Fiction: Afterlife (Chapter 10)

by Mike Monroe on February 24, 2014

in FICTION

If you’ve never read Afterlife before, click here to go to the first chapter.

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Photo by Jay Hood

Afterlife is a sci fi/western action serial published every other week. Join us in a post-apocalyptic journey through a future where life has become little more than a struggle for survival. However, where there’s life, there’s always hope.


Read the previous chapter here:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 9

Where:

Abby has a dream about her father.
Pastor Earl kills some enforcers who came to Sunbreak City looking for Abby.
Our heroes leave Sunbreak City and two electromagnetic propulsion drones attack.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

 

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 10

 

As the laser shots hissed towards Pastor Earl, Bobby heard a twangy buzz followed by a whoosh like wind and he felt a strange, tingling sensation.  The lasers changed trajectory at a sharp angle and went shooting off into the sky, leaving Pastor Earl unscathed and Bobby dumbfounded as he and Nat turned their sand bikes back towards Earl.  The EMPC’s fired more lasers at Earl and there was another twang and a whoosh, and again, the lasers bounced off something invisible and went shooting off into the sky.  Bobby heard some loud fizzing sounds and watched as several blasts fired from a nearby dune.  There was nothing visible that could be firing them.  The lasers repeatedly fired at the EMPC’s, seeming to anticipate their next movements.  The airships zipped around wildly, attempting to dodge the attack, but the blasts were unrelenting, and after some time, they started hitting the EMPC’s and both of them exploded, falling to the desert far below in balls of yellow flame which illuminated the night sky.  Bobby and Nat rode their sand bikes back to Pastor Earl and stopped.  “Are you all right?” Bobby shouted as he and Nat turned off their engines and dismounted their bikes.  Bobby helped Abby down off his bike and she wrapped her arm around his shoulder to help her stand.

Earl smiled and nodded, standing close to his damaged sand bike.  “Sure.  Just a little bit rattled.  And my sand bike’s useless now.”  The three men and Abby looked towards where the strange blasts had been fired from.

A large hover van with solar panels covering its roof materialized from out of nowhere on top of the dune, along with a sleek sports hover car.  Both vehicles moved swiftly towards Bobby and his companions.  Not wanting to startle someone who’d just come to his rescue as he’d done with Nat, Bobby holstered his laser pistol and waited.  The two vehicles stopped near Bobby and lowered to the ground, their headlights illuminating the dune where Bobby and his companions were standing.  First, the driver’s side door to the hover van opened and a muscular man of Middle Eastern descent stepped out, smiled, and waved.  As he stepped into the light of the headlights, Bobby could see that he was wearing a black tank top and jeans and he had a bushy, black beard.  A little black and white shih tzu followed him, yapping at Bobby and his companions.  “It seems you’ve attracted some unwanted admirers,” the muscular man said.

Pastor Earl nodded.  “Thanks for saving my life.”

“It was my pleasure,” the man said.  “I’m Pete Ahmad.”  Pete picked the shih tzu up off the ground and spoke some consoling words to it which stopped the barking.  “This is Sherry, short for Scheherazade,” he said.  Bobby and his companions introduced themselves as the doors of the sports hover car also opened.

By the light radiating from inside the car, Bobby could now see that it was painted shiny red.  He watched a tall, tan-skinned man step out from the driver’s side.  He was handsome, with chiseled features, blue eyes, and short blonde hair.  He was wearing a black suit which fit his slim body perfectly and a blue tie.  “Shockingly beautiful” was the best way to describe the young woman who stepped out from the passenger side of the hover car.  At least that’s how Bobby saw her.  He heard people speaking around him, but he was mesmerized, like he got hit in the back of the head with a brick.  The first things Bobby noticed were her eyes.  They were blue and slightly slanted beneath long lashes, giving her an exotic appearance.  She had a small nose and full lips, and her flawless olive skin seemed to glow as if she were from some other world.  Her hair was long, sandy blonde, and wavy, but she had a sidecut on the right side which was shaved bald.  She had curves in all the right places and was thin in all the other places, with long, slender legs that made Bobby forget to breathe for a second.  Her summer dress fluttered around her body in the night breeze, patterned with red and white flowers, and the word “angel” was repeating over and over in Bobby’s awestruck mind.  He took a deep breath and realized the speakers in the hover car were playing the song “Angel” by Jimi Hendrix.  “Hey!”  Bobby suddenly realized the tall man who’d been driving was glaring at him.  “You didn’t hear me?”

Bobby swallowed and shook his head, prying his eyes away from the woman.  “Sorry.  I didn’t.”

“Who are you?” the tall man asked.  “The rest of your friends at least had the courtesy to introduce themselves.”

Bobby wondered if this guy was the girl’s boyfriend.  Then, he realized the close resemblance.  A protective older brother.  Of course.  Better than a boyfriend, but still not ideal.  “I’m sorry.  I’m Bobby Brooklyn.”

The tall man looked around at Bobby and his companions.  “Well I’m Horseman.”

“Horseman?” Abby asked, as she leaned against Bobby.  “What sort of name is that?”  Bobby noticed her blush after she asked the question.  She seemed to realize it was a little too forward.

The beautiful woman smiled at Abby and Bobby was mesmerized again.  “It’s short for Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse,” she said in a warm voice that sent waves of excitement running through Bobby.  He almost felt the need to leave.  He had to remind himself that she was just a woman.  Nothing more, nothing less.

“What did his parents hate ‘im or somethin’?” Nat asked.

The woman laughed and shook her head.  “He’s my brother.  Our parents were actors, like we are now.  They’d read that actors in the old world used to name their kids with flamboyant, sometimes ironic names, so they named him Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse, almost as sort of a joke.”

“And I’ve been dealing with it ever since,” Horseman muttered with a frown.

“What’s your name, then?” Pastor Earl asked the woman.

She smiled her stunning smile.  “Luckily by the time they had me, they’d gotten over their ironic phase.  I’m just Michelle.  Michelle Hemingway.”

“You’re an actress?” Bobby asked, his voice cracking.  He was thirty two years old!  Why was he so nervous speaking to her?

Michelle nodded.  “Horseman and I travel from town to town, doing a two man show of drama, comedy, and music.  I sing and he plays guitar.  Sometimes, when we find larger theater productions, we join in.  We’ve done a few movies, too.”

“I’ve heard of you,” Abby said.  “You’re pretty well-known.  I’ve seen ‘The Golden Age of Guilt.’  I loved that movie.  You were in that, right, Horseman?”  Bobby had never heard of “The Golden Age of Guilt.”

Horseman nodded.  “I’m glad you liked it.”

“Your parents were Rocky and Madeline Hemingway, right?” Abby asked.  A light bulb turned on in Bobby’s mind.  Rocky Hemingway was a very famous actor.  Everyone had heard of him.

“That’s right,” Horseman said with a charming grin.  Bobby noticed Abby smiling and blushing as she looked at Horseman and he realized she was as infatuated with Horseman as he was with Michelle.  Realization came over Horseman’s face as he looked at Abby.  “Wait a second.  You said your name’s Abby?  Are you Abigail Song?”

Abby was still blushing.  Nat eyed her with a frown.  “No, she ain’t,” he said before she had the chance to respond.  “Her name’s Abby Chang.”  Abby frowned at him and her grip on Bobby’s shoulder tightened for a second.

“Abby Chang?” Horseman asked.  “So you’re from Chinese ancestry, then?”

Abby shook her head.  “No, I’m Korean.  Not everyone named Chang is Chinese, you know.”

Horseman nodded and smiled at her.  “Yes, I know.  Well, it’s nice to meet you, Abby Chang.”  Bobby noticed the sarcasm in his voice when he repeated her name.

Abby smiled back, still blushing.  She nervously muttered something that sounded sort of like “Nice to meet you, too.”

“Well, that’s enough introductions,” Pete said, still holding his dog.  “If we stand around here too long, more of those drones will show up to check on their buddies.”

“Wait a second,” Nat said.  “I’ve got some questions.  First of all, how in the hell did you take out those drones?”

Pete smiled a big, toothy smile.  “That’s my little secret.”

“It was an electromagnetic force field,” Pastor Earl stated, “and computer-controlled surface to air laser blasters.”

Pete nodded.  “And I used a portable holographic camouflage projector to hide us, along with a radar jammer.  You know your weapons, Mr. Steadman.”

“I fought for the resistance in New Brazil for about thirty years or so,” Earl said.

Pete’s eyes widened.  “There was some heavy fighting down there.  Well, you know your stuff.”

“Where’d you manage to get weapons like that?” Bobby asked.

Pete glared at him and Sherry yelped once before Pete calmed her with some pets.  “That’s none of your business.  I have them.  That should be good enough for you.”

“As long as you’re on our side,” Abby said, “it doesn’t really matter.  Where are you headed?”  Bobby noticed that she couldn’t keep her eyes off Horseman, just like Bobby couldn’t keep his eyes off Michelle.

Pete looked at her inquisitively.  “We’re heading to Silver City.  You?”

“South Edge,” Abby said.  That was the first Bobby had heard of that.  He thought they were heading west to the Rocky Mountains.  South Edge was more southwest, near the Mexican border.  Judging from their looks, it was the first Nat and Pastor Earl had heard of it, too.

“South Edge?” Nat asked.

Abby nodded and stared him down.  “You have a problem with that?”  Nat shook his head.  Bobby was starting to notice that Abby carried herself like someone who was used to giving orders.  Must have been due to her family being wealthy.

Pete laughed.  “Well I see who you’re all taking orders from.”

“I’m paying them as my bodyguards,” Abby stated.  “You can’t be careful enough out here.”

“Well if you have money to give me,” Pete said, “I’ll come with you, too.”  He nodded towards Horseman and Michelle.  “They’re paying for my services.  They go from town to town raising money through their acting and music.  They’ve paid me to escort them to Silver City.  If you want, you could join us.  Then, I’ll take you to South Edge.”  He paused with a grin.  “It seems you’ve got some powerful enemies.  You could use my assistance.”

Abby nodded as Nat looked on suspiciously.  “All right,” Abby said, “but we can’t go to Silver City with you.  Once we’re far enough into the Dead Lands, you can split off from us and we’ll handle the rest of the trip on our own.”

“The Dead Lands?” Horseman asked.  “Are you insane?”  The Dead Lands consisted of a four hundred mile diameter area that covered much of the southern part of the Southwest Territory.  The area was also known as “the Four Hundred Mile Waste.”  There was no breathable air and in some parts there were traces of radiation.  There were no towns or settlements of any kind.  People rarely traveled through the Dead Lands because there were also reportedly some patches where electronic devices spontaneously shut down, which would be deadly in the desert.

Abby shook her head.  “Once he knows we’re in the Dead Lands, Herman Rennock will leave us alone, at least temporarily until we find our way out.  It’s the only way we’ll lose him.  Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how well-armed you are and how advanced your technology is, Rennock’s men will find us and they will kill us.  The Dead Lands will at least buy us some time.”

Pete eyed her, petting his dog.  “I don’t know why Rennock’s so interested in you, but if you want my help, you’ll have to give me a hefty sum.”

Abby nodded and glanced at Horseman.  “Horseman’s right.  I am Abigail Song.”  Nat rolled his eyes.  “I’m on my way to the Rocky Mountains to start a new nation to take down Herman Rennock.  I can pay you one hundred thousand dollars to join me.  Plus, I’ll buy weapons and technology from you.”

“I knew it,” Horseman muttered softly, a grin on his chiseled face.

Pete shook his head.  “One hundred thousand isn’t enough.  For that, I’ll get you to South Edge.  After that, I’ll need more money in order to stay with you.”

“She’s payin’ us a hundred thousand,” Nat stated, glaring at Pete.  “I guarantee you ain’t worth more than me.”

“Worth’s got nothing to do with it,” Pete said.  “My price is one million if you want me to get you to the Rocky Mountains.”

“That’s ten times what you’re giving us,” Bobby said to Abby.

Abby frowned at Pete.  “Okay, I don’t need your help, then.”

“Is that so?” Pete asked.  “It definitely looks like you needed my help from what I’ve seen.  I won’t charge you for saving your lives, either.  Consider that a freebie.”

“I’ll pay you each five hundred thousand,” Abby said, glancing at Pete, Nat, Earl and Bobby in turn.  Bobby smiled and his eyes brightened.  He thought one hundred thousand was a lot.  “That’s it.  Not a penny more.”  She eyed Pete.  “And I’ll buy your weapons and equipment.  I need to see what you have and then I’ll have to price it when I can get my computer fixed.”

“What kind of computer?” Pete asked.

“A wristwatch supercomputer,” Abby said.  “A Starbyte 520 Supercharged Model 2.0.  One of only three in existence.  It’s photon-based, meaning it stores binary data according to the spin of photons.”

Pete smiled.  “I know what it means.  Well, you’ve found the right man.  I’ll fix your computer.  Only if you pay me seven hundred and fifty thousand, though.”

“I can’t go higher than six hundred and fifty,” Abby said.

“Seven hundred,” Pete countered, “and I’ll fix your computer as well as the damaged bike there.”  He nodded towards Pastor Earl’s bike.  “I’ve got a unique skill set.  I’m not some mindless thug.  Plus, who else has the nanotools to fix your computer?”

Abby nodded.  “Fine.  It’s a deal.”  Nat didn’t seem happy.  Bobby didn’t mind, though.  The guy was right.  He could do things none of the rest of them could.  Still, a mercenary wasn’t the most trustworthy ally.

Pete put Sherry in the van and got a toolbox and a box of spare parts out from the back.  He and Horseman turned off their headlights in order to avoid unwanted attention, and Pete began working on Pastor Earl’s bike by the light of a small flashlight while the rest of the travelers waited.  Horseman and Michelle sat in their car with the windows down, listening to more Jimi Hendrix music.  Bobby couldn’t keep his eyes off Michelle.  She was by far the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.  Whenever she glanced in his direction, he quickly looked away, not wanting to be embarrassed.  Abby sat in the passenger seat of Pete’s van, where she’d limped to with Bobby’s assistance.  Sherry leapt onto Abby’s lap and she started petting the affectionate dog while she waited.  Pastor Earl, Bobby, and Nat stood on top of the dune, talking, while Pete worked.  “I don’t know about this,” Nat said.  “He’d go over to the highest bidder in a heartbeat, and we all know how much money Herman Rennock’s got.”

“He’s not working for Rennock now,” Pastor Earl said.  “There must be some reason why.”

Bobby shrugged.  “Why not try to get as much money as he can?  Maybe we should have pushed for more ourselves.”

Nat frowned.  “I don’t know.  And Abby wants to ride with ‘im?  Is she nuts?  What if he decides to kidnap ‘er and sell ‘er to Warrick Baines?”

Pastor Earl shook his head.  “He’s got the firepower to blow us all to smithereens.  He saved our lives instead.  Mine in particular.  Why would he blow up Rennock’s EMPC’s and then try to work for him?  Do you realize how much money those things cost?”

“He’s got a good point,” Bobby said.  “Besides, it’s a much more comfortable ride than the back of my sand bike.  Why wouldn’t she want to ride with him?”

Pete, who was just out of earshot, looked up from his work.  “What are you all talking about?”

“The weather,” Nat muttered.

Pete chuckled and continued working on Pastor Earl’s bike, using what appeared to be a welding laser of some kind.  After some time, he turned the engine on and it hummed softly.  “Well I have it mostly fixed.  It should run at least.  It won’t look pretty with laser blasts in the side of it, but it’ll get you from point A to point B, at least for now.”

Pastor Earl smiled.  “Thank you.”

“Allahu Akbar!” Pete said.  “That bike was in pretty bad shape.  Don’t thank me.  Thank Allah.”  Pastor Earl and Nat glanced at one another as Pete took his tool box and box of spare parts back to the van and put them in the back.  Nat watched him suspiciously.  “If we’re going through the Dead Lands,” Pete said, “we’d all better make sure our oxygen tanks are full.  I can fill them.  I have a large enough tank in my van to last several days if necessary, and I have a recycler so we can refill eventually when we need to.”  Nat, Pastor Earl, and Bobby thanked him and took turns filling their oxygen tanks from the back of his van.  “I should lead the way,” Pete said as the three men walked away from his van with the last of their oxygen tanks.  “I have a radiation detector.  We’ll need it if we’re going to be traveling through the Dead Lands.”

Nat smiled his ugly, scarred smile.  “I’ve got a radiation detector built into my sand bike.  I’ll lead the way.”

“All right,” Pete said, grinning.  “If that’s what you want.  We should get going, though.  We’ve definitely been here long enough.”

Nat nodded.  “Good point.  We’ll need to stop and sleep eventually, but we can wait ’til we’re far away from Sunbreak City.”

“Sounds good,” Pete said.  “I have a hologram projection system that will hide us from unwanted eyes while we rest, along with a radar jammer, but we should still put some distance between ourselves and here.”  He stepped into the driver’s side of the van.

“All right,” Nat said.  “Let’s get goin’, then.”  He, Pastor Earl, and Bobby got back on their sand bikes, and soon the caravan was flying over the dunes, heading southwest.

Nat and Pastor Earl led the group, followed by Bobby.  Behind him was Pete, driving his van with Abby resting beside him in the passenger seat, and Horseman and Michelle were last in their sports hover car.  Nat was playing the song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver on his sand bike’s sound system loud enough for Bobby to hear.  Bobby started daydreaming about towns he’d never seen and places he’d never visited, lakes and rivers, and mountains.  He’d always wanted to see mountains.  His Uncle Joe had seen mountains and told him what they were like, but Bobby had only heard stories.  He frowned at the thought of Uncle Joe and immediately expunged him from his mind.  He concentrated on the dunes and the drive, listening to the music emanating from Nat’s bike, and smiling as he thought about what the future had in store as the moon bathed the desert in its glow.

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 11

Where:

Herman Rennock talks to a reporter about Warrick Baines.
Devin Hellier and his enforcers question Doctor Thomas and his nurses.
Our heroes continue their journey to the Dead Lands.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

Check out Michael Monroe’s page on Amazon to find other stuff he’s written.
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Follow Afterlife on Tumblr for access to supplemental material.

Mike Monroe

Michael Monroe was born in Baltimore, MD and has lived there most of his life. He’s a poet and fiction writer whose preferred genres are Science Fiction and Fantasy, and he’s always had a thing for Allen Ginsberg and the Beats. His poetry has been published in Gargoyle Magazine, nthposition, the Lyric, Scribble, the Loch Raven Review, Foliate Oak, Primalzine, and various other publications.

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