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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:
Michelle and Juanita escape the Carpenter City townspeople.
Bandits steal the Jupiter Diamond from one of Rennock’s enforcers.
Bobby and several of Abby’s companions are being hanged in Carpenter City.
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Afterlife, Volume 2, Chapter 9
Abby heard the hiss of a laser blast. She opened her eyes and saw the rope Bobby had been about to hang from severed with the end burning as Bobby dropped to the ground beneath the platform. He landed hard on his feet and dropped to roll in the sand. The ugly executioner pulled the lever further and the trapdoor under Mark dropped. There was another laser blast and Mark’s rope was cut and he fell to the sand beneath the platform also. The perplexed executioner continued pulling the lever, but the trap door beneath Jane seemed to be jammed, so it didn’t open. As the executioner struggled with the lever, Abby watched as laser blasts hissed through the other ropes, cutting each of them. There was a loud crack and a bullet blasted through the executioner’s pockmarked face, splattering blood on Abby’s white jacket.
The crowd was in chaos. The sounds of shouting and laser blasts filled the area. Abby noticed that Nat Bigum was standing in the crowd behind the platform, holding a smoking revolver. She realized the laser blasts were coming from the crowd on the opposite side of the platform, where she saw Della holding his two pearl handled pistols. Other blasts were coming from a nearby rooftop. Abby assumed Juanita was probably up there with her sniper rifle. She also noticed Michelle in the crowd, firing at men in gray suits. The gray-suited Carpenter City men were firing back with laser pistols. Michelle and Della were trying to make their way towards the gallows as they blasted it out with their enemies. Abby tried to duck down lower to make herself a harder target. She flinched as red laser lines flew above her head seemingly from every direction.
“Take them out!” Oral Kenyon shouted at the two guards on the platform. He was also ducking as lasers flew past. “Kill the prisoners! All except for Song.” The two guards aimed their laser pistols at the prisoners lined up on the platform when several laser lines flew from the opposite end of the platform from where Della and Michelle were approaching. Abby turned to see Big Ed and Paul Jacobs firing laser pistols as they ran towards the platform from that side. Several blasts hit the posts holding up the platform and it collapsed. Abby fell hard into the sand off the side of the platform. She felt woozy as she slowly picked herself up. The crowd was in complete chaos. People were running and screaming while others fired laser pistols. Abby saw Bobby, Mark, and Jane standing near her. She also noticed Pastor Kenyon, who picked himself up from the ground and started brushing the sand off his suit. “Everyone be calm!” Kenyon shouted, his voice carrying over all the others. “God will save us all! We are his chosen, his anointed! Remember who you are! Remember who I am!”
Many in the crowd were dispersing, but others were rushing towards Pastor Kenyon. “Amen!” someone shouted. “Satan has no power over me!”
Abby noticed that Nat was pointing his revolver at Pastor Kenyon’s head, standing a few feet away from him. Kenyon was glaring at him with wild eyes. “You have no power over God!”
There was a loud crack and Kenyon’s brains and blood splattered all over the nearby onlookers. “You ain’t god,” Nat said with a crooked grin as Kenyon’s body flopped into the sand.
Abby looked down at what was left of him. She noticed one of his sleeves was pulled up slightly and she saw a bracelet around his wrist with the letters “IAO” engraved on it. She wondered what it meant as the sounds of chaos and fighting ensued all around her. Nat cut the rope restraining Abby’s hands with a knife and proceeded to do the same for the other prisoners. The men in gray suits were trying to push their way through the panicking crowd. Abby noticed that Grace was injured. Alex was trying to help her stand as she held her worried son close. She must have hurt her leg when the gallows collapsed. Della ran next to Abby and fired his laser pistols at two gray-suited men who were firing at him from where the crowd was dispersing. Both fell to the ground with red holes in their chests. Della pulled Abby to a spot behind part of the collapsed platform where they tried their best to take cover. Shelly ducked with them behind the makeshift barricade. Abby noticed that Shelly’s left arm was burnt and bleeding where a laser had apparently hit her. “We need to get you all out of here fast,” Della said as laser blasts splintered the wood they were taking cover behind.
Shelly nodded. “The people are frightened, but they’ll soon come after us. I think they’ll see Kenyon as a martyr.” Bobby, who appeared to be favoring his right leg, limped to her side and ducked as lasers flew past him. Abby noticed his leg had been grazed by a laser blast which had burned through his jeans. “Are you all right?” Shelly asked with concern.
Bobby nodded. “I’m okay. I’ll manage. Looks like you took a shot, too.” His right arm was still in a sling from his previous wound.
Shelly grinned. “Yeah. It’s not bad, though.” Nat, Big Ed, and Paul were firing at gray-suited men who were taking cover in an alley to their right.
Abby realized that they would soon be out in the open, surrounded by the enemy. The crowd was mostly gone and their cover wasn’t very reliable against lasers. She frowned, ducking lower as laser blasts flew overhead. “Where should we go? This place is total chaos.”
Mark Gonzalez was standing nearby, trying to take control of the situation. Abby decided to let him lead, since he had combat experience. He’d probably been in similar situations in the past. Abby noticed that he and Jane were holding laser pistols they’d taken from dead Carpenter City men. Jane fired several shots at some men taking cover behind a nearby building. “To the alley!” Mark shouted, pointing to a nearby alley on the opposite side of the street from the Carpenter City men.
Abby followed him and Jane as they shoved their way through what was left of the crowd. Shelly was close behind, helping Bobby as he limped beside her. Della stayed close to Abby, firing his laser pistols at nearby enemies. Abby watched as Sera and John found laser pistols on the ground near a dead Carpenter City man and both started firing at their pursuers, covering Abby and the others as they rushed into the alley. A hail of laser fire blasted the walls of nearby buildings as Abby took cover next to Shelly. “Where’s Juanita?” she asked.
“She’s on the roof,” Shelly said, pointing to a building several blocks away, “over there.”
Lasers continued pummeling the nearby walls, spraying the alley with debris, and Abby was starting to wonder how they’d get out of this situation. They needed to somehow make their way to John’s hover truck, assuming he’d finished fixing it and it was still in one piece. John and Sera rushed into the alley with Alex and Mavery, who were helping Grace and her son, James. Nat, Big Ed, and Paul fired behind them at the Carpenter City men across the street as they also made their way to the spot where Abby and the others were taking cover. Abby noticed they had no bag with them. She wondered where the Jupiter Diamond was. Sera and Jane quickly moved to the opposite end of the alley, where they could make sure no one snuck up on the group from behind. They were soon joined by Paul and Big Ed. “The hover truck is on the other side of town,” Mark said. “These guys aren’t very organized, and they’re definitely not trained soldiers, but they do have the numbers on us.” The crowd was gone and the only things left in the sandy street now were the broken platform and several bleeding bodies. The sun had mostly gone down, covering the town with the shadows of dusk.
“Where’s the Jupiter Diamond?” Abby asked Nat as they ducked near the wall of the building.
Nat frowned. “Rennock’s men took it.”
“They took it?” Abby asked, perplexed. They needed all of the diamonds, but that one was worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
Nat nodded. “They took it, but right now, that’s the least of our problems.”
“Man, I wish I had my RLR,” John said, shaking his head. Abby remembered that Pastor Earl had taken it in his last ditch effort to save them from the interceptor robots as they fled Primrose. They always seemed to be on the run.
The firing stopped and the area was mostly silent, save for the sounds of James coughing. Abby noticed the pale, brown-haired boy looked sickly and he was sweating. All of the movement and chaos wasn’t helping him. “Okay!” someone shouted from across the street. “We’ve got you surrounded on both sides of the alley. It’s time for you to give up.”
“You were about to hang a bunch of our people,” Nat shouted back. “You think we’re just gonna give ourselves up? How ‘bout I show you what hot lead tastes like.” He took a step back and fired a shot at the spot where the Carpenter City men were taking cover. Several laser blasts came back towards him as he rushed back to take cover near the side of the building.
Mark glared at him. “Let me do the talking.”
Nat grinned his ugly, scarred grin as he looked at Mark through his sunglasses. “You gonna say somethin’ different?” He showed Mark his huge revolver. “I say we let this do the talkin’.”
“If you give yourselves to the lord, we might be willin’ to let you live,” the man shouted from across the street.
“Your pastor’s dead,” Mark shouted back. “Just let us go. We’ll leave town.”
“You’re the ones who killed ‘im!” the man shouted. “You all need to answer for your sins.”
“This ain’t goin’ nowhere,” Nat said. “These people don’t know nothin’ but extremism. It’s their way or no way.”
Alex, who was huddled nearby with Grace, James, and Mavery looked at Nat and nodded. “I’m afraid Nat’s right. There’s no reasoning with people who don’t know reason.”
Mark gritted his teeth and glanced at John, who shrugged. “You don’t have anything to gain from killing us. Just let us go and no more of your people will get hurt. We’ll leave peacefully if you let us.”
“It’s too late for that,” the man responded. “Besides, those of us who die go to be with our lord. We ain’t afraid of death. Maybe you should be, though.”
“Like I said,” Alex muttered. “No reasoning.”
Abby was tired. She wished she had an idea. She felt like she needed to lead. She felt like she needed to say something, anything, but her mind was blank. “Well?” the voice shouted from across the street. “What’s it gonna be? You gonna give yourselves up, or are we gonna have to come in there and kill y’all?”
There was the sound of an engine followed by the sound of laser blasts. Abby watched as the front of the hover truck appeared from behind the closest building. The vehicle parked near the alley in a cloud of sand as lasers thudded into the metal sides. Juanita was in the driver’s seat, ducking as a laser smashed through the window. “Come on!” she shouted. John had apparently finished fixing the truck before he was captured.
Mark ran towards the open back of the truck, motioning to everyone else to follow him. The others followed and Abby joined them. She felt a laser graze her cybernetic left leg. Abby leapt in as Shelly helped Bobby. Mavery and Alex helped Grace and James into the truck as another laser blast hit Grace square in the left arm. “Hurry!” Mark shouted as more lasers flew past. Mark fired several shots at the alley where the Carpenter City men were taking cover, covering John, Nat, and Della as they got into the truck unharmed. Abby heard the lasers blasting the sides of the truck as she watched several gray-suited men emerge from the alley across the street, firing their weapons. Paul, Big Ed, Sera, and Jane were the last to reach the truck. Abby noticed several Carpenter City men rushing into the alley from the other side now, firing at Jane and the others as they got into the truck. One blast shot through the back of the truck and blasted through the front windshield. Another blast hit Jane in the right leg as she stumbled onto the bench. Mark held her close and whispered something to her. She nodded, holding her bleeding leg. Shelly ducked as a laser blast barely missed her face. Once everyone was in the truck, it started moving quickly down the street. Paul, Big Ed, and Sera were shooting their laser pistols through the back of the truck at their pursuers as Juanita made a quick right in an attempt to lose them. “Where’d you all park the sand bikes?” she asked Paul as she drove.
“In an alley not far from the hotel,” Paul replied.
“We have to head back to the hotel, then,” Juanita said, “to get the sand bikes, and Shelly wanted to grab Sherry.”
“Really?” Mark asked. “A dog? We’re putting our lives in danger for a damned dog?”
“The sand bikes are important,” Abby said. “And I need Einstein. We can’t do anything without Einstein.”
Shelly, who was sitting across from her with Bobby, reached over the middle aisle and handed Abby her wristwatch computer. “I figured I’d grab him for you,” she said with a smile.
“Thanks,” Abby said, smiling back. “You’re a lifesaver.”
Mark shook his head. “We need to get out of here. We can’t go back to the hotel.”
“We can stop to get the bikes,” Jane said, putting her bandaged hand on Mark’s leg.
“What about your leg?” Mark asked. “What about everyone else’s injuries? You’ll need to see to them fast. Stopping won’t help the situation.” Grace was moaning in pain as Alex tried his best to console her. The laser blast had nearly taken her arm off and she was covered with blood. Mavery was doing her best to keep James quiet.
“It’s all right,” Jane said, wincing from her injured leg. “A few extra minutes won’t make a huge difference. We’ll need those sand bikes.”
“There wasn’t anyone at the hotel when I got the truck,” Juanita pointed out as she drove. “They were all after you guys. It’ll take them a while to get there, too. We have time to get the bikes and Sherry.”
Juanita made a right turn and sped down the sandy street, stopping in front of the hotel. Nat, Della, and Big Ed jumped out of the back of the truck and ran towards a nearby alley while Shelly rushed towards the side door of the hotel. Before long, Nat, Della, and Big Ed emerged from the alley on their sand bikes and Shelly was running back through the side door, the little black and white dog Sherry snuggled in her arms. Shelly leapt into the truck and took her place next to Bobby. “So where are we heading?” Juanita asked.
“North Point eventually,” Abby replied, “but for now, let’s just get the hell out of this town.”
The hover truck took off down the road, dust and sand flying up as it flew over the street. The three sand bikes followed close behind. Abby looked through the front of the truck at several men in gray suits trying to block their way out of town. There were eight of them standing in a line across the street. Nat, Big Ed, and Della fired their weapons from their sand bikes and the Carpenter City men started falling quickly. The three who remained took cover near the buildings as the hover truck zoomed into the badlands, leaving clouds of sand in its wake. Abby looked through the back of the hover truck as the gray-suited men fired at them in a last ditch effort. Della flew his sand bike back towards them, firing one of his laser pistols. “I’m gay as hell, bitches!” he shouted flamboyantly as he blasted one of them in the head. He hit another in the chest and turned his pink sand bike back around again, following the hover truck and the other sand bikes as they left Carpenter City in the distance behind them.
Herman Rennock waited in the back seat of his luxury hover car for his chauffeur to open the door for him. The vehicle was parked behind the amphitheater, so Rennock was hoping to make his way to the stage without too many people assailing him. The crowds had gathered in and around the grandstand, so hopefully things were safe. It was the first time Rennock had left his tower in several days, but this was important enough. The passenger next to him grabbed his arm. “Herman,” the man said, “I beg of you. Listen to this one last plea. You really shouldn’t do this.” The words came from Fred Stimple, the public relations man Rennock had hired to clean up various messes, including those Warrick Baines had created as well as the aftermath of the Battle of Primrose and Abigail Song’s appearance there. Record numbers were reportedly joining the rebels, and Rennock was hoping to stem the tide. “This isn’t medieval Europe,” Stimple said. “We don’t do public executions.”
Rennock pulled his arm free from Stimple’s grasp. “Tell that to the IAO. Tell that to Martin Greenwood. They murdered him on live satellite vision, so everyone in Numurka could see. Everyone in the world.”
“You don’t have to stoop to their level,” Stimple continued, his large forehead even redder than usual. He was a small man with a round face. He wore glasses that were far too big and had short brown hair and a brown moustache. “Your father would be sickened. I mean, why did you hire me in the first place if you aren’t going to listen to me?” Stimple had worked for Rennock’s father before, but Herman had decided early on that he had no need to pay a money-hungry weasel to tell him how to appease the masses. At least not until now. “What about justice?” Stimple asked.
“They had their trial,” Rennock muttered. “And besides, people don’t really want justice. They want retribution. They want to feel safe. That’s what we’re gonna give ‘em today. Now stay in the car if you value your job.” The chauffeur opened the door for Rennock and he got out.
He slowly walked along the back of the amphitheater. He could hear the voices, the chattering white noise. He’d grown accustomed to being alone recently and really didn’t want to stand up and speak in front of people, but it was necessary. Rennock started thinking about his father as he walked. Stimple had really touched a nerve. Herman remembered when he was younger, more innocent, when things were black and white. Sometimes he felt like he’d really lost his moral compass over the years. Either that or it had changed. His father never worked with slavers like Phillip Brevington, but Herman did. He had to in order to help the economy out of a recession not long after his father died and left the reins of his empire in Herman’s hands. His father never cheated on his wife, but Herman did. It was a loveless marriage, though. And Larraine cared as little about it as he did. He’d had criminals executed and turned a blind eye to Warrick Baines while he carried out his dirty work. And now he was doing the same with Devin Hellier. Finally, he’d destroyed towns which opposed him, wiping out thousands in the process. It was all for the good of New Atlantis, though. It was a different world from the one his father lived in. It was a dark, evil world. The looters would destroy New Atlantis if Rennock didn’t keep them in check. Kill thousands to save millions. It was always worth it. The looters had targeted the wealthy before in the past and destroyed their cities, back before the apocalypse if the ancient histories were to be trusted. Herman Rennock wasn’t going to let it happen again. He may have been too easy on some of his enemies in the past, actually. Perhaps that was why groups like the IOA were becoming so troublesome. And these three men who were about to be executed definitely had links to the IAO. They were most likely involved in a bombing. They were all he had, and he needed to send a message loud and clear.
Two servants in blue suits approached Rennock as he made his way to round the corner towards the stage. “Let us walk with you, sir,” one of them said.
Rennock shrugged and the three of them rounded the corner and walked up the steps onto the stage. The three IAO punks were kneeling in the front of the stage. They were in orange jumpsuits. Soldiers in black uniforms with smooth black helmets were scattered around the stage. Three stood behind the three prisoners. The crowd of thousands, many of whom filled the grandstands, cheered loudly as Rennock made his way to the podium. More white noise. Even though it was night, Rennock could see the sea of faces beneath the lights. The spotlight was on him, though. He stopped and smiled, waving to the crowd. The amphitheater was in Garrison Square, named after the founder of New Atlantis. Rennock thought of James Garrison as he faced the crowd. He wondered if James Garrison had ever felt like he’d lost himself for the greater good. Rennock was wearing his white suit and his white ten gallon hat, and his two gold-plated laser pistols hung in holsters at his sides. He wanted to look his best, especially since he hadn’t been seen in public recently. The crowd finally quieted. A servant adjusted the microphone. “Good evening,” Rennock began. “The weather’s nice. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the festivities up until now.” Apparently there had been a band playing or something. Rennock hadn’t felt the need to arrive until after they were done. “Now, let’s get down to business. We have these three men before you today, all members of the International Anarchy Organization.”
“IAO for life!” one of the men shouted. The soldier standing behind him knocked him hard on the head with the bottom of his laser pistol.
“They’ve been sentenced to death for their involvement in the bombing in Hamilton Heights,” Rennock continued. “Now they must pay the price for their acts against freedom.” The crowd cheered again. “It’s with a heavy heart that I give this order,” Rennock said, “since all human life is worthwhile, but we must send a message. This is what happens to those who kill in the name of our enemies. Soldiers, do what you came here to do.” He stepped away from the podium and watched as the three soldiers drew their laser pistols and pointed them at the backs of the prisoners’ heads.
“IAO!” the three men began chanting. The soldiers fired and the three bodies flopped forward, silent as blood pooled around their heads. The crowd cheered louder than ever. Rennock’s eyes caught a young boy, probably no older than ten, who looked frightened as he watched the stage. The kid noticed his dad cheering, though, so he hid his fear and started shouting with the others.
Continue on to the next chapter:
Afterlife, Volume 2, Chapter 10
Abby and her companions enter the Rocky Mountains.
Bobby is the victim of a sneak attack.
Abby confronts a suspected spy.
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