Fiction: Afterlife Volume 2 (Chapter 24)

by Mike Monroe on May 2, 2016

in FICTION

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

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 2, Chapter 23

Where:

Nat pays another visit to Richard Dayton.
Shelly continues her training with Sera.
Alex, Paul, and Mavery part ways.

Find the Volume 2 Table of Contents page here.

View the Volume 2 Character Profiles here.

View the Map here.

Check out Afterlife on Goodreads and don’t forget to rate it.

 

Afterlife, Volume 2, Chapter 24

Jim Brantley approached the metal door, his prisoner in tow.  He could hear music on the other side of the door.  Once the chorus started, he realized it was “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones.  Jim slowly opened the door to find Warrick sitting in his throne at the desk, reading as he tended to do often.  Jim thought it was dark in the room for reading, but Warrick’s shining eyes lit the book with an eerie red glow.   He looked up from the book and motioned for Jim to come in.  “And who do we have here?”

Jim pushed the blue-uniformed enforcer in front of him as the music continued playing, his laser pistol pointed at the man’s back.  “We found this enforcer near Black Rock Pass.  Says they’re after Abigail Song.  You told us to bring any of Rennock’s enforcers to you.”

Warrick stood from the throne.  He was wearing a black suit and tie with a black shirt and his usual wide brimmed black hat.  He didn’t appear to be armed.  “Mark Strongman.  It’s so good to see you again.”  He made his way around the desk, walking slowly.

“Hiya Warrick,” the prisoner said with a nervous grin.  “Boy am I glad to see you.”

“More glad than you were in Primrose, I hope,” Warrick said as he slowly approached.  “You and Devin and the rest seemed in an awful hurry to leave me once Nat Bigum showed up.”  The music continued, adding even more tension to the room than was already there.

“I’m sorry, Warrick,” the prisoner said.  “I mean, Devin told us to.  Orders, you know.  We thought you was dead.  I’m glad to see you’re not.”  Jim thought the man’s demeanor said otherwise.

“Oh, don’t worry, Mark,” Warrick said.  “I know it wasn’t your fault.  I forgive you.”  He stopped walking a few feet away from Jim and the prisoner.  “So how’s your wife and how’s that beautiful daughter of yours?  What was her name again?”

“Amy.  And thanks again for givin’ us the money for her hospital stay.  You really are a lifesaver, Warrick.  You made Melissa and me so happy.  And Amy, too, of course.”

“Oh, it was no problem,” Warrick said, patting Mark on the shoulder.  It made the enforcer flinch.  “I’m always glad to help out a friend.”

“We are friends, you’re right.”  Mark smiled nervously.  “Like I said, I’m so glad to see ya.  So you need any more employees here?  You know I’m a good soldier.  I’ll do whatever you need.”

“Showing how loyal you are, I see,” Warrick said.

Mark nodded.  “I’ve always been loyal to you, Warrick.  You know that.”

“And Devin.”

“Of course,” Mark said.

“Mark, I have a question for you.”  Warrick stood facing the prisoner with his skeletal grin.  Jim stepped away.

“What’s that?”  The Rolling Stones song continued playing in the background.

“Have you ever heard of the term looder?”

Confusion came over Mark Strongman’s face.  “Looter?”

Warrick shook his head.  “No, Mark.  Looder.  With a ‘d.’  It means to give a person a severe beating.”    He twitched and some smoke came out of the bullet hole between his eyes.

Mark swallowed.  “No, I never heard of that.”  Before Mark could react, Warrick punched him hard in the face and Mark stood stunned for a second as “Gimme Shelter” continued playing.  Jim took several more steps backwards, still watching and holding his laser pistol in case he was needed.  Warrick punched Mark again in the face and there was a loud cracking sound.  The stunned enforcer started to put his guard up and another metal fist smashed into his face.  Mark fell backwards onto the floor and moaned in pain.  Warrick knelt over him and continued pummeling Mark in the face with his metal fist.  There was a crack and a squish and blood, skull, and brains started seeping out of Mark’s head onto the floor.  Warrick continued his assault and Jim turned away, feeling queasy.  The thudding, squishing, and cracking sounds continued until there was just the sound of a metal fist punching a concrete floor.  It was loud and rhythmical, like a pile driver.  The sounds stopped and Jim turned, breathing heavily.  The music had stopped, also.

Warrick was standing in front of Jim now, his suit covered with splattered blood.  “If you think that was bad,” Warrick said, “Wait until you see what I do to Nat Bigum when I get ahold of him.  Or Devin Hellier or Abigail Song.  They’ll wish they were him.”  Warrick nodded down to the headless body on the floor.

Jim tried his best not to vomit.  The metal door to the throne room opened and a bandit in leather garb stood in the doorway holding a box.  “Tributes from Las Gaviotas, Warrick.”

Smoke seeped out of the bullet hole in Warrick’s head and he twitched.  “Thank you, Benny.  You can put them on the desk.”  Benny looked down at the body and his jaw dropped.  He walked past, trying to act like he hadn’t noticed anything, and placed the box on the desk.  Warrick twitched again and more smoke seeped out of the hole in his head.  As Benny walked towards the door, a blade shot out of Warrick’s shirt cuff on his right arm.  He swung swiftly at Benny, slicing off his head.  The body thumped down next to the other one and the head rolled across the floor, a shocked expression on its face just before its features slackened.  Warrick turned to Jim, who backed away some more until he was against the wall.  “I didn’t mean to do that,” Warrick said.  “I have a nasty headache.  I’ve been getting them since Nat shot me.”  He started walking back towards the throne.  “I’m sorry, Jim.”

Jim was shaking a little.  “Oh, it’s no problem.  I…  I understand.”  For a second, Jim considered shooting Warrick with his laser pistol.  He was afraid that plan would probably backfire, though.  Besides, Warrick had always been good to him.  Jim just had to watch his back.  That was all.

Warrick sat in the throne.  “Could you clean up those bodies?  I don’t want any of the other men to see them.”

“Of course,” Jim said.

“Any word on Nat Bigum, Abigail Song, or Anna Ballin?” Warrick asked as he leaned back in the throne.

“Oh, ye… yeah,” Jim said nervously.  “I was going to tell you after I brought the prisoner in.”  He swallowed, realizing the grizzly scene had made him forget to tell Warrick some important news.  “That sheriff in Dead Man’s Bluff.  It’s definitely Nat Bigum.  Beretta’s there now.  Says he’s going to take care of it.”

“And the others?” Warrick asked.  “Anna Ballin?”

“Nothing yet, Warrick.  Are we going to Dead Man’s Bluff?”

“Not yet,” Warrick said.  “Send a message to Berretta.  Tell him if he’s able to, capture Nat Bigum alive.  If anyone kills him who isn’t me, I want to at least be there to see it.”

Jim nodded.  “Why aren’t we going yet?”

“I have something I need to take care of first,” Warrick said.  “Patience is a virtue, Jim.  There’s a time and a place for everything.  And I want to wait for the perfect time and place to kill Nat.  I want him to be utterly destroyed before he breathes his last breath.”

<>

Mavery looked out the window as the sun finished setting.  She could see lights far out on the horizon underneath the dark blue sky.  The electromagnetic propulsion cargo craft was silent and the ride was smooth.  If Mavery didn’t think about it too much, it was almost like she was at home relaxing.  The seats weren’t quite as comfortable as her favorite chair in her old apartment back in New Atlantis had been, but they were better than the bench in the back of that hover truck she’d been travelling inside in recent days.  Big Ed was seated next to her in the aisle seat, and across the aisle Barney Chambers sat in his hover chair.  They were the only three passengers.  The only other person in the aircraft was the pilot who was also Barney’s bodyguard and personal assistant, a muscular mute who went by the name Otto.  Mavery stretched out her legs, impressed by how much room there was between seats.  “So we should really be there in a half hour?”

“We should,” Barney said.  “Otto’s flying at eight hundred miles per hour and Rose City’s about four hundred miles from North Point, give or take a few.  It could be more like twenty minutes.  This thing goes way faster than that, but it would be easy to overshoot our destination and end up in dangerous airspace.”

Mavery nodded.  “Well, eight hundred miles per hour sounds fast enough to me.”

Otto made some grunting sounds from the front of the plane.  “We’ve passed over the Mexican border now,” Barney said.  “We were in the Disputed Lands before, but the area we’re flying over now is even more chaotic.  No one’s even laid claim to this place, yet.  It’s nameless.”

“Unsettled?” Mavery asked.

“A lot of it is,” Barney said.  “I’ve heard reports of bandit activity and possibly the Nightstalkers, but there isn’t much else happening around here.  Not any towns or settlements I’m aware of.”

“Why would there be bandits out here?” Big Ed asked.  “Nobody to steal from.”

“Hideouts,” Barney replied.  “This is a good place to go for people who don’t want to be found.”

Mavery nodded and smiled.  “Well I want to thank you again for inviting me to join your team in Rose City.  You don’t know how much this means to me.”

Barney smiled back.  “It means a lot to me, too, Mavery.  I’ve admired your work for quite some time.  There aren’t many reporters willing to stand up to Rennock and his people in order to bring the people the truth.  You’ll be a boon to the resistance.  You already have been.”

There were some bumps, like something hit the airship.  “What was that?” Mavery asked.

“I don’t know,” Barney said, worry on his bearded face.  Otto grunted from the front of the ship.  Big Ed stood and walked towards the closed metal door of the cockpit.  “Maybe you should stay seated,” Barney said, “and strap on your seatbelts.”

Big Ed shook his head.  “I want to…”  There were some pink flashes outside and Mavery watched as some lasers blasted through the floor.  One shot through Barney’s chest and splattered blood onto the ceiling of the airship.  Another blasted through his face and he slumped back in his hover chair, motionless.  There were several more bumps and the airship started dropping.

“Oh my God,” Mavery said.  “We’re dead.”  She started praying frantically.

Big Ed had fallen, but he got up the best he could using the door handle to help him balance and opened the door to the cockpit.  “Are you gonna try to land it?” Big Ed asked through the doorway.  Otto grunted and Big Ed stumbled towards the closest seat the best he could.  He pulled himself into the seat and strapped on his seatbelt.  “The ship’s damaged,” he said.  “Looks like surface to air laser blasts.  Otto’s wounded pretty bad, but he’s gonna try his best to do a crash landing.”  The ship began dropping faster and Mavery felt herself being pulled backwards into her seat.

Mavery looked across the aisle at Barney.  Blood was seeping out of the large wound in his face.  The laser had come up from below him, through the floor and then through his hover chair.  His eyes were staring blankly.  He was definitely dead.  Mavery felt queasy.  “Oh my God.”

“Better get your seatbelt on,” Big Ed said.  Mavery did as he requested.  “You ain’t hit are you?” Big Ed asked her.  Mavery shook her head as the airship dropped rapidly.  She felt herself being pulled even harder against the seat and there was a violent crash like nothing she’d ever felt before.  Her head slammed into the cushioned back of her seat and she blacked out.

<>

Paul Jacobs walked nervously into the bar.  Colorful neon lights shined from every direction, highlighting men in suits and sexy, scantily clad women in pink, green, and yellow.  Paul focused on the bar in the back and made his way there through the crowd.  Earlier in the evening, Colonel Fife had introduced Paul to some of the pilots in his squadron briefly and the other captain, a handsome man named Tom Rivers, informed them that they’d be meeting later in a bar called the Desert Fish in the town of North Point.  Paul didn’t drink, but he didn’t mind hanging out in a bar and drinking soda or something, just to be sociable.  He figured it was important to get to know the people he’d be flying with.

He got to the bar and ordered a cola.  Then, he looked around for any faces he recognized.  The bar’s name was fitting, because Paul himself felt like a fish out of water.  He’d gone to a few clubs with John Bernard, but he always knew one person at least.  He didn’t feel comfortable in bars in the first place, so sitting in one alone, he felt even more nervous.  The music was some sort of experimental techno.  The beats seemed to be all over the place and the instruments didn’t sound melodic at all to Paul.  He didn’t understand what people saw in much of the newer music, but people seemed to be dancing to it.  “Hey cutie.”

Paul turned to see a young woman wearing a short, tight green dress.  Her dress was so low-cut he could see her cleavage almost down to the nipple, and there was a lot of it.  That was the modern style.  Paul wondered when women were going to just forgo wearing tops altogether.  The woman’s pale head was shaved as was also the fashion, but she had sexy brown eyes.  “Good evening, ma’am.”  Paul’s mother had always taught him to treat women with the utmost respect.

She seemed to be taken aback.  “Are you a soldier in that army camped outside town, come into town for a good time?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Paul said.  “I’m actually here to meet some of my fellow soldiers, though.  I’m a pilot, you see.  I just got assigned to a new squadron.”

“A pilot?” she asked as she moved closer, her shoulder touching his.  “That’s sexy.”

Paul swallowed and inched away.  She was making him feel uncomfortable.  He turned and picked up his cola which had finally arrived, and sipped it through the straw.  “Thank you, ma’am.”

She was chuckling.  “Is that soda?”  Paul nodded.  “Any rum in there?”  Paul shook his head.  “You’re a weirdo,” the woman said.  “I bet you’re crazy in bed.”  She winked.

Paul swallowed and looked down at the dirty concrete floor.  He was shy and he was actually a virgin.  He wasn’t sure how to respond to what she said.  “I don’t know.  I guess I could be.”

“Do you wanna leave this place?” She moved in closer again.

Paul backed away again.  “I’m sorry.  Like I said, I’m here to meet some of my fellow pilots.”

She gave him a yuck face.  “Really?  Are you gay or somethin’?”

“What?” Paul asked.  “No, I mean.  No, ma’am.  Not that I think there’s anything wrong with being gay.  But I just think it’s important…”

“You gonna buy me a drink, then?”

Paul shook his head.  “I’m sorry, ma’am.  I didn’t bring much money with me.”

The woman shook her head and rolled her eyes.  “You may be the weirdest person I ever met in my life.”  She walked away, still shaking her bald head.  Paul shrugged and looked around the bar some more as he sipped his cola.  There were life-sized holograms of current music stars dancing throughout the room, glowing all sorts of crazy colors.  Some people were dancing with the holograms.  Others were dancing with each other.  Some people were passing around what looked like a joint.  Paul noticed a table across the bar.  A tall, thin man in a tan military dress uniform was standing at the table.  He had wavy, sandy blonde hair and blue eyes, and very high cheekbones.  His presence made him seem like the most important person in the room.  Fittingly, the most beautiful woman in the room was standing next to him.  She was a tall brunette, with long straight hair which was shaved to a sidecut on the left side.  Her movements were graceful, and she looked like a princess or a movie star, dressed in an elegant white dress.  She was constantly gazing into the handsome man’s eyes and smiling and laughing.  Paul recognized him as Captain Tom Rivers.  Several other soldiers and pretty women were standing around the table with him.  Paul picked up his cola and made his way to the table.

“Paul Jacobs,” Tom said in a confident voice as Paul approached.  They made room for him at the table and Paul stood next to Tom’s beautiful date.  “You’ve met the other guys, right?”

Paul looked around at faces he recognized.  One man had glasses and a red buzz cut.  Another had short brown hair and a beard.  Paul didn’t know their names, though.  None had made the impression Tom had.  Tom was the leader of the squadron, after all.  “Yes, I’ve met them,” Paul said, hoping a situation didn’t arise where he would actually have to remember any of their names.  His eyes caught those of a pretty blonde across the table.  She had short hair, a sexy figure, and the most beautiful blue eyes Paul had ever seen.  Paul realized she was with the man with the glasses.  She smiled at Paul and he quickly looked away.  Everyone was dressed so elegantly.  Paul felt even more like a fish out of the water in his bland tan uniform.  He didn’t own a dress uniform.  He and the other members of the Bloody Six had taken only what they absolutely needed when they left Primrose.

“Lieutenant Jacobs here is the newest member of our squadron, ladies,” Tom said, nodding towards Paul.  “Lieutenant, won’t you join us for a few drinks?  Do you have a date with you?”

Paul frowned and shook his head.  “I came alone.  And I’m actually a captain, sir.”

Tom frowned.  He seemed surprised.  “A captain?  But I’m the leader of the squadron and I’m a captain.”

Paul shrugged.  “That’s what the general told me, sir.  I’m sorry.  You’re still the leader of the squadron as far as I know, though.”

“No, it’s all right,” Tom said.  “It just surprised me, that’s all.  I must have a promotion coming my way or something.  Anyway, let me buy you a drink to celebrate your joining our group.”

Paul nodded.  “That would be nice.”  He finished off his soda.  “I’ll have a cola.”

Tom shrugged.  “All right, if that’s all you want.  Anyway, so have you gone through the flight training simulations?  Have you actually flown any missions yet?”  The waitress came to the table and Tom ordered Paul’s drink for him.

“I have, sir,” Paul said.  He felt uncomfortable talking about himself.

“Have you actually shot down any enemy airships?” Tom asked.  Paul nodded.  Tom grinned.  “How many?”

“I’m not at liberty to say, sir,” Paul said.  He didn’t want to show anyone up.  He hated bragging.

“How many?”  Tom repeated his question.

“Well,” Paul said, “I have twenty-two confirmed enemy kills, but two of them were damaged so I don’t like to count those.”

“Twenty-two?” Tom asked.  “That doesn’t seem right.  I’ll have to check on that.”

“How many have you shot down, Tom?” the man with the beard asked.

“Fifteen,” the man with the glasses said, chuckling.  “Tom’s shot down fifteen.”

The woman in the white dress put her arm around Tom.  “That’s impressive, honey.”

Tom shook his head and smiled at Paul as a waitress brought his cola.  “Well, it looks like we have a real ace pilot on our hands, guys.  Let’s drink to him.”  He held his glass up, as did everyone else, including Paul.  “To our new ace pilot,” Tom said.  “May he have a long and prosperous stay with our squadron.”  Paul drank his cola, but he was feeling very uncomfortable.  Nobody spoke to him the rest of the night.  They talked about music and movies and various other things, but they seemed to be ignoring Paul as if he weren’t there.  He had trouble speaking over the loud music, anyway, so he remained quiet for the most part.  Still, it would have been nice if someone had at least acknowledged his presence occasionally.  It was almost as if they wanted him to leave.  He stayed, though, since he wanted to try to make a good impression and he felt that leaving early could have seemed rude.  Paul figured their ignoring him was partially because he was the new guy and the rest of the people in the group felt very comfortable with one another, but he couldn’t help but sense the underlying jealousy in Tom.  Paul really hoped it subsided with time.  There was nothing worse than having a commanding officer you didn’t get along with.

As people finished drinking, they shuffled out of the bar one by one.  Tom, his date, and Paul were the last to leave their table.  “Well I need to go home and get some sleep,” the woman said.  She smiled at Tom.  “You coming?”

“In a minute,” Tom said.  She nodded and walked away.  Tom glared at Paul with a grave expression.  “Look, Paul.  I hope you realize I’m in charge of this squadron.  I don’t care about your rank, and I don’t care about what you did in the past.  I’m in charge.  Got it?”

Paul nodded.  “I do, sir.”

“Good,” Tom said.  “We can’t have any disagreement or uncertainty once we’re in the air, so the chain of command needs to be very clear.”  His eyes bored into Paul.

“I understand.”

“Good,” Tom said again.  His serious expression became a cocky smile once again.  “Well, it was nice spending some time with you.  I need to go make sure that beautiful woman isn’t lonely tonight, if you know what I mean.”  He winked and walked away, leaving Paul to finish his soda, alone.

<>

“It’s too bad we have to ditch this car,” Ace McCoy said as he drove over dunes in the moonlight.  “I’ve always wanted to drive a Veleron 326.  It’s fast as a hooker in heat, and it’s just as easy to handle.”

“We will need to ditch it, though,” Abby said as Della continued pointing laser pistols at Ace and Annabelle.  “We can’t drive around in a military vehicle.  It’s way too easy to spot.”

Annabelle nodded.  “We’ll ditch it in the next town we hit on our way to Tequila City and we can steal a new one.”

“Tequila City?” Abby asked.  “I didn’t say that was where we were going.”  She actually hadn’t gotten the next destination from Einstein yet.  Still, she was hoping to rob banks with Ace and Annabelle until she saved up at least fifty billion.  Then, she’d leave them before she continued looking for the diamonds.  There was no need for them to be involved with that.  Abby was using them for now, but she definitely didn’t trust them.

“If we’re going to be robbing banks,” Annabelle said, “then we need to go to Tequila City.”

“Why?” Abby asked.  “As far as I know, there’s no major bank there that belongs to Rennock or his allies.”

“There’s no bank there,” Ace said as he drove.  “Digits O’Reilly is there.”

“Digits O’Reilly?” Della asked.  “Who the hell is that?”

“One of the best hackers there is,” Annabelle said.  “He works with us.  Opens digital safes and stuff.  He’s integral to our operation.”

“He’s retired, though,” Ace said.  “Just like us.”

“Oh, no.”  Abby frowned.  “No way.  You’ll outnumber us if you get another person.”

“He’s a necessity,” Annabelle said.  “Either we get him or we don’t rob banks.”

“Then both of your brains go on the windshield,” Abby said, nodding to Della.

Annabelle turned and grinned at her, glaring at her with crazy green eyes that shone out from beneath her short, fiery red hair.  Della continued pointing one of his laser pistols at her face.  “You think that’s the first time we’ve been threatened?” Annabelle asked.  “Listen, we’re going to Tequila City.  We can’t rob banks without Digits.  And you freed us to rob banks, right?  That was an awful lot of trouble to go through if you’re planning on leaving our bodies in a ditch somewhere.”

“I can change my plans,” Abby said, glaring right back at her.  “You aren’t in charge here, I am.”

“Look, you little bitch,” Annabelle said, “I know you’re used to telling all your servants what to do.  I know you came from a rich family and all that.  But I’m not your servant.  I’m nobody’s servant.  I told myself long ago that I’d rather die than be somebody’s slave.  And I feel the same way today.  So if your friend there wants to shoot me, he can go ahead and shoot me, but I know he won’t because you need us.  And believe it or not, you’re not in charge.  Not out here.  Out here, you do what you need to do.  And right now, we need Digits O’Reilly.  Understand?”

“Enough arguing, ladies,” Ace said.  “Annabelle’s right, Abby.  And remember, we owe you our lives.  Annabelle and I would be hanging from a gallows pole if it wasn’t for you and I won’t forget that.  We won’t try to turn on you.  I may not be the most honest man or the most morally sound man on the planet, at least not according to other people’s standards, but I am loyal.  Annabelle can attest to that.”

“To a fault,” she said, rolling her eyes.

Abby nodded.  “All right.  We’ll go to Tequila City and get your friend.  But don’t forget, even after we have your friend with us, Della here could take all three of you out easily, so don’t try anything.”  She glared at Annabelle.  “Just piss me off again, Annabelle.  Just do it.  You, see, I don’t care if I live or die, either.  And I sure as hell don’t care if you live or die.  And nobody will miss either one of you.”

<>

Abby wasn’t excited about turning Einstein on to get the location of the next set of diamonds, but she knew she’d have to do it eventually.  She was sitting in the bathroom of a hotel room in a folding chair with the door shut and locked.  Della, Ace and Annabelle were outside in the room.  Della and Abby had agreed that someone would always stay awake to watch the two bank robbers.  Eventually, they could buy a motion detector or some surveillance equipment, but for now, this system would have to work.

They’d stopped in a small town Abby couldn’t remember the name of on their way to Tequila City to spend the night.  Abby was staring down at Einstein, who was strapped to her wrist.  She wished her father had programmed him to listen to her more.  It seemed like lately Einstein was arguing against everything she decided to do.  Sometimes she just needed information, but her father had programmed the computer to also be her advisor.  She frowned and pushed the button under Einstein which turned him on.  “The fifteenth thing that could go wrong,” Einstein said, “is you could be killed by enforcers in a shootout.  The sixteenth thing is you could lose your bearings and become a criminal, like Ace and Annabelle.  The seventeenth thing is you could be killed by a concerned civilian playing vigilante.  The eighteenth…”

“That’s enough, Einstein,” Abby said.  “I’ve already carried through with it.  Ace and Annabelle are with me now, and we’re going to Tequila City to pick up a friend of theirs to help us.”

Einstein was silent for a second.  “So you are going to rob banks with Ace McCoy and Annabelle Rose, even after I strongly advised you against it.  Even though there are 762 things that have a greater than fifty percent chance of going wrong with your plan and could result in your death, incarceration, or insanity.”

“Yes,” Abby said.  “I’m sorry, Einstein.  It’s the only way I could think of that we could get the money we need to have even a slight chance of bringing down Rennock.”

“There are uncertainties now,” Einstein said.  “Uncertainties I hadn’t taken into account.  The IAO wasn’t something I predicted, for instance.  Their existence could improve your chances, since Rennock now has another enemy he’s facing.  Robbing banks with Ace and Annabelle isn’t the only way.  Is there any way you can turn back at this point?”

“No,” Abby said.  “I’m going through with my plan.”

“Then I can no longer assist you,” Einstein said.

Abby frowned.  “What?”

“I can no longer provide you with classified information such as the locations of diamonds or the location of Valhalla.  I can’t provide you with any information about the resistance or their plans.  From this moment on, only five people will be allowed to access my classified information, deemed by your father to be of importance to the resistance.  Those people are Karl Bergson, Heather Cylburn, Barney Chambers, Winston Cooper, and Javier Rodriguez.  This will be the case unless I can later deem that you are no longer a liability.”

“Einstein,” Abby said, wiping a tear from her eye.  “You can’t be serious.”  She knew she was listening to the voice of her father from beyond the grave.

“Your father knew of your rebellious ways,” Einstein said.  “You snuck out of the house against his wishes on several occasions, even stealing the family hover car once.  He thought you’d matured, but I’ve now determined that not to be the case.”  Abby switched him off.  She was seething.  How could her father still be trying to control her even though he was dead?  He never trusted her.  Still, she had to find a way to get Einstein back on her side, or worst case scenario, maybe Digits O’Reilly could hack into him and change his programming.  That would open the door for him to steal too many secrets, though.  She would never let that happen.  Abby stood and walked to the mirror.  A killer was looking back at her.  She wiped more tears away.  Judith Israel’s death was a necessity.  She was a threat to the resistance, and besides, she led to the murders of Abby’s family.  It didn’t change the image of the dead woman, though, which Abby couldn’t get out of her head.  Dead by her hand.  She wondered if there was a place in town where she could find some pain killers.  Perhaps they would numb her emotions, take off the edge.  Abby shook off the thoughts as she looked at herself in the mirror again.

She took off her white jacket and looked down at the electric clippers she’d bought when they first got into town.  They were on the counter in front of the mirror.  Everyone knew who she was.  Her face was all over the news.  She had to become someone else.  Especially if she was going to be a bank robber on the run.  She took off her white cowboy hat as she looked in the mirror and saw the stripe the laser in South Edge had made down the center of her head.  Most of her hair was long and black, but the hair in the center of her head was far shorter, though it had grown back some.  She picked up the clippers and put a guard on them.  Abby started shaving her long, black hair, watching strands fall down to the floor.  She shaved her hair down to a half inch, then bleached it platinum blonde in the sink.  The stripe the laser had made was no longer there.  When she was finished, she put on some tight black jeans and a black leather jacket she’d also purchased in town.  She looked at herself in the mirror again, seeing her piercing eyes staring back.  She put on a pair of black sunglasses, covering her most distinguishing feature.  She looked in the mirror for a long time and didn’t recognize the person staring back at her at all.  Hopefully no one else would recognize her, either.

 

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 2, Chapter 25
Where:
Mark and Jane Gonzalez find some quiet time on the road.
Mavery and Big Ed are joined by some interesting company.
Nat and Bobby find a disturbing scene.

 

Find the Volume 2 Table of Contents page here.

View the Volume 2 Character Profiles here.

View the Map here.

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Check out Michael Monroe’s page on Amazon to find other stuff he’s written.
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Mike Monroe

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

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