Fiction: Afterlife (Chapter 30)

by Mike Monroe on December 1, 2014

in FICTION

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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:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 29

Where:

Mavery and Big Ed talk with Alex Harris and the Bloody Six.
Abby and Horseman evade the EMPC’s.
Bobby and others the find Abby and Horseman.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

View the Map here.

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Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 30

Abby watched the dunes fly past as she sat beside Horseman in his sports hover car.  Before leaving the safe house, the group had discussed possible ways across the border.  After the latest EMPC attacks, they decided to go with a tunnel Della knew of which was in their general vicinity, hoping Rennock’s men hadn’t somehow found it.  They discussed the plan of action over lunch, and Della was going to lead them to the tunnel.  If they saw evidence of Rennock’s forces, they’d ride several more miles away from the border and meet again to discuss other options.  Abby looked ahead to see Pete’s van, Nat’s black sand bike, Pastor Earl’s silver sand bike, and Della’s pink sand bike in the lead.  “Hopefully Rennock’s forces are at least a little distracted by the coming war with Primrose,” Horseman said.

Abby frowned.  “That probably means the borders will be even more heavily guarded than before, if anything, though.”

Horseman nodded.  “Well hopefully they haven’t found this tunnel yet.  We’ve got lots of these tunnels along the border.  There’s no way Rennock’s men could find all of them.”

It sounded like he was trying to reassure himself, but Abby nodded all the same.  “How long until we reach Primrose?”

“Approximately one hundred and eighty five miles,” Einstein answered.  “Though I’m not sure the exact path the tunnel takes, so I can only estimate.”

The caravan flew past more dunes until a dark opening in some rocks appeared ahead.  Della flew his sand bike into the darkness, followed by everyone else.  Horseman flew his hover car through last, turning his headlights on as he entered.  This tunnel was manmade, with packed stone walls.  “I wonder how long it took them to build this tunnel,” Abby mused as she watched the stone walls fly by.

“Depending on the length of the tunnel and the equipment used,” Einstein said, “I’d estimate two to three years.”

The stones continued whizzing past as Horseman followed the others through the tunnel.  “So far so good,” he said.

“Even if we cross the border,” Abby said, “we could still hit some trouble in Mexico.  Rennock’s army might have reached Primrose by the time we get there, and there’s also the Mexican army.”

“One thing at a time,” Horseman said as he steered the hover car through the tunnel.

After a few more minutes, light appeared ahead and Della flew out through the opening, followed by the rest of the caravan.  Horseman and Abby were last in Horseman’s Franco 7000.  “Well that could have been a lot harder,” Abby said as she squinted until her eyes readjusted to the blazing sunlight and the bright white sands.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was too easy,” Horseman said.  “It’s like a calm before the storm.”

Abby shrugged.  “I won’t complain if things are actually easy for once.”

Horseman nodded.  “Of course, as you pointed out, we could still face danger.  We’re not in Primrose yet.”

“And even if we reach Primrose,” Abby added, “Rennock’s army’s on its way there with hopes of attacking and destroying the city.”

“Yeah, this isn’t gonna be a vacation,” Horseman said with a grin.

“Hopefully we can get the diamonds and get out of there quickly,” Abby said as Horseman followed the others through the dunes of Mexico.

The caravan rode through the desert for a little over an hour when they began climbing a steep cliff along the side of a dune.  The cliff rose higher until Abby could see a city in the distance.  It appeared to have sprung up around a deep canyon, and there was a metal wall surrounding it.  “There’s Primrose,” Horseman said.

Abby nodded.  “Well Rennock’s army isn’t there yet.  It looks peaceful, at least for the time being.”

“Remember how I mentioned the calm before the storm?” Horseman asked with a grin.

He followed the caravan back down the other side of the dune, and they turned towards the city, quickly closing in on its metal walls.  As they approached one of many gates in the wall, Abby noticed seven soldiers on sand bikes.  Nat, who was now leading the caravan, stopped his sand bike and everyone else also stopped.  He exchanged some words with one of the soldiers.  The soldier nodded several times and rode his sand bike to Horseman’s hover car.  He stopped near Abby’s window and motioned for her to lower it, which she did.  The soldier was wearing a dirty tan uniform and a silver helmet with a transparent sand shield.  A laser rifle was strapped over his shoulder.  “What’s your name?” he asked.

“Abigail Song,” Abby responded.

The soldier typed something into a computer on his wrist and then appeared to take her picture.  He waited a few seconds.  “It is Abigail Song,” the computer stated.

The soldier nodded to her.  “Miss Song,” he said in an excited voice.  “We’re honored to have you visiting us, ma’am.”

Abby shrugged.  “The honor’s all mine.”  She figured that seemed like the right thing to say.

“Please follow the rest of your group and we’ll take you to meet General Crenshaw.  He’s our leader here in Primrose.”

Abby frowned.  “I was hoping to meet with Alex Harris.  Can I speak with him first?”

The soldier looked at her through his sand shield.  “I’m sorry.  I have orders to take you to General Crenshaw.”

“Well,” Abby said, “I’m ordering you to take me to Alex Harris.  If the general has a problem with that, he can talk to me.”

The soldier nodded.  “Very well.  Follow your group and we’ll take you to Alexander Harris.”

Abby nodded and the soldier rode ahead to rejoin his fellow soldiers.  Horseman chuckled.  “You seem like someone who’s used to giving orders.”

“I just wanted to see Alex Harris,” Abby said as she raised the window once again.  “He was a friend of my father’s and I’ve met him before.  I figured he’d be a good starting place.”

Horseman followed the rest of the caravan as they followed the soldiers through the open gates.  They rode past rocky terrain where Abby noticed scattered outposts and groups of soldiers.  They headed towards the town, which consisted mostly of worn-down sandstone huts and wooden shacks.  As they reached the town, Abby could see people lining the streets to watch their caravan ride by.  It was as if they knew it was her.  Or maybe they just wanted to catch a glimpse of Horseman’s Franco 7000.  As Horseman rode past the people, Abby was taken aback by how dirty they looked.  Many looked like they hadn’t showered in days, and their clothes were raggedy and sweaty.  She swallowed.  They actually looked pretty disgusting.  Were these the people she was going to be leading?  She shook her head.  She needed to stop thinking that way.  They were poor and couldn’t afford much.  Still, she felt out of place.  More than she ever had in any other town she’d ever visited.  She was an alien, and though she knew it was bad, she found herself sickened by their poverty.

She took a deep breath and noticed a young child looking at her.  She saw his dirty face, but this time she was able to look past the dirt and see how cute he was.  He couldn’t have been more than three, and there was a fly buzzing around his face.  She closed her eyes and remembered the image.  That boy was who she’d be fighting for.  That young, helpless child who had absolutely no control over his circumstances was the person who she was going to take down Herman Rennock in order to save.  Him and the thousands like him she was starting to notice as she opened her eyes again.  It wasn’t fair that the greed of the few caused so much suffering in the world.  Something needed to be done about it.  “So you know Alex Harris?” Horseman asked as he weaved through the streets of the town.

Abby nodded.  “Not me, really.  I said hello a few times.  He was close with my dad though.”

“Well, it’s good you at least know someone here,” Horseman said.  “It feels so far away from home.”  Abby wondered if he’d been having any of the same thoughts she’d had.  Horseman and Michelle were also from a wealthy family.

The road led into the canyon, past buildings which were carved out of the canyon walls.  Abby watched the faces looking at her through the windows as they went past.  Horseman followed the caravan into a cave and they finally came to a stop in a large room where several other vehicles were parked.  Abby noticed nine people waiting for them as Horseman parked his hover car.  He and Abby exited the vehicle and were joined by Bobby, Michelle, Nat, Pastor Earl, Pete, and Della.  One of the nine people who were there to greet them stepped forward and Abby immediately recognized him as Alex Harris.  He was in his fifties, wearing jeans and a tie-dye tee-shirt, and his face was covered with a long, thick beard.  “Abby,” he said, smiling through his beard.  “It’s been a long time.  You’re all grown up now.”

Abby smiled and shook his hand.  “Yeah, for better or worse.”

“I’m so sorry about your family,” Alex said.  “Your father was a great man, and a close friend.  From what I hear, you’ve got a lot of similarities, though.”

Abby shrugged.  “I loved my dad.”  Everyone else said hello and introduced themselves.  The other people with Alex were the Bloody Six, who were his bodyguards, Mavery Thomas, a reporter who used to work for the Mountaintop Herald, and Big Ed, who seemed to be her bodyguard from what Abby could tell.  “I’ve read a lot of your articles,” Abby said when she shook Mavery’s hand.  “You’re a good writer.”

“Thanks,” Mavery said with a smile.

After introductions were made, Abby followed Alex into a room where they could talk privately while the members of the Bloody Six led the others to rooms where they could stay while they were in Primrose.  Abby and Alex sat in metal chairs facing one anther across a metal folding table.  A single bare light bulb provided the light in the rock-walled room.  Abby checked to make sure Einstein was charged, so he could record their conversation.  “I hope you know you can trust me,” Alex said.  “I knew a lot about your father’s plans, so hopefully I’ll be able to help you.”  He had kind brown eyes.  Abby felt like she could trust him, between his presence and the fact she knew her dad had trusted him.  Still, she also knew she needed to be cautious.  There was a good chance somebody had betrayed her father, after all.

Abby nodded, adjusting her white cowboy hat.  “I won’t be here long.  I don’t know if I should tell you much, because I know there’s an army on its way and if you’re captured, they’ll probably torture you for information.”  She frowned.  “I’m sorry.  That’s just the reality of the situation.  Things are too important to dance around tough situations.”

“I know,” Alex said.  “I was hoping maybe I could join you once you’re on your way, along with the Bloody Six, Mavery, and Big Ed.  Mark Gonzalez and his squad have seen more than their share of battles.”

“Why Mavery?” Abby asked.  “Why get a reporter involved?  She’s not a fighter.”

“Neither am I,” Alex said.  “Neither are you.  At least you weren’t before all this started.  I’m a philosophy instructor and a business man.”

Abby chuckled.  “That’s an interesting combination.”

“I do one for love,” Alex said with a smile, “the other to pay the bills.  Anyway, Mavery wants to record what we’re doing and she wants to post it on the Satellite Net.”

“That’s a horrible idea,” Abby said.  “The last thing I want is for anyone to know where I am.”

“She won’t post any information that can be used to track us,” Alex said.  “The purpose would be to inform the public, and hopefully bolster the rebellion against Rennock.  The more people know what’s really going on, the more people will join our cause.”

Abby frowned. “I don’t know. I’ve gotten where I am and I’ve survived this long by being secretive and staying out of the spotlight.”

“So you came to Primrose?” Alex asked with a chuckle.  “People idolize you here, Abby.  You’ve become a legend.  There’s no way you’ll be able to stay out of the spotlight here.”

Abby laughed.  “I doubt I would be such a legend if people knew what’s really been happening.  I’m just a twenty year old girl who got thrown into a crazy situation.”

“Look, Abby,” Alex said, leaning forward, “the time to act is near.  There’s no more time for sneaking around.  We need to come out in the open if we really want to challenge Rennock.  It’s time for you to show yourself.  The people need you.  And we need people to know what’s really happening.  Rennock’s turning the poor against one another, using smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that he’s at the center of their suffering.”

“What do you mean?” Abby asked.

“Rennock’s policies have created a wider gap between rich and poor than the world has ever seen,” Alex began, “as I’m sure you know.  The lack of regulation has allowed big business to push out all smaller businesses and workers and take away their livelihoods.  When the bottom line is all that matters, people are sacrificed like numbers.  And Herman Rennock has them blaming one another for their loss of work and business opportunity.  The whites blame the Hispanics and the blacks, the blacks and Hispanics blame the whites, and everyone fails to see it’s the people on the top who are really responsible for their troubles.  Rennock uses race as a tool, to get people hating and fighting one another.”

Abby was very familiar with Rennock’s tactics.  “He’s been doing that all along,” she muttered.

Alex nodded.  “He uses religion the same way.  It’s really the lack of regulation of business which is responsible for people not being able to put food on their table, though.  In a society with proper business regulations, the best ideas rise to the top and the people who work the hardest end up making the most money.  In a society with no business regulations, or the wrong regulations, the villains rise to the top.  Those willing to cheat and steal and take advantage of the system rise to the top.  And once they’re there, no one can take them down no matter how good their ideas are.  And in this type of society, the poor suffer most.  The poor are all victims.  Poor white people, poor black people, poor Hispanics, and poor people of all races, religions, and creeds.  They’re all victims of a system which favors the rich and sweeps the poor under the rug into the open graves hiding there.  We’re trying to bring them all together, so they stop fighting one another and start fighting the real enemy.  Mavery Thomas is a key piece of the puzzle.”

Abby nodded.  “I guess I understand.  I don’t have a problem with her or anything.  I just know following me tends to be dangerous.”

“Well it’s a danger we’re willing to accept.  Did your father give you the constitution we’d been working on?”

“I have it,” Abby said.  “He said it’s not finished, though.”

“Good,” Alex said.  “Of course, it will never truly be finished.  We planned for it to be a living, breathing entity, just like any good constitution should be.  As an example, the founding fathers of the United States envisioned their Constitution as a growing, changing entity, which would be able to change and improve with the times.  That’s why there was a system of amendments.  It was very hard to change the constitution, but not impossible. Still, some people eventually decided it was written in stone and unchangeable.  But what worked in 1776 didn’t necessarily work so well in 2076 or 3076 or 4076.  Some of it still worked, but it needed to be changed and improved upon, and it wasn’t.”

“My father taught me a little about history,” Abby said.  “I’m not an expert, but I do know the United States government lost a lot of its prestige and good reputation before the old world ended.”

Alex nodded.  “If Thomas Jefferson knew that the rights they’d put in place for business owners and shopkeepers would one day be used for mindless, soulless entities whose sole purpose was the bottom line at the expense of all else, he’d probably be turning over in his grave.  That’s why your father, many of my other friends, and I myself, though humbly, drafted the constitution you have with you now.  It brings all the best parts of every system we know together into one whole.  There’s no one system that always works in every situation, and we’ve got thousands of years of learning behind us.  To throw those millennia out the window in favor of a dogmatic, unchanging mindset would be cultural suicide.  We need to learn from our mistakes and our successes alike.  Let history write our constitution.  A system that doesn’t grow will die.”

Abby nodded.  “I agree with pretty much everything you’re saying.”

“And every system has some good in it,” Alex continued, “some truth, or people wouldn’t follow it, so the best system will take the good from every system and combine it, leaving out the bad, or the parts that won’t work for that particular society.  These are the principles we had in mind and I’m sure your father hoped to pass on to you.  We need to stop arguing with one another about our political beliefs and find common ground.  Sack the dogmatic and mindless following of stubborn beliefs and systems.  Get rid of political parties, get rid of the rigid, stubborn following of a specific idea or belief.  Replace these with a general striving for cooperation.  Cooperation is the key.  No country can survive without the cooperation of its people.  Primrose has been sort of a jumping off point for our beliefs, but Rennock’s policies have left many here poor and destitute.”

“So what’s going to happen to Primrose now?” Abby asked.  “With Rennock’s army approaching and all?”

“Well we’re going to have to fight,” Alex said.  “At first General Crenshaw considered a retreat, but it’s too late to do that safely.  Rennock’s forces are hoping to destroy the city and everyone in it, so the army has to stay to defend them, so the people at least have a chance.”

Abby frowned.  “I was hoping to leave before the fighting started.”

Alex looked at her gravely.  “I don’t know if that’s going to be possible, Abby.  We’ll keep you as safe as we can.  If you stick with me, Sergeant Gonzalez’ group includes some of the best fighters in our army.  If you’re safe anywhere, you’ll be safe with us.”

“I wasn’t planning on starting a war,” Abby said.  “Not yet, at least.”

“Well it looks like the war’s going to be happening,” Alex said.  “So you’d better be ready for it when it comes.”

Abby frowned.  “I’m ready.  We’ve been fighting battles of our own, my friends and I.”

Alex nodded.  “Well I should introduce you to General Crenshaw.  The day after tomorrow should work.  I’ll give you and your people a chance to get settled in.  Anyway, he’s the leader of the army here.  He’s gonna be defending our city.”

Abby smiled.  “I’ll look forward to meeting him then, the day after tomorrow.”  With that, Alex walked Abby to her room and they said their goodbyes.

<>

Horseman was livid.  He’d been helping Pete work on his van’s engine when Pete mentioned that Bobby had given Michelle a laser blaster.  Apparently Shelly was planning on having Juanita Ricardo, one of the Bloody Six, give her shooting lessons.  Horseman had always promised his parents he’d never let his sister get involved with the resistance or any fighting, so he needed to do something.  He knocked on the metal door to the room Shelly was staying in.  “Who is it?” her voice asked from the other side.

“Your brother,” Horseman blurted.

The door opened and Shelly was standing inside, wearing gray sweatpants and a white sweatshirt.  Her sidecut was freshly shaved, and though her scars were still there, Horseman thought they showed marked improvement.  “Oh, come in, Horseman.”  She looked tired, like she’d just woken up from a nap.

Horseman nodded and entered the room, shutting the door behind him.  Like the other rooms in the underground base, it was small, with bare stone walls and the only light was provided by a single overhead bulb.  Horseman sat in a folding chair while Michelle sat on the edge of her cot.  “How are you feeling, sis?” he asked.

Michelle yawned.  “Tired.”

“Are you still having any pain in your belly?”

Shelly shook her head.  “Not much, anyway.”

Horseman nodded.  “Look, sis, Pete told me Bobby gave you a gun.  You know I promised mom I’d never let you fight.”

Michelle laughed.  “So I can only fight if you let me?  Really?”

Horseman frowned.  This wasn’t the first time they’d had this conversation.  “I just don’t want anything to happen to you.  I mean, you’re so talented.  I feel like fighting in a war would be a waste of your talent.”

“Are you kidding me?”  She was pissed.  “What about you?  Look, Horseman.  I’m twenty-five years old.  I can understand why our parents wouldn’t want me to fight when I was fourteen, but you’ve taken this way too far.  I know you won’t let me fight because I’m a woman.”

Horseman shook his head.  “It’s not that at all.  Believe me.  You wouldn’t want to fight if you knew what it meant.”

Michelle chuckled, glaring at her brother with her blue eyes.  “What, do you think I’m an idiot?”

“Stick to what you’re good at,” Horseman said.  “You can sing, act, dance, and do all kinds of stuff.  Leave the fighting to me.”

She frowned and shook her head.  “You know as well as I do I won’t be able to perform anymore, between my scars and our faces being posted all over the news as traitors.”

“Come on, Michelle,” Horseman said.  “You’ll be able to perform again.”

“You’re afraid I’ll be better at it than you,” Michelle said, looking into his eyes, “just like I’m a better singer, actor, dancer, and artist.  And I always had better grades than you, too.”  She smiled a knowing smile.  “You say you want to protect me, but you’re really just holding me back, just like when you talked me out of learning to play the guitar.  It’s the one thing you have.  You know how good I am at playing the piano and the drums.  You know how easily I would have picked up guitar.  Just like you know I’d have no trouble shooting a gun.”

Horseman glared at her.  Is that really what she thought?  That he was jealous?  “Fine, whatever.  Go learn to shoot.  I really don’t care anymore.”

Michelle looked at him for a few moments.  The anger left her eyes as she smiled.  “Don’t be like that.  I’m sorry, Horseman.  I know you’re just trying to look out for your little sister.  Just remember I can take care of myself now.”

“Like I said,” Horseman muttered.  “I don’t care anymore.  Go ahead and learn to shoot.”

“Oh, Horseman,” Michelle said, “please don’t be mad at me.”

“No, I’m serious,” Horseman said.  “It’s fine.  Go learn.  Just don’t get yourself killed.”  He stood and walked towards her door.

“You don’t get yourself killed either,” she said as he left the room.

<>

The common room was empty when Della sat down to have a snack.  He’d just bought some noodles from the food machine and was getting ready to eat when Nat walked in.  “How’s it going, Nat?” he asked.  Nat glanced at him and grunted.  “What did you forget how to talk?” Della asked him.

“I’m fine,” Nat said.  “I’m not a big talker.”  He went to the snack machine and punched some buttons.

“Come over here and sit down for a second after you get your food,” Della said.

“Why should I?” Nat asked as he waited for the robotic arms in the machine to prepare his pork and beans.

“We’re on the same team, Nat.  We need to talk.”  Della sensed distrust in Nat, and though he knew one conversation wouldn’t change anything, he figured maybe it would be a start.  Nat walked over with his bowl of pork and beans and sat across the table from Della.  He put a spoonful in his mouth, chewed it up, and swallowed it.  Then he glared at Della with his stern green eyes.  Della noted how intimidating Nat’s scarred face looked when he wanted it to.  “You’ve got a problem with me, Nat,” Della said as he ate.  “I can tell.  None of your other friends seem so uncomfortable around me.  Even Pete and Earl seem to at least be able to tolerate me.  But not you.  Why?  Don’t beat around the bush.  Come out and say it.  You don’t like me because I’m gay.”

“I don’t have a problem with gays,” Nat said.  “I just don’t like gettin’ it shoved down my throat.”

“Now, honey,” Della said with a smile, “be fair.  I’ve never shoved anything down your throat.  You’re not my type.”  Nat squinted angrily at Della.  He wasn’t amused.  This was one man humor wasn’t going to be very effective with.  “Well,” Della said, “I don’t know what you mean by shoving it down your throat.  I am who I am, honey.”

Nat nodded.  “Yeah, whatever.”

“Like I said,” Della continued, “I am who I am.  I’m not gonna hide it either.  I’m gonna be who I am until my dying day.  You of all people should be able to understand that, Nat.  You don’t seem like the type of person who backs down from a challenge.”

“Fine,” Nat said after swallowing another bite, “be who you are, but don’t get mad if I ignore it.”

“I’m not easily ignored,” Della said with a smile.

Nat shook his head.  “No, I guess not.”

“Just remember,” Della said, “I have every right to be who I am as loudly and obnoxiously as I choose.”

“Well it’s rude if you ask me,” Nat said, glaring at Della.

“What can I say?” Della asked with a shrug.  “I guess I’m a rude person, then.  I let you be who you are, though.  I expect the same courtesy.”

“Fine,” Nat said.  “I won’t bother you if you don’t bother me, then.”

“I say what I mean and I mean what I say,” Della went on.  “I come out and say the thing others are afraid to, and you may not know this now, but I’m a great person to have on your side, because that means I’ll be the first to speak up for you when you need it.”

“I don’t need no drag queen stickin’ up for me,” Nat muttered.

“Don’t worry, honey,” Della said.  “I won’t, then.”

Nat looked up at him as he finished up his pork and beans.  “You never told me your real name.”

Della glanced at him as he swallowed some noodles.  “I told you Della Luscious is my real name.”

“What was the name your parents gave you?” Nat asked.

Della smiled.  “Nathan Forrest.”

Nat laughed out loud for the first time Della remembered since he’d met the former sheriff.  “Are you serious?”

Della nodded.  “My parents had a strong sense of irony.”

“Well I can see why you don’t use that name,” Nat said, still chuckling.

“My parents wanted me to always remember what I’d be up against, I guess.”

“Well,” Nat said, “whether you like boys or girls or whatever, you’re the best shot I’ve ever seen, so I don’t mind havin’ ya on my side in a fight.”

“As well you shouldn’t,” Della said.  “You’ll never lose a battle with me standing next to you.” He winked at the former sheriff.

Nat grinned.  “I’ve never lost a battle, anyway, kid.  Don’t flatter yourself.”  He stood from the table.

“Nice talk,” Della said.

“Yeah,” Nat muttered as he placed his empty bowl in the wash bin and left the room, leaving Della to finish eating his noodles alone.  Della knew it would take time to get to know Nat, but that was the longest conversation they’d ever had.  It was a start.

<>

Abby followed Alex through the barracks, up several flights of stairs and down several hallways lined with doors, until they reached their destination.  Alex was going to introduce her to General Crenshaw, the leader of the resistance in Primrose, and his highest ranking officers.  Two guards in tan uniforms stood beside the metal door Abby and Alex were standing in front of.  The soldiers saluted and Alex saluted them back, so Abby did the same thing, assuming it was the proper thing to do.  One of the soldiers opened the door and Abby followed Alex through.  They were standing in a large room with an open doorway which led out onto a balcony.  The room contained a desk and some bookshelves, and there was a large table with a map spread out across it.  Standing before Abby were five men in tan uniforms who each had several medals hanging from their shirts.  The rank insignia on their sleeves included lots of gold bands, so Abby immediately knew they were high ranking officers, even if she didn’t know what their specific ranks were.  The man with the most medals stepped forward and shook Abby’s hand.  “I’m General George Crenshaw,” he said in a soft voice. Abby felt like the voice didn’t fit the man for some reason.

She nodded.  “Abigail Song.”

“I’m pleased to finally meet you,” he said as he looked her over.  He was a middle aged man with a cleanly shaven face and close-cropped gray hair.  He had piercing brown eyes, a square jaw, and a stern mouth with very thin lips.  His features and presence gave Abby the impression of a man who loved nothing but war and the military.  He wasn’t the sort of person she generally felt comfortable around.  “So you’re the person we’ve been waiting for,” he said.  Abby couldn’t tell if he was impressed or disappointed.

She shrugged.  “I guess so.  I mean, you all seem to have been doing fine down here before I got here.”

“But you give people an image, a legend,” he said.  “Your being here will be a huge morale boost for the men, and one that’s sorely needed, I might add.  Everyone has grown up hearing legends of Prometheus, the man who started the resistance.  Now his ancestor is here, coming to finish what he started.  What’s been brewing for centuries is finally going to boil over.”

Abby nodded.  She’d never viewed herself as being so important, but what he said made sense on some level.  “Okay, so where do we go from here?”

“Well,” General Crenshaw said, “the men would probably like to hear something from you.  Would you mind saying a few words to them?”

“Now?” Abby asked.

General Crenshaw nodded.  “They knew you were coming here today, actually.  Didn’t Alex tell you?”

Abby glanced at the bearded professor and he smiled at her.  Then she looked back at General Crenshaw.  “He told me I was meeting you and some of your men.”  She was starting to get nervous.  What was about to happen?

“Well you’ve met me,” the general said.  “Now it’s time to meet some of my men.”  Abby nodded and followed General Crenshaw out onto the balcony.

Abby had no idea she’d walked up so many steps.  She was several levels above the sandy courtyard that spread out before her, surrounded by sandstone buildings of varying heights.  What shocked her was the crowd gathered below.  There were tens of thousands, possibly a hundred thousand or more.  Many were soldiers in uniform, but many were civilians.  There were men, women, and children everywhere.  Abby realized there was a microphone on the railing in front of her.  Her stomach dropped and started doing back flips as the vast crowd looked up at her with anticipation.  She froze.  “Go ahead,” Alex, who was standing at her right side said.  “Just say a few words.”

General Crenshaw was standing at her left.  “Doesn’t have to be anything fancy,” he said.

When the people saw Abby, they all started cheering.  She adjusted her white cowboy hat.  “Hello,” she said into the microphone.  She was shaking.  “I’m Abigial Song.”  The cheers grew louder.  People were waving their hands in the air and shouting things she couldn’t hear.  “I want you to know that I believe in you.  You’re fighting for a cause that couldn’t be more important.  It’s the freedom of all people.  You’re fighting for the rights of the poor and destitute, but also for the wealthy.  You’re fighting for people of all races and religions.  You’re the force of good which will stand up for those who have no one to stand up for them.”  She thought that sounded ridiculous, but the people seemed to like it.  They were cheering louder than ever.

“I know there’s a tough battle coming,” Abby continued.  “I know some of you will die.  But know this.  It’s better to die for something you believe in than to live for nothing.  It’s better to die fighting for those you love than to watch them ripped away from you.  Believe me.  I’ve seen it happen.  I’ve experienced the worst of Herman Rennock.  He took my family from me.”  She took a deep breath.  “He and his armies have destroyed many families, many towns.  But not this town.  Not as long as we’re here to fight!”  The cheering was the loudest yet and Abby was feeling much more comfortable.  “I’ll be here fighting with you, alongside you.  We’ll defeat Herman Rennock’s army, and we’ll save not only this town and those who live here, but many other towns like it, and millions of other people like you.  We’ll make our stand.  And we’ll show Herman Rennock and his army what happens when you threaten to take away the freedoms we hold so dear.”  The people were out of control.  They were screaming and shouting, waving their arms and pumping their fists.  The cheers drowned out everything around them.  “For freedom!” she shouted, pumping her fist in the air.

The people in the crowd did the same.  “For freedom!” they chanted.  “For freedom!  For freedom!”  Abby stood with a smile, taking it all in for several minutes.

“Good speech,” General Crenshaw shouted in order to be heard over the loud crowd.  “You’re a natural.”

Abby nodded as she looked at the faces in the crowd, thinking of her father.  “I had a good teacher.”

 

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 31
Where:
Herman Rennock learns of Abby’s whereabouts.
Bobby and Michelle finally get the chance to go on their date.
Pete leaves Primrose to assist a scouting mission.

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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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