Southern Runners

Rekindling The Inferno

Southern Runners

Chapter 01



It was a cold and foggy morning as Dale crawled out from the ditch. Holding out his old phone he dialed Alexander's number, "Hey man, I finally left. I know you said you would go with me, but I really think you should stay home."

"Dale, we shall make this trip together and that's final!", said Alexander "I have been your friend since grade school, and we have always been there for each other, so I will meet you in thirty minutes and you better be there!"

"Yes, Alexander," said Dale in a defeated voice.

Dale poked his head just above the road level and peered around to see if the coast was clear. To his surprise, it wasn't. He launched back into the ditch mere moments before a light was shined where he had been.

"I know you're out here you little shit!" Screamed Dale's stepfather. "You better hope I don't find you or your boyfriend!"

Dale slowly crawled down the ditch line away from his stepfather. He tried to move slow, really slow as to not make much noise. Every movement was painful due to scraping his knee when he jumped back down into the very deep ditch of this rural country road. His movements were slowed even more to a crawl due to the storm from the night before. Every step was met by the cold wet mud or the sharp rocks of the ditch.

Once he was certain he was away from his stepfather, he retrieved the old phone from his pocket and noticed there were two missed calls. One from the evil bastard and one from Alexander. He immediately dialed Alexander, hoping he made it out fast enough.

Three long rings later, "Dale, are you alright? I just barely missed your stepfather. I'm waiting at the old Bates farm house on the hill off of Hwy One fifty-one." Alexander said while trying to stay warm.

"Alexander, stay there I will be there shortly." Said Dale.

Dale slowly stood up and looked around, "finally," he said just above a whisper. Looking to his left, he remembered the old shortcut to Bates farm and took off like a shot.

Yates farm house 7 am

Alexander looked down at his phone as the call ended. Looking up he asked, "So now what are you going to do Steven?"

"We shall wait for Dale to arrive and I will make sure you guys are fed before you leave out, I would do more but, it would look weird, to say the least if I went missing. My family would go nuts and they would have everyone out searching with extreme diligence." Steven said, while silently wishing he could leave.

Alexander and Steven chatted for a half an hour, just as Alexander looked to his phone for the twentieth time he looked up to see Dale standing behind Steven holding a shovel above his head ready to spring it on him. This caused Alexander to take a sharp breath.

Without turning to see who was standing there, "Dale, if it will make you feel better to strike me down then do it, I just want to help." Steven said while tears streamed from his eyes as he looked at the floor. The fear he was feeling was minimal, but he wasn't afraid of Dale, but for Dale.

Steven could feel the shock radiating from Dale as if an explosion had rocked the old farmhouse.

Dale watched as the big teenager stood up and slowly walked to over and wrapped his strong-arms gently around him. He slowly melted into Stevens embrace and started to let all the pain out as he cried into the gentle but strong embrace of Steven. Steven shot a smile at Alexander inviting him over to the hug. Timidly, Alexander walked over to Steven and joined the hug. After all the sniffles ended so did the hug.

"Let's go get some food, and then get y'all set for your trip," Steven said while looking at the younger couple.

As they walked out of the abandoned old farmhouse they moved quickly to the trees near the back of the house and down the path to the new house complete with stables and rodeo arena. The walk was quiet with the occasional sneeze from Dale.

As they got closer to the house, Steven turned to walk to the ranch hands mess and apartments. Before they could enter the mess, a fiery woman approached them and all but pushed them into the mess.

She led them to the bar and pushed them into seats with the exception of Dale. "Youngen, you needs a shower a hot one, go in the third door on tha right and take you a hot shower don't come out till ya feelin nice en warm." Linda said then added "Once you strip outta them clothes kickem to tha hallway and I ken find ya some more gist yourn size"

"Dale, go on she isn't gonna bite unless you piss her off!" Steven said with his first chuckle for the day.

"Don't ya start, are you gunno go to school today or are you gunna stay home with that cold you've caught?" Linda asked and then winked at her boy. "They can't be out on the road today, the laws already lookin for them Steven."

Steven turned as he saw the small almost hidden smile. "We gotta help them, I would join them but you know the folks would flip over me disappearing," Steven said with his arm draped over Alexander.

Linda turned to the stove and began to whistle a soft tune while she started cooking. First reaching for a skillet to cook a slab of bacon, then with another larger skillet she started the eggs, stopped, and pointed to Steven to take over the stove. Before she left the room, she whistled a sharp piercing tone, pointed at the stove again, and walked off.

As Alexander rubbed his ears Steven explained, "She cooks for the ranch hands and normally she can't talk loud enough for anyone to hear her so she has developed Whistle tones to get their attention. That loud tone indicated she has biscuits in the oven and I had better not let them burn." He stopped talking long enough to flip the bacon and eggs.

Just down the hallway

Linda looked down to the muddy pile of clothes and began inspecting it. She walked to the closet down the hall and grabbed some clothes out then decided four sets should be enough for now. Walking back down to the bathroom she knocked on the door. "I have some clothes for you to put on when you get out. I'm going to put them in the wash area for you so when you get out of the shower you'll have something dry to put on."

Dale quickly said "Thank You" and reclosed the inner door.

Linda quickly placed the clothes and a big towel on the countertop then stopped when she spotted the muddy sneakers and socks on the floor, she quickly picked them up and left closing the door back.

She loaded all the wet and muddy clothes into the washer and returned to the closet, finding a pair of shoes and boots of the right size and some socks she returned to the kitchen, as she set them on the floor by the door Steven turned and spoke. "I always wondered where clothes my parents didn't approve of went?"

"Steven, did yeh have to ask? Yah, Know I don't waste much!" Linda said while keeping an eye on Alexander.

Linda sat at the counter while Steven continued cooking breakfast. Alexander looked over and asked, "Excuse me Mam, but where is the restroom?" In an almost terrified sounding voice. Linda watched as Steven flinched but continued cooking.

Looking at the expression on Alexanders face, "Well, child just go down the hall to the forth door on the right. Oh, and please call me Linda or Annie." she lifted her hand to point it out and saw the pained expression on his face.

Alexander walked to the room and entered followed by the sound of the door locking. Thirty seconds later Dale left the shower room and headed back to the kitchen, the entire way shaking his head looking at the tags on the clothes.

Steven stops cooking and whistles low to Linda and steps away from the stove. "Dale, stop shaking your head, I already know what you're thinking. Yes, you may have the clothes, and stop looking at the tags." Steven, bent down and gave Dale another hug and whispered, "Yes, I think you are worth having these clothes. I am not your stepdad. You are not worthless. Please calm down."

"How do you know what I am thinking?" Dale asked as he raised his head to look into Steven's eyes. "Please, tell me how."

Steven turned to look at Linda and then turned back to Dale, "Dale, I can hear thoughts and feel extreme emotions from people, it started when I turned fourteen years old. Linda has known about it since it started." Steven inhaled sharply, and let go of Dale and ran for the small bathroom.

Linda stopped fixing the plates just as Steven ran off. Hurriedly she walked to Dale and wrapped him in a motherly hug, during the hug she keeps an eye on the bathroom. Waiting to see if she would be needed next.

After knocking several times on the door, Steven whipped out the key to the door. Once he walked inside, he mentally called for Linda and Dale. Alexander laid there in the prone position nude. Steven was barely holding on to his rage at seeing the large hand prints, bruises, and cuts on Alexanders skin. Linda ran to the room she checked on Alexander and asked Dale to get Steven back to the kitchen. Gently, she bends down and picked the boy up and carries him to the small guest room.

When Linda reappeared in the kitchen, she found a surprise. Steven was sitting calmly at the table and Dale was hugging him almost for dear life. "Steven ya, doing alright?" said Linda, "I ain't nevah seen you calm down so fast."

"He looked like he was mad, so I started hugging him, and if he started to tremble I just hugged him more.," said Dale, "How is Alexander doing?"

As if on cue Steven began shaking, followed by the sound of Dale hugging the air out of his lungs.

"Oopf, Dale, please stop I think I can control it but I need to breathe." Steven attempted to say.

"Sorry, Steven but I don't want to see you mad and I don't know how Alexander would react if you were to go off," Dale said while looking down.

Taking a calming breath Steven asked, "Speaking of Alexander, what happened to him?"

Dale looked into Steven's eyes and started trembling, "Steven, I wish I knew. I was the one planning to run away due to how I was being treated by my stepfather, I have no clue how or when this happened. If I had known we would have left sooner," said Dale who no longer could form words due to the huge racking sobs, he was experiencing.

Linda took this moment to tell them, "I called lil' Wil obver to checkn out Alexander."

Steven smiled up at Linda and asked, "So, maw. How muchn longer yah gunna keep up witden the over drawn soudthern accent?"

Linda looked at Steven with a stern expression, "Would you rather I sound like your parents and the damn infernal butler in the house?" asked Linda.

"Actually, an Elmer Fudd accent might work," Steven replied seriously.

"Aww, I'll getchew and dem wascally wabbits!" Linda said with a big smile.

"Foghorn Leghorn?"

"Now listen here son, I say Listen here boy. Will is gonna be here soon, son! You're not too smart boy, that head must be full of rocks, I say boy, rocks or stones!" Linda said then "Now if you're through with the voice acting then let's finish breakfast up and get ready to have Will stop by."

Steven looked outside the mess, sighing he looked at the large Hummer pulling in to the driveway. "Ma, your brother is here!"

Linda looked at Steven like he was kidding her, "How in the heck did he get here so fast?"

Will grabbed his gear from the Hummer and almost ran into the door. "Where is Steven? What's happened I drove as fast as Elvira would go!" Will, shouted and stopped at seeing Steven, holding Dale in place and Linda looking at him with a shut the hell up look.

Dale looked up at this strange new person, "Elvira? Who is Elvira? Why didn't you bring her in here?"  Asked Dale, who got up to invite this poor girl in from the cold. Only to find a large Hummer.

Linda walked over, and gave her brother a big hug and led him down the hall to the guest room. Linda stopped at the door and quietly asked, "Please, calm down and talk to him, he is very scarred, and scared and his emotions are working on Steven's."

Back in the Mess

Steven turned and told Dale, "I know you're running away, and yes I want to help. I just don't want to lose contact with y'all again."

"What do you mean again? We just meet today or am I missing something?" asked Dale.

Steven reached back and massaged his neck, something about Alexander tightening it up with the mental whiplash. Steven looked down at the table and back up to Dale, his eyes glistened with fresh tears and when he opened his mouth, nothing but a small rumble came forth.

Dale slowly and cautiously reached out and placed his left hand on Steven's face, turning Steven to look at him, "Please, tell me what you meant. I really want to know and I know your hurting so just take your time. There is no rush."

Steven had a glistening stream of tears trailing down his face as he tried again to speak, "When I was twelve me and my best friends would go fish down at the creek behind the old farmhouse. They weren't the type people my parents wanted me to hang around. They were cool; we would hang out at their houses or here at the mess hall. They both had these awesome little brothers. We would play Cowboys and Indians at the old treehouse in Danny's backyard. Then one day when school had let out, Linda told me they had died and it was best if I didn't visit their houses anymore." Steven said while holding on to Dale with a death grip. "Danny and Travis helped me deal with this ability of feeling emotions from others; I really miss them so much it hurts. So if their brothers need help then I will give anything I can to the cause."

Linda had just returned from the bedroom to hear Stevens tell Dale, what she had already learned from Will talking to Alexander.

"Tevn?" Dale said in a whisper, while looking into Steven's eyes searching for the person he knew a long time ago.

Steven only nodded his reply to Dale since his words had failed him. Noticing movement Steven looked to see William standing there in case he was needed.

Linda turned to Steven, "I have bought the three of you some time for the trip." Holding her hands up, Linda began again, "Steven, you're connected to them and they need you. Besides, I called the school and your parents. We are going to go visit the University of Florida so you can see what they have to offer."

"What? We need to get them to safety, not go on a college trip." Steven said in a huff.

Reaching up to Steven's face, Dale turned him so he could get his attention, "Tevn, she is trying to help you, just as much as us? There is more going on here than what anyone is saying."

Dale looked back to Linda and received a knowing smile. Everyone turned to Alexander as he entered the room dressed similarly to Dale. William was watching Linda as she walked over to the old base station radio, "Linda to Herman"

"Yes, Linda what can I assist you with?" Herman said with mirth in his voice.

"I need you to take over the mess and step in for a few days as the lead of the farm until I get back", Linda said while looking at the shock written across Steven's face.

"Yes Mam, I'll be right there," said Herman, everyone turned to the base station when they heard his truck rev up.

Shaking her head, "He always thinks something is on fire if I call him on this thing." said Linda.

The cracking sound of a loud facepalm followed by Steven's comment, "Umm, Linda it has been six months since you fired up the base station! Maybe they think it's an EMERGENCY!"

With a wink of her eye, everyone knew she was jerking Stevens's chain, "Steven go into the main house with William and Pack at least two weeks' worth of clothes and I'll do the same for the boy's here since there should be several months' worth of clothes." Linda said while pointing toward the storage room.

With a second thought, Linda walked back over to the base station, "Herman, on your way over stop by the shed and bring the RV over here."

"It hasn't seen the light of day in six months! Alright, it might take me a few more minutes to get there." Herman said, perplexed at the request to drag the old RV out for a trip. "Especially since she has access to the new RV next to it." He mumbles to himself.

Linda had just finished packing up the last of the trunks for the trip, when she heard the distinctive sound of the old RV in the front parking lot of the mess. "Alright guys let's get the beast loaded up," said Linda pointing to the Relic of an RV.

Herman walked up to Linda and said, "What is going on, in all the years in which you have worked here, I have never seen this beast cranked?"

"It is a long complicated tale, but we will be gone for a week maybe longer. I know you can handle the operations of the farm and the mess, hire someone if you need help in the mess. If you need me call me on this number." Linda said while passing Herman a card with the cell phone number for the old analog cell phone in the RV. "By the way, leave a message if we don't answer right away, oh and leave the number you want me to call on the message."

"Yes mam, anything else?" Herman asked.

"Herman don't let that sorry butler push you around and don't mess with anything in this top left drawer, got it?" Linda asked Herman.

Herman just leaned in, and gave her a hug and whispered, "I have it, be safe."

Linda turned when Steven and William walked up, "Hey, I need your cell phones bring them in here let's get them hooked up." Linda said whilst showing a conspiratorial smile.

They walked back into the mess to the locked drawer where Linda opened the drawer and hooked both of their smartphones up to chargers and set them to forward to her old cell phone, and then locked the drawer.

"Look, I don't want them tracking us. Call me paranoid but we have two runaways with us so all calls need to route to us via call forwarding. My old phone still works like new and it doesn't have GPS. Besides, I don't think you want to talk to your parents Steven," said Linda as she walked away from the drawer.

"Do we need to drop William's vehicle back at his house before the rents get home?" Steven asked allowed for someone to answer.

"Actually, Randy and I can take care of it right now, and be back in time to start lunch preparations", said Herman rather smartly.

"Why that's rather nice of you", Willian said thinking about how thoughtful Herman was being.

Aboard the RV

Steven was first to board the old RV, but he was the first to notice it had been updated to the extreme. He sat down on the full-length couch on the center cushion. He looked all around the living room area and noticed the forty-inch Plasma on the wall, with a mini kitchenette and mini porta-potty.

Dale entered the RV and was surprised at how nice it really was on the inside. He decided to walk past the couch and explore the back of the RV. "Wow, this RV sleeps four passengers in the back!" said a shocked Dale.

Alexander went right to the couch and curled up using Steven as a pillow, "I can't believe how comfortable the couch is on this RV!" said Alexander avoiding, Steven trying to hit him with a pillow.

William entered and sat in the navigator's seat and began programming the list of destinations into the onboard computer. Also, he was starting up the other onboard systems.

"William, have you fired up the systems and entered the destinations for our staying off the grid, yet", asked Linda?

"Yes, Sis!" William said with a giggle.

William fired up the internal intercom and began speaking in the cheesiest co-pilot voice, "Welcome aboard the Beast Transit Service or BTS for short! Please remember to stay in the living areas of the Beast, since those areas are protected from viewing. Also, in case we are pulled over act natural as a family can, meaning act like kids who have been in the car for too long. Our trip will take us to Charleston SC, and will continue all the way to Florida if all goes well. If for some reason something happens plans will change but we will stay together through it all!" Said William even as tears began to crawl down his face.

Looking over toward her brother Linda leaned over and wiped the tears away, "brother everything will be fine, we will get them to safety, one way or another." Linda said comforting William.

Turning right on to Alabama Hwy. Linda fired up the scanner system, "Boy's will ya'll keep a check on the monitor for any roadblocks?" Linda asked with a small smile.

"Linda, Hwy 136 to Lafayette has a roadblock on Alabama Hwy. They are short a few cars. So, it will be another hour before Hwy 136 to Dalton will be blocked off!" Steven shouted to Linda.

William walked back to check on the kids and found them asleep each tucked under one of Steven's arms. He looked right at Steven, "Just be aware there is an inter-comm with automatic on and off, so anything spoken in the RV is repeated in the front to turn it off for privacy press the red button under the screen and it will be turned off for one hour. The system is for protection purposes only." William said followed by, "Besides they look comfortable and this might be the best nap they have had in weeks."

Steven only replied with a smile and a nod, and then laid back and fell asleep.

Linda barely made it to the turn onto Hwy 136 before the State Patrol shut it down. Sighing in relief she edged the BTS up to proper speed then asked, "William how are the boys doing?"

"There out cold, Sis." William announced then asked, "Do you want me to keep a check on the scanning system?"

"William, I had the system upgraded to include a heads up for the navigator to watch the scanner, so come on back up here unless you need a nap. Besides, I'm thinking we will stop at the Flying J Truck stop for Lunch and to top off the BTS as you so thoughtfully named it." Linda said with an uncontrolled chuckle.

William was watching the trees roll by as they traveled highway One thirty-six near Villanow Rd, he thought he saw someone in the ditch, "Sis pullover now, I saw something!" Said William in a wild panic.

 Linda pulled the BTS over in an abandoned buildings parking lot, before she was even stopped William was out the door at a breakneck run. Linda heard a faint yell over the engine, "Hurry up sis, get the lead out!"

 Steven walked up to the front of the RV and asked, "Linda what's up with us sliding to a stop?"

 "Steven, William thinks he saw something or someone in the ditch, so we are going to go check. I need you to stay here, with the doors locked and if you need help; press this blue button and state your name and then my name and let them know you need help." Linda said while grabbing the first aid kit and a large flashlight.

 "Linda go on before William has a panic attack", Steven said with a small smile, pointing at William in the mirror. William was standing near the road hands animatedly waving wildly all over the place.

Linda rushed out of the RV and ran up to William passing him an inhaler. She looked down the hill spotting an older Ford car with the hazard lights on just beginning to smoke. "Come on Will, we don't have much time due to it being a Ford!" Linda hollered back at William as she made her way to the car.

Linda turned to Will "If you have your phaser give it here otherwise go to the RV and grab the bolt cutters from the driver's side storage belly." said Linda with a yell.

Will jerked to a start either from the Commanding tone or the Deafening yell. Either way Will broke into a run for the RV.

Steven jumped with a start when the command console blared to life, amazingly it didn't wake Alexander or Dale from their sleep. Steven turned to see Will, running full speed toward the BTS. Before Will could make it to the RV, Steven ran out the door with a phaser he found in the center of the command console.

"Dammit, boy stop doing that!" Will screamed seeing Steven with what he was after. "Never mind, I do need it. Sorry."

Steven handed it over whilst; telling Will "The Command Console is going apeshit crazy".

Pausing for a brief second Will saw everything displayed on the Command Console followed by a brief feeling of vertigo. "We need to sit down and discuss what is going on but I better get back before she yells again."

"Dammit, Will get your ass back here now! There isn't much time!" Linda yelled knowing Steven must have told him something important to distract him. "Steven, get back in the RV and do as I asked you to do," Linda yelled with a mischievous smile.

Will stopped running and passed the phaser to Linda, who so easily cut the chains precisely without harming the boys. Will and Linda each pulled a youngster out and ran for the RV, knowing the car didn't have much longer to go before blowing apart. Once they were on the BTS, Linda asked Steven, "Did you call for help, yet?"

Steven, looked at Linda with an apologetic look, "No, was it needed?"

"Aargh, quit giving me a headache, No, I'm glad you didn't call them. However, now I need to contact someone for assistance." Linda announced while rubbing her temples.

Walking to the nearest console Linda placed her left hand on the scanner. "Control this is Retired Inferno requesting assistance", Linda stated looking at the control station.

"Retired Inferno, we thought those fires had been extinguished moons ago. Assistance approved, continue to Dalton via One thirty-six. We shall meet with your team at your favorite restaurant in forty-five minutes, Control out!" The panel announced and then went silent.

End of Chapter One

 Author Notes: Remember to use the force Luke, oh wait wrong story.