If you’ve never read Afterlife before, click here to go to the first chapter.
Afterlife is a sci fi/western action serial published every other week. Join us in a post-apocalyptic journey through a future where life has become little more than a struggle for survival. However, where there’s life, there’s always hope.
Read the previous chapter here:
Abby, Ace, and Della plan their last bank job.
Mavery and Big Ed are rescued by a group of soldiers.
Bobby tries to drum up support to face Warrick.
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Afterlife, Volume 2, Chapter 40
Bobby reached Spencer Dayton’s house around four thirty according to his watch. It was a stone house built on the peak of one of the foothills. A narrow road led up to the front. Bobby got off his sand bike, headed to the front door and knocked. At first there was no answer. Finally, the door cracked and Bobby saw Carol Dayton’s pretty face. “Hi, Bobby,” she said. Her smile didn’t hide the seriousness in her voice and demeanor.
“Hi. Is Spencer here? Or Frank?”
“They are,” she said. “But I’m sorry, Bobby. They told me they couldn’t come to the door. We’re leavin’ town.”
“All three of you?” Bobby asked. “Even Frank?”
She nodded. “I’m sorry.”
“Can I talk to them at least?” Bobby asked. “Either one of them?”
She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Bobby. You need to go, now.”
“The Daytons have lived in this town for hundreds of years, maybe thousands. You’re just gonna pack up and leave now?”
“Livin’ is more important,” Carol said.
“Can I say goodbye?” Bobby asked. “Frank!” he shouted past Carol into the house.
“Bobby, don’t make a scene about it,” she said. “You need to go. And not just back to town. You need to leave town, like everyone else is doin’. Unless you wanna die.”
Bobby couldn’t hide the anger in his face. “Frank! Spencer! You cowards!”
Carol frowned and slammed the door shut. Bobby heard the latches lock into place. He slowly turned and headed back to his bike. This road led back into town and Bobby wasn’t sure of any others. He’d have to head back. His options were disappearing quickly. He still had time on his side, but he had to figure out who else he could go to for help.
Bobby looked up at the ticking clock. It was ten in the evening. The fly was still buzzing around the office and the sound was starting to drive Bobby nuts. It was time for him to go. He didn’t want to wait until the last minute now that he knew he had to leave. He felt in his pocket to find the engagement ring still in there. Bobby was thinking maybe he shouldn’t have waited so long to propose to Shelly. For some reason he started thinking about the time they were together in Carpenter City and Shelly was writing poetry. He’d asked her to read a poem to him but she wouldn’t do it. He still hoped to hear one someday. He laughed and shook his head. “You’re gonna be fine.” Now he was talking to himself in an empty room.
He’d tried everyone. When he’d gotten back into town, he went to the gun shop, the inn, and all of the houses. Most of the doors were locked and most of the shops were closed. As for the ones that weren’t, the owners were in the process of packing their things. Same with the houses. Everyone had left or was leaving. Bobby could read the writing on the wall and he knew it was time for him to leave, also. He heard footsteps coming down into the wine cellar and he put his hand of the hilt of his laser pistol. Alicia appeared in the doorway, pretty as ever with her stunning brown eyes and her long, black hair. She was wearing a red dress, and though she’d tried to cover them with makeup, Bobby could still see the faint bruises that covered her arms and legs, as well as the black eye. “Hi, Bobby,” she said. The concern in her voice was palpable.
“Hi,” Bobby said.
“Bobby, you need to leave. You need to leave town now.”
“I know,” Bobby said.
“Don’t try to stay,” she said, her pretty eyes full of fear and sorrow. “Don’t go for revenge. You don’t owe anybody anything. Not even Nat.” Bobby nodded, though he knew Warrick would still come for him and Shelly. The IAO had tried to kill her before and they’d try again. Still, maybe there was somewhere they could go where they’d be safe. “I’m leaving,” Alicia said. “Everyone else is leaving. I came to say goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” Bobby said.
“And I wanted to thank you,” she said.
“Thank me?” Bobby was confused. “For what?”
“I heard it was you who sent Chuck to the pass where he died,” she said. “I wanted to thank you for getting him out of my life once and for all.” She frowned. “This latest time, I was going to leave him, but he wouldn’t have it. He beat me mercilessly. He handcuffed me to our bed. And when he let me out to go to work finally, he threatened me. He said he’d kill me if I tried to leave town.” There were tears dripping down her cheeks. “He said he’d track me down and he’d kill me. I know you think he was a nice man. He was different with other people. With me, he was a monster. And I wanted to thank you.”
Bobby’s mouth was open. He nodded. “I’m sorry you had to go through all of that.”
She wiped the tears from her cheeks. “Now you need to leave, Bobby. I understand you can’t leave with me. I understand. But go to your girlfriend.” She looked at him gravely and shook her head. “Don’t go up to Boot Hill, Bobby. There’s only death up there.”
“There’s only one other way out of town,” Bobby said. “Maybe we can leave together.”
She shook her head. “I’m leaving now, Bobby. I have my own sand bike. I have a laser rifle. I’ll be fine.”
Bobby nodded. “Be careful.”
She smiled. “I will. You be careful, too.”
“I will,” Bobby said. Alicia turned and walked back up the stairs. Once she was gone, Bobby drew his laser pistol and looked at it closely. Silver metal. The handle was stained blue with a diamond grip. A red light was fitted to the end of the narrow barrel. He put it back into the holster and stood, taking a deep breath. The fly buzzed near his face again and he clapped his hands hard, finally killing it and watching it fall to the floor. The clock said ten fifteen as Bobby finally walked up the steps and left the wine cellar through the door that led out into the cool evening air.
It was dark out when Bobby got on his sand bike parked near the door and started the engine. He tried to ignore Nat’s headless body, but there it was, a constant reminder of what Warrick Baines and the IAO were capable of. The moon was blocked by the mountains to the east. Soon, Bobby was heading north on the road that led out of town. He felt like a coward. He felt like he was letting Nat down. But he had to get back to Shelly. He had to make sure she was safe. Maybe then, he’d try once more to get a posse together and head back to Dead Man’s Bluff.
As he drove past the last few shadowy buildings in town, he could see a line of men standing in the darkness in the street up ahead. He could see crashed sand bikes and bodies on the ground in front of them and when he noticed they were holding RLR’s, he quickly turned his bike around and started speeding the other way, back towards town, wondering how long those men had been there and how many people they’d killed. There wasn’t time to try to look at the faces of the bodies. Bobby was certain those men weren’t there yet when Shelly left town with Doctor Dayton earlier, but he was worried about Alicia. As he sped back towards town a volley of red laser blasts flew past him. He felt one hit the back of his sand bike and he increased his speed until he was out of range. Once he was back in town, his sand bike started sputtering. It slowed down and the engine gave out, so he parked it near what was left of the Crosshairs Saloon.
Dead Man’s Bluff was a ghost town. Bobby didn’t want to sit around and wait for the men who’d fired at him to come back into town, so he started walking towards the road that led east into the foothills, towards the homes that were up in the mountains. There were only two roads that led out of town, but maybe Bobby could find a way out once he got up into the mountains. The only other way out was the southern road that went up through Boot Hill. Bobby looked at his watch. It was closing in on eleven. He didn’t want to try to pass the cemetery too close to midnight. For all he knew, Warrick Baines was already there.
He walked up the rocky road as it led through the foothills until he noticed some men in the rocks up ahead. There was some movement and Bobby quickly hid behind an outcropping in the cliff to his right. He peeked around to see that the men were definitely armed. There were at least five of them. Possibly more. Another blocked way out. Bobby took a deep breath. He considered finding a place to hide in town, but he knew there’d be no safe place. The IAO were going to come into town after midnight and destroy everything. That left one way out of town for him. If Bobby was going to have to face the IAO, he wanted to do it on his terms. He knew Warrick Baines was going to come after Shelly. He realized he had to take him out. He turned and started walking back towards town. There were no laser blasts. It was almost like they were daring him to go to Boot Hill.
Soon, Bobby was walking south on the main road out of town. He looked at his watch to see that it was eleven thirty. By the time he’d reach the cemetery, it would be midnight. Bobby took a deep breath as he walked. This would be his chance to avenge Nat. His chance to make atonement for what had happened between him and Chuck. His chance to keep Shelly safe. He noticed something off to the west, through the corner of his eye. When he turned to look that way, he realized there were fires on the horizon, and there was smoke that hid the stars from sight. Bobby wondered what was happening as he continued walking.
John Franks was riding the escalator out of the e-mag station in Tequila City, thinking about his day at work in the financial district, smiling at the prospect of going home to see his wife, when he heard some commotion up above him. He looked up and saw something that didn’t seem real at first. Blood was flying and people were screaming. One woman’s arm flew off as several people ducked. John ducked also, not sure what to do as red lasers flew past. Several blasts tore through the people ducking in front of him and he looked past them, up towards the top of the escalator to see two men in business suits, holding laser rifles of some kind, firing barrages of hissing lasers at the people coming up the escalator. In a panic, John turned to see people behind him also screaming. Some were trying to push past in a panic, and people were falling over one another down the escalator. Some were falling off the side, fifty feet down to the train tube. There was nowhere for John to go as he felt lasers burn through his back. The buzzing and hissing continued as red lasers flew like swarms of bees. John watched a man behind him as his head jerked back and blood spurted out of his eye. The red of blood and laser fire was everywhere. John fell to the ground, hearing people moan and scream as a laser blasted through his head.
Janie Mitchell was watching the news with her mom in their living room as a look of horror came over the blonde reporter’s face. “There are reports coming in so fast we can’t keep up,” the woman said. “A bomb exploded in the entertainment district of New Atlantis, killing at least fifty people and injuring another hundred or so. Five airships have gone down in the past fifteen minutes. Reports say many more have gone missing. There have been mass murders in subway stations and sporting events.” Tears were dripping down her cheeks. “There are now reports coming in of a large blast of some kind in Fort Sampson. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it seems a nuclear explosion has destroyed the town. I just can’t…” The projector stopped showing any footage. Janie’s mom tried changing the channel, but everything had gone blank.
“What’s wrong, mom?” Janie asked. “What’s happening?”
Her mom frowned, not sure what to tell the eight year old. “I don’t know.” She got up from the couch when she heard something that sounded like an explosion outside. The house shook and the pictures on the wall were tilted.
“Mom,” Janie said. “I’m scared.”
Her mom slowly walked to the front door and opened it out into the sandy street that led through their small town in the outskirts of Lookout City. The house was on a high hill, and she could see for miles. The sky to the north, where Lookout City was, was full of smoke and fire. There was also smoke on the eastern horizon, and the towns across the desert were going up in orange blazes. She closed the door, shaking and took a deep breath. “We need to stay inside, honey. This will pass.” There was another explosion outside.
Mavery walked through the dunes with five of the black-clad soldiers. They were leading her towards the huge leveler, which Mavery had discovered through eavesdropping was called “The Ruff Ridah.” It was probably close to midnight, and the leveler looked even more intimidating in the darkness beneath the stars, with the gray dunes and rocks spread out behind it. In the hours since her capture, Mavery had been resting alone in a tent. The cot was comfortable and she had been provided with a decent dinner, but she still felt like a captive with two armed guards at the tent’s entrance at all times. Still, at least it felt good to get out of the awful leather and metal clothes the bandits wore. She was now wearing gray sweats and a gray t-shirt which were comfortable, if not fashionable. The most unnerving part for Mavery was that she hadn’t seen Big Ed since their capture, though one of the guards did inform her that they had medical personnel treating him and he was going to be fine. The five armed guards escorted Mavery to a ramp that led up to an open door on the side of the towering leveler.
Inside, hip hop music was blaring. Mavery wasn’t an expert on music from the old world, so she didn’t recognize the song or artist, but she kept hearing “let me ride” repeated over and over. The soldiers led her through a narrow hallway and through a room that appeared to be some sort of control room. There were panels and computers and a dozen or so men were seated in front of them. A red glow filled the room from the lighted instrument panels. One of the black clad soldiers manning one of the computers eyed Mavery suspiciously as she was led through the room. Her captors led her to a ladder and motioned for her to climb it, so she did. When she reached the top of the ladder, she walked down another narrow hallway that ended at a metal door with the red, black, and blue stars and stripes flag painted on it. One of the guards opened the door and led Mavery through.
Inside was what appeared to be an office. The five guards stood outside as Mavery stood facing a man seated behind a wooden desk. The music was softer now, coming from downstairs, but she could still hear it. The light-skinned black man glaring at her was small in stature and bald, wearing a gray shirt. Nondescript was the first word that popped into Mavery’s mind, until she looked closer and saw that he was all muscle. Standing beside him was a tall, thin man with laser pistols in holsters on each hip. He was the antithesis of the seated man, with cornrows, several gold chains hanging from his neck, and diamond studded black sunglasses on his face. He smiled and nodded at Mavery, and she nodded back. “So who are you?” the seated man asked.
“Who am I?” she asked. “Who wants to know?”
The tall man snickered but the seated man wasn’t amused. “You’re not in a position to ask questions. Answer me when I talk to you.” He spoke in a matter-of-fact tone, not seeming angry at all.
“Mavery Thomas,” the seated man said, nodding. “The reporter for the Mountaintop Herald.”
“That’s right,” Mavery said. “Or I used to be, anyway.”
The man nodded again. “I’m Evileye Alphacore.” Mavery immediately recognized the name as that of the most famous gladiator in Numurka. He didn’t look anything like she would have expected. “My men just call me Alpha,” he continued. “We’re the Warriors of Freedom. The Warriors, for short.”
“We thought you were the Nightstalkers,” Mavery said.
“That was the name of this group before I became their leader recently,” Alpha said. “So I’m glad to meet you, Mavery. I’ve read several of your articles. You’re a promising reporter and a true champion of our people’s cause.”
“I fight for all who are underrepresented,” Mavery said, “or treated unfairly.”
“But don’t you have a special affinity for your own people?” Alpha asked.
“Of course,” Mavery said. “Who doesn’t?”
“A traitor,” Alpha said. He nodded towards her. “Your work uncovering the horrors in the Southwest Iron Mines was particularly beneficial. You’ve actually recruited many of the warriors you see here, whether you realize it or not. You see, I was there. I was a slave for Phillip Brevington like so many others. He made me a gladiator and I made him money, but do you think I saw any of that?” He shook his head. “Of course not. I put my life on the line time and time again and for nothing. Just like the rest of the slaves working for him. Many of whom are now here.”
“Are all of these men former slaves?” Mavery asked.
Alpha shook his head. “When I first joined the Nightstalkers, they were led by a man named William Burghardt. They called him Stutterin’ Bill. He wasn’t a gifted public speaker, but he could fight with the best of them. The Nightstalkers were mostly bandits, but there were some escaped slaves. Anyway, shortly after I joined up, he was killed. The bandits wanted to make one of their own the leader. The escaped slaves had other ideas, so they asked me to challenge the bandit who’d been second in command under Stutterin’ Bill, a man named Salvador. I bested him in hand to hand combat, but I didn’t kill him. That’s why you see him standing here now.” He nodded to the tall man with the cornrows, who smiled at Mavery. “So to answer your question,” Alpha continued, “some of us are former slaves. Others are former bandits. Others are just brothers and sisters who have the same goals we do and have decided to join us. Now, we’re united in one cause.”
“What would that cause be?” Mavery asked.
“To destroy our oppressors,” Alpha said with a frown. “We’ve tried reasoning with them. We’ve tried fighting for our freedom. We’ve tried building our own separate communities. We’ve tried everything through the millennia. We’ve pleaded and fought, and they’ve oppressed us and killed us, throughout history. It’s time for it to stop. You see, if you oppress a people long enough, they’ll fight back to defend themselves. At first, they try words. And if those don’t work, it’s guns. And it’s time for us to take the fight to them. No more waiting around for them to do us harm, and then speaking out about it. No more waiting around to defend ourselves when we’re attacked.” His eyes pierced right into Mavery. “It’s time for us to attack. Take no prisoners. We’ll fight until we have what we want.”
“And what’s that?” Mavery asked.
“Freedom, of course,” Alpha said. “And prosperity for all of our people.”
Mavery nodded. “My traveling companion would agree with pretty much everything you’ve said, I’m sure.”
“I’d like to meet him,” Alpha said. “I’m sure I will once he’s feeling better.”
“The thing is,” Mavery said, “you won’t be able to do it alone. And fighting with guns? I’ve seen enough of that in my lifetime. Peace is a far better solution.”
“We’ve tried it,” Alpha said. “The time for peaceful solutions passed long ago.”
Mavery frowned. “That’s a cynical way to look at things. But even if you are going to fight, there are many others who’ve been oppressed by Herman Rennock and his allies. Wouldn’t it be better to unite all of the oppressed in this world, so we can all fight him together? Not just black people, but everyone.”
Alpha held a finger up. “I’m going to stop you right there, Mavery. Don’t ever refer to our people as ‘black.’ This is a European construct. They call us black and themselves white because they know the power of words. And black is associated with evil, while white is associated with good. There is no more black or white. There are Africans. Asians. Europeans. Native Americans. We have to be very careful how we label ourselves. Oppression starts with words, after all.”
“A strange view from someone who calls himself Evileye Alphacore,” Mavery said.
“I chose that name to intimidate my enemies when I was a gladiator,” Alpha said. “Now I go by ‘Alpha’ because I’ve become the leader of a powerful force. This group was called the Nightstalkers when I got here. Not liking that name and its connotations, I chose to change it to the Warriors of Freedom. Words have power. We have to be careful how we use them.”
Mavery nodded. “As a writer, I can’t argue with that. Still, I feel it’s important not to just look at this as blacks against whites… Africans against Europeans. Or whatever you want to call it. The real war is the oppressed against the oppressors. I’ve been working with the Southwest Resistance. With Abigail Song and the others. We’re fighting for freedom for all people, not just one group. That’s why Big Ed and I were in this IAO group. We’ve infiltrated them to learn about them. For the cause. For the resistance.”
Alpha shook his head. “No one really has our interests in mind except us. They’ll act like they’re working with us. Then, they’ll turn around and stab us in the back. They put our people out in the desert like animals. And they enslave us, telling us at least we have food, at least we have shelter. If we’re lucky, they let us live under their tables and they feed us scraps. Well, I’ve had enough of scraps. I want the whole feast. And I want to share it with my people. No more letting them dictate how things are. I’m taking control.”
“How many men do you have here?” Mavery asked. “A few thousand at most? Rennock has tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands. You should work with us. Join the resistance. Join our cause and we can actually win this thing. We can beat Rennock. We can beat the IAO.”
“I’ve never had a problem with the IAO,” Alpha said. “They’re fighting Rennock just like we are.”
Mavery shook her head. “I’ve been with them. I know how they think. They’re going to destroy everything, including you when they get around to it. Total chaos. That’s all they want.”
“Maybe chaos isn’t such a bad thing,” Alpha said. “Maybe we need a little chaos to change the system.”
“Not their sort of chaos,” Mavery said. “They don’t want to change the system. They want to destroy it. They want to destroy all systems, and all people with power. That would include you.”
Alpha glared at her. “You want me to join the resistance?”
Mavery nodded. “I do.”
“We do have a common enemy in Rennock,” Alpha said. “We’ll join you on one condition.”
He leaned back in his chair. “Give us New Atlantis.”
“Give you New Atlantis?” Mavery asked, grinning. “An entire city?”
“For our people,” Alpha said. “And we have total control. We don’t have to answer to anyone. Not the resistance. Not Abigail Song. Not anyone. Give us New Atlantis to do with as we please, and we’ll join you.”
“They’d never agree to that,” Mavery said. “I mean, you aren’t that powerful. We can take down Rennock and the IAO without you if we have to.”
“We have a leveler,” Alpha said.
“Rennock has dozens of levelers,” Mavery said. “What good is one leveler going to do?”
“A whole hell of a lot more good than no levelers will,” Alpha said. The man with the cornrows laughed.
Mavery frowned. They could really use Alpha’s help. And she needed to find a way for her and Big Ed to get out of the situation unscathed, either way. She didn’t think Alpha would hurt either of them, but she didn’t want to test him by pissing him off. “Okay. You can have New Atlantis if you join the resistance.” She’d worry about the implications of that later.
“I’ll have to hear it from the mouths of your leaders, also,” Alpha said. “But for now, you have a deal.” He held out his hand and Mavery shook it.
As Bobby approached Boot Hill, he could see six silhouettes standing near the faux wooden crosses. Only six men. Nat could have taken them. It was possible for Bobby to take them, too. Unlikely maybe, but possible. He took note of the cliff to the left rising above the graveyard, and the rocky drop-off to the right. If things went sour, he could try to make a break for it and scramble up the cliff to the left or down the cliff to the right. He started going over all of the possible scenarios in his head as he walked, the stars shining down from the dark sky.
Five of the men standing near the graveyard were dressed in the leather and metal armor of bandits. The sixth, standing slightly ahead of the others, was wearing a black trench coat and a black wide-brimmed hat. Red lights shined out from the shadows beneath the brim. Bobby knew immediately that it was Warrick Baines. “That’s close enough,” Warrick said in a metallic voice that gave Bobby the chills. Doing his best to hide his fear, Bobby stopped walking about twenty yards away from the cyborg, his hand over the hilt of his laser pistol at his side. “Where’s your girlfriend?” Warrick asked. He twitched and Bobby thought he saw some smoke rising up from Warrick’s head.
“She’s dead,” Bobby said.
“Not likely,” Warrick said. “No matter. We’ll find her. As soon as we’re finished with you. You see, she’s killed lots of my men. I’m sure you have, too.”
“And now I’m gonna kill you,” Bobby said. “For what you did to Nat.”
“That’s what I call initiative,” Warrick said. “Your boss dies, and you go it alone.” He shook his head. “You should have just left. You’re the only one who showed up.”
“There will be others,” Bobby said. “There’s a posse on their way now.”
“Is there?” Warrick seemed amused.
“If you turn around and head out the way you came, you won’t have to worry about it,” Bobby said.
“Sorry, kid,” Warrick said. “It’s not going to be that easy.”
“So what do we do now, then?” Bobby asked, his hand still hovering over his gun.
“We follow the rules,” Warrick said. “Do you know them?”
“What rules are those?” Bobby asked.
The men behind Warrick were standing still. “Then you don’t know them,” Warrick said. “I’ve found a virgin.” Bobby eyed him suspiciously, still trying his best to hide his fear. “You can draw at any time,” Warrick said. “If you run, I’ll kill you. If I see you move, I’ll kill you. So try to draw. See if you can kill me first.”
Bobby swallowed. He could shoot Warrick in the head and then go for the other five with six quick shots. His aim was vastly improved, and he was fast. His hand was shaking, though. “And if I kill you?” Bobby asked. “What will your men behind you do?”
“Whatever they want,” Warrick said. “I don’t rule them with an iron fist. They have free will, just like you. You’ve made your choice, though. It’s too late for you to leave. As I said, if you move, I’ll kill you.” Bobby nodded. Warrick’s trench coat was closed, and there was no visible weapon. It must have been hidden under the coat. Bobby had the advantage. It would take Warrick too long to reach into his coat to draw a gun. Still, Bobby felt paralyzed. “Have you ever heard the story of the coyote and the ducks?” Warrick asked.
Bobby shook his head. “No.”
“It’s an Ojibwa legend,” Warrick said. “There was a coyote who was singing a song as he walked along a lake, and he saw a flock of ducks he figured would make a marvelous dinner. So he approached them, and they asked where he was going. He said he was going to a performance where he was going to sing songs.”
“Is this going somewhere?” Bobby asked. He considered drawing on Warrick as he told the story, but the cyborg’s red eyes were unwavering and he seemed as ready as ever.
“No interruptions,” Warrick said. “I think you’ll enjoy this story. So anyway, the ducks asked the coyote to sing them a song. He said he would, but they’d have to sing along, and dance. And he said they all had to keep their eyes closed so they could feel the power of the music. The ducks agreed.” Bobby tried not to flinch as he nervously stood as still as possible. “So the coyote lined them up,” Warrick continued, “with the fattest ducks in the front, and the skinniest in the back. And he started singing. And as he sang, and the ducks sang and danced with their eyes closed, the coyote went down the line, hitting the ducks on the head one by one, and stuffing them into a bag he’d brought with him. But one scraggly little duck in the back opened his eyes to see what was going on, and when he saw, he yelled at his friends, telling them what was happening. They also opened their eyes and the coyote ran off. He was perfectly happy. He already had plenty of ducks in his bag. He went home and had an amazing duck dinner. And the remaining ducks mourned their dead friends, and they gave thanks for the Great Duck, who’d been wise enough to open his eyes. And they gave thanks that they’d been wise enough to listen to his warning.”
“Are you trying to say I’m the Great Duck?” Bobby asked, somewhat amused.
“No,” Warrick said. He opened his trench coat and began to draw a double barreled laser rifle out from it. Bobby quickly drew his own laser pistol, and realizing he had Warrick beat, he fired at his face. Bobby’s blast grazed Warrick’s right cheek but didn’t seem to faze the cyborg much. Warrick fired back at Bobby, blasting a huge hole in his belly, and Bobby fell backwards to the ground, smoking rising from his abdomen.
Bobby immediately looked around for a way to escape. His gun was in the sand several feet away. He could roll to the side of the road and look for a ledge. He cringed, feeling the pain of the laser blast. His guts were on fire. He looked up to see Warrick standing over him and he thought of Shelly. “You’re not the Great Duck,” Warrick said. “You’re the dumb duck who showed up after the Great Duck told all the other ducks to leave.” He pointed his double barreled laser rifle at Bobby’s face. “So you came here to avenge your boss,” Warrick said, “thinking you were going to somehow kill me. Now my question for you is, who’s going to avenge you?” He paused as Bobby moaned in pain, closing his eyes as he felt the sharp spikes shooting through him from the gaping hole in his abdomen. He felt the blood flowing out over his hands as he held his belly. “Don’t answer,” Warrick said. “It’s a rhetorical question. I think we both know the answer.” Bobby fell unconscious before Warrick fired.
Bobby’s head was cloudy. He shook it off. He was still tired. He stretched and looked out the window as he sat at the table, a bowl of cereal in front of him. “Are you all right?” Shelly asked. Bobby noticed there were no scars on her face, and she had two shining blue eyes. Her olive skin and her long, sandy blonde hair were as beautiful as ever. But she didn’t have the sidecut Bobby remembered. Maybe this was how it was supposed to be.
“I’m all right,” Bobby said. “I think.” He could hear birds. He could see trees through the window. The front door was calling to him, though. He tried to remember why. Did he have a job he had to go to?
“You don’t seem like you’re here,” Shelly said. “You’re distant. What’s wrong?”
Bobby smiled. “Nothing. This is perfect.”
Shelly nodded. “I was thinking today we could go for a walk through the garden. You know, around the lake you like so much. Maybe we can stop at the bench near the boat ramp.” She winked at him. “There won’t be many people around. What do you think Bobby?”
“I…” Bobby looked around. There were paintings of flowers on the walls. “I don’t know.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Shelly asked. “We could just stay in today if you want. We could take a nap.” She smiled her wonderful smile. “Or we could do other things.”
Bobby stood and started walking towards the door. “I don’t know.”
“Where are you going?” Shelly asked. “It’s not time to go yet. You’re not even done eating your breakfast.” The white door was calling to him. Bobby walked towards it and reached out. “Not yet,” Shelly said. “Don’t go out yet. Come back to the table, Bobby. I’m not ready.”
Bobby turned and looked at her beautiful face, her perfect figure, the white sundress she was wearing that seemed to glow in the sunlight coming in through the window. Something didn’t seem right to him. And the door was calling to him. He reached out to the doorknob and opened it.
Continue on to the next chapter:
Afterlife, Volume 2, Chapter 41
Warrick Baines thanks Anna Ballin for her help.
General Rodriguez comes face to face with the IAO.
Karl Bergson has a meeting to sell his company.
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