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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:
Abby talks to Doctor Elias Long.
Pastor Earl talks to Abby about his family and his past.
Bobby asks Michelle out.
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Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 28
A robot maid was vacuuming outside Abby’s room as she stretched out in her bed. The sound was loud for a while as the maid went back and forth near the door, then it dwindled as she moved down the hallway on her rolling tracks. Abby sat up in bed after a good night’s sleep. This was the day she and her friends would be leaving the safe house and heading towards the Mexican border and Primrose. Abby’s cravings for pills had diminished significantly and she was enjoying her newfound freedom. She rubbed her eyes and yawned. Once she’d found her bearings, Abby looked over at Einstein, who was on the nightstand. She’d left him on overnight since he was at almost full power. “I know I’ve asked this before,” she said, “but what do you think caused the end of the old world?” It had been fresh on her mind lately, and she’d dreamt about it the night before. In her dream, she was searching through an ancient, dusty library, but all of the pages in the books were blank and there were no answers.
“I’m no longer connected to the Satellite Net,” Einstein said, “so the data available to me is just what I have saved from previous connections. That being said, there isn’t enough data available for me to come up with an answer, and I doubt there would be even if I could establish a connection, for I believe the farther back in years the occurrence gets, it’s less likely that new relevant data will surface.”
“Screw data,” Abby said. “Give me your best guess.”
“I am incapable of guessing,” Einstein said. “I can only analyze data and formulate possible answers. There are far too many possible answers to your question for me to relate them to you in any reasonable amount of time.”
Abby frowned. “Can’t you tell me the best answer? The most probable one?”
“I don’t have enough data to formulate reasonable probabilities for any of the possibilities.”
Abby grinned and shook her head. “Okay, then. Just read off a few random answers, then. I just want to hear something.”
“Very well,” Einstein said. “Some possibilities which have been suggested include a catastrophe such as an asteroid hitting Earth, an environmental disaster of some kind, either man-made or natural, a nuclear war or war involving some other type of powerful weapons, a sudden change in temperature… How many should I list?”
“I guess that’s good for now,” Abby said. “What are some stranger, less likely possibilities?”
“Some supernatural possibilities have been suggested throughout the years,” Einstein said. “I do not believe these to be possible because there is no evidence other than human speculation, but some of these include a deity destroying the world, aliens invading, a zombie apocalypse of some kind…”
“That’s enough,” Abby said, interrupting him. She hadn’t really learned anything she didn’t already know, but her father had always told her it was good to keep Einstein’s processor running by asking him questions from time to time. Even if his answers hadn’t enlightened her, perhaps the search for data had helped his processor in some way. Abby was convinced some things would never be answered. She just had to do the best she could with what was given her. She stretched and yawned. Then, she got out of bed and started packing up her stuff for the trip to Primrose.
That afternoon, Doctor Elias Long met with Pastor Earl, Abby, and the rest of her companions near their vehicles just as they finished loading their stuff. The sun was as hot and bright as ever as Abby and her companions prepared for their desert journey. “Thanks so much for everything you’ve done for us,” Pastor Earl said to Doctor Long. “You’ve helped us immensely.”
Doctor Long smiled and nodded. “It was really no problem. I mean, that’s what we do here.”
“Still,” Michelle said, “I don’t know where I’d be now if it weren’t for you.” She frowned. “I’d probably be dead.” Her scars were still visible and always would be, but Pastor Earl had noticed that her spirits had lifted considerably over the past few days.
Bobby, who was standing next to her, nodded. “Yeah, me too.”
“Like I said,” Doctor Long said, “it was no trouble. We’ve helped lots of injured people through the years.”
“And you don’t ever ask for nothin’ in return?” Nat asked, gazing at the doctor through his sunglasses.
Doctor Long shook his head. “Some have been kind enough to make donations, like Abby.” He nodded towards her. “Thanks again for the large sum of money, by the way. It’ll go a long way to get us much needed supplies.”
“Don’t mention it,” Abby said.
“We don’t charge anything, though,” Doctor Long said. “We treat everyone for free. I believe health care should be provided for everyone, regardless of financial standing. It’s the most basic human right, the right to live a healthy life. A society that’s unable to treat the health problems of all of its people, rich and poor, is a society that won’t last long. As far as operation costs go, we run solely off of donations and my own personal money.”
Pete, who was holding Sherry and petting her, nodded. “Very true, and very noble of you.”
“Thanks,” Doctor Long said with a kind smile. “You’ll also notice that we’ve provided you with food and water. Some of the items would be very expensive anywhere else. Here, it’s all on the house. I’ve got connections where I can get most of the food cheap or for free, and the water comes from a spring far below the safe house. Pipes run through the deep, shifting foundation to an underground water treatment plant. The shifting foundation shifts with the height of the sand, so we never have to worry about the safe house getting buried, or the sands shifting away exposing a large part of the foundation. We have everything we need here. And you’re all welcome to all of it, whenever you need it.”
Abby nodded. “A lot of places where we’ve stayed have had tubs of hot water and some didn’t even go that far. It was nice staying somewhere where we could all shower and live comfortably for a while.”
“We needed it,” Bobby agreed, smiling at Doctor Long. “Thanks so much.” Many of the others also chimed in, thanking Doctor Long for his hospitality.
Doctor Long nodded. “As I said, it was really no trouble at all.” He smiled at them. “Very well, then. I’ve enjoyed having you all here.” They all said their goodbyes and headed for their vehicles as Doctor Long turned and walked towards the front door of the safe house.
Pastor Earl, Abby, and their companions got in their vehicles and left the safe house, a caravan of sand bikes along with Pete’s hover van and Horseman’s sports hover car, moving fast over the sea of dunes towards Primrose. Pete’s camouflage projector and radar jammer hid them from any unwanted pursuers as they moved over the vast desert sands. Pastor Earl had noticed that Abby was now riding with Horseman in his sports hover car and Bobby and Michelle rode together in the back of Pete’s van, since Bobby’s sand bike had been left in South Edge. Nat and Pastor Earl led the caravan on their sand bikes and Della was last on his. Pastor Earl hoped Abby knew what she was doing with Horseman. He felt like she’d responded well to the talk he’d had with her in the oasis. Sometimes he felt like an overprotective parent, but Abby meant a lot to him and he felt like he needed to look out for her best interests.
They rode for a few hours when Pete stopped the caravan on top of a high dune, communicating with everyone through the communicators he’d passed out earlier. They all got out of their vehicles to see what was going on as Pete pointed towards the dunes in the distance behind them. “My radar detected something not too far off in that direction,” Pete said. “A sand bike, I think.”
Nat nodded as he surveyed the desert. “I don’t see anything.”
“There,” Della said, his long, manicured fingernail pointing out at the horizon. “I saw something flash I think, like sun glare.”
“You must have really good eyes,” Bobby said, squinting. “I didn’t see anything.”
Pastor Earl frowned, squinting but seeing nothing. “Della, Nat, and Pete, come with me. The rest of you should stay back here for now.” He glanced at Pete. “Pete, do you have binoculars?”
Pete nodded. “I have an excellent digitally enhanced pair. I’ll go get them.” He opened the back of his hover van and rummaged through his boxes while Nat, Della, and Pastor Earl walked towards where Della had seen the flash. Della was carrying a laser rifle. Pastor Earl wasn’t really sure why. Whoever it was seemed to be far out of range. They climbed to the top of another particularly high dune and stopped. Pete soon joined them with the binoculars.
“Do you see anything out there?” Pastor Earl asked him.
Pete put the binoculars to his eyes and after a few seconds, nodded. “There’s an enforcer out there. Maybe scouting. He appears to be alone from what I can tell.”
“Well if he’s scouting,” Nat said, “we can’t let him bring word of us to whoever he’s scouting for.”
Pastor Earl nodded. “We’d better get on our bikes and intercept him.”
Della shook his head. “Too dangerous. I can see him now. I think I can get a good shot at him.”
Pastor Earl squinted and he could now barely make out the sand bike with the enforcer riding it. “There’s no way,” he said. “He’s too far away. He probably won’t get close enough for us to be able to shoot him. Even a sniper rifle couldn’t accurately aim that far.” The sand bike stopped.
“He’s gonna turn around,” Nat said. Della was aiming his laser rifle in the enforcer’s direction. “There’s no way anyone could make that shot,” Nat said, looking at the speck on the distant dune. “Even if your rifle has that range, your chances of actually hittin’ anything ain’t nothin’.”
“Shh,” Della said. “I need to concentrate.” Earl, Nat, and Pete watched as Della continued aiming. He fired the shot.
A second later, Pastor Earl could barely make out a speck falling off the shiny sand bike. His jaw dropped. “There’s no way.”
“You just saw it,” Nat said. “Looks like our transgender friend is the best shot in Numurka.”
Della glared at Nat. “I’m not transgender, honey. Transgender means you identify yourself as a different gender from what you were assigned at birth. I’m a gay man who likes to dress like a woman sometimes. My gender identity is gay man. Get it straight.”
Nat chuckled. “Way to be confusin’”
Della shook his head. “Way to be an idiot.” He took his rifle and stomped off down the dune back towards the parked vehicles.
“You have a knack for angering people,” Pete said to Nat with a grin, patting him on the back.
Nat chuckled. “I guess everyone’s gotta be good at somethin’.” The three of them followed Della back towards the vehicles.
After some time, the caravan stopped for lunch. It was a quick stop, and as soon as everyone was finished eating, they were on their way again. Doctor Long had heard reports of an army heading towards Primrose, so Abby and the others felt they needed to reach the city as quickly as possible. They hoped to be in and out of Primrose before any major battles took place there. “So I was wondering,” Horseman said as he drove his hover sports car with Abby in the passenger seat next to him, “when we get to Primrose, what’s gonna happen next? With us, I mean?”
“I’m not sure,” Abby said.
“We could share a room,” Horseman said, half joking, “you know, to save money and space and all.”
Abby frowned. “I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that yet.”
“Well it was worth a shot,” Horseman said.
Abby smiled at him. “Thanks for making breakfast for me every day. It really meant a lot to me.”
“It was no problem,” Horseman said. “I hope you didn’t get too used to it though. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do that every day for the rest of our lives.”
“Why not?” Abby asked. “You don’t think I’m worth it?” She grinned. “I see how it is. You do it when you’re trying to get me to go out with you, and now that you have me, you’re gonna get lazy.”
Horseman laughed. “Exactly. You read me like a book.”
“Well,” Abby said, “you really know how to impress the ladies.” She glanced over at him as he continued driving, sticking close behind Pete’s hover van. “Seriously, though,” she said. “Thanks.”
Horseman smiled. “It was my pleasure.”
He continued following Pete’s van as the dunes passed by like ripples in an endless lake of white sand. Abby started dozing off a little as she looked out the window. The view was so monotonous, it was hard to stay awake. She tried to think of something to say to either Horseman or Einstein in order to keep herself from falling asleep. Then, the hiss of laser fire broke the monotony. Abby watched as two pink laser blasts hit the dune not far from the hover car. She tensed up and frowned. “What’s going on? I thought Pete’s camouflage projector and radar jammer keep us from being detected.”
“I thought so, too,” Horseman said. He flipped a switch and a screen next to the steering wheel showed four EMPC’s in the sky above them. “I wonder if they’ve discovered some sort of new technology that allows them to see us regardless.”
“Do you think there’s any way they could have gotten to your car in Silver City?” Abby asked.
Horseman shook his head. “I don’t think so. I kept it hidden in a secret garage used by the resistance. They nabbed us in a club, so I don’t think they ever saw where my car was.”
“What about Della’s sand bike?” Abby asked as several more laser blasts hit a nearby dune. Horseman started weaving back and forth, trying to make them a harder target.
“Again,” Horseman said, “I don’t think so. They would have found us in the safe house if they had homing devices on any of our vehicles.”
Abby nodded. “I guess you’re right. Still, they must be tracking us somehow.” More laser blasts hit near Horseman’s hover car and sand sprayed the windshield. Horseman started veering off, but regained control. They were flying through a valley between dunes. The lasers were hitting all around, spraying sand everywhere and decreasing visibility. Horseman sped up and flew out of the valley. Abby looked all around, but Pete’s van and the sand bikes were nowhere in sight.
“Great,” Horseman muttered. “We’ve managed to lose everyone else, but we’ve still got EMPC’s after us.” Abby looked at the screen and noticed two of the EMPC’s were still following them. “Let’s see if we can get these guys off our tail,” Horseman said as he increased the speed. Abby watched as the speedometer increased from three hundred miles per hour to three fifty, to four hundred. She felt herself being pulled back in her seat as Horseman continued increasing the speed.
“Don’t go so fast you can’t control it,” Abby said.
Horseman shook his head. “This thing’s the fastest, most maneuverable hover car on the market.” Abby watched the speedometer go from four fifty to five hundred as laser blasts continued spraying sand at them from all directions.
Mavery sat on the back of the sand bike Big Ed had stolen as he continued driving towards Primrose, her seat belt strapped tight and her arms around his waist. They rode up a high dune and when they reached the top, she saw a deep, narrow canyon that cut through the rocky land ahead like an open wound in the desert. Buildings were carved into the cliffs of the canyon, and a city was sprawled out across the sand above the canyon on both sides. The city was surrounded by a twenty-foot tall metal wall. Mavery noticed there were vast expanses of desert and rocky terrain between the wall and the city, forming a sort of buffer. She could make out what appeared to be soldiers going through training routines in the rocky terrain. She also saw some hover tanks and robots mixed in with the soldiers, and there were even some attack copters hovering in the air above. The resistance here had some pretty advanced technology, apparently. Most of it had probably been either stolen or reverse engineered from Rennock’s army. As the sand bike approached the wall outside of Primrose, Mavery could make out what appeared to be solid metal gates at various points in the wall. Big Ed sped over the dunes until he reached the closest gate. Then, he let the sand bike hover down to the ground and turned off the engine. He and Mavery stepped down from the bike and walked the rest of the way to the gate. “Let me do the talking,” Mavery said. “I have some contacts here.”
“Okay,” Big Ed said. “If you think you can get us inside.”
Mavery nodded and examined the gate. There were speakers in the wall on each side. “State your business,” a gruff voice said through the speakers.
“I’m Mavery Thomas,” she said. “I used to work for the Mountaintop Herald, but I was kicked out of New Atlantis. I’ve come to see Alexander Harris. He’ll know who I am.”
“Sorry for any inconvenience,” the voice said, “but we’ve had to increase security lately. We’ll check to make sure your story’s valid and get back to you shortly.” There was a flash and Mavery noticed a small camera in the door. They probably wanted to match her picture with one they had on file in order to check her identity.
“All right,” Mavery said as she looked at Big Ed, who was standing next to her, and shrugged.
“Are you sure this guy’s gonna remember you?” Big Ed asked.
“I hope so,” Mavery replied. “I’m sure somebody in there knows who I am.” She looked out at the dunes as they waited. The scene wasn’t as bad as the grizzly scene outside New Atlantis, but it was uninviting, all the same. The unforgiving desert sands spread out towards infinity in all directions outside the metal wall. The bare, stark blue sky extended above, reaching out to the horizon, suggesting emptiness to Mavery rather than freedom.
“Okay,” the voice eventually said through the speakers. “You can enter.” Big Ed and Mavery got back on the sand bike and he started the engine again as the gate slowly slid open. They rode through the gate and found a soldier dressed in dented body armor who was riding a sand bike which had seen better days. As the gate slid shut behind Big Ed and Mavery, the soldier motioned for Big Ed to follow him and he did. They rode through the rocky badlands that surrounded the city and as they got closer to the sprawl of sandstone buildings, Mavery saw some of the soldiers close up. Many wore the same beat up body armor as the soldier they were following, but most had no armor at all. Some didn’t even have uniforms, though Mavery could tell they were soldiers because of the outdated laser rifles they held. Their faces were tired and battle-worn. Their cold eyes looked like they’d seen more than anyone was meant to see. Many had beards but they all had at least some stubble on their sunburnt faces.
The soldier led them into the city, past sandstone building after sandstone building until they started riding down a stone ramp that led into the canyon. The dried up canyon floor was thousands of feet below. Mavery looked across the canyon and noticed the many buildings and caves carved into the cliff, just as they were carved into the cliff Big Ed was riding next to. After some time, they rode into one of the caves. They followed the soldier past stone walls and passages until they stopped in a large cavern where several other vehicles were parked. The soldier parked his sand bike, as did Big Ed. “Come with me,” the soldier said.
Big Ed and Mavery nodded, got off the bike, and followed the soldier through a long corridor. He opened a metal door and they walked through, finding a room cluttered with metal chairs in which more soldiers, both male and female, were seated. Some were playing cards while others were eating and others were just sitting and chatting, doing whatever they could to pass the time. There were several other doors in the walls marked with numbers and a bare light bulb hung from the ceiling, providing dim light. The soldier nodded towards one of the men in the room. He was the only person who didn’t appear to be a soldier and he stood from his chair and approached Mavery. He was of medium height and build, with long, brown hair which had streaks of gray here and there. His hair was tied behind his back and his face was covered with a long, thick beard. Mavery thought he appeared to be in his fifties, and he was wearing jeans and a black t-shirt. He reached out his hand and Mavery shook it. “So you’re Mavery Thomas. I’m Alex Harris. I’ve communicated with you quite a bit, but it’s nice to finally meet in person.”
Mavery nodded. “It’s nice to meet you, also.” She introduced him to Big Ed and he motioned them both to sit in metal folding chairs and he seated himself, also.
“So,” Alex began, “let me tell you a little bit about what’s been going on here lately, and what we expect to happen in the coming days.”
Continue on to the next chapter:
Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 29
Mavery and Big Ed talk with Alex Harris and his companions.
Abby and Horseman try to lose the EMPC’s.
Bobby and the others search for Abby and Horseman.
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