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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:
Shelly begins her training with Sera.
Nat Bigum and his posse capture a member of the IAO.
Abby discovers that Judith Israel is the spy within the Lead Council.
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Afterlife, Volume 2, Chapter 22
Eileen Traymont stood with her hands on her diminutive hips as she glared at the boulders and rubble blocking the pass. Devin squinted as he looked at her, the blazing sun casting her figure in silhouette. “We need to clear this away,” she blurted.
Devin nodded. “Yes, ma’am. We have some explosives.”
She turned and glared at him. “Do you? What were you planning to do with those?”
Devin shrugged. “They’ll come in handy now, won’t they?”
“They will,” she said. She looked at Jorge Bautista, who was standing beside Devin, and nodded. The metal-armed enforcer walked towards one of the gray hover trucks parked behind them.
Eileen glared at Devin for a few seconds like she was searching him for something, then turned back to face the roadblock. Devin still felt uneasy about the people his men had killed in Carpenter City. He’d had several of his enforcers sneak the bodies into the desert one night, burn them, and bury the bones. Eileen never found the evidence as far as Devin knew, but she definitely suspected something. She was watching him like a hawk. Once she’d finished her investigation into the deaths, they’d left Carpenter City by way of Black Rock Pass. It was a treacherous pass, but the townspeople had indicated it was probably where Abigail Song and her friends had gone. Devin looked at the boulders in front of him and wondered if they had been there when Abigail Song had been traveling through the pass. “Maybe we should try an alternate route,” Devin said.
“And get lost in the mountains?” Eileen asked. “I don’t think so. We’ll blow through the rubble and continue. Regardless which way Miss Song and her companions took through the mountains, we should all end up in the same place.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Devin said. The formality was driving him crazy. He noticed Noah Flyman walking towards him.
“Mark Strongman’s missing,” Noah said, folding his arms. Eileen eyed him suspiciously.
“Missing?” Devin asked. Noah nodded. “He was supposed to be checking the nearby rocks for any possible ambushes,” Devin said. “Are you sure he’s not just still checking?”
Noah nodded. “Wild Bill was with him. Wild Bill came back. He said Mark disappeared, though.”
“How is that possible?” Devin asked.
Noah shrugged. “Wild Bill said one minute Mark was with him. Next minute, he was gone.”
“Disappeared…” Eileen muttered. “And we still can’t use our communicators. There are no relay centers anywhere near us.”
“Should we send out a search party?” Devin asked.
“Send four men to look for him,” Eileen said to Noah. “Don’t waste too much time looking, though. If he’s dead, he’s dead. We’re already several days behind schedule. I need to reach a relay center as soon as possible so I can make contact with Herman Rennock.”
“Mark is my friend,” Devin said. And he was one of the men who was crucial in saving his tail while Eileen was conducting her investigation of the murders in Carpenter City.
Eileen glanced at Devin through her glasses. “We’re short on time. If we can’t find him in the next couple of hours, he’ll have to fend for himself.” Jorge Bautista returned with some of Eileen’s other enforcers and some explosives and they started planting them at the base of the rubble. “We’d best be moving away,” Eileen said to Devin, “unless you want to be removed along with the rubble.” Devin nodded and followed her back towards the trucks. There was a loud explosion behind them as a massive hole was blasted through the middle of the rubble. A cloud of dust and debris rained down onto the pass.
“Thanks for coming,” Alex said to Mark Gonzalez as the two of them sat in his tent.
“Of course,” Mark said with a grin on his scarred, battle hardened face. The dim lighting gave him a menacing look, Alex thought.
“We need to talk about Abby,” Alex said.
Mark nodded. “Yeah, she’s been a little loopy lately.”
“She’s had a lot on her mind,” Alex said. “She’s young.”
Mark frowned and shook his head. “Yeah, whatever.”
Alex knew that all along, Mark had found it hard taking orders from a twenty year old woman. “The council shot down her idea about robbing Rennock’s banks with Ace and Annabelle.”
“That’s good,” Mark said. “I was hoping somebody would talk some sense into her.”
“Yeah,” Alex said, “well, she’s very headstrong, just like her dad when he was younger. She can also be a little wild and unpredictable at times. I think we need a contingency plan just in case, but please, don’t say a word about this to anyone. Not even your wife.”
“I can keep a secret,” Mark said. “Jane doesn’t need to know about everything.”
Alex nodded. He looked at Mark with his wise brown eyes and stroked his beard. “She may try to break off from our group and set out on her own. We can’t let her. We have to keep her with us when we leave for Las Colinas, by force if necessary. Do you understand?” It pained Alex to talk in such a way about his late friend’s daughter.
“I understand,” Mark said.
“She’s far too important to let get away,” Alex said. “Einstein’s far too important. Einstein has all of the information we need to keep the resistance going and to beat Rennock, and possibly also the IAO.”
Mark nodded. “Understood.”
“If something happens to Abby,” Alex said with a grim expression, “we need to make sure we keep Einstein. He’s programed to only give the information to her, but if necessary, there may be ways of getting around that. This is for the sake of the resistance and I want this kept secret. Like I said, not a word to anyone.”
“All right,” Mark said. “I won’t speak of this again.”
Alex nodded and smiled. “Thanks.”
When Alex returned to the farmhouse where the meetings were being held, he noticed that everyone was present at the table except Abby and General Rodriguez. That didn’t sit right with him. They were the only two who thought Abby’s crazy plan was a good idea. Alex sat nervously with his hands one the table as he awaited their arrival, trying his hardest not to stare at Heather Cylburn. It seemed she grew more and more beautiful each time he saw her.
When Abby and General Rodriguez finally arrived, they burst into the room with Della Luscious and five military policemen in green uniforms. They all pointed laser rifles at Judith Israel as the other members of the council watched in shock. “When I gave you all the locations of the next set of diamonds,” Abby began in a stern voice, “I gave each of you a different, false location.” Alex could hear the anger concealed in Abby’s voice as she spoke, her eyes piercing into Judith. “Enforcers showed up at the location I gave you, Judith. That’s no coincidence. That means you’re the spy. Confess now and we can get this over with.”
Alex could see the fear in Judith’s green eyes. She was shaking slightly as she opened her mouth to speak. “Abby. I’m sorry. I didn’t know they were going to kill your family. I swear.” Tears began dripping down her cheeks as she looked around at everyone else at the table. “They were going to kill my daughters. My daughters mean everything to me. I’m loyal. I swear. I truly believe in what we’re doing here.” Heather Cylburn frowned and nodded towards General Rodriguez. The MP’s walked to Judith and lifted her to her feat, putting handcuffs around her wrists. “I’m so sorry, everyone.”
“Don’t you know how many deaths your actions have caused?” Barney asked her as the MP’s marched her out of the room.
“I know.” Judith looked ashamed. “I didn’t tell them everything. Just enough to keep my daughters safe.” Alex watched as the MP’s left the room with Judith, General Rodriguez, and Abby. Abby was last and she slammed the door behind her.
Heather was frowning. “Well, we still have work to do. I don’t know how we can continue after that, but we have to find a way.”
“Judith was our friend,” Doctor Long said. “We have to be fair to her. We have to make sure she gets a fair trial.”
“Of course,” Heather said. “Always. Everyone deserves a fair trial. We need to move on, though, no matter how hard it may be. I know Judith was our friend, but for the sake of the resistance, this situation has to be handled. Treason cannot be treated lightly or others will feel they can sell our secrets to the highest bidder with little consequence.”
“Judith wasn’t selling secrets,” Doctor Long said. “She was trying to keep her family safe.”
“That’s for a jury to decide,” Heather said. “For now, as I said, we have to do our best to move on.” Alex was far too distracted to participate much in the meeting the rest of the day. His mind was on Judith and Abby. To his dismay, Abby and General Rodriguez didn’t return to the farmhouse. He thought about leaving early to talk with Mark again, but decided against it because he didn’t want to draw attention to himself. He’d have to talk to Mark in the evening once the meeting was over.
It was dinner time when Abby approached the prison tents. She was using a camouflage projector she’d bought from Averil Jones to conceal herself and there was a laser pistol in a holster on her right hip. Her bag hung from her other shoulder. She didn’t want to leave Einstein or the other important items in the bag in her tent unguarded. She stood in front of the two MP’s who were guarding the tent which housed Judith Israel and waved several times to make sure they couldn’t see her. They had no reaction. Abby stood and waited for the soldier to arrive with Judith’s dinner. “Does this scum really need to eat?” one of the MP’s asked.
The soldier chuckled. “Eating this stuff’s a punishment in and of itself.”
The MP’s laughed and opened the tent for the soldier and Abby quickly snuck in behind him. There was a portable cell with metal bars inside the tent which was just high enough for a human to stand. Judith was lying on a cot inside the cell, staring at the roof of the cell with a blank expression. The soldier opened the door to the cell and placed a bowl of slop, a plastic spoon, and a cup of water he’d brought inside. “Eat up,” he said. “I hope you choke on it.” The soldier locked the cell and left the tent, zipping it up behind him.
Abby sat on the floor of the tent and watched Judith for a few minutes. When Judith finally sat up on the cot and made a move towards the food, Abby stood and turned off the camouflage projector which was strapped around the wrist where she usually wore Einstein. Judith’s jaw dropped when she saw Abby. “Abby. I…”
“You’re responsible for my family being murdered,” Abby whispered as she drew the laser pistol and aimed it at Judith’s face. “Keep your voice down.”
“Is something going on in there?” one of the MP’s asked from outside.
“Nothing,” Judith said. “Just eating.”
“You’re going to pay,” Abby whispered. She didn’t want to leave Judith’s fate to others to decide. It was her family who was dead because of Judith’s actions. Along with so many in Primrose and so many others who were victims of the information Judith had been feeding Rennock for years. Abby was finally going to win at least some justice for all of them. She was finally going to at least get some retribution for her father, her mother, and her siblings. She prepared to pull the trigger as she pointed the weapon at Judith’s face.
Tears were streaming down the young mother’s cheeks. “I have children, Abby. Don’t leave them without a mother.” Abby looked into Judith’s green eyes as she spoke. They were full of worry. Her long, brown hair was disheveled and she had been hastily dressed in a gray jumpsuit, but she still looked like a young mother, not a spy or a murderer. Abby knew looks could be deceiving, though.
“I had a family, too,” Abby whispered. “They’re dead. I watched Warrick Baines kill them in front of my face.” Tears were dripping down Abby’s cheeks also.
“But Warrick Baines killed them,” Judith whispered. “Not me. Please don’t do this. You aren’t a murderer.”
Abby had killed before. She knew she could do it again. She started to feel surreal, like she was watching herself on television or something rather than living in real life. A cloud of anger came over her as she remembered her family’s deaths and she realized she’d pulled the trigger. There was a hiss and a laser blast that shot through the front of Judith’s face just next to her nose. She opened her mouth one last time and fell backwards into the cell, blood pooling out of her head as Abby stood horrified, holding the laser pistol. Abby quickly pushed the button that turned on her camouflage projector. The tent flap opened and the two MP’s rushed inside. “What the hell?” one asked as he looked down at Judith’s body.
Abby rushed past them out of the tent. “There!” one of the MP’s shouted. Abby heard lasers firing as she ran down the side of a sand dune into a valley and ran as fast as she could towards the dune where her tent was located.
When Abby reached her tent, she saw some soldiers standing outside. The flap was open and some other soldiers were searching inside the tent. Abby checked to make sure her bag was still strapped over her arm. Einstein was inside. He was turned off, but she still had him with her. He was too important to let fall into the wrong hands. “She’s gone,” one of the soldiers said. “She must have taken the computer with her.”
“Wasn’t she supposed to be here?” one of the soldiers asked.
“The meeting’s over,” another soldier said. “But she ain’t here.”
Abby sensed betrayal. She remembered Judith Israel wasn’t the only spy. There was also someone in her group who was working for Rennock according to Nat. Abby felt the only person she could trust was Della. He’d been traveling with her longer than any of her current companions and he’d promised to stick by her side and protect her. He’d also been the one who helped her discover that Judith was the spy within the Lead Council. Abby quickly made her way to Della’s tent, her camouflage projector still turned on.
She unzipped the flap and stepped in, turning off the camouflage projector when she found Della inside, eating from a bowl of soup. “Abby?” Della blurted. “What’s going on?”
Abby put her finger to her lips to shush him. “We need to leave now,” she whispered.
Abby nodded. “I need to leave, and since you promised to protect me, I’m asking you to come with me.”
“There were men searching my tent,” Abby whispered. “They were looking for Einstein. And I think they may have been there to kill me. I’m pretty sure they were on Rennock’s payroll. We can’t trust anyone here anymore. We have to leave.”
“Just us?” Della asked.
Abby shook her head. “We’re bringing Ace McCoy and Annabelle Rose with us.”
“What?” Della asked. “You think we can trust them?”
“We know who they are at least,” Abby whispered. “And we know for a fact they’re not working for Rennock. Besides, I saved their lives. They owe me.”
“You think so?” Della asked. “Well I guess I can do my best to help you keep them in line.”
Abby nodded as Della got his things together as quickly as he could. Once he was ready, the two of them made their way through the sand towards the prison tent where Ace and Annabelle were being held. They stopped at a tent on a nearby dune. “Wait here,” Abby said as she turned her camouflage projector on. “Make a distraction for me.” Della nodded and Abby left him hiding behind the tent while she snuck up the dune to the tent where Ace and Annabelle were being held.
There was a laser blast from Della’s hiding spot and the two MP’s guarding Ace and Annabelle’s tent rushed towards it. Abby ran past them and opened the tent flap. When she was inside the tent, she turned off her camouflage projector and found Ace and Annabelle in two separate cells, each sitting on their cots. They were wearing gray jumpsuits and seemed to be discussing something before Abby barged in on them. To their surprise, Abby fired her laser pistol at the locks on each of the cells and the doors flung open. “I thank you kindly,” Ace said with a grin as he stood and nonchalantly walked out of his cell. “I’m not sure I fully understand, but I thank you all the same.”
Annabelle also grinned at Abby as she stepped out of her cell and nodded. “Yeah. Thanks.”
“You’re both coming with me,” Abby said, aiming her laser pistol at each of them in turn. Della rushed into the tent, his two laser pistols aimed at Ace and Annabelle.
Ace picked up two bags that were on the tent floor and strapped them over his shoulders. “We need these bags,” he said, “if we’re still going to be robbing banks like you spoke of earlier.”
“We are,” Abby said. “And you’re still my prisoners, so don’t try anything.”
Ace nodded. “The first thing we need is a fast car.”
“Can’t rob banks without a fast car,” Annabelle said with a wink. Her short red hair was disheveled so she was doing her best to pat it down with her hands. Abby nodded and the four of them rushed out of the tent and started running towards a dune where several tanks and hover trucks were parked.
“Hey!” someone shouted from behind them.
Several lasers fired as Abby and the others rushed down the side of the dune the prison tent was on. They turned a corner and climbed another dune as people shouted from dunes all around them. Lasers blasts hit sand and the sides of a hover truck as Abby and Della took cover with Ace and Annabelle behind one of the larger tanks. Ace eyed a sleek green military hover car that was parked on the dune not far from them. “A military grade Veleron 326,” he said with a grin. “I’ve been looking to get my hands on one of those for the longest time.”
He and Annabelle rushed towards it and Abby and Della followed, their guns still drawn. Ace pulled some tools out of one of his bags and proceeded to pick the lock on the driver’s side door. He got into the car and unlocked the other doors. Annabelle got into the passenger seat and Della and Abby got into the rear seats behind them as Ace fiddled with some wires under the steering wheel and started the engine. Lasers fired at them as they sped down into a valley between dunes.
Ace pushed the engine faster and faster, but it wasn’t long before several hover trucks appeared behind them. Lasers blasted the sand in the dunes on both sides of them as they sped towards a rocky cliff. They skimmed the edge of the cliff for a few seconds and Abby saw more sand and rocks about three hundred feet below. Ace pushed the vehicle until it was going a frightening speed. Abby was afraid to look at the speedometer. The hover trucks were still in hot pursuit, though. “Are you all in the mood to gamble?” Ace asked.
“Not with our lives,” Della said.
Ace grinned. “Don’t worry, it’s not really gambling when you know the outcome.”
“He’s done this before,” Annabelle said with a mischievous grin.
“Done what?” Abby asked.
“This,” Ace said as he veered the vehicle off the cliff.
They went flying at breakneck speed and shot over some dunes. The bottom of the vehicle brushed some sand and Abby felt a violent jolt. The hover car spun once and continued speeding away from the cliff. There was some fire on both sides of the vehicle for a few seconds, but it went out as fast as it had appeared. Their pursuers were still on top of the cliff. “Woohoo!” Annabelle shouted as the car rocketed into the desert. “Just like old times!” Abby realized she may have just made a new enemy. Now Rennock Enterprises, the IAO, and the Southwest Resistance were likely all going to be after her. She looked at Della and shrugged as he continued pointing his laser pistols at Ace and Annabelle.
Continue on to the next chapter:
Afterlife, Volume 2, Chapter 23
Nat pays another visit to Richard Dayton.
Shelly continues her training with Sera.
Alex, Paul, and Mavery part ways.
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