"Not today, you son of a bitch…" I whisper aloud; my breath flowing out and looking like a puff of smoke from the intense cold surrounding me. From my spot behind the tree, I've got all the cover I need to take down this asshole and his friend in one fell swoop – the ironic thing being that the very person they're out searching for is going to be the one to end their miserable, pathetic lives.
Cocking the slot back on my rifle, I breathe deeply, close one eye and shoot the first man right in the head; his buddy watching helplessly as the bullet rips through the man's skull with ferocity.
Before he can even utter a sound, a second bullet finds its way into the second man's forehead. All that's left are a couple of dead bodies and a now-abandoned truck – just what I need in order for this to work.
Sliding down the snowy hill and landing softly at the bottom, I walk towards the bodies and loot them over a little bit. These folks didn't have much, but some extra weapons and ammunition could always come in handy in a jam.
Feeling absolutely no remorse for these men, I pull the truck keys out of one guy's pocket before stopping as I notice the shiny, metallic object wrapped around his neck – now caked in his own blood.
No emotion dances upon my face as I hold the pendant in my hands. This bastard must've joined up pretty late, since I definitely don't remember inviting him into the fold back then. I'd only allow real survivors who could actually hold their own out in the field to enlist into the Fireflies.
I would never have allowed punks like these two to join up, leaving themselves so vulnerable and out in the open like that.
Although, now I suppose it doesn't really matter what I think anymore, does it? I'm on the run and there's no looking back now.
But I'll die before I let those assholes get to…
"Come on down," I holler up the hill urgently. "Hurry up! We don't have any time to spare!"
"Alright, alright! Hold your horses, bossy pants!" my little protégé rants, coming out of hiding as she too joins me down here. We're at some kind of abandoned cabin by the looks of it, not too dissimilar to the one that Luke and them were staying at.
But that was… nine years ago now, I'm pretty sure. A lot's changed since my days of trying to get back to Christa and head up north.
I'll be honest – I really didn't expect to survive this thing up to age twenty.
"Holy fuck, Clem…" she says in astonishment. "Did… did you really have to kill them? I mean, you still haven't told me what's going on…"
Making sure that their pendants aren't showing, I roll the corpses onto their fronts as I quickly nod my head in determination. "You just have to trust me," I say to her, having used that line a thousand times before. "Get in the truck, kiddo – forget about checking the cabin, we've gotta move."
Nodding silently, the spunky teenager sighs before climbing into the front seat and shutting the door behind her. She's never going to understand why we're doing this… hell, even I'm not so sure why. What's the point of all of this? Is my goal just to piss off our pursuers until we run out of places to run and hide? Rebelling against the entire Firefly organization may have seemed like a bold move at the time, but now it kind of seems like we're getting nowhere fast.
Pushing these negative thoughts aside, I leave the bodies to rot as I climb into the front seat and twist the keys; having to do so a couple of times until it finally starts.
"Buckle up," I tell her, motioning towards her seatbelt when she gives me a look. "I'm serious – safety first, bucko. That's rule one for everything."
Rolling her eyes, the fourteen year old does as I ask as she leans her elbow on the door. "You can be such a drama queen, you know that?"
"It's kept us alive so far, hasn't it?" I question with a slight smirk, but immediately frowning again as I look into the rear-view mirror. "Shit… they're onto us!"
Quickly turning around, I tell the girl to keep her head down as more of the Firefly troops fire pistol rounds at the back window. As the glass shatters and sprays all over the back seat, I angrily pull out my own gun and retaliate; managing to down one of them as they drag the woman to safety.
But god damn it… these ones I know we've trained – they're good shots, the lot of them, and they more than likely would've been able to kill the both of us if that's what they were ordered to do.
However, their orders from the upper command is to take the high-value targets alive. But they're not touching us – I won't let them.
Put 'em all down, Carver tells me, wanting me to kill every last one of these assholes. As much as I'd like to, there's no way that I'm willing to take that risk. So when the opening finally arises, and the dozen or so Fireflies are all taking cover behind boxes and such, I immediately grab the clutch and put it into the drive position.
"Hang on, Ellie!" I tell the redhead, slamming my foot on the gas pedal as we book it down the gravel road. Gunshots roar on our tail as I try to swerve and get out of the way.
Those two had better be in Alexandria when we get there… otherwise I'm not so sure what the fuck we're gonna do.
Feeling that I need to stay strong for quite possibly the most important kid in my life, I pat Ellie's knee in comfort.
Hopefully we can find some sort of refuge, and have this madness be over before it even begins.
TELLTALE GAMES & LEAFS NATION PROUDLY PRESENT:
THE WALKING DEAD:
"Do you think they're gone?"
I slowly come back to reality as Ellie says something for the first time in the nearly two hours that we've been on the road. I'd look out the side mirror and say if they were still following us or not, but both mirrors have been shot at and cracked; giving me no help as I shrug my shoulders.
"I highly doubt that we're out of the woods yet," I admit truthfully, not seeing a point in lying to the girl. I've told enough lies in my lifetime already, and it's partly why we're on the run right now as it is. "But I haven't seen any troops in a while now, so… take that for what you want, I guess."
"Well, that's good at least!" Ellie chirps before diving into her backpack and pulling out another copy of her favourite comic book, Savage Starlight. I don't know why she never liked to read the Batman comics that I once did beforehand, but to each their own. I'm just glad to see that she's enjoying herself for a change. "Tch… this better not be another fucking cliffhanger…"
"We all know how much you hate those," I smirk, ruffling her hair a little bit as I turn the windshield wipers on. Snow in Virginia can be a hassle, that's for sure.
As I listen to Ellie flip through the pages of her comic book, giving her at least some relief to the horrors that we've gone through together, I can't help but think of where we're gonna go from here. How much longer are we going to have to be on the move for? Forever? Am I really willing to do this shit until I keel over and die; outmaneuvering the very same people that I swore to lead with my life?
Yes, yes I am.
There are several things that I've learned from my time with the Fireflies, but there were three things that really stuck out to me in particular. One is that I wasn't ready for the leadership role – that much is more than clear to me now. How could I have been ready at twelve years old? I had the entire weight of the world resting on my shoulders… and I totally blew it.
But I would blow that chance again, and again, and over again… Nothing could even try to convince me otherwise. Taking Ellie was the only clear, possible choice that I've made in a very long time.
Second off, you can't be afraid to cheat, murder and steal in order to get ahead out here. I learned that lesson pretty early on, and I'm almost completely positive that if I had just stuck to my old ways of treating everyone nicely and being my naïve, eight year old self, I wouldn't be alive today. Hell, the Fireflies were practically built on a foundation of lies and deceit, not to mention everything that happened afterwards! I've got very little regrets for what I did, although some secrets I'm going to have to carry with me to the grave.
I can't help but feel bad that I've forced myself to keep secrets from even those closest to me, as I glance over at Ellie with slight concern.
Thirdly… family is the absolute most important thing that you could possibly have. They don't have to be related to you in order to be considered a part of your family – it's just the care, love and trust that you put with them that really counts.
That, and I'd be willing to lay down my life for my family, although I've got to say that that list is pretty small for the people I'd be willing to die for.
Ignoring a walker that stumbles its way towards us, I keep driving without looking back.
"So, this Alexandria place…" Ellie trails off, setting her book down for a little while on her lap. "You said that it's safe, right?"
"That's what the reports said before we left," I tell her, not really giving the teen much to go on. I've been withholding quite a lot of info from her recently. When she looks over at me for a better explanation, I sigh and try to elaborate a little bit more. "It was a safe zone back in the day – you know, one of those communities people built when they wanted to settle down."
"Oh, you mean like… Tommy's place?"
Nodding my head, I swipe a few loose strands of hair back under the beak of my cap and try keeping my eyes focused on the road. This hat's been through hell, but I can't force myself to just throw it away. That'd be like removing a piece of my soul.
"Yeah – I'd bet that it's a lot like Jackson," I agree, despite not having actually seen Tommy's community for myself. The guy always did have a knack for helping people in times of crisis, and he left a big, gaping hole in the ranks when he decided to go it off by himself. "According to some folks, Alexandria got sacked and ruined once by a band of marauders, but apparently the place got rebuilt a couple of years later. I've never actually been here before."
Drumming her fingers along her jeans, Ellie frowns pensively for a moment; capturing my attention as I ask her what the problem is.
"Nothing, nothing," she insists, but it's unfortunate for her that I'm so stubborn.
"Keeping everything to yourself isn't a good idea, Ellie," I advise, knowing exactly how that feels like after having done it myself for so long. As I turn right and start slowing the vehicle down before we get to the fallen tree in the road, I switch off the engine and turn towards the special girl. "Now tell me – what's up?"
Absentmindedly fiddling with her sleeve as she glances down at the scar, Ellie grabs her backpack and sighs. "It's just that…" she cuts herself off as she turns to face towards me, "are you sure that they're gonna be there?"
"How do you know?"
"Because I just do!" I snap, not meaning to get angry at her but the overwhelming feelings of anxiety and paranoia recently have gotten me pretty agitated. "They're gonna be there, Ellie. I know they will.
Not looking me in the eyes, Ellie simply mumbles "okay" before opening her door and stepping out into the cold. Closing my eyes for only a few seconds, I struggle to compose myself as I set the keys on top of the dashboard and grab my gear. Just because we can't use this thing anymore doesn't mean that somebody else can't.
As I shut the door behind me and traverse through the snow, leaving little tracks behind me as Ellie follows my lead over the fallen logs, I keep having to reassure myself that things will be like I keep saying they'll be. Everything's gonna go velvety smooth – we're gonna get to Alexandria, hold out in the community, wait this thing out until the Fireflies give up their search for us, and then go back to our lives.
Jane and Lilly are gonna be waiting at the gates for us with open arms – just like they told me they would. I have to believe that they're safe and secure.
They just have to be… After all of this shit, they just have to be…
"Looks like we've caught a lucky break!" I comment, looking up at the sky with slight relief. "The storm's starting to clear up! You see that, Ellie? Maybe our luck's gonna turn around after all."
As the last of the snowflakes fall to their earthly demise, I shield my eyes to look forward as the sunlight harshly bounces off the winter wonderland surrounding us. Even though it might be a little bit blinding out here, it still beats the crap out of travelling in a blizzard.
"Alexandria can't be far now," I tell her with a crazed determination in my head. God, I feel like Kenny trying to get up to Wellington… "Keep up, kiddo – it's only a matter of time."
"Don't you think we should stop for a break?" Ellie asks hopefully, but pouting slightly as I shake my head. "Oh come on, Clem! We've been at this for two days straight!"
Stopping in my tracks, I turn around to find that Ellie's leaning up against a tree in exhaustion, wanting nothing more than to sit down somewhere and grab some much needed rest. A part of me kind of agrees with her and longs for a short nap, but that's overshadowed by my burning desire to find this place. Alexandria could be our salvation.
"We're too out in the open," I explain, groaning and walking over to the girl as she sits in the snow. She complains in annoyance when I grab onto her arm and force her to her feet. "I don't want to hear it, Ellie! We've come too far just to stop now – this place is nearby, I know it is!"
"Just stop with the bullshit, Clementine! I've had it up to here!" Ellie emphasizes, causing me to step back as she glares fiercely at me. "Now what the hell aren't you telling me, huh?! Why are we running from the Fireflies when they were only trying to help people?! What are you so fucking afraid of?!"
"Everything!" I exclaim darkly, clenching my fists as I try to get my point across. If I have to get loud and direct in order for her to understand my urgency as of late, then so fucking be it. "Let me tell you something, Ellie – right now, we are not safe. Not now, not ever. Everywhere we fucking go, our lives are gonna be risked because that's just the world we live in. I'm trying to get us here so that we might have a sliver of a chance to survive out here! That's it!"
Shaking her head in mild disgust, Ellie narrows her eyes as she slings her bag over her shoulder. "You're so full of it today," she remarks, taking me aback as she brushes off ahead down the pathway.
Not before I catch up to her, though.
"Excuse me?!" I demand, feeling the voices coming back in full force. As I breathe in and out like I was told to beforehand, Ellie glances over at me and questions me again.
"You've been dodging my questions for over a god damn year, Clementine!" she barks, not easing up even as I struggle to control my inner demons. "Quit feeding me all of these bullshit lines about how we need to keep finding somewhere safe! Safe from what?! Walkers, people, what the hell is it?! Why are you keeping this shit from me?!"
"BECAUSE IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH YOU!" I erupt in a blinding fit of anger, silencing the teen as she stares back at me in shock. As I start trying to catch my breath while also fighting off the urge to pull out my gun and try to shoot the various images surrounding me, Ellie automatically looks down at her sleeve and rolls it up for a moment.
"…is it because of…?" she cuts the question off, getting her answer as I walk ahead and try to control myself.
I've been keeping secrets from Ellie for practically the entire time that I've known her, and most of those have been so big that I'm surprised it hasn't completely tarnished our friendship yet. I've made so many mistakes; so many errors in judgement over the years, and slowly but surely they have each come back to bite me right in the ass.
Some of those mistakes have cost lives; lives that cannot be replaced. Despite all the good that we did together – Lilly, Jane and I – the mistakes are going to be what defines me for people. They won't see me as a person who tried to bring people together, but as a monster that has ruined practically everything. My legacy will be in total ruins, and it all boils down to the biggest mistake of them all.
It's also the one reason that I'm now being hunted across most of the United States.
Travelling the rest of the way in silence, I can't even fake a smile as we gaze upon the big gates and fences of Alexandria – considered by many to be the crowning jewel of Virginia nowadays. This place is a fortress compared to others of its kind, and its reputation as being a fair, cooperative commonwealth has drawn many people to come out looking for it in the past.
As Ellie and I trudge towards the front gates, I make absolutely sure that I'm in front with a gun out in case things go sideways. In times like these, nothing is more important than being able to defend yourself – especially when people can be just as bad and nasty as the walkers, if not even worse.
Banging on the big plate metal near the front gate, I look back towards Ellie and nod as a bigger-looking man comes to address us. We're gonna be fine, I'm sure of it. We're gonna come out of this alive.
"So… I reckon that y'all are the folks we've been searching for," he says calmly, causing me to instinctively raise my weapon up in defense. "Nuh-uh, little lady. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to ask you to put down your weapon and come quietly. We wouldn't want to hurt that pretty little face of yours, after all."
"Let us go and I won't put this bullet right down your esophagus," I threaten, starting to back up as I try hollering back to Ellie. "Kiddo, you need to run, got that? No excuses, just go!"
"I'm not leaving you alone out here!"
"Just do what I ask, for – "
Pausing, I grind my teeth together in anger as two dozen armed men and women suddenly come out to meet the two of us at the gate; forming a circle around us with their weapons trained and ready to fire. A bunch of these people are Firefly troops, as I recognize a few people that I used to be in contact with.
All the while, however, I'm absolutely seething with rage. How could they possibly have gotten here before us?!
"No…" I mumble to myself, turning my head this way and that as I try to search for the two familiar faces. "Where… where are you two? Jane… Lilly… you have to be here…"
Stepping forward, the man who was at the gate beforehand aims a shotgun near my head as he tells me once again to surrender.
"You won't kill me…" I tell him, knowing fully well that he was told not to pull the trigger by whomever must've bought him off. What was the promised price, I wonder? "And you won't kill her."
As he motions for a handful of other people to come towards us, I reluctantly place my pistol on the ground and hold my hands up in surrender. Ellie wants to put up a fight, I'm almost certain of it, but she thankfully follows my lead and does the same. We're outnumbered, outgunned and completely surrounded – there's no way that we'd be making it out of this alive.
"Don't you fucking touch her!" I bark, feeling the impact of a man's fist as he clocks me in the side of the head. When Ellie screams out my name in worry, I simply spit out the blood in my mouth onto the snow and look towards her. "Don't give into them, you hear me?! No matter what these fuckers do to me, you stay strong! Don't let them win!"
A kick to the face has me seeing stars as my hat is knocked off, but thankfully I grab it before being roughly pulled up and dragged into the community of Alexandria; trying to turn my head and see if Ellie is still in one piece.
The one question ringing through my mind as I'm brought into a holding cell and tossed to the dusty floor is this:
How in the ever-loving fuck did we get here?
AN: Welcome back, party people! Yes, this is the third instalment of the Lilly, Clem and Jane saga, but I'm just going to let you know how things are going to run this time around.
This story's going to have multiple time-skips in it; meaning that Clem won't always be the same age throughout the story. I'm going to devote quite a dew chapters to the different segments, however, so I'm not going to try and rush this or anything.
Second – this is most likely going to be my most ambitious project yet. Jane, Lilly and Clem have become my absolute faves to write for, and this story's gonna go into quite a lot of detail surrounding their adventures in the apocalypse.
And lastly, I know that this chapter may have been a bit confusing because it took place when Clem was twenty years old, but hopefully everything will make more sense in the future. Next chapter I'm going to go back to where we left off in You're the Salvation, so hopefully this goes well. Anyways, please drop a review and I'll see you guys in the next chapter!