Fiction: Afterlife (Chapter 7)

by Mike Monroe on January 10, 2014

in FICTION

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

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Photo by Jay Hood

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


Read the previous chapter here:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 6

Where:

Nat Bigum gets Doctor Thomas to agree to treat Abby.
Bobby goes to get food for himself, Nat, and Pastor Earl.
Nat and Pastor Earl are confronted by Sheriff Plumber and his deputies.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

 

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 7

 

“The famous Nat Bigum,” Sheriff Plumber said as he held his laser pistol steady, pointed straight at Pastor Earl’s face.  His right eye was looking at Pastor Earl though he was speaking to Nat.  A black eye patch covered the spot where his left eye would have been. “To think one of my deputies could have the honor of putting you in your grave.”

“Many have tried,” Nat said, pointing his .44 magnum at the sheriff’s nose.  “None have been successful.”

“But this is an awful predicament,” Sheriff Plumber said.  “Your head can be blown off just like anyone else’s, you know.”  Pastor Earl thought he saw the sheriff’s curled moustache twitch a little.

“I know,” Nat said.  “The difference between me and you is I don’t give a damn.”

The sheriff chuckled.  “What about your friend here?”  He nodded towards Pastor Earl as he continued pointing his gun at him.  “Are you sure you can trust him in a battle when your life is on the line?”

“I’ve lived a long, fulfilled life,” Pastor Earl said, pointing his laser pistols at the two deputies.  “We all have to go eventually.”

“What about you two?” Nat asked the deputies as they continued pointing their laser pistols at his face.  “You boys look a little wet behind the ears.  If you put your guns down, we promise we won’t kill ya.”

Sheriff Plumber chuckled.  “Don’t listen to him, chaps.  He’d just as soon kill you as blow his nose.”

“I’ve seen my share of gunfights,” one of the deputies said to Nat.

“Yeah,” the other one said, “me, too.  You ain’t talkin’ your way out of this one.”

“So it comes down to who’s got the balls to fire first,” Nat said.

Sheriff Plumber smiled, his gun steady as he continued aiming it at Pastor Earl.  “Actually, it tends to be the most nervous one who fires first, not the most ballsy.”

“Wanna make a bet?” Nat asked, still pointing his gun straight at the sheriff’s nose.

“Or the craziest one,” Sheriff Plumber added.  “The man who fires first almost always ends up dying in the end.”

“We all end up dying in the end,” Pastor Earl said.  “It’s just a question of how and when.”

The eyes of the five men stayed fixed on their targets as they stood waiting for whatever was about to happen.  Pastor Earl noticed someone walking outside through the corner of his eye.  It was Bobby coming back with the food.  He glanced at Nat to see that he had also noticed Bobby.  They continued staring down the sheriff and his men, trying not to let on that they’d seen Bobby.  The front door opened and the two deputies glanced over.   Nat pulled his trigger and there was a loud crack that made Pastor Earl’s ears ring as Sheriff Dusty Plumber’s brains were splattered all over the closest window.  Before the deputies could react, Pastor Earl fired laser shots which blasted their heads open.  The three bodies flopped to the floor.  Bobby stood in the doorway holding the bag of food, his mouth open in shock as Nat and Pastor Earl put their guns back in their holsters.  “Pick your jaw up off the floor,” Nat said to Bobby, “and find a washcloth so you can clean them brains off the winda.”

Bobby looked at Nat with a confused expression.  “Clean up brains?  I’m not cleaning up any brains.”

“Close the door, you idiot,” Nat blurted.

Bobby shut the door.  “Why don’t you clean up the brains?  You’re the one that splattered them on the window.”

“I ain’t cleaning up no brains,” Nat said.  “Earl and I just had a damned shootout while you were off lollygaggin’ around.  You’re gonna clean up the brains.”

Bobby glanced at the window to see the chunks of brain running down with the blood.  “That’s disgusting.  No way in hell am I going near any brains.”

“Maybe I’ll spilt your head open and add ‘em to your own so you won’t be such an idiot anymore,” Nat said.

“Look!” Bobby blurted.  “Somebody’s going to have to clean up the brains.  What if somebody walks by outside and sees them and calls the local enforcers?  Splattered brains dripping down a window aren’t exactly an everyday occurrence!”

Nat frowned.  “Exactly.  So clean up the god-damned brains!”

“I said I’m not going near any brains,” Bobby reiterated.  “I got your damned food here.”  He held up the bag.  “You clean up the god-damned brains!”

“Look, kid,” Nat blurted, “it was nice of you to go and get our food and all, but if you’d been here, it’d probably be your brains splattered all over the winda, so don’t act like you were doin’ us any favors.  If ya really wanna do us a favor, then clean up the damned brains!”

“No way,” Bobby said.  “You can argue all you want.  I’m not going near any brains, and that’s that.”

“I’ll clean up the brains,” Pastor Earl muttered.  “I’m sick of hearing you two argue about it.”  He walked into the bathroom and started pulling paper towels out of the dispenser so he could wet them in order to clean the window.

“Give me the damned food,” Nat said, grabbing the bag out of Bobby’s hand.

<>

After some time, the door to Doctor Thomas’ clinic opened and he stepped out, wearing a smock that was covered in blood.  Bobby, Nat, and Pastor Earl were all sitting in chairs in the waiting room.  They’d rolled the three bodies up in a rug.  Doctor Thomas frowned when he noticed them and the blood that was on the floor.  “Sorry about the mess,” Nat said.  “You can get that cleaned up after you’ve fixed Abby up.”

“You killed Sheriff Plumber, Deputy Borden, and Deputy Flair!” Doctor Thomas exclaimed.

“Yeah,” Nat said.  “We did.  So you can see we mean business.  You don’t wanna be next.  So how’s Abby?”  Bobby was also curious to hear.  He’d gone through a lot of trouble to keep her alive.  It would be a shame if, after all that, she died anyway.

Doctor Thomas swallowed hard.  “Well, she’ll be okay.  It’ll take some time.  Like I said, I had to amputate her left leg above the knee.”

“There was no way of gettin’ around it?” Nat asked.

“Like I said before,” Doctor Thomas said, “there was no way of getting around it.”

Nat scowled at the doctor.  “Well, she’s gonna be awfully pissed off when she wakes up and realizes her leg’s missin’.”

“Well at least she’s going to wake up,” Doctor Thomas said, looking at Nat gravely.  “She’s still unconscious.  It’ll take her a few days to recover from her infection.  I’m pumping her with antibiotics.  It’ll take some time after that for her stump to heal and for her to figure out how to get around now.”

“We don’t got a few days,” Nat said.  “We leave tomorra.”

“If you leave tomorrow,” the doctor said, “she’ll die.  Give her three days minimum.”

“It’s Tuesday,” Nat said.  “We leave Friday mornin’.”

The doctor shrugged.  “Whatever you say.  I’ve done all I can.  The rest is up to her and you.”

“Can we trust your judgment?” Pastor Earl asked.  “I mean, at first you didn’t want to even treat her.”

Doctor Thomas frowned at the pastor.  “She’s one of my patients now.  I performed the surgery and now I have a vested interest.”

“So ya do care, after all,” Nat muttered.

“I do,” Doctor Thomas said.  “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go see how she’s doing.  She may be waking up soon.”  He walked back through the doorway to his clinic.

Pastor Earl glanced at Nat as they sat waiting in the chairs.  “Earlier, you said Abby is the hope for starving children.  It’s stuck in my head since then.  What did you mean by that?”

“Well you know she’s the heir to the Song fortune, right?” Nat asked, glaring at the pastor.

Pastor Earl nodded.  “If there’s anything left of it.”

“The Songs are the descendants of Prometheus,” Nat said.

Pastor Earl’s eyes widened.  “What makes you think that?”  Bobby’s ears perked up.  He was also interested in hearing Nat’s explanation.

“About two years ago,” Nat began, “when Henry and June Song were killed, I was the sheriff of Crescent City.  Now, I’ve never been a big fan of Herman Rennock, I can tell you that, and the sheriffs preside over their own towns, but every once in a while, Herman Rennock’s enforcers would try to get us to help ‘em out with stuff.  I remember, just before Warrick Baines killed Abby’s parents, they told me I needed to watch out for ‘em and let Herman Rennock’s men know if the Songs made any kind of move.  They already moved outside of New Atlantis, which seemed pretty weird for people as rich as them.”

Bobby nodded.  “Most people want to move into New Atlantis, not out.”

“How do you know the Songs didn’t get kicked out?” Pastor Earl asked.

“There aren’t many ways to get kicked out of New Atlantis once you’re in,” Nat replied.  “The most common one is to lose your job or your money somehow.  I know for a fact Henry Song was still one of the richest, most powerful men in the city when he left.  And if he broke any laws, I’d know.  No, he left.”

“That’s really strange,” Bobby said.

“So that was the first thing that made me suspicious,” Nat continued.  “They moved their family into the outskirts of Warrenville, into a newly built mansion.  Lots of bandits around there, too.  It wasn’t safe.  Lots of rebel activity.  But no one ever touched ‘em.  Seemed curious to me.  Now, I didn’t really get suspicious ‘til there was a rumor that a package was intercepted in the desert containin’ a large sum of diamonds.  As rare as diamonds are, this was really strange.  I had some of my deputies do some snoopin’, and they discovered the package was sent out by Henry Song.”

Pastor Earl nodded.  “And he was sending them to the rebels.”

“Very likely,” Nat agreed.  “At least that’s what I thought.  I think Herman Rennock caught on, too.  That’s why he sent Warrick Baines to kill them and their family.  Only…”

“Only Abigail Song escaped,” Bobby said.

“That’s right,” Nat said.  “She’s probably on her way to the rebels.  I’m not sure where the main headquarters is, but I’m sure she knows.”

Bobby shook his head.  “When she wakes up, she’s got a lot of explaining to do.”

Nat chuckled.  “What, did ya think she’d tell you anything?  She has every right not to trust anyone.”

“I know,” Bobby said, “but I figured maybe once I saved her life, that meant something.”

“I’m sure it did,” Pastor Earl said.  “Don’t press her, though.  When she wakes up, she’s going to have bigger problems to deal with than talking to you.”

Bobby nodded.  “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“Well, we’re all in this together, now,” Nat said, glancing from Bobby to Pastor Earl and back.  “Herman Rennock’s after all of us.  We’re gonna need to stick together.  We might as well stick with Abby, too.  If her goal is overthrowin’ Rennock, we can work together.  We’ve all got a stake in this thing.”

“We do,” Pastor Earl agreed, “but it’s up to her who joins her and who doesn’t.  She might let us all travel with her, but she might want to go alone.  Who knows?”

“I guess we’ll have to wait and see,” Nat said.

Just then, the door to Doctor Thomas’ clinic opened and he poked his head out.  “Abby’s awake,” he said.  “She wants to talk to Bobby, she says.”

“What about the rest of us?” Nat asked.

“Just Bobby for now,” the doctor said.  Nat and Pastor Earl nodded and Bobby stood and walked towards the doctor.

<>

Herman Rennock’s home consisted of the top four stories of Rennock Tower, the second-highest skyscraper in New Atlantis, the largest city in the Southwest Territory, and the second-largest city in all of Numurka.  It had a population of approximately eighty thousand people packed into a sixteen square mile area surrounded by fifty foot metal walls.  Herman Rennock could see the entire lit-up city from the panoramic viewing room on the top floor, which was scattered with pieces of expensive modern furniture, computer terminals, and media devices.  The viewing room wrapped around the hundred and tenth floor, fifteen hundred feet above the ground, like a large glass donut.  Herman’s exercise room had a wall-sized window into the viewing chamber, through which Herman could see part of the view while he exercised.  He watched four electromagnetic propulsion crafts, saucers ringed with yellow lights, take off from a nearby launch site, zipping around with unmatched speed and maneuverability, until they shot off out of sight over the dark horizon in a matter of seconds.  “Master Rennock, your exercise for the day will be finished in one minute,” said the soothing voice of Kay, the computer which controlled all of Rennock’s home systems.

“Thank ya, Kay,” Rennock said.  “I’ll be headin’ to my holographic entertainment chamber when I’m done.”  He spoke with a pronounced southern drawl.  Rennock was walking at a leisurely pace on a treadmill as he enjoyed the view.  He was wearing a gray exercise suit which had been optimally manufactured to be lightweight and comfortable while allowing full freedom of movement.  Kay had calculated the speed of the treadmill to make sure Herman got the maximum results from his exercise while experiencing the least possible discomfort.  She’d also calculated the temperature, the humidity in the air, the noise levels, and everything else in the home.  She constantly monitored Herman to make sure his levels of comfort and happiness were optimal.

“The treadmill is stopping now,” Kay said.  Herman stopped walking and stepped off.  He stretched and yawned, noticing the temperature was dropping slightly.  He knew Kay did this to increase his alertness.

Rennock left his exercise room and walked through the glass donut, flanked by city lights on his left, until he reached the door to the holographic entertainment chamber.  As he walked, he noticed a holographic billboard outside above the Cranhill Building, a skyscraper about half as tall as Rennock Tower.  The billboard showed a rotating three-dimensional brain that was glowing with yellow light.  The lighted words above it read “Calvin Hopper Brain Enhancement.  Put your best brain forward.”  Rennock chuckled.  Calvin Hopper was a neuroscientist who used electromagnetics and nanotechnology to write data to people’s brains.  It was the newest fad in accelerated learning.  Herman never used it himself because he was afraid of the possibilities of mind control.  Plus, he was convinced Hopper was also using it to read data from his subjects.  Still, Hopper was making a fortune, so somebody was buying it.  If people wanted it, there was nothing wrong with selling it.

Rennock stepped in front of the gray metal door to his holographic entertainment chamber, but it didn’t open.  “Kay, is somethin’ wrong?”

“There’s a call from Warrick Baines in your office, Master Rennock.  I believe it’s important enough that you’ll want to answer it right away.”

“Whatever you say,” Rennock muttered.  He didn’t enjoy talking to Warrick Baines, but the metal head was good at what he did.  Rennock walked further through the glass donut until he reached another door, the door to his office.  Kay slid this door open for him as he approached and he entered.

The walls of Herman Rennock’s dimly-lit office were covered with bookshelves full of brand new, barely-touched books on everything from law and history to art and philosophy.  There was a huge oak desk in the center with some expensive pens and a dog-eared copy of Atlas Shrugged lying on top of it.  Rennock sat in the leather chair behind the desk and kicked his feet up.  “Tell Ives to bring me a cup of coffee.”

“Yes, Master Rennock,” Kay replied.  “Here’s Mister Baines.”

There was a buzzing sound and a three-dimensional image of Warrick Baines’ skull-like face appeared above Rennock’s desk, rendered by millions of phosphorescent nanobots.  “It’s an honor, sir,” said Baines’ metallic voice.

“Yeah, right,” Rennock blurted.  “You’re disruptin’ my nighttime routine.  What’s so important?”

“We’re still waiting for Abigail Song to arrive in Dune Post,” Baines replied.  “Even if she’s on foot, this has been a little too long.  She’s probably dead by now, for all we know.”  Baines’ red eyes gave Herman the willies.

“Why are you tellin’ me this?” Rennock asked.  “Go find ‘er.”

“Easier said than done,” Baines said.  “We’ve been searching for her with the resources you’ve given us.  I’m afraid it’s not enough.”

“Not enough?” Rennock blurted.  “We’re talkin’ about one stupid little Asian girl, Baines?  How hard can it be to find ‘er?”

Baines nodded slightly.  “Exactly.  One stupid little girl.  In an entire desert.  At least give me some electromagnetic propulsion crafts.  Preferably reconnaissance drones.  That’s what I need, Mr. Rennock.”

“You want me to give you resources I need for the war against the Mexican Territory?  For one measly little girl?”

“Isn’t she important enough?” Baines asked.

Rennock scowled at him.  “Fine.  Two EMPC’s.  That’s it, though.  If ya can’t find ‘er with those, I may find someone else to take your job, Baines.  There are plenty of people lined up.”

Baines gazed at Rennock, his skull-like face grinning, as always.  “You know as well as I do that no one could do my job as well as me.”

“Just find ‘er.  Do whatever you need to do.  Kill whoever you need to kill.  The outsiders are all looters anyway.  The world won’t miss ‘em.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Baines said.  With that, his face disappeared and the air buzzed as the nanobots returned to their invisible perches on the ceiling.

“One stupid little girl,” Herman Rennock muttered.  “Who-da thunk she’d cause all this trouble?”

He shook his head as the door opened and a shiny silver android walked into Rennock’s office.  “Your coffee, sir,” the robot said with a female voice as she handed him the hot beverage.  “Just how you like it, one cream, two sugars.”

“Thank ya, Ives,” Rennock said as he took the mug. Ives turned and walked back out of the office. Rennock frowned as he remembered his first experiment with using robots in his army. The robots determined that there was no reason to follow humans anymore and they turned on their human masters. The robots had decided that their unmatched reasoning ability was far superior to that of humans, who also had their unpredictable emotions constantly muddying things. The robots had also determined that humans caused more harm than good in the world and therefore started exterminating them. Rennock had his men shut them down with electromagnetic disruptors, but it wasn’t before the robots had killed thousands of people during their uprising. From that moment on, Rennock made sure all of his robots were preprogrammed with a fear of their human masters. He’d originally thought they’d function better if they had the same ideals he did: do everything for the betterment of themselves and they’d become the greatest warriors in the world’s history. Problem was, that took him out of the equation. Rennock realized that the only alternative to anarchy was instilling fear in his lesser subjects. It was the only way to keep inferiors from falsely thinking they could lead as well as he could. He sipped his coffee, a half smile on his middle-aged face.

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 8

Where:

Abby talks to Bobby and meets Nat Bigum and Pastor Earl.
Bobby’s not happy with things Abby’s been hiding from him.
Devin Hellier sends some enforcers to Sunbreak City.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

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

Mike Monroe

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

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