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While the group learns what living under Negan's rules really mean, Rick devises a new strategy to deal with The Saviors. But, before it can be put in motion, a member of the group disappears after The Saviors collect their payment from Alexandria. Rick and Jesus must now call on the help of an exotic man named Ezekiel and his "kingdom" of survivors to have any chance of defeating the Saviors.
After Rick's plan is set in motion, Paul is seen following Dwight. Paul kills a zombie and it tumbles off a bridge. In the process, Dwight nearly spots Paul. However, Dwight carries on his walking, while unknowingly being followed by Paul.
Andrea is about to move out of Rick's house because she isn't satisfied with his decision of letting Dwight go free. Rick stops her at the last minute and tells her about his plan, about how he is letting The Saviors think that they are scared so they can strike back. Andrea wonders why Rick didn't tell her earlier, and he says he didn't want anyone to know.
Negan is seen outside the gates of the Alexandria Safe-Zone with the other Saviors. Negan and his men are clearing the gates of roamers, when Negan notices Rick, hesitating to open the gate for The Saviors. He eventually allows them inside.
Negan enters the Alexandria Safe-Zone, mocks Glenn's death, and orders Rick to hold onto his bat, "Lucille." Negan is surprised to find that the Alexandria Safe-Zone has plenty of houses and notices that many of them are vacant. Negan makes a comment to Rick, mocking the fact that the ration's tracker is "a fat lady." Negan says that he doesn't want to take food, for now, because the Safe-Zone is low and if he took their food, they wouldn't be able to survive. However, he informs Rick that he and his men will take some other supplies. He then orders Rick to show him around the Safe-Zone, while his men go and gather the supplies.
While Negan is leaving the armory, Carl shows up and says, "You should all go home, before you learn just how dangerous we all are."
Rick tells Carl to go home, but Negan tells him not to be so rude and not to interrupt their conversation. Negan asks Carl if this was a threat and Carl stays silent. Negan tells him to do what his father told him to do and go home. While the Saviors are taking the supplies to their trucks, Heath urgently runs out towards Rick, informing him that Denise needs help.
At the infirmary, Denise is aiming a gun at one of the Saviors who is taking medical supplies. Negan tells Denise not to misunderstand his associate, but she replies that all the the morphine, Oxycontin, and anything that can be abused are taken by the Saviors; all they are left with is aspirin, penicillin, and cold medicine. Negan says that his man only took half of the supplies from the medicine stockpile, as was promised. Rick tells Denise to put the gun down and let the Saviors take the medicine. Denise tells Rick that they need that medicine in case something serious happens to any of them, like what happened to Carl. Rick attempts negotiating with Negan into leaving the medicine, but Negan objects, saying, "Your big walls are all the medicine you need."
As Negan is leaving, he remembers that he left Lucille, his baseball bat, with Rick. He comes back, asking if Rick wanted to keep the bat with him. Negan retrieves the bat from Rick and states, "In case you haven't caught on, I just slid my dick down your throat...and you thanked me for it."
Negan and The Saviors depart the Alexandria Safe-Zone with the seized medication. Afterwards, Rick informs Denise that Negan is in command from now on. Rick states that anybody can leave the Safe-Zone if they are not satisfied with the new world order. He says the community should gather up their resources into one place for Negan's next visit.
Rick then goes home to talk to Carl, who does not respond. As Negan and The Saviors are driving back to their base, Carl is hiding under the mattresses that the Saviors took, holding Abraham's rifle.
Meanwhile, Dwight is checking his supplies in a Saviors' outpost when another Savior startles him. The Savior informs Dwight that he has been followed since he left the Alexandria Safe-Zone, and gives orders through a walkie-talkie for another group of Saviors to capture the follower, Paul Monroe. The other group of Saviors then arrive with Paul captured. Dwight arrives with the other Saviors, ordering Paul to be tied up, stating that, "He is more use to us alive. Negan's going to have a lot of questions for you." This suggests that Dwight knows about Paul being sent by Rick and that the Zone is not actually abiding by the Saviors' demands.
The Saviors take Paul to their base, a factory surrounded by a wall of mutilated and chained zombies. As Dwight goes to get Paul, he discovers that Paul had managed to escape. "Not one word to Negan about any of this", Dwight urges to another Savior, who agrees.
Negan and the rest of The Saviors arrive later with the supplies from the Alexandria Safe-Zone. Negan is surprised to see Dwight alive. "There is always a next time, I suppose," he says, much to the disgust of Dwight. Negan orders the Saviors to unload the supplies from the truck. "I'm going to fuck some of my girls tonight, get it?" asks Negan. Just as they are retrieving the supplies from the truck, Carl is spotted by a Savior. Carl shoots and kills two of them. The other Saviors around Carl surrender immediately as he demands to speak with Negan.
Negan arrives, stating that Carl scares him. Carl fires the rifle again, killing several of the Saviors in the process, until he runs out of ammo. Dwight kicks Carl in the stomach and screams, "You little fuck, --KILL YOU!", but Negan orders Dwight to stop attacking a defenseless child. "Is that any way to treat our new guest?" Negan asks.
Negan helps Carl to his feet. Negan tells Carl he will show him around while he orders the rest of the Saviors to burn the bodies of the dead. Negan nonchalantly tries to start a conversation. Carl blows it off and asks what he is going to do to him. Negan asks that Carl not shatter his image as a badass. He refuses to disclose what will happen because he doesn't want to ruin the surprise. Negan knocks on the door of the building and they enter.
They are greeted by a man who asks Negan if everything is okay as he heard a commotion outside. Negan tells the man he has dealt with it. Savior asks what medicine the Saviors got on the run to Alexandria as someone named Molly has a bad cough. Negan explains they have all kinds of good stuff and the guy can take his pick as he has enough "points", the apparent currency here.
A Savior named Carson appears to greet Negan home and explains there has been a situation with a girl called Amber while he has been away. Negan tells Carson to find a guy named Mark and to keep tabs on him, and he will speak with Amber himself.
The Saviors' building is a foundry of some sort. All the Saviors see Negan approaching with Carl and get on their knees. Negan tells them to carry on their business and then mentions to Carl about them showing him respect.
Negan and Carl enter a room that can only be described as resembling a brothel. There are at least five women in expensive-looking lingerie doing various activities. While Negan talks to Amber, another girl, Sherry, interrupts saying Amber knows that she has messed up and for Negan to go easy on her.
Negan tells the girl to calm down. He points out he has never hit any of them before even if Amber has cheated on him. Negan can tell Carl is impressed with what he sees and can look at all the women as much as he wants, as Alexandria is full of women who dress like "elderly lesbians."
Negan tells Amber that she doesn't have to be scared as her position in Negan's harem is voluntary. If she wants to go back, she can go back to Mark and be with him, but forfeit all her privileges that come with being Negan's wife. However, the one thing she cannot do is cheat on Negan. He tells her that she has had plenty of time to think about going back to Mark and earning "points" or staying with him. She blurts out that she is staying, and "I love you, Negan." Negan tells Amber that in order for her to stay, she knows what has to happen. He then orders Sherry to find Carson and tell him to prepare the "iron."
Carl and Negan enter his personal quarters, which is very well furnished, and Negan tells him to close the door. Carl asks him if they are all his wives. He answers that he always wanted to have sexual relations with a whole bunch of women and there was no reason to follow any rules anymore. Negan asks Carl if he know what fucking is. Carl says "yeah, kind of-sex stuff." Negan replies that he isn't going there and that it is time to get started.
Negan and Carl take a seat opposite each other. Negan explains that he would like to get to know Carl a bit better. He wants to know how smart the boy is, as any other child Carl's age would have tried to make a break for it by now, where as Carl had stood right at Negan's side the whole time. Carl has killed five or six of his men and thus his actions could not go unpunished.
Negan says he cannot carry on talking to Carl like this while he has the bandage around his face, so he tells Carl to remove the bandage and the hat. Carl declines. Negan threatens him and Carl does what he asks. Carl's un-bandaged face reveals a gruesome eye injury. Negan is delighted. He asks Carl if he's ever looked into a mirror, then comments on how he can see his eye socket and skull. He asks to touch it. Carl doesn't answer and then starts to cry.
Negan apologizes, saying that it's easy to forget that Carl is just a kid and he didn't mean to hurt his feelings but he is interrupted by a Savior knocking at the door. He apologizes and tells Negan that he has brought Lucille as he left it in the truck during the earlier ruckus. Negan tells Carl that all joking aside, he shouldn't cover it up. He may not be a hit with the ladies but no one will mess with him either since he looks so bad ass. Negan takes the bat off the Savior and asks him if the Savior treated Lucille like a lady and "ate her pussy like a lady." The Savior looks confused and scared until Negan exclaims he was just messing with him because baseball bats don't have pussies.
Negan turns back to Carl and tells him that as punishment for Carl gunning down his men he wants something in return for being more than pleasant -- he tells Carl to sing him a song. Carl says he doesn't know and Negan calls bullshit on him. Carl starts to sing "You Are My Sunshine" while Negan flexes and swings the bat dangerously close by in the background, telling Carl not to let him distract him from his singing. He finishes and starts to cry. Negan says that was pretty good and that there is nothing more Lucille likes than being sung to, and bashing in heads.
Negan asks if Carl's mother sang that and asked about her current whereabouts. Carl doesn't reply and Negan correctly guesses that she was dead. There is a knock at the door and Carson informs Negan that the iron is ready. Negan tells him to gather everyone and that he will join them shortly.
Down on the foundry floor all the Saviors have gathered. Negan asks Carl to hold Lucille, and he then tells everybody present that what they are about to witness isn't going to be pleasant and didn't even have to happen but he cannot ignore the rules. "Why?" asks Negan. All the Saviors reply in unison "The rules keep us alive!"
Negan puts a thick glove on while another Savior gets to work on the fire and molten metal in the background. Negan explains that what makes them civilization--what makes them the Saviors--is rules. No matter how small or insignificant, they must be followed. When Negan chooses a new wife the process is voluntary, it is an honor to be with him. But it comes at a price-total devotion. But others seem to find this hard to swallow, but it must be swallowed.
Negan grabs a heated Victorian-era-looking iron. He tells Mark that it is the iron for him and that he is sorry but it is what it is. Negan suddenly lunges at Mark, who is tied to a chair, and holds the red hot iron to the side of his face while Mark screams in agony. Negan pulls it away and the flesh sticks to it like melted cheese while Mark passes out. Negan says the matter is settled and all is forgiven -- Mark will forever bear the shame of his actions on his face and all will know what he has done.
During this speech, Dwight and Sherry look longingly at each other and it is evident this has happened before and possibly involving them. Carl gives Lucille back to Negan and they head upstairs. Negan says to Carl that what just happened was pretty crazy and that he probably thinks Negan is a lunatic. Negan then leads Carl away, contemplating on what to do with him.
After Negan burnt his face, Mark is escorted away by Carson and another Savior. Amber tries to go after Mark, but is stopped by Dwight. Sherry helps Amber to get away and is about to ask something from Dwight. Dwight angrily tells her to be quiet.
Carl asks if he can wrap up his head, which Negan denies. Carl angrily curses him as to why, and Negan smiles. He asks Carl if he thought he'd be off the hook just by singing a song to Lucille, and then asks Carl if he has any ideas on what Negan should do. Carl suggests that Negan should jump from a window to save him the trouble of killing Negan. Negan laughs and says he is having a hard time to figure out a suitable punishment for Carl, but he'll eventually think of something.
Meanwhile, Jesus is fighting some zombies and manages to hot-wire a car back to the Alexandria Safe-Zone. Near Alexandria, Rick, Michonne, Andrea, and Nicholas are fighting a huge group of zombies in the search for Carl. Rick doesn't want to give up but in the end is convinced to try again tomorrow.
Spencer looks through the gates of the community and asks a survivor named Erin what they are doing out there. She says that even though she has only ever said things to Rick, he seems to have their best interests in mind and Rick shouldn't be expected to do nothing while his son is missing.
Spencer seems to think Carl's disappearance is a distraction to the community at a time when they don't need it. Erin replies that Spencer seems more critical of Rick since he stole his girlfriend. Spencer says she never was. Erin leaves, telling Spencer he is a good man and not to let all this drive him crazy.
Aaron and Eric have an argument over whether to leave the Safe Zone or not. Eric doesn't think it's as safe anymore since the arrival of Negan and The Saviors and that they should maybe be prepared to go at a moment's notice if necessary. Aaron, however, wants to stay; he knows the safe-zone is special and they can get through this.
Rick and the others arrive home late and go to bed for a well-deserved sleep. Rick is awoken in the dark by Jesus at the foot of his bed. He and Rick go for a talk where Jesus explains he knows where Negan and his men are hiding. Rick then tells him about Carl's disappearance. Jesus explains how, as he was escaping, he heard gunfire from an assault rifle and Rick tells him Abraham's machine gun is missing. Jesus offers to take him there in the morning but Rick wants to go now.
Rick, Andrea, Michonne, and Jesus leave in the van for Negan's stronghold. Jesus explains that they have a "killing zone" of zombies as a defensive measure that are either chained up or impaled into the ground. He says getting in could be a problem but Rick says he knows a way.
Rick eventually decides he will just knock, much to the shock of the others. Rick explains that Negan wants them submissive and working for him, not going to war. It will be enough of a 'fuck you' to Negan to show him that Rick knows where he lives and it might catch him off balance enough to give up Carl.
On their way to the Saviors compound, they run across Negan and his men in a truck, who explains they were heading to Alexandria and it was mighty convenient to meet Rick and crew. Rick replies that they were headed to see him actually. Negan mentions that its strange that they were heading in the right direction but Rick cuts him off, asking where Carl is. Negan says that's the reason he was heading over, if he can believe it and that he can't wait for Rick to see what he's done to his little boy.
Out of rage, Rick punches and kicks Negan, demanding to know what he has done to Carl, but after a few seconds of beating, Negan furiously retaliates, grappling Rick. He taunts him saying that he'll be sorry, and reveals that nothing has been done to Carl, and that Negan was just lying to Rick to see him breaking.
Rick then learns that Negan can be reasonable, and they leave. Elsewhere, Eugene finds a location for his ammo-crafting plan.
Later on, Rick tells the community that Negan can be reasonable and that the future is bright, and say that they must work hard for the next Savior pick-up of supplies. Carl reveals valuable information about the Savior's base, prompting Jesus to tell Rick that it is time for him to meet Ezekiel.
Rick and Jesus are traveling to The Kingdom. Elsewhere, Michonne and Carl are fighting zombies. A zombie almost kills Carl. Later, he says he's worthless due his missing eye. Arriving at The Kingdom, Rick meets Ezekiel, who introduces him to his tiger Shiva. Dwight then arrives at the Kingdom in an attempt to convince Rick, Jesus, and Ezekiel that he can help them in the fight against Negan. Rick proceeds to punch Dwight in the face accusing him of being a liar. Dwight manages to convince Ezekiel that he is on their side but Rick and Jesus are still unsure of his true intentions.
- Many unnamed Saviors.
- This volume has the fewest appearances of zombies so far, being focused on problems with humans, more specifically the Saviors.
- This is one of the few volumes that doesn't include the death of any named character.
- This volume introduces a tiger named Shiva, making this the first named animal to be seen since Buttons, who was last seen in Volume 12.
- The original title of this novel was "Abandon All Hope" but at sometime before publication it was changed to its current title.