If you’ve never read Afterlife before, click here to go to the first chapter.
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 and her companions cross the border and reach Primrose.
They meet Mavery Thomas, Big Ed, Alex Harris, and the Bloody Six.
Abby gives a speech to thousands of people.
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Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 31
Herman Rennock sat at his desk in his office, holding his head. He had the beginnings of a headache, and it seemed no matter what he did, he couldn’t get rid of it. It wasn’t getting any better or worse. He chuckled, supposing he should be grateful that it wasn’t getting worse. Ives, his robot servant, had brought him some aspirin a while ago but it didn’t seem to be helping. Rennock had received good news earlier, too, but he was incapable of fully enjoying it. He’d learned from one of his informants in Primrose that Abigail Song was there, along with Nat Bigum, Earl Steadman, and Horseman and Michelle Hemingway, all wanted criminals. It seemed once his forces destroyed Primrose and all of the rebels and criminals who lived there, they’d be taking out nearly all of his biggest enemies. Rennock smiled. Maybe he’d have a drink with Deanna later. He lifted his face out of his hands and looked around his office at the bookshelves and the huge oak desk. “Kay,” he said, referring to the computer which controlled Rennock’s home systems.
“Yes, Master Rennock,” Kay’s soothing voice responded.
“Put me through to General Schmidt.”
“Very well, Master Rennock.” A few seconds later, millions of nanobots buzzed down from the ceiling and formed a three-dimensional image over Rennock’s desk.
The image was of General Schmidt, with his self-inflicted cybernetic implant where his left eye had been. There was a stern look on his stubbly face. “Good afternoon, sir.”
“Abigail Song is in Primrose,” Rennock said. “You can attack now. Remember what I said. Take no prisoners. These people will poison ya with their propaganda.”
The general nodded. “I understand. No prisoners. We’ll wipe Primrose out of history.”
“Good,” Rennock said with a smile. “Attack early tomorrow mornin’.”
General Schmidt nodded. “We’ll attack just as the sun’s coming up. They’ll be expecting sunlight and they’ll get laser fire.”
Rennock nodded. “And I’ll check in with you regularly. Remember, general. Kill everyone and destroy everything. Don’t leave anything to chance. This is far too important.”
“I know,” General Schmidt said with a smile on his stubbly face. “I understand the order. Don’t worry, sir.”
“All right,” Rennock said, holding his forehead. “Good.”
“My staff and I have a good plan in place,” General Schmidt said. “My men will have no trouble executing it, sir. And they’re getting tired of waiting around. Everyone will be happy we’re going to be fighting again.”
“Good,” Rennock said. “And good luck.”
“Oh, we won’t need luck,” General Schmidt said. “We’ve got God on our side.” He nodded to Rennock and the nanobots broke up the image and buzzed back to their perches in the ceiling.
“God on our side,” Rennock muttered, shaking his head. “The only real God in this world is the almighty dollar. So yeah, I guess that is on our side.” He chuckled and rested his face in his hands once again, trying not to be too anxious about the next day’s battle. It would be a cakewalk. The rebels had no chance and they knew it.
Michelle Hemingway was stood in a wide open field of sand just outside of the main town of Primose as the blazing afternoon sun attacked the setting with stark heat. Michelle was still within the city’s outer walls, but she didn’t feel as safe. She felt like she was out in the open. Standing next to her was Juanita Ricardo, the sharpshooter and sniper of the Bloody Six. Juanita didn’t look like much of a warrior. She was small in stature and was very pretty, with long, black hair, but when Michelle had asked Sergeant Mark Gonzalez who the best person to give her shooting lessons would be, he didn’t hesitate to mention the deadly Latina. Juanita set up some cans about fifty feet away from them. Michelle had shot all three down easily from twenty five feet, so now she was going to try from a farther distance. This wasn’t the first time Michelle had ever fired a gun. She’d had a boyfriend several years back who’d taken her out shooting from time to time, and that most definitely didn’t sit well with Horseman. Michelle still blamed Horseman for scaring him off. Thinking of that, Michelle aimed her laser pistol and fired, shooting the first can and knocking it over. “Very good,” Juanita said with a slight accent. “I don’t even know if you needed me.”
“No,” Michelle said. “I definitely needed you.” It was true. Juanita had given her a few pointers about stance and aiming that were helping immensely. Michelle fired two more shots, knocking down the other cans.
“You’re really good,” Juanita said with a grin. “Maybe we’ll make the Bloody Six a Bloody Seven.”
“Magnificent Seven, maybe,” Michelle said with a chuckle. “No, I’m not that good.”
“You’ve never fired at a real person,” Juanita said. “Things are very different in combat. Still, it’s a start.” She smiled at Michelle, who smiled back.
Michelle wondered if Juanita had any interest in women. She had a date with Bobby later that night, but if things didn’t work out with him for one reason or another, maybe she’d try her hand with Juanita. She shook off the thought. It was time for business, not pleasure. “Should I try from farther away?” Michelle asked.
Juanita shrugged. “I don’t know how far we can go, but you’ll do fine. Fifty feet is pretty good, especially for a beginner.”
Michelle nodded. “So we’re done then?”
“I really don’t know what else I can teach you,” Juanita said, sitting on a nearby rock. “You just need to practice now.” She picked up a water bottle she’d placed on the ground next to the rock earlier and drank from it.
“Okay,” Michelle said, sitting on the rock next to her. She looked out across the sand, towards the metal wall in the distance. “How long have you been here in Primrose?”
“About five years,” Juanita replied, handing Michelle the water bottle. “My family came here to escape the Mexican Territory. Things are awful there.” She chuckled. “Well I guess we’re still there technically, but we have our own rules here in Primrose.”
“So tell me about the Mexican Territory,” Michelle said. “Tell me what was so awful, if you don’t mind.” She drank some water and placed the bottle back on the ground.
Juanita nodded. “No, I don’t mind. I mean, the resistance was started in order to fight Herman Rennock, but the Mexican Territory isn’t much better, really. There are lots of refugees like me and my family here in Primrose. It’s getting really bad.” She looked at Michelle with her big brown eyes and frowned. “The shelters where they give out food and other supplies always have shortages, and there are people who starve to death because of it. The government officials horde things for themselves and give things to people who they owe favors to. The bureaucrats and their lackeys live well off the fat of the land and the hard work of the common people. If they’re moved to help a town or village, they do, but there isn’t much motivation. Sometimes they move so slowly by the time needed supplies arrive it’s too late. In a lot of ways it’s no different from the Southwest Territory.”
Michelle frowned. “When all the power is held by a few, it doesn’t matter what the form of government is, the masses always suffer.”
“Exactly,” Juanita said. “And I’m skeptical now. Is anyone going to be any better? Is this government your friend Abby and Alex Harris want to put in place going to be any better?”
Michelle shrugged. “I don’t know. It couldn’t be worse, right? I mean, at least we know they’re good people.”
“That’s a dangerous way of thinking,” Juanita said. “The people who started Rennock’s system and the communist system here in the Mexican Territory probably had good intentions. Look at those places now. And things can always get worse. When you start thinking they can’t, they do.”
“Well it’s good to have hope,” Michelle said with a smile on her scarred face. “I mean we can try to make things better, right?”
“I’ve seen governments come and go in various places,” Juanita said. “None of them have been any better than the last. It’s just a hard world we live in. Hope? Hope is for the weak. It’s for people who don’t want to face reality. I see what is and I act on it.”
“That’s a rough way to live life,” Michelle said, looking out at the desert sands.
“It’s gotten me this far,” Juanita said, holding her laser rifle tight.
“So if you don’t have any hope for the future, then why do you fight?” Michelle asked.
Juanita shrugged. “It’s just what I do, I guess. Everyone needs some way to pass the time.” She chuckled.
Michelle laughed and shook her head. “Sure, I guess so.”
Juanita’s expression became grave. “Rennock’s army is coming here to destroy Primrose. So you ask why I fight? This time, I fight for my family and the people I love.”
Michelle nodded. “I guess there’s no better reason than that.” She picked up the water bottle again and drank some more, handing it to Juanita when she was finished.
Abby sat at a table outside a quaint sandstone café with Sergeant Mark Gonzalez and his wife, Jane. She’d decided it would be good to meet them and get to know their group if they were going to be joining her once they left Primrose like Alex Harris had hoped. Abby had asked Einstein a lot about them over the past few days and he provided lots of good information about their exploits in battle, but she wanted to meet with Mark in person to learn a little bit more. She had just finished her ham sandwich and sipped her iced tea as she smiled at Sergeant Gonzalez. “So how long has your group been together?” she asked. The waiter walked to their table and grabbed Abby’s empty plate, walking away with it. There were very few other customers sitting outside. The sandy street was nearly empty, too, save the occasional group of soldiers walking by. It was probably a little early for lunch, and it was hot, but Abby preferred being outside for some reason. Maybe all her travelling had gotten her used to it.
“We’ve been together about five years,” Mark said with his accent as he sipped his coffee. He would have been a handsome man if it weren’t for the scars that covered much of his face. “I don’t remember the exact date,” he continued. “My wife and I have been here in Primrose for seven years, and we were in the army long before that. I was tasked with forming an elite, hand-picked unit for special missions, and we became the Bloody Six.”
Abby nodded. “So you all have specialties, then?”
“Yes,” Mark said. “As you know, I’m the leader.” He nodded towards Jane. “My wife’s good with small arms, intelligence operations, and communications equipment. Sera’s our hand to hand specialist. She’s an expert in martial arts, knives, and sword fighting. Paul is a grounded pilot, actually. From what I hear, he was a good one, too. For us, he works with explosives. John Bernard is the mechanic and he’s also our RLR man. And that leaves Juanita, the sniper.”
Jane smiled at Abby. “Of course, we’re all highly trained with the usual weapons, like laser pistols and rifles.” She was very pretty with her short blonde hair and blue eyes, but Abby also noted a toughness about her. She looked like she worked out a lot.
“You could say we’re the best of the best,” Mark said.
Abby cringed a little at the cliché. She hoped Mark didn’t notice. “Okay, cool. So Alex says he wants to join us when we leave Primrose. Did you know this?”
Mark nodded. “That was the plan all along if we were to run into you here.”
“Following me is extremely dangerous,” Abby said. “Rennock has everyone working for him looking out for me, and from what I hear, the orders are that anyone who I’m associated with is to be killed on sight.”
Jane chuckled. “I think it’s the same for us. We’ve been a thorn in Rennock’s side for quite some time.”
“We’ve also been a thorn in the Mexican Territory’s side,” Mark added. “We’ve always had lots of enemies. Never bothered us before, and it won’t now.”
“Well, still, I think I’m his number one target,” Abby said. “I guess you guys are ready for it if you’re as good as you say you are.”
Mark smiled. “We’re that good and more. So can we join you, then?”
“I won’t complain about more guns,” Abby said, “especially good ones.”
“Very well,” Mark said. He reached across the table and shook her hand. “From this day forward, the Bloody Six are at your service, Miss Song.”
Abby smiled and finished her tea. “Good to know.”
Mark finished chewing the last bit of his sandwich. “Is there anything else you wanted to know while you have us here?”
Abby thought for a few seconds. “Not really. How long have the two of you been married, though?”
Mark and Jane smiled at one another and their hands joined. “Ten years,” Jane said. “Ten wonderful years.”
“The best years of my life,” Mark added.
Abby grinned. It was good to see that love could survive in such a stark setting. “I guess it’s tough on you both being in the army and all. At least you get to serve together.”
“It wasn’t easy, though,” Jane said.
Mark nodded. “When they said to hand pick my group, at first they didn’t want Jane to be a part of it.”
“They said it would be too much of a distraction,” Jane added.
“But I insisted and eventually they relented,” Mark said. “I told them, my team, my people, or they’d have to find somebody else.”
Abby nodded. “That’s pretty cool.”
“Mark has a real way with people,” Jane said sarcastically. “Actually, he’s got a legendary temper. I think even his commanding officers are afraid to reprimand him sometimes.”
Mark frowned. “Jane…”
“What?” Jane asked. “Everyone knows. That’s why they call him Mad Mark.”
Mark chuckled and shook his head, smiling at Abby through his scars. “Don’t listen to any of those rumors. I’m a nice guy most of the time. If you get on my bad side, though… You mess with the bull, you get the horns, you know?”
“Right,” Abby said. Mark seemed to have a love of clichéd, pithy sayings. “Well hopefully I won’t get on your bad side.”
“I know you won’t,” Mark said with a smile. “You seem like a nice girl. Anyway, Jane and I should probably get going.” The two of them stood and saluted Abby. She saluted them back and they left her alone at the table. Abby thought Mark seemed like a nice guy, regardless of what Jane had said. She wondered if Mark’s anger was sometimes directed at his wife. Jane seemed like she could take care of herself, but Mark was a big, muscular guy. Abby wondered if it would be good to have someone with such a legendary temper in her group. What if he butted heads with Nat? Nat was stubborn as hell and Abby didn’t see him backing down from anyone. Or what if Della and his big mouth said something to piss Mark off? They were all good fighters, though. Michelle had a mouth on her, too. If Abby was going to be a leader, she’d have to find a way to see that they all got along, at least well enough to fight together as a team. And it wasn’t like her group hadn’t had their fair share of squabbles already. She looked out at the sandy street as she waited for the check.
Later that evening, Abby met Horseman in the hallway outside her room and they walked to his sports hover car, which was parked in the cave. They’d decided to go out on a date together, hoping to enjoy some down time before any fighting started. They got in the car and Horseman drove out of the cave and up the road the led out of the canyon. They rode through the town, which was mostly empty, passing sandstone shops and houses. There were a few people out on the streets, but not many. Abby noticed some colorful lights up ahead against the darkening evening sky. “What’s that?” she asked.
“A carnival,” Horseman said with a smile.
“Really?” Abby asked. “Are you serious?”
Horseman nodded as he drove. “Mark and Jane told me about it. They’re celebrating the founding of Primrose, or something like that.”
Abby saw a towering Ferris wheel and some other rides as they approached. The sounds of laughter and carnival music came in through Horseman’s open window, and Abby smelled roasting peanuts. “I didn’t notice it before.”
“They just set it up today,” Horseman said as he parked the car. The two of them got out and walked up to a booth where Horseman bought two tickets from a man in a clown costume. Horseman and Abby walked through the lighted yellow gate and they were both hungry, so they immediately ordered hot dogs from a stand. They ate the hotdogs as they walked through the crowded street, taking in the lights, sounds, and excitement. Abby loved the smells wafting through the warm evening air and the excitement of the laughing children running by. It had been a long time since she’d seen such happiness. She and Horseman made their way to the Ferris wheel and stood in line as they finished their hot dogs.
Abby watched as another child shot a water pistol at a target in a nearby booth. “I’ve actually never been to a carnival before,” she said.
“Really?” Horseman asked.
Abby shook her head. “Or an amusement park. My dad hated them. He was never real big on waiting in lines.”
Horseman nodded. “Michelle and I have been to a few. You’re really going to enjoy yourself tonight.”
Abby smiled at him and held his hand. “I already am.” As she waited in line, Abby was starting to realize there were a lot of people staring at her and Horseman. “It seems we’re the center of attention,” she said. “I guess that’s what I get for going out on a date with a famous actor.”
Horseman shook his head. “I don’t think it’s me this time.”
A kid walked up to Abby and handed her a card of some sort and a pen. He said something in Spanish. “He wants your autograph,” Horseman said.
Dumbfounded, Abby signed the card and gave it back to the excited kid. “Gracias!” he shouted. “Gracias, Abigail Song!” He ran back to his parents and they waved at Abby. She waved back as more kids came up and asked her to sign things, which she did until she and Horseman reached the front of the line. People cheered as Abby and Horseman sat in one of the chairs on the Ferris wheel and Abby smiled and waved at them. The attendant strapped them in, and they started slowly ascending. “It’s gonna take me a while to get used to being a celebrity,” Abby said as the cheering faded. “I mean, I come from an important family and all, but it’s never been like this.”
“I can give you pointers if you want,” Horseman said. He looked up towards the top of the Ferris wheel. “This thing must be two hundred feet high at least.”
“It’s precisely two hundred and fifteen feet high,” Einstein pointed out.
“Can you turn him off?” Horseman whispered into Abby’s ear. “I feel like we have one of our parents with us or something.”
Abby laughed and pushed the button under Einstein which turned him off. Then, she held Horseman’s hand. “Better?” she asked, smiling at him.
He nodded. “Definitely.”
It was a beautiful night. Stars were visible everywhere and the moon was full and bright as Abby and Horseman rose higher. They were now a little more than halfway up and Abby could see the sandstone buildings of Primrose spread out around them, along with the deep canyon, and the rocky terrain that spread out to the metal walls. She could make out several huge metal air converters in the distance. She could even see the dunes and the dark cliffs beyond. She rested her head on Horseman’s shoulder. He seemed to her to be quietly brooding. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
Horseman wrapped his arm around her. “Abby, do you realize, that any hour of any day, there’s probably not someone out there thinking about you. I mean, everyone’s got problems of their own, so how significant can any of us be, really?”
Abby frowned. “What are you talking about?”
Horseman looked into her eyes and smiled. “Don’t you think it would be nice to know that there’s always someone out there who’s thinking about you?”
“There are people who think about us,” Abby said. “I mean Michelle probably thinks about you. And we’re both famous.”
“No, that’s not what I mean.”
“Then what do you mean?” Abby asked.
“Just promise me that you’ll think about me,” he said. “You know, over the course of your day. At least sometimes.”
Abby smiled at him. “Okay, I’ll think about you. I already do.”
“And I promise to think about you,” Horseman said as they reached the top of the Ferris wheel. He leaned in to kiss Abby and their lips met beneath the stars as the Ferris wheel started its descent.
Bobby was both excited and nervous as he sat across the table from Michelle Hemingway in La Traviata, the nicest restaurant in Primrose. The restaurant was packed even though it was a little past dinner time. There was some salsa music playing over the speakers as the waitress came to take their orders. She was a Latina with long, black hair and she was wearing a white dress and had a red flower in her hair. Bobby smiled at Michelle. “I’ll have a beef and bean burrito with refried beans and rice,” he said.
Michelle looked at him and chuckled, then turned to the waitress. “And I’ll have the fish tacos.”
The waitress nodded and walked away. “Why’d you laugh just now?” Bobby asked.
“You’ve never been on a date before,” Michelle said, “have you?”
“I mean, not like this,” Bobby said. “Why?”
Michelle smiled. Bobby still couldn’t get over how beautiful her smile was. “You’re supposed to order for me,” she said.
“Really?” Bobby asked. “Isn’t that old fashioned.”
“Sometimes old fashioned is good,” Michelle said, “even with me.”
Bobby nodded. “Okay, I’ll keep that in mind.”
Michelle looked absolutely beautiful in the dim light, wearing a white summer dress with red flowers patterned on it. Bobby thought it may have been the dress she’d worn when he’d seen her for the first time. Her long, sandy blonde hair seemed to glow in the dim light, and her bright blue eyes were absolutely stunning. She smiled at Bobby again, biting her bottom lip. “I have a question, Bobby, and I want you to be honest with me.”
“Okay,” Bobby said.
“Did my brother have one of his talks with you before you picked me up?”
Bobby frowned, remembering the conversation. First, Horseman reprimanded him for giving her a laser blaster. Then, he said “Bobby, I know you’re dating my sister. I know you’re my friend and ally, but that’ll change real fast if you ever do anything to hurt her. If you hurt her, I’ll hurt you, understand?”
Bobby had looked at Horseman and frowned. “I’d never intentionally hurt her.”
Horseman’s response had been “I don’t care if it’s intentional or not.” Then, he stormed off.
“He did,” Bobby said, answering Michelle’s question.
Michelle rolled her eyes. “Don’t listen to him. You know I’m my own person, Bobby. Since our parents died, Horseman’s felt like it’s his job to look after me or something. I know he means well but it gets on my nerves sometimes.”
“Doesn’t he realize that you’re an adult?” Bobby asked.
Michelle shrugged. “He still sees me as his little sister, though. I know I’ve been wild and hard to deal with at times, but I’m still a grownup. He doesn’t see it that way, though.”
Bobby nodded as the salsa music continued playing in the background. “I never really had a family to deal with. My parents died when I was five so I barely remember them. There was my uncle, I guess, but he didn’t care one way or another. He never told me what to do or anything like that, really.”
“Must have been nice,” Michelle said.
“Not really,” Bobby said. “He was a heroin addict. And he’d beat the crap out of me for practically no reason.”
“I’m sorry,” Michelle said, leaning forward and putting her hand over his on the table.
Bobby smiled and shook his head. “Why don’t we talk about something more uplifting?”
“Sure,” Michelle agreed.
“So you’ve probably seen a lot of cool stuff,” Bobby said, “you and Horseman being rich and famous and all. What’s the most memorable thing you ever remember doing or seeing?”
Michelle thought for a few seconds. “The most memorable thing? That’s tough Bobby. There’s so much. I don’t know. I remember when I was a kid, our parents took us to meet a rich sheikh in New Persia. We stayed in his palace and he owned elephants and tigers. We got to walk through his gardens. It was beautiful. I’ve been to lots of parties, met pretty much everyone under the sun. I don’t know. I’d have to say the most memorable place I’ve ever been was that oasis, though, and you were there, too.”
Bobby smiled. “Yeah, that was pretty amazing.”
They chatted a little while longer while they waited for the food to arrive. Bobby noticed some anger or depression in Michelle’s pretty blue eyes during her quiet moments and it saddened him. He figured it probably had something to do with what had happened to her in Silver City. The scars on her face apparently weren’t the only ones she had. She was doing a great job of keeping her feelings hidden, though. As Bobby talked with her, she lightened up a little. He was able to make her laugh a lot, which made him very happy, though a lot of the laughter was at his expense. Bobby just wasn’t good with manners and etiquette and stuff of that nature, and Michelle found his missteps entertaining. Eventually, the food arrived and Bobby thought it tasted amazing, though some of it was hard to eat with his right arm in a sling. “Wow,” he said as he chewed a piece of burrito. “This is the best burrito I’ve ever had.”
Michelle chuckled. “Bobby, you shouldn’t talk with food in your mouth.”
Bobby swallowed his food. “Really? I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry,” Michelle said. “I was brought up in a different situation and I understand that. It’s kind of cute, actually.”
“Yeah,” Bobby said. “I mean, I’ve spent most of my life sleeping under the stars in the desert, scavenging and stuff.”
Michelle nodded. “I bet you’ve seen some amazing things, too.”
“Just the usual,” Bobby said. “Deserts, sand, and dunes. I guess it’s pretty but it gets old after a while. The sunsets are always beautiful, though, and the sunrises.”
“Maybe we’ll get to watch a sunrise together sometime,” Michelle said as she took a bite out of a taco.
Bobby nodded. “Yeah, that would be fun.”
They finished eating, and Bobby was starting to notice that people were staring at them, especially an older couple at a table across the room. “It seems like a lot of people are staring at us,” Bobby said. “I wonder if they recognize you.”
“I’m used to it,” Michelle said. “I get stared at everywhere I go. It’s part of being famous, I guess. I don’t even notice it anymore.”
“That older couple looks disgusted, though,” Bobby said. He wondered if maybe it had something to do with the scars on her face, but he didn’t mention that.
“There are a lot of rumors going around about me,” Michelle said. “Some aren’t true. Some are. All of them are nobody’s business but my own. I’ve enjoyed a lifestyle older people often aren’t too happy with. I mean some super conservative types probably wouldn’t approve of you and me dating. I could care less, though. I mean, people I don’t even know hate me. Do you know what that’s like?” Bobby shook his head. “It sucks,” Michelle said, “but there’s nothing I can do about it so who really cares? Wanna get out of here?”
Bobby put some money down on the table with the check. “Sure.”
They stood and Michelle looked around at the gawkers. “When you all are done staring,” she began, “you can kiss my white ass.” As they walked to the door, she flipped the back of her dress up for a second to show them her thong.
Bobby and Michelle left the restaurant and headed towards Bobby’s new sand bike, which was parked nearby in the sandy street. He’d bought a tan sand bike the day before which he thought would blend in better with the desert, since he had to leave his old one in South Edge. As he and Michelle walked, Bobby held her hand. “I’ve never seen that side of you,” Bobby said, “telling off the customers like that.”
“I have a fuse,” she said, “just like everyone else. I’ve been through a lot lately and the last thing I wanted was having a bunch of people staring at me like I’m some sort of space alien or something.” She smiled at Bobby as they walked. “I’m an actress, Bobby. I have many sides.”
Bobby nodded. “I’ll be happy to learn more about them.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t have flashed them, though,” she muttered. “That’s gonna end up all over the Satellite Net.” She chuckled. “Doesn’t matter. It’s happened before. I’m used to it.”
“Happened before?” Bobby asked as they reached his sand bike. “What do you mean by that?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Michelle said. “There were some pictures posted all over the Satellite Net of me skinny dipping. And there was a sex tape. One of my exes was a jealous idiot.” She shook her head and smiled at Bobby. “You really don’t know much about the world, do you?”
“I guess not,” Bobby said as he got on his bike.
“I thought everyone knew about those pictures and that video,” Michelle said. “Well, that’s refreshing.”
“What is?” Bobby shouted as he started the engine.
“I’ve found the one person who doesn’t know all my dirty secrets,” Michelle shouted back. “Though I guess they’re not so secret anymore.”
Bobby had to drive with one hand, so he made sure to take it slow. He drove to a club where he and Michelle danced to techno music for a while. They also had a few drinks. Bobby was noticing more and more now how everywhere they went, people seemed to be staring at them or taking pictures. It would definitely take some getting used to. Bobby and Michelle danced together deep into the night, smiling and looking into one another’s eyes. They’d take breaks and talk, drink, and laugh, but most of the time they were dancing. Bobby couldn’t get over how sexy Michelle’s movements were. She really knew what she was doing on the dance floor. After a while, they left the club, got on Bobby’s sand bike once again, and rode out into the desert. “Where are we going?” Michelle asked as they left the main town of Primrose and headed out towards the metal wall.
“Out into the desert to get away from everything,” Bobby said. “Don’t worry. We won’t go outside the outer wall. I have a blanket. I was thinking we could sleep under the stars tonight.”
Michelle held him tighter as she rode behind him. “That sounds awesome.”
Bobby put the classic rock chip he’d purchased earlier into his sand bike’s sound system and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” by the Eagles started playing. He drove until he found a rocky hill deep in the badlands that surrounded Primrose. They weren’t far from the metal wall as Bobby’s sand bike ascended the hill. He parked it next to an old ruined fort of some kind and he and Michelle got off the bike and started laying a blanket down in the sand on the top of the hill. Bobby nodded towards the stone ruins. “Do you think that was from the old world?”
“I don’t know,” Michelle said. “It does look pretty old, though.” She lay down on the blanket and Bobby lay down next to her. He held her with his good arm as the multitude of stars and the full moon shined down on them. Bobby kissed her and she kissed him back. Their tongues met and Bobby was excited. He didn’t want the moment to end. He was about to make love to the woman of his dreams. How could things possibly be any better?
Early the next morning, before the sun came up, Pete Ahmad and several soldiers in the Southwest Resistance Army headed outside the city walls on a scouting mission to see if they could verify rumors that the Rennock Enterprises Army under the command of General Schmidt was approaching. Pete was driving his hover van and the scouting group he was with was using radar jammers, camouflage projectors, and the most advanced communications jamming equipment available to stay hidden. Pete was a little nervous after the EMPC’s had been able to detect his group even with the camouflage projectors and radar jammers a few days ago, but he was hoping the communications jamming equipment rectified that problem.
A soldier named Abdul, who like Pete was of Middle Eastern descent, was seated beside him in the passenger seat. Pete had left Sherry and the diamonds back in Primrose with Abby since he didn’t see any advantage to bringing them along on the dangerous mission. Pete had met Abdul at the mosque he’d been attending since arriving in Primrose. He was happy to finally find a good mosque, and he’d been able to pay his alms for the first time in a long while. As he drove, he felt good knowing much of the money Abby had given him would be going to help those who needed it most. “We need to watch out traveling out here,” Abdul said. “There are other dangerous people out here besides Rennock’s soldiers.”
Pete nodded. “Bandits.”
“Not just bandits,” Abdul said. “There are terrorists out here, too. And don’t think you and I are safe because we’re Muslims. These guys are nuts. They’d think we’re infidels or apostates merely because we’re working with non-Muslims. They don’t understand the concept of a common cause. Their jihad is against anyone who doesn’t agree with them.”
“I’m always on the lookout,” Pete said, scanning the dunes with his eyes. Several sand bikes were traveling with them. In all, there were about ten other soldiers. It wasn’t a big force by any means, but they wanted to stay small so they could more easily avoid detection. They rode to the top of a high dune and stopped.
Abdul pointed out towards the horizon. “There. Do you see it?”
Pete reached down beside him and lifted his binoculars to his eyes. He scanned the horizon until he noticed what appeared to be a robot of some kind hovering over a dune. It had repeating laser blasters where hands would be and a single red light in the center of its head. The robot had no legs, so it hovered above the sand. Soon, Pete noticed several more. He scanned the nearby dunes to see hundreds of them. Further away, he could see soldiers. Thousands of soldiers, both human and android. And there was something huge looming behind them. It appeared to be a robot of some sort on tracks, and it was the size of a large building. “They’re coming, all right.” He handed the binoculars to Abdul.
Abdul scanned the horizon and nodded. “I see interceptors, andriods, and levelers along with the human soldiers. And there appear to be several attack copters in the sky.”
The hover van rocked violently, causing Abdul to drop the binoculars. “What was that?”
Pete noticed a gray cloud coming towards them. The cloud surrounded the resistance soldiers outside of the van and ripped them to shreds, along with their sand bikes, staining the sand with blood and small scraps of metal, skin, and bone. “Nanoguns!” Pete shouted. Nanoguns were advanced weapons which fired clouds of microscopic nanobots which ate through anything in their path, even the atlantium Pete’s van was made out of. The cloud came towards Pete’s van and there was a loud buzzing sound. He turned to see that the whole back half of the van was being eaten through. “We need to get out of here!” Pete shouted. “Now!” The back half of the hover van was gone in a matter of seconds. Pete could see blue sky behind him, and before he could react, he saw several men in black uniforms through the front windshield. They were also wearing smooth black helmets which covered their faces, though apparently the men wearing the helmets could see through them from the other side. The men were soldiers in Rennock’s Army. Pete could tell from the uniforms. He put his hands in the air as the black-clad soldiers pointed laser rifles at him and Abdul. There were at least a dozen of them.
One of the soldiers aimed larger rifle with a wide, flat front at the windshield of Pete’s van and fired. The transparent metal that made up the van’s windshield seemed to melt right off, running down the front of the van and into the sand. Three of the soldiers fired their laser rifles at Abdul, hitting his head and splattering blood all over the passenger seat of what was left of Pete’s van. Abdul’s lifeless body slumped forward as Pete continued raising his hands. He prayed to Allah for strength, clarity, and deliverance if it was his will. Pete had never been more afraid in his life as the soldiers pointed their laser rifles at him.
“We’re taking you prisoner,” one of the soldiers said. “You’re on an interrogation list. Get out of the hover van. Now.”
Pete nodded and opened the door, stepping out of the van. Two soldiers immediately spun him around and pushed him up against what was left of the van, tying his hands behind his back with some sort of metallic rope. “You can interrogate me all you want,” Pete said. “I don’t know anything of value.”
“We’ll see about that,” one of the soldiers said as he pushed Pete towards his companions. Pete was astonished by the display of technology he’d just witnessed. He prayed that the resistance fighters could find some way to withstand it.
Continue on to the next chapter:
Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 32
Pete is interrogated.
Bobby and Michelle see something that disturbs them.
Herman Rennock’s forces begin their attack.
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