Fiction: Afterlife (Chapter 8)

by Mike Monroe on January 27, 2014

in FICTION

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

canyon

Art by John Blaszczyk

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 7

Where:

Nat Bigum and Pastor Earl kill Sheriff Plumber and his deputies.
Doctor Thomas tells Bobby that Abby’s awake and wants to talk to him.
Herman Rennock discusses Abigail Song with Warrick Baines.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

 

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 8

 

Bobby followed Doctor Thomas down the steps that led to the surgery room.  At the bottom of the steps, there was a hallway lined with doors.  Bobby noticed a door to his left with a sign which read “Morgue.”  There was another sign beneath it which said “Autopsies.”  Doctor Thomas nodded towards the door across the hall from that one.  “Abby’s in that recovery room.  If you’ll excuse me, I need to go over some things with my nurses.”

Bobby grinned and nodded, opening the door to the recovery room as the doctor continued walking down the hall.  Inside, Abby was lying on a bed beneath florescent lights with a hospital gown over her upper torso and a white sheet over her lower torso.  An IV stretched from the wall behind her bed to her right arm and there were oxygen tubes going into her nostrils.  Bobby could see her right leg beneath the sheet and he noticed that her left leg was missing.  He tried to ignore it and smiled at her.  “It’s good to see you awake.”

Abby looked at him with tired brown eyes.  “It’s good to be awake.  It’s weird, though.  I know he took my leg, but I can still feel it.  At least it seems like I can.”  She winced.  Abby was obviously in pain.

Bobby nodded awkwardly.  “I’m sorry for what happened.”

“Why are you sorry?” Abby asked.  “You saved my life.”

“I mean, I’m sorry about your leg.  I got you to a doctor as soon as I could.”

“It’s fine,” Abby said with a slight grin.  “There’s a cyberneticist coming tomorrow to meet with me.  He’s gonna give me a robot leg in a few days.”

“What?” Bobby blurted.  “Where’d you get the money for that?”  He took a deep breath.  “I’m sorry.  I mean, that’s good.”

Abby gazed at him with half-opened eyes.  “Good?  It’s awesome.  I’ve always wanted to be a cyborg.”

“What?” Bobby blurted.  He couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic or not.

“You mean you never thought it would be cool to be a cyborg?” Abby asked.

“Not really,” Bobby replied.  “I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it, but…”

Abby frowned.  “But what?  I’m gonna have a robot leg.”

“But it’s just one,” Bobby explained.  “It’s not like you’re gonna be able to run faster or anything.”  He realized what he said and cringed.

Abby scowled at him.  “I’ll be able to kick you in the nuts really hard.”

Bobby flinched.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to say that.  You’re just having a strange reaction to this, that’s all.  I’m not sure how to react, myself.”

“What, would you rather I lie around and mope?” Abby asked.  “Did you want me to be missing a leg the rest of my life?”

“No, I’m sorry,” Bobby said.

“Part of it’s probably all the morphine he’s pumping into me,” Abby noted, glancing at the IV tube.  “It’s hard to be upset about anything when you’re as high as I am right now.”

Bobby chuckled.  “Well, that’s awesome you’re getting a robot leg.  How can you afford it, though?  You said you had no money.”

“Should I tell him?” she asked.  “I suppose I could.  At this point he’s gonna find out anyway.”  She glared at him with her piercing brown eyes.  “Where’s my bag?”

“It’s on my bike,” Bobby replied.

Abby cringed.  “Go get it now.  You shouldn’t have left it.”

“I’m sorry,” Bobby said.  “Things happened so fast, I didn’t think about it.”

“Well you just left about a billion dollars’ worth of diamonds sitting on your bike.”

Bobby’s jaw dropped.  It took him a few seconds to process what she said.  “A billion?  You lied.  You said you didn’t have any money.”

“There’s also a supercomputer in there,” she stated matter-of-factly.  “It’s worth a lot too, but not a billion dollars.  Maybe more like two million.”

“What?” Bobby asked.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before.  I wasn’t completely sure I could trust you.”

“Whatever,” Bobby muttered.  “So do you trust me now?”

“It’s actually not that I didn’t trust you, necessarily,” Abby said.  “A billion dollars is a lot of money.  Who wouldn’t be tempted by that?”

Bobby frowned.  “I’m not a thief.  Doesn’t matter how much money it is.”

“Well that much money can change a person’s morals,” Abby pointed out.  “Now can you get my bag?”

“Sure,” Bobby said.

Abby gazed at him vacantly.  “And you can bring those other two men down too, on your way back.”

“All right,” Bobby said.  He looked at her with concern.  “Was there something else you wanted to talk to me about?”

“Just that I’m sorry I didn’t mention the diamonds sooner,” Abby said with a slight smile.  “That’s all.  Now go get them!”  Bobby nodded, left the room, and rushed back up the stairs.

He walked quickly past Nat and Pastor Earl, who had been sitting silently in the waiting room.  “Where ya goin?” Nat asked.

“I’ve gotta get something,” Bobby replied as he walked out the front door.  In the moonlight outside, he could barely see the bag still strapped to the back of his bike.  Bobby let out a sigh of relief as he walked to his bike and unstrapped the bag.  That bag wouldn’t have lasted two seconds there if anyone had known what was in it.  It was a good thing the town was practically deserted.  He thought about things for a second.  A billion dollars.  He could ride away with it now and no one would ever know.  Not true.  Abby would know.  And Pastor Earl and Nat Bigum would come after him.  Besides, Bobby wasn’t a thief.  He shook off the thought and rushed back into the waiting room with the bag.  “She’s ready to see you now,” he said to Nat and Pastor Earl.  Nat nodded and the two of them followed Bobby down the stairs and into the recovery room where Abby was waiting.  Bobby handed her the bag.

She opened it and looked inside.  Bobby noticed her unzip a secret compartment hidden in the lining as Nat and Pastor Earl looked on.  She nodded with a smile.  “Looks like it’s all still here.”  She looked up at Nat and Pastor Earl and grinned a tired, drugged-out grin.  “I’m Abby,” she said.  Pastor Earl and Nat introduced themselves.  “I’m not in the best state to talk right now,” Abby said, “as you can see, but I’ll do my best.  First of all, I wanted to thank you for bringing me here.”

“I wish I could say it’s been our pleasure,” Earl said, “but it hasn’t been easy.  Either way, it’s good to see you actually awake.  You weren’t looking so good earlier.”

“I’m not so sure awake is the proper word,” Abby said.  She closed her eyes.  “Should I tell them about the plan?”  She paused for a few seconds.  “Sure, why not?”

Nat glared at Bobby, as if he were somehow responsible for Abby talking to herself.  “Abby, could you please not talk to yourself anymore?” Bobby asked.  “You’ll scare these guys off before they have the chance to really meet you.”

“I’m sorry,” Abby said.  “It’s just a habit I’ve gotten into.”  She gazed at Bobby.  “I guess I can tell you now.  You see, I have a supercomputer I usually wear on my wrist.  Einstein stopped working a few days ago, though, or maybe it’s been weeks now.  Anyway, it happened when I left a homestead where I was staying.  I always asked him questions, and he’d always answer them.  I’ve gotten so used to it, I still ask the questions without thinking about it, but since Einstein’s broken, I have to answer them myself.  I’m nowhere near as smart as Einstein is, though.”

“Try to justify it all you want,” Nat muttered.  “It’s still pretty crazy.”

“Crazy or not,” Abby said, glaring at Nat, “Einstein’s a photon-based supercomputer with one hundred yottabytes of RAM, eight hundred yottabytes of memory, and a one hundred yottabyte per second connection to the Satellite Net.  All in a computer the size of a wristwatch.  I need to get him working again, if I’m gonna have a snowball’s chance in hell.”

“A snowball’s chance in hell of doing what?” Bobby asked.

“Defeating Herman Rennock and New Atlantis,” Abby replied, her eyes piercing into him.  “I’m on my way to Valhalla in the Rocky Mountains, where I’m gonna found a new nation.”

“Found a new nation?” Bobby asked.  “How in the hell are you going to do that?”

“All the pieces are in place,” Abby replied.  “My father and the resistance fighters have already laid the groundwork.  It’s up to me to get to Valhalla now.”  Bobby had heard of Valhalla, but it was all in stories and legends.  He knew very little, but it was always portrayed as a place of refuge for people who were outcasts from society.

“Is that even a real place?” Pastor Earl asked.

Abby nodded.  “From what I’ve heard, it’s hidden from sight by a powerful holographic projection system, but I have the coordinates.  Problem is, I don’t really have them.  Einstein does.  That’s why I need to get him working again.  I’m not even sure where I’m going.  I just know I need to head west, towards the Rocky Mountains.”

Nat squinted at her.  “So what’s the deal?  What’s this new nation gonna be about?”

“What do you think it should be about?” Abby asked.

Nat chuckled.  “Who knows?  I ain’t no foundin’ father or nothin’ like that.”

There was silence for a few seconds.  Bobby tried to make sense of everything that was happening.  “Well,” Pastor Earl said, “I’ve been around a few years.  I’ve seen a lot in my time.  I have some ideas, if you don’t mind hearing them.”

“Of course I don’t mind,” Abby said with a tired smile.

“Speak for yourself,” Nat muttered.

Pastor Earl ignored him and smiled at Abby.  “All right, then.  Well, from my understanding, there was a time when the governments of the world grew to the point that their citizens could no longer fund them.  However, somewhere along the line, big government was replaced by big business, and the people still suffered, probably even more so than before.  At least big government consisted of representatives of the people, at least in the beginning, anyway.  Herman Rennock, on the other hand, can do whatever he wants, unabated, as long as his profits keep pouring in.”

“Very true,” Nat agreed, folding his arms.  Bobby wondered at what point in Pastor Earl’s story the apocalypse which destroyed the old world fit in.

“We need to keep government small,” Pastor Earl continued, “but we also need to keep the influence of big business small, and we need to keep the power in the hands of the people, where it belongs.  Big government and big business aren’t the only two alternatives.”

Abby nodded.  “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”  She held her bag close to her body.  “I have in my bag here a constitution my father and the leaders of the revolution were working on before he was killed.  It’s based on the United States Constitution from the old world, a copy of which my dad was somehow able to get ahold of.  He always told me it was a good constitution, but it fell into the wrong hands and they twisted it and manipulated its words for their own profit.”

Earl frowned.  “Anything can be twisted for evil purposes.”

Nat chuckled.  “Would you stop with your self-righteous crap, Earl?”

“The constitution isn’t finished,” Abby said, “but it’s close.  I’ve studied it through and through, so I’ll be able to use it when I found the new nation.  My father and his friends worked hard to come up with ways of keeping money out of the political system in an attempt to curb corruption.  This was one of the keys.  Another was finding ways to help the poorest members of society without letting the government’s size and influence get out of control.”

Pastor Earl nodded.  “Sounds like a good start.”

Nat chuckled, eyeing Abby with his squinting green eyes.  “You’re gonna found a new nation?  You?”

Abby glared at him.  “Why not?  My dad was going to, only obviously that didn’t work out.  Now it’s fallen into my lap.”

“What’s the nation gonna be called?” Bobby asked.

“I don’t know,” Abby said.

There was silence again for a few seconds.  “Why are you telling us all of this?” Nat asked, eyeing Abby quizzically.  “How do you know you can trust us?”

“Einstein told me I could,” Abby replied, “before he broke.  He didn’t say anything about you, though.”  She glanced at Bobby.  “You’re the wild card in all of this.”

“What are you talking about?” Bobby asked.

“The Satellite Net has plenty of data on Nat Bigum and Earl Steadman,” Abby explained.  “Of course, Herman Rennock has his own supercomputer so he has that data, also.  Nobody has any data on you, though, Bobby.  That’s why you’re the wild card.”

“How did you know you’d find us?” Pastor Earl asked.

“Einstein’s so powerful he’s really good at predicting future events,” Abby replied.  “He runs all possible outcomes from the available data and determines probabilities.  I knew there was a pretty good chance I’d meet up with both you and Nat if I headed towards Dune Post.  Like I said, though, there was no data on Bobby.  Also, I thought you’d still be in Dune Post, Mr. Steadman.”

Pastor Earl nodded.  “You can call me Earl.  I was detained, but I was able to escape.  I’m not sure Einstein was able to tell you that before he broke.”

“He did say there was a chance you’d be in jail when I got there,” Abby said.  “I forgot the exact percentage.  I figured Nat and I’d try to break you out, depending on the percentages.”

“So where do we go from here?” Nat asked, glaring at Abby.

“I’m not really sure,” Abby replied, “since Einstein’s broken and all.”  Her eyes moved back and forth between Nat and Pastor Earl.  “Whatever I’m going to do, I’ll need soldiers.  I can pay you one hundred thousand dollars each to start.  Will you work for me as my first two soldiers?”

“Sure,” Nat said, “as long as I can be in charge.”

Abby glared at him.  “You’re not in charge.  I’m in charge.  It’s my money.  Do you want it or not?”

“Me take orders from a little Chinese girl?” Nat asked, grinning.

“I’m not Chinese,” Abby said.  “I’m Korean, you dumbass.”  Bobby gasped, surprised that she’d said that to Nat Bigum.

Nat chuckled.  “The last person to insult me didn’t fare too well.”

Abby looked at him sternly.  “He wasn’t me.  Besides, you insulted me, whether it was intentional or not.”

Nat nodded.  “Well I didn’t mean nothin’ by it.  Sorry if I offended ya.”

“How’d you like it if I called you black or Mexican?” Abby asked Nat.  She quickly glanced at Bobby.  “Not that there’s anything wrong with being black or Mexican, but that’s not what you are.”

“You’re a little firecracker, ain’t ya?” Nat asked.

Abby frowned.  “Is that supposed to be a racial slur?”

Nat rolled his eyes.  “Sorry.  Maybe I’ll just keep my mouth shut.”

“That would probably be best,” Abby said.  “Do you want the money or not?”  Nat nodded.

“Thanks for the offer,” Pastor Earl said, “but you can save your money.  Give me enough for food and shelter and I’ll be happy.  You’ll need to save your money to pay more soldiers in the future, I’m sure.”

Nat shook his head and chuckled.  “Always tryin’ to be so high and mighty.  Well I for one’ll take the money.  I’ve been down on my luck lately.  I need the cash.”

Bobby frowned.  “What about me?  I just saved your life, and you’re not offering me anything?  After everything I did for you?”

Abby glanced at him.  “I need soldiers.”

Bobby stepped towards her.  “And you offer them jobs, but not me?  I look at them and see one glaring difference, and I wouldn’t think anything of it if it weren’t for racist stuff you said before.”

Abby frowned at Bobby.  “It has nothing to do with race.  They’re actual warriors and you’re not.”

“You’re rich,” Bobby said.  “You’re from New Atlantis.  I know how things are there.  The Rennocks and their ancestors have been using my people as cheap labor and slaves for centuries.  You said it yourself.  You had black servants.  I know it’s hard to get away from stereotypes, but don’t lie to my face and say it has nothing to do with race.  I know it does, even if it’s subconscious.”  Pastor Earl and Nat looked on uncomfortably.

“My people are shunned, too,” Abby said.  “Rennock doesn’t like Asians either, or blacks, or anyone who isn’t white, for that matter.  I felt like an outsider in New Atlantis.  My whole family felt like outsiders.  I didn’t fit in at school.  People didn’t come out and say it, but I knew why the kids didn’t invite me to any of their parties.”

“Even so,” Bobby said, “the stereotype of Asians tends to be that you’re rich, successful, hard workers who do well in school, are strict with their kids, and don’t have social lives.  The stereotype of my people is that we’re a bunch of barbarians who roam the desert murdering people and stealing their stuff.  Your family had money.  When’s the last time you heard of a wealthy black person in the Southwest Territory?  It’s because Herman Rennock has done everything in his power to keep the money away from us.  Not just black people, all poor people, but my people have suffered the most.”

“Racism is racism regardless of the specific situation,” Abby said, “and I know it hurts.”

“Then why do you do the things you do and say the things you say?” Bobby asked.

“I’m sorry,” Abby said, looking at Bobby with concern in her tired eyes.  “You have to believe me, though.  I just want to pay warriors.”  She grinned.  “I’ve seen how you shoot.  You had trouble hitting the alligator and it wasn’t even that far away.”  She took a deep breath.  “You’re right, though.  You deserve something, too, after everything you’ve done.”

“Look,” Bobby said, “I don’t want your damned money.  I just want some respect, that’s all.  You wouldn’t be here right now if it weren’t for me.”

“Fine,” Abby said.  “If you don’t want my damned money, I won’t give it to you.”  Bobby gritted his teeth in anger, turned and started walking towards the door.  Nat and Pastor Earl watched awkwardly.  “Bobby!” Abby said and he stopped walking.  “I respect you,” she said.  “I’m sorry I gave you any other impression.  I was trying to save the money for real soldiers.  That’s all.  You’ve earned it though.  Please take it.”

“We could use you, Bobby,” Pastor Earl said.  “You said you can hotwire sand bikes.  That’s a good skill.  I’m sure you’ve got a lot of other useful skills, too.  You’ve been surviving out here all alone.”

Bobby took a deep breath, turned, and faced Abby.  “Okay.”

Nat glanced at him.  “I’ll train ya.  By the time I’m done with ya, you’ll be the best fighter in the Southwest Territory.  Aside from myself, of course.  Is that what ya want?  Do you want to help us take down Herman Rennock?”

Bobby grinned and nodded.  “I sure do.”  He glanced at Abby.  “I’ll join you, but you need to stop saying and doing things that piss me off.”

Abby smiled and nodded.  “I can’t promise you that, but I’ll do my best.  What I can tell you is that I want to free all those who are oppressed by Herman Rennock and those like him, regardless of race.  I’m sorry if I’ve said and done some things that made you think otherwise.  It’s something I’ll have to work on.  Maybe you can help me.”

“All right,” Bobby said.

Abby looked around at the three men.  “I need the three of you to agree that you won’t tell anyone else about this money, though.  I trust you three for now, but I don’t want anyone trying to kill me in my sleep to take my diamonds.”  The three men agreed.

“Well,” Nat said, “we have a more immediate concern.”  He glanced at Abby. “Not sure if you’ve been told, but we had to kill the sheriff here and two of his deputies.  I guarantee you there’ll be enforcers comin’ to find out what happened.  We’ll have to get rid of the bodies upstairs and clean up the mess.  We should also hide our sand bikes in the back so as not to draw attention to the doctor’s office here.  And the doctor said you can’t leave ‘til Friday mornin’ at the earliest, Abby.”

Abby nodded.  “That’s just over two days.  We’ll have to hold off anyone who comes until then.”

Nat nodded.  “We’ll need someone looking out at all times.”  He glanced from Bobby to Pastor Earl.  “We can sleep in the other recovery rooms, but somebody’s gonna need to stay upstairs to keep watch.  We’ll take turns.”  Bobby frowned.  He was hoping to get a cheap hotel room, but the recovery rooms were better than sleeping out in the desert.  Besides, this way would definitely save money, and it was a necessity.  They needed to stay near Abby while she recovered.

“I have a plan,” Pastor Earl said.

“Well,” Abby said, “let’s hear it.”

Pastor Earl glanced at her.  “Are you sure?  Haven’t we bothered you enough?  I know you’re in considerable pain, and you need rest.”

“It’s all right,” Abby said.  “Tell us your plan.  Then, I’ll rest.”

<>

Devin Hellier, flanked by Noah Flyman, knocked on the door to the Dune Post sheriff’s office.  “Come in,” said Warrick Baines’ synthetic voice from inside.  Devin opened the door and the two enforcers walked in and sat in metal chairs across from Warrick Baines, who was sitting behind the dull metal desk.  The cyborg looked over the two men with his red eyes.  Devin was a severe-looking, cleanly-shaven man of average height with a thin build.  Noah, on the other hand, was larger and more muscular, with a shaved head.  Both wore the blue uniforms of Herman Rennock’s enforcers.  Devin had grown used to Warrick’s skull-like face over the years, but he remembered how it had disturbed him when he’d first seen it.  “You exterminated all of the members of Earl Steadman’s congregation, as we discussed?” Warrick asked.

“We did,” Devin replied.  He’d been a little hesitant at times, especially with the children, but Warrick had reiterated several times that they didn’t want any kind of uprising, so it was necessary.  Even the kids could one day hold guns.  Besides, Devin let Noah take care of the harsher business.  Noah was a thuggish halfwit.  He’d had no problem killing any members of the congregation, including the women and children.  “We went through all of the church documents and address lists just to be sure,” Devin added.

“Good work,” Warrick said, grinning his permanent grin.  “I’ve been working on the rest of the townspeople.  Most see the deceased as instigators, and those who don’t are too afraid to do anything.  It seems most people, when confronted with the prospect of death, would rather turn the other cheek and go about their business.”

Devin nodded.  “There isn’t much profit in the hero business.”

“It’s all subjective,” Warrick said.  “I’ve been working on convincing the townspeople that Earl Steadman is an outlaw, which wasn’t hard to do, considering the carnage he created here.  That makes us the heroes in the eyes of most of the townspeople here.  How does it feel to be heroic, Noah?”

Noah chuckled.  “I wouldn’t know.”

“There’s another issue I’d like to talk to the two of you about,” Warrick said.  “Abigail Song.  We still haven’t seen or heard anything from her.  Not a peep.”

“Even with the EMPC’s?” Devin asked.

“Two electromagnetic propulsion drones have been scouring the desert for her,” Warrick said, “and they haven’t turned up anything yet.  They’ve also been looking for Earl Steadman.  No trace of him, either.  I’m beginning to think they’re holed up in a nearby town, possibly together.  That would actually be a good thing.  It would make it easy for us to paint Miss Song as an outlaw if she’s with Earl Steadman.  Have either of you heard much from the nearby sheriffs?”

“I wanted to talk to you about that, also,” Devin said.  “I haven’t heard from Dusty Plumber for two days.  I’ve contacted him repeatedly, but there’s been no answer.  Seems a little fishy.”

“Yes it does,” Warrick agreed.  “Are there any enforcers in Sunbreak City?”

Noah shook his head.  “We brought them back here to Dune Post after Earl Steadman escaped and killed all those men.  We needed reinforcements.”

Warrick nodded and glanced at Devin.  “Send some enforcers to Sunbreak City as soon as possible.  Earl Steadman’s probably there.  There’s a good chance we’ll find Abigail Song there, too.  Tell the enforcers to go to Doctor Henri Drake Thomas’ office.  If Abby’s in that town, I’m sure she’ll be seeking medical attention.  She’s been traveling through the desert for days.  That’s more than the human body can handle.  If she’s alive and in Sunbreak City, that’s where we’ll find her, I’m sure.”

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 9

Where:

Abby has an unexpected encounter.
Enforcers come to Sunbreak City, searching for Abby.
Two electromagnetic propulsion drones attack.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

View more art by John Blaszczyk here.
Check out Michael Monroe’s page on Amazon to find other stuff he’s written.
Like Afterlife on Facebook to find out when the next chapter is posted.
Follow Afterlife on Twitter to get updates on new postings and other news.
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.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

(Spamcheck Enabled)

Previous post:

Next post: