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18 Miles Out ... No Going Back

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PART 1


Your boots gently scuffed the pavement as you stepped out of the driveway and onto the vacant street.  Your eyes scanned the surroundings as you stopped to tie your hair up tighter, gathering the loose strands that clung to your neck in the Georgia heat.  This was the last house of the small cul-de-sac that you'd cleared... six in total for the day.  You'd made a decent haul - several first aid kits, a dozen or so cans of miscellaneous goods, few jugs of water and a couple handles of whiskey.  All things considered... it was a good day.

You adjusted the strap of the duffle as you began your trek back to your truck, hooking it under the back pack and hoisting it higher on your hip as to stop the bottles of whiskey from clanking together as you walked.  

Your eyes continued the back and forth scan of the street ahead of you before landing on the tailgate of your black pickup as it came into view around the bend.  The doors were still closed, a sign that no one had tailed you and raided.  You breathed a silent sigh of relief that your previous 'aquaintances' hadn't made an attempt to find you... at least not yet.

The sound of a vehicle jarred you from your thoughts, causing you to dart across the street and into the tree line out of sight.  You could feel your heart beat against your ribs as you waited for the vehicle to pass.  As the car engine got louder, you gingerly made your way closer to the corner towards where your truck was parked - that way it was within reaching distance if you needed a quick getaway.

A silver SUV came up the street and pulled into the public works lot directly across from you, causing you to move further behind a thick tree, shielding you from their view.

You watched as two men got out and surveyed the lot.  Both had a strong essence to them.  One, having the look of a Georgia Cowboy - most likely a Sherrif by the way he carried himself - the other had a more demanding presence, full on jarhead-muscle type deal.

"This'll do.  We'll leave the boy here, scavenge some supplies."  Cowboy said as he looked through the chain link fencing.  Muscles eyed him as he checked the area surrounding them.

Leave the boy?

"Hey."  Cowboy motions with his chin.  Muscles turns, following his partner's gaze as a walker in a police uniform stumbles forward.  He cocks his gun and raises it towards the walker.

"Wait."  Cowboy stops him.  "Like I said," he draws his knife and plunges it through the walker's skull as it attacks the fence.  "Gun's quick... easy.  But there's other ways to do this."  He nods to the other incoming walker as Muscles gives him a small glare.  "One more.  Your turn."

Muscles reluctantly puts his gun away and draws his knife, taking that one down with ease as Cowboy cuts the chain and slides the gate open.

You should go.  Just get the hell out of here before they see you.

No... they'll hear your truck...

Shit.


You watched as the two men, revolver and rifle in hand cleared the property. 

Once they'd finished, Muscles pulled the suv into the gates.  They opened the hatch and yanked out a bound man with a hood over his head.

One on each arm, they stumbled him into the center of the lot to his knees and ripped off his hood.

Your heart stopped as his face came into view.  You gripped your rifle as you forced back the rage and bile that hit the back of your throat.

Randal.

Little fucking rat, Randal.


They ripped duct tape and headphones off of him and he shook his head.  "The hell is this?"  He looked at both of them as they stepped away from him.  "Come on don't be stupid.  I owe you guys!  I can help protect whatchu got!  Why would you save my life just to kill me by leaving me here?!"

You clenched your jaw and raised your rifle, sighting in on his forehead.   

Fucker didn't deserve to live.

"One guy!  One guy can't make it alone!  That's why I was with those dudes!  I was alone!"  

Can't shoot him yet, gotta wait for them to leave. 

The two men stop.  Cowboy turns slightly and drops a knife onto the blacktop.

"Don't be stipid!!  I'm not like them!"  Randal falls to his side.  "I'm just some guy!!  Used to watch football and screw around on the internet and..."  He flops around as he tries to wiggle himself free.  "I lived with my mom!  I lost her just like you lost people!  I went to school with Maggie for God's sake!!"  

You saw Muscles' shoulders tense as he and Cowboy came to a halt.

That phrase struck a nerve.

Your tongue snaked out across your lower lip as you shifted the sight on your rifle, getting a better glimpse of the men.

They both slowly turned towards each other.  Muscles' heavy brow screwed as he glared at Cowboy before they turned in unison back towards Randal.

"I went ta ch-church.  Uh, ruled the bench on varsity baseball."

The two men started storming back across the lot.  "You went to school with Maggie?!"  Cowboy barked.

"D'dyou go to school with Maggie?!  Answer the question!!"  Muscles' voice boomed.

"Did you go to school with Maggie?!?"  Cowboy yelled.

"Uh.. she-she didn't know me!  Didn't even know I existed!"

Well this was getting interesting.

Both men stopped.  Muscles turned, his mouth in an annoyed, thin line.

"I knew her....I knew who her dad was."  Randal continued to stutter.

They both turned their backs to him, Cowboy running a hand over his face.

"There is no way I would ever do anything to hurt her!  Or her family!"

"Jesus."  Muscles ran his hands over his head in frustration.

"Or you!!  Or your people!!"

The guys turned in place, the struggle of 'what to do' evident across their faces.

Come on guys, just kill him and get it over with already.

"I'm not like the guys I was with!!"

Fucking liar.

Muscles is whispering to Cowboy at this point.  You couldn't quite make out what he was saying.  They side eyed each other, both of their jaws tense. 

After a moment, Muscles drew his gun from the front of his cargo pants and turned, firing at Randal. 

"Shane!  No!"  Cowboy yelled and lunged, grabbing onto his arm and throwing him backwards.  The momentum causing the shot to miss by a foot, ricocheting off of the pavement.

Shane... didn't look like a Shane.

Shane was thrown to the ground next to a cruiser as Cowboy kicked his gun away.

"Don't let him kill me!  Please don't!"

"Shut up!!"  Cowboy barks at Randal as he paced a bit before turning back to Shane. 

"We're going back.  It's a man's life.  I need a night to think it through."  Cowboy rests his hands on his hips as he stared down at his friend.

Shane wipes his brow and shakes his head before pointing angrily at Randal.  "He shot at you, Rick!" 

Shane and Rick.  

"He ran with men that tried to kill you!  You gonna bring him back to where Lori sleeps?!  To where Carl sleeps?!"

You adjusted your scope slightly, swiveling between them as they continued to argue.  Rick paced around as Shane got to his feet.

"It ain't hard man!  The right choice is the one that keeps us alive!"  His rapid arm movements echoing his frustration.  

Damn straight dude. 

You tightened your grip on the rifle and sighted in on Rick. 

The fuck you doing with this guy, Muscles?  Surprised he hasn't gotten you killed yet.

Rick paced back to Shane, continuing to argue with him, his head cocked as he leaned forward.

Shane says something you couldn't make out...

..but it apparently crossed a line. 

Rick swung at Shane, who expertly caught his arm and headbutted him.

They slammed each other into vehicles and threw punch after punch at one another.  This was more than your typical disagreement fight... they were fighting to kill. 

You'd sighted in on Rick's head and made the decision to interfere if he got the upper hand and things went south for Shane.  Shane managed to knock Rick away from him and picked up his pistol.  He began to aim towards Randal, but Rick tackled him before he could get a shot off.

Randal continued to squirm his way towards the pocket knife on the pavement as the two tumbled out of your view.  

Fuck. 

You lifted your head from the rifle as your eyes darted back and forth above the vehicles waiting for them to reappear. 

"Shit."  You hissed through clenched teeth.

Rick popped up first, motioning and yelling towards the ground.

Shane appeared a moment later, his brow and nose split open as he clutched his side.  Most likely broken ribs by the look of how he was carrying himself.  

Shit.  Come on, dude, keep it together.

Shane had the right idea.  The right mentality. 

Eliminate the threat. 


And that piece of shit Rat they had tied up had it coming to him.  You moved your rifle over and sighted in on the Rick's head once more.  

Shane stumbled to the utility truck next to him, leaning down and grabbed something out of view.  All of a sudden a pipe wrench was heaved across the lot towards Rick. 

He missed.

The wrench went careening through the window of the DPW building, shattering the glass behind Rick.

But you saw something that they couldn't from their viewpoint. 

The building was full of walkers.

Big mistake.  

Aw, fuck, dude.

Walkers began pouring out of the building and everyone scattered.  Randal squirmed his way out of your view.  You lost track of Rick but saw that Shane managed to stumble his way into the school bus, barricading himself against the folding door as the group of walkers tried forcing their way inside.  He wouldn't last long.  Desperation began to build in your chest when Rick and Randal popped up behind a car.  Rick looked over at the bus before shoving Randal out of the lot to the SUV.

You slimy fuck.

You followed them with your rifle but couldn't get a clear shot as they jumped in the SUV and took off back down the road they'd come from. 

Fuck.

You sprung into action and bolted for your truck.  Throwing your packs and rifle into the bed, you jumped into the driver's seat.  You jammed the truck into drive and floored it around to the lot.  The engine roared in protest as you busted through the back chain link gate.  You swerved around the dump trucks and aimed for the small heard gathered at the school bus. 

None had gotten inside yet. 

You plowed your truck head on into them, sending body parts and gore in every direction.  You held fast to the wheel as the tires stuttered over the broken bodies.  Cutting the wheel, you skidded to a halt at the back door of the bus.  

You quickly hauled yourself up and out the driver's window, sitting on the door as you made eye contact with Shane still inside the bus.  His look a mix of shock, confusion and admiration.  You slammed your hands down twice on the roof of the truck in urgency as you eyed the incoming walkers.  "The fuck you waiting for, Muscles?!  Let's go!"

Without hesitation he stumbled down the aisle and flung the back door open.  Holding the top of the bus doorframe, he slid himself down inside the passenger window of your truck feet first, landing on the bench seat with a painful grunt as he held his ribs.  

You gunned it, tires squealing as the truck skidded through the open gates of the lot, fish-tailing out onto the street.