The essential tie-in story for the latest Naughty Dog Games release continues! Ellie ventures outside, discovering more of the truth about the world the way it was before the pandemic, and encounters new wonders... and new dangers. Co-scripted by Naughty Dog lead writer and art director Neil Druckmann..
— Dark Horse.com
Running atop rooftops, Ellie follows Riley’s trail, but seemingly has a hard time catching up with her. When Riley finally stops, Ellie sees no real challenge and asks if that's all. Riley doesn’t answer, deflecting the question with one of her own, asking Ellie if she ever thought about her future. Thinking Riley is playing with her, Ellie makes a smart remark about spaceships and things written about in science fiction.
Riley plays along for but a moment, before clarifying her query. She wanted to know what Ellie would do with her life, what choices she would make. Ellie pauses, and says she doesn’t think about those kind of things; topics like that seemed counter-intuitive in a post-apocalyptic era. Riley points out that Ellie’s viewpoint is exactly what the authority wants people to think. She goes on to say that when kids turn sixteen, they will be given orders as soldiers.
She says she doesn’t want to live the rest of her life like that, doesn’t want anyone else telling her ‘who to shoot,’ and ‘where to shit.’
Ellie pauses, before asking Riley what she would do with her life, under her own power. Riley reveals she will soon be sixteen in three months, and she needed to find another way. Ellie is curious as to what else life could offer the two of them, but Riley dodges the question. Deflecting, Riley asks Ellie if she has ever ridden a horse before. Ellie, taking the avoidance in stride, replies no. This prompts Riley to lead Ellie to an abandoned mall.
Once they enter, they travel through the decrepit building; Ellie spots a mannequin behind a broken window. She takes a moment to try and mimic its stiff posture, before rejoining Riley. Moments later, she spots an arcade, and asks her friend to wait up, as she wants to go inside.
Excited, Ellie tours the area, enthusiastically pretending to play a game about mutated pigeons. Riley makes her way to her, and Ellie describes the game to her. Riley is not impressed by the game, scoffing that it was ‘for children.’ She instead turns Ellie’s attention towards a violent fighting game called, ‘The Turning.’
Ellie listens as Riley gushes on and on about it, citing its combat, female protagonist, and incredibly difficult final boss. Impressed, Ellie says that children who were born before the infection were lucky — she doesn’t catch the look of discontent on Riley’s face.
Riley decides the two of them are wasting time, and leaves the arcade. Before Ellie departs, she takes a moment to imagine what the arcade would have been like, back in its heyday, before the outbreak.
Riley leads Ellie to a camp, where she meets her friend Winston, a resident of the deserted mall. Winston is initially brusque and unwelcoming, dragging Riley and Ellie to his home base. He lectures them about the risks they take, and the possibility of getting him into trouble. Riley assures Winston that Ellie is alright, as she formally exchanges introductions for the two of them. As a trade off for a bottle of whiskey, Riley makes a request that Winston teaches Ellie how to ride his horse.
He begrudgingly accepts, and tells her to go and find his pet. As soon as Ellie follows Riley to the stables, her friend explains how to both handle horses, and how to ease them if they are in a nervous or jittery state of mind. She reminds her to be persistent when dealing with Winston, as he is lazy, and is known for cutting corners. Once Riley is done preparing the horse, Ellie asks if Riley is actively trying to get kicked out of the quarantine zone, by causing more and more trouble.
Riley pauses, before saying no. She reveals another reason for her provocative actions. General population is supposedly a dead end for anyone; Riley claims people are assigned either grueling or menial jobs, with little to no rations as payment. ‘You end up as a slave to the system.’
Horse ready to go, Winston instructs Ellie to climb atop the saddle, while simultaneously warning Riley to not touch anything that belonged to him.
As Ellie and Winston leave together, Riley sneaks into his camp in search of something. Not finding anything at first, she continues, until noticing something on his bed. Meanwhile, Winston and Ellie travel through the mall, making small talk. Ellie asks him about his life before the infection; he says that when he was her age, he would skip school to instead hang out with his friends, in the mall. He also had a love interest, Roberta Coen. He says he misses the holiday lights, but soon draws away, asserting he is ‘getting too nostalgic.’
Ellie says she isn’t bothered by it.
When they return to Winston’s home, they find Riley perusing a magazine. Ellie thanks her for the trip to the mall, and for the chance to ride a horse. Winston harangues the two that they should stay in school, and stay out of trouble. Riley teases him, saying they would have to be caught to get into trouble.
Moments later, an explosion is heard and visible outside of the mall. Frightened, Winston gets on his horse, and orders Riley and Ellie return to the school, before leaving for his unit. Dazed, Ellie agrees with Winston, and tries to get Riley to follow her back home. However, Riley ignores her, in favor of focusing on her walkie-talkie. It takes a moment before Ellie realizes Riley had used her, in order to distract Winston, and get him away from his base of operations.
Angry, she begins to shout and argue with Riley — somehow, they both are able to overhear the walkie-talkie proclaiming the fact Fireflies may be in the area.
Riley immediately forgets Ellie’s bickering, and instead becomes excited at the prospect of meeting the Fireflies, believing they were her ticket out. Ellie is not as impressed, and thinks her friend is foolish for entertaining such a notion.
Riley doesn’t hesitate to leave without her, remarking, ‘suit yourself.’ Shocked and unsure, Ellie wavers for but a moment, before following after Riley.