Daryl walked through the inner courtyard of the Cheyanne compound apprehensively. The compound was specially built to look like a prison, because essentially, that's what it was. 4 tall walls that kept the baddies out so you had a better chance of surviving the night. That was more than he had when he slept most nights, camping in the back of his truck. But something about this compound in particular had always struck him as more foreboding than the rest of the haven's walls. Maybe it was because it looked the role so much better. 15 foot high steel walls on all sides, guard towers, barbed wire and inside was a flat compound with the only shelter composed of vehicles or tents. He didn't trust the walls like he did his truck, either, although that was partially due to him building the truck's defenses himself. Still, it wasn't as bad as inside the mountain that stood less than a mile away. All it was to him was a maze of tiny, poorly lit corridors and the never ending trickle of water. It made Daryl wonder how so many people had survived in there for 5 years. He'd barely made it 6 months at his friend Wess's hideaway, and that was a proper house.
The camp's only real purpose was as a staging ground. Most of Cheyanne's activity had to come and go through one door, and keeping traffic off of that door was essential. So instead, supplies and excursions were organized at the camp, and returned to the mountain in a more organized fashion. Daryl preferred it that way. If anything could top off being stuck in a dark cave, it was being stuck in a dark cave with 25 other people and a wall of noise.
The day had just started. His radio's alarm clock had gone off at 6:00 AM sharp, and Daryl was out of bed and dressed a few minutes later. He'd skipped the shower. The only working stalls at the camp had lines about 4 miles long, and bathing in front of a line of people didn't exactly make the top 10 list of things he wanted to do with his morning. A fog from the mountain had found its way down around the walls, and the 7:00 sun was only just rising. A muffled gunshot would come up occasionally, usually from the direction of the town of Colorado Springs, and if you listened close you could hear the occasional zombie banging on the camp's walls. The people in the camp were rowdy and loud, even at this early in the morning. Even though it had been a couple of months, the ability to breathe fresh air and make noise hadn't quite settled in with the Colorado soldiers. Daryl couldn't blame them. After being stuck underground with 4000 other people for 5 years and coming out as skinny and pale from a lack of sunlight, a little bit of personal space could go a long way.
Across the compound was the real reason Daryl was still in the camp, and not getting an assignment or in his truck down in the town. A group of raiders had jumped his party the last time he'd been out, and his team had taken the survivors prisoner. The raiders' ambush had cost one soldier his life. With very little time or patience for criminals and no real place to house them, the Judge's committee (Colorado's version of a court) had decided in the same evening to execute them. Daryl's initial thought was that he wouldn't be sorry to see them go. He had recognized one of them as soon as he'd taken them prisoner. A middle aged man, bald, with a long scar down the right side of his face. He'd been one of the people who had put bullets in Daryl's legs outside Reno, just over 4 years ago.
The more he thought about it, though, the more Daryl questioned his own motivation. He had a personal vendetta against one of the men in particular; that much was completely clear to himself and to the salvagers he'd been with. He'd come to terms with that fact. But despite the men proving themselves as problems time and time again, he was having problems justifying their deaths. Daryl had long been of the opinion that no man should kill another, especially in a world where there was so much more to worry about. Even in the case of these men, he wasn't sure he would be able to endorse their sentence. As he walked, he wondered why he was even going to their execution. He had better things to do, after all. He could only think that maybe seeing the execution would justify the action. He had been involved in the raiders' capture, and one of them had put him out of action for months only a few years before. It made sense for him to see the thing through. Or at least, that's what he kept telling himself.
Finally rounding the last turn to the courtyard where the executions were taking place, he saw exactly what he expected to see. At the edge of the clearing were 2 guards with assault rifles, watching in case things got out of hand. Being escorted in from another path were the 4 prisoners, being escorted in by 6 guards. They had definitely put up some sort of fight. In addition to all their hands being bound, their clothes were muddied, as if they'd been pushed into the soft ground of the compound on their way here. Waiting for them was a strict-looking drill sergeant with his hair put into a buzzcut and a look of distaste on his face. Daryl joined him as the prisoners were pushed and shoved into place, fighting back again as they were forced onto their knees.
The sergeant gave Daryl a grunt of recognition as he took his place beside him. “You're one of the ones that brought these assholes in.” He said.
“Yes.” Daryl replied shortly.
The sergeant growled. “Animals.” He spat. One of the prisoners had tried to get up and turn, and received a rifle butt to the head for the trouble. He fell into the mud face-down, a knot forming on the back of his skull before the guard behind him seized him by the collar and forced him back onto his knees with the other three. “You ask me, I say none of 'em are worth the bullet we're about to put into their heads. Disgusting.”
Daryl almost objected, but couldn't bring himself to do it. A voice in his head kept repeating itself. It was the one fact that would let him justify this. No alternatives. In front of him, the Sergeant took his pistol from its holster. The raiders looked him in the face defiantly. There was no trace of regret, or fear. Only anger at their capture, and hate for the man about to end their lives.
The disgust was still present in the sergeant's voice as he began. “You four,” he snarled, “have confessed to the crime of the attempted ambush of one of our supply teams, and the murder of one of our soldiers. And yet, you would not even give us your names.”
“Fuck you.” One of the raiders replied. The sergeant turned and was on him in a flash. A quick jab in the face, and the raider's nose was bleeding.
“For this crime, you have been sentenced to death.” The sergeant continued. Those particular words seemed to give him a little bit of enjoyment. The words repeated themselves in Daryl's head again. No alternatives.
“Any last words?” The sergeant asked. The raider with the bloody nose raised his head again.
“You fuckers are gonna regret this.” He snarled. “We've got big friends. And don't think they're not coming for you. You better hole back up into your little cave again, because you assholes don't stand a chance.” And with that, he laughed. It was a short laugh, like a bark, as if the thought had given him a temporary pleasure.
“I'm sure.” The sergeant replied. “And when they get here, I'll do the same thing to them.” He snapped his fingers, and a guard came forward to place burlap sacks over the heads of the 4 raiders. Once he stepped back, the words flashed in Daryl's head again. The sergeant raised his pistol, and Daryl restrained himself from stepping in. No alternatives. The sergeant fired a shot. The first raider fell over, a hole in the front of the bag from where the bullet had entered. No alternatives. Another shot, and another quiet splat as the second body hit the ground. No alternatives. A third shot, and a third body fell. No alternatives. A fourth shot, and Daryl turned away. He had things to do.