in Chiang Mai say she’s never said a bad word about him,” Vale said with a shrug. “I feel like that’s as good a sign as any. Plus, she’s been working with them for over 50 years… she’s obviously dedicated to finding a cure. When we tell her how much we need the help, I’m sure she’ll come back with us.”

“I don’t know…” Hope said but it was a cursory note of worry. The truth was, the possibility of finally getting to meet this mysterious Caroline and put together the last puzzle piece of her father’s history was even more of a tempting offer than traveling to Thailand itself.

“And if worst comes to worst, you had a great trip to Thailand and your Dad doesn’t let you out for a couple weeks,” he said, nudging her with an elbow.

“More like a couple months…” she said with a groan. “But, alright. I’m in.”

He jumped ahead of her only to whirl around so he was standing in front of her before grabbing her by the shoulders and pressing a fierce kiss to her lips. She stood up on her toes to wrap her arms around his neck.

Pulling apart with wide grins, their attention was diverted by something shifting in an alley next to them. It was past dusk now, getting genuinely dark. The few spots around the city that still got power had lonely fluorescent and flashing lights turning on, a troubling reminder of the city’s former glory days. They turned towards the alley where a sickly human was crawling on all fours.

The woman, more creature than human now, was vomiting. Her body was riddled with disturbing lumps, evidence of the quickly growing and multiplying tumors all over her form. When she saw them, she didn’t even bother to hide. Though vampires couldn’t catch the sickness, infected humans weren’t particularly edible. Their blood tasted acrid, like battery acid, and typically made you extremely ill for several days.

The feral, practically rabid, werewolves that were infected, though, were drawn to the scent of sick humans. It was partially why the disease had mutated and begun to affect packs — they were strangely drawn to the scent. Seeing an infected human meant infected wolves wouldn’t be far behind, not as the impending cloak of night crept ever closer. Those feral wolves — practically zombies if you asked Hope — weren’t something she ever wanted to deal with, regardless of whether or not they were in wolf form.

“Alright, lets get out of here,” Vale said, “The dogs will be out soon.”

They linked their hands and sped out of the city and back to Vale’s home in The Waste.

Another sandstorm had hit them, as they were racing outside of the city. It used to be rare for sandstorms to hit at night, even if it was early in the evening, but as the planet grew warmer, the weather grew more unpredictable.

The Waste was only five or six miles outside of the main strip of Vegas, a quick trip at vamp speed. But the fierce winds of the Nevada desert were not a force to be trifled with and they’d ultimately been forced to duck into an abandoned gas station before they finished their trip. As the wind picked up, they both pulled their goggles over their eyes and their bandannas up around their faces before ducking into the small store of the gas station and situating themselves between the looted shelves as dust poured in through the broken windows, turning their skin a dusky red color.

Luckily, it had only lasted half an hour at the most. Lately the storms could go for over a day at a time and neither one of them particularly wanted to be stuck in an old gas station quite that long. When the winds finally died down, it was pitch black out. After wiping off their goggles, though, their vamp senses quickly kicked in and they could see in the dark once again.

“Alright let’s head out,” Vale said to her, “Hopefully the plane wasn’t outside when that hit. Ezra will never get the dust cleaned out in time for us to leave tonight.”

They entwined their fingers together again and continued racing towards The Waste. They were only a mile off or so now and Hope could see the make-shift town looming in the distance as they approached. Nevada was flat and you could see out over its vistas for miles at a time.

Even miles away, it was clear why The Waste had been given its name. Vale’s small hometown looked like a shanty town from the 1930’s Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. The whole town was a series of makeshift tents and boarded up shacks and, occasionally, pueblos built out of the same sand that the town rested upon. Sand from the recent storm was still mugging up the air around them so any windows built into tents or shacks were still soundly boarded it up but people were already milling about the alleys of the town, assessing if their was any damage.

“The lights are on in Ezra’s tent,” Hope pointed out, gesturing towards their friend’s down a slim alley between rows of tents in the desert. The wind was still gusting around them, causing Hope to pull her bandanna back up around her mouth as they made their way over to the tent.

Once they got their, Vale pounded a hand on the side of the tent.

“It’s us, open up!” he called.

The tent opened up and a young vampire with long dark black hair and a septum piercing in her nose stuck her head out.

“Holy Hell, you two are filthy,” she called out. “You’re not coming in. One sec, let me grab my goggles. I’ll meet you at the hanger!”

With that she zipped the door to her tent back shut leaving Hope to look towards her boyfriend quizzically.

“Hanger?” she asked. “Since when do we have an airplane hanger out here?”

“Since always!” he replied cheerily, “Come on!”

Speeding off, he lead her to some sandy dunes several hundred yards out from the tented living area of The Waste. Hope spent a lot of time out here but… in the town, not out amongst the dunes. As such, she was surprised to find him taking her to a rock face outside the town, with a huge metal garage door built into its face. Vale approached the door where he punched a code into a keypad. The metal door began to raise.

The hanger was make shit at best. It was clearly a cave they’d found but rigged up with a generator to supply electricity for lighting and to install the door. Inside the cavern, Hope immediately spied the plane as they entered. It was clearly made from military parts, but a mishmash of whatever pieces they could get their hands on.

“We call her Frankensteina,” Ezra said, approaching from behind them. “Isn’t she beautiful. I was able to get my hands on a lot of parts from some old MiG-50’s at a base in California. We can get to Thailand in about five hours, maybe less.”

Hope approached the plane, patting a hand on its left wing appreciatively. “It’s amazing,” she said.

“When do you think we can go?” Vale asked. “We’ve already lost an hour.”

“How about right now?” Ezra asked. “I know it still looks windy out right now but, not for this thing. This plane can handle a lot. I built it that way.”

“If you trust it, I trust it,” Hope said. She didn’t know anyone better with fixing or building things than Ezra. “Let’s get going! It won’t be too long before my dad comes looking for me.” Ezra let loose a wide grin at that.
“Alright then, let’s load up!” she said. “We’re off in 10 minutes!”
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