Fiction: Afterlife Volume 3 (Chapter 12)

by Mike Monroe on November 13, 2017

in FICTION

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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.

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Read the previous chapter here:

Afterlife, Volume 3, Chapter 11

Where:

Ayman Ali is frustrated by what he perceives as Wild Joe Rodeo’s cowardice.
General Rodriguez and Foxtrot attempt to train some villagers.
Abby finds Green Horizons on her way to Drummond.

Find the Volume 3 Table of Contents page here.

View the Map here.

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

 

Afterlife, Volume 3, Chapter 12

Della looked through the front of the hover truck as it approached Rose City.  The city had been built on a platform which stood on thick metal columns.  A water tower with a huge rose painted on it stood in the center over the other buildings.  Deserted sandstone buildings were spread out beneath the platform the city was built on.  Della’s hands were cuffed and chained to the wall of the hover truck.  He was still wearing the ill-fitting IAO bandit uniform he’d stolen, as was Ace.  It had been an uncomfortable ride.  Della was glad to finally be at Rose City, where he was sure everything would be sorted out and he and Ace would no longer be considered prisoners.  He looked at the bench across from him at Ace, whose hands were also cuffed and chained to the wall.  There were two armed resistance men in the back of the truck with them.  Both wore black uniforms with black masks and were carrying laser rifles.  Beneath the benches where the soldiers were sitting were several bags containing the fifty-one billion dollars in diamonds and bonds they’d gotten out of the car Ace and Della had stolen.

“We’re approaching the city,” the driver of the vehicle said.  “I’ll have the men at the gate check your stories.”  The hover truck drove through an opening in one of the wide columns, where four soldiers in tan uniforms stopped them.  “We need you to check the two prisoners in the back,” the driver said.  Della glanced at the other hover truck which had been traveling behind them.  It was carrying the refugees they’d picked up in Black Rock, including the girl that the IAO had been preparing to execute.  That truck waited outside of the column as the opening closed.  Della figured they’d have to go through the same vetting.  Everyone was paranoid with the IAO seemingly infiltrating everything.

Della watched as one of the soldiers nodded and they made their way to the open back of the hover truck.  Della looked over at Ace, who was displaying his usual poker face.  One of the soldiers pulled out a camera of some sort and took a picture of Della and one of Ace.  He looked at the back of the camera and waited.  A look of surprise on the soldier’s face morphed into a smile.  “Well, look what we have here.”

“What is it?” the soldier next to Della asked.

“He checks out,” the soldier with the camera said, nodding towards Della.  “He was one of the leaders with the Silver City resistance.  Our records say he was traveling with…  Get this.  Abigail Song of all people.”

“No way,” the driver said, looking back through the back of the truck.

“Yes way,” the man with the camera said.

“Who’s the other guy?” the driver asked, nodded towards Ace.

“You’re not gonna believe this,” the man with the camera said, checking his data one last time, “but we’ve found ourselves the one and only notorious Ace McCoy.”

Ace laughed.  “That’s a good one.  I may look a little like him, but my name’s John Holiday, just like Della said.”

The man with the camera shook his head.  “Everyone’s face has slight differences, even twins.  The computer system my camera’s linked to would have picked something up.  No, we have plenty of pictures of you from news articles and surveillance footage compiled over the years.  You’re most definitely Ace McCoy.”

The driver nodded.  “What should we do, then?”

“Leave Ace with us,” the soldier with the camera said.  “We’ll see that he’s taken into custody and well-guarded.  As for Della, my orders say Mavery and Matt want him taken to headquarters immediately if he turns up, which apparently he has.”  He smiled at Della.  “Do you know where Abigail Song is?”  Della was thinking about Matt.  They must have been talking about Matt Lund, his old fling.  It had been several years since Della had last seen him.  “Did you hear me?” the soldier asked.

Della frowned.  “Look,” he said, “Ace has been helping the resistance.  He’s working with me and Abby as an agent.  You can’t take him into custody, honey.”

“You can take that up with Mavery and Matt when you see them,” the soldier with the camera said.  “Now answer my question.  Do you know where Abigail Song is?”

Della shook his head.  Two of the other soldiers got into the truck and unhooked Ace’s cuffs from the chain.  They took him off of the truck and stood with him as the elevator took them all up to the city above.  Della frowned at Ace.  Ace shrugged and grinned as the elevator stopped and a metal door slid open, revealing a cobblestone street lined with sandstone buildings.  “Don’t worry,” Della said to Ace.  “They won’t be holding you for long.”

“We’ll see,” one of the soldiers with Ace said.

“Au revoir,” Ace said with a wink as the hover truck drove through the opening.  Della watched through the back of the truck as two of the soldiers led Ace away from the column.

<>

Jim Brantley was shaking a little as he stood in front of the door to Warrick’s sheriff’s office.  Warrick had never threatened Jim, but Jim had never had to bring the cyborg bad news with the impact of what he was about to say.  And there was the fact that Warrick was becoming more unpredictable every day.  The bullet wound and other injuries to Warrick’s head and face seemed to be affecting his brain.  Jim dreaded the day Warrick lost his sanity completely.  It hadn’t happened yet, though.  And Warrick had always been good to Jim.  Jim trusted him.  Plus, Warrick had proven to Jim time and time again that he could deal with any adversaries.  In a fight involving Warrick, Jim realized that it was generally a bad idea to be on the side opposing the cyborg.  The other men didn’t know Warrick as well as Jim did.  Still, Jim feared that Warrick would turn his gun on him again, and next time, the cyborg may not be able to stop himself.  Jim would have to be ready to react if and when that moment came.  He took a deep breath, opened the faux wooden door with the yellow star in the center, and stepped into the office.

The only person in the room was Warrick, who was sitting at the desk with his head titled downward.  Jim stepped closer and looked under the brim of his hat.  “Warrick…”  He noticed that the red lights that served as Warrick’s eyes were off.  “Warrick, I have something important to talk to you about.”  He stepped closer and frowned.

The lights came on and Warrick looked up at him as smoke seeped out of the bullet hole and electricity sparked across his face.  “Hello, Jim.”  He looked around the room.  “Who was scheduled for guard duty tonight?  I seem to be alone.”

Jim swallowed.  “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Well,” Warrick said.  “Spit it out, Jim.  It seems you have something important to tell me.”

Jim nodded.  “Well, sir…”

“Come on, Jim,” Warrick said.  “You know I don’t like formalities.  Bad news is best dealt with right away.  Don’t let it fester or you’ll just make the wound worse.  Knowing bad news is far better than not knowing.”

“All right,” Jim said.  Warrick’s half cybernetic, skull-like face had never seemed more intimidating to Jim, but he cleared his throat and spoke nervously.  “I heard from Lonnie that our men are meeting in Old Bear’s Tavern tonight.  They’re planning a revolt.”

“A revolt,” Warrick repeated.

“Against you,” Jim said.  “Lonnie said if I join you or tell you, they’ll kill me, too.”

“I guess this has something to do with the rape punishment incident,” Warrick said.

“And they didn’t buy our explanation for the deaths of the mayor and the three guards,” Jim said.

“What was it we told them?” Warrick asked.

Jim had noticed that Warrick’s memory had been failing recently.  “We said John Douglas tried to rob the mayor and Wil and Sam intervened.  John ended up killing the mayor and Wil and Sam, and you killed him.  That’s what we said, anyway.”

“And they didn’t buy it,” Warrick said.  “Even though John is a known thief.”

Jim shook his head.  “There are other things, too.”

“What are the other things?” Warrick asked.

“Well…”  This was the part Jim dreaded the most.  “You have been acting a little erratic lately.  And your memory…”

“People don’t start a revolt because a leader forgets things sometimes,” Warrick said.  “In the United States in the Old World, President Ronald Reagan showed signs of Alzheimer’s while he was in office towards the end of his second term.  The people loved him.  Republican politicians tried to pattern themselves after him and his ideas for decades.”

“Pardon my saying, Warrick,” Jim said, “but those people weren’t all bandits and criminals, either.  These guys would look for any possible excuse to revolt against any leader.  Any sign of weakness.”

Warrick nodded.  “I suppose you sometimes pay for the bad company you keep, if that company consists of rats and cockroaches.  What about you, Jim?  How do you feel about it?”

Jim frowned and bit his lip.  “I mean, I’ll follow you to the end.  You know that, Warrick.  That hasn’t changed.  But the others don’t know you like I do.  And now they’re robbing the stores in town and they’re having their way with any women they want, and there’s talk that they’re gonna storm the sheriff’s office and try to kill you.”

“And yet you’re remaining loyal to me?” Warrick asked, the red lights of his eyes looking into Jim’s eyes.

Jim nodded.  “I’ve seen what you do to your enemies.  I’d rather not be one.  I’d rather be your friend.”

“Smart man,” Warrick said.  “And I really do appreciate it.  I appreciate your coming to me, Jim.  You didn’t have to do that.”

“In my mind I did,” Jim said with a nervous grin.

“So we’re going to have to find a way to defend ourselves and this office from thirty men,” Warrick said.  “Plus I still have to worry about Michelle Hemingway’s arrival.  Though she should have been here by now.  I’ve heard no reports, but I assume she’s dead or captured.”

“We wouldn’t be getting any reports,” Jim said.  “I think we’ve been isolated.  From what I hear, Jake Tinney is leading the insurrection here.  All the IAO leadership are just dealing with him now.”

“They’re taking his side in all of this?” Warrick asked.

“It appears so,” Jim said.  “It appears it’s just us.”

“Us against a bunch of rapists and murderers,” Warrick said.

Jim nodded.  “I guess there are some differences between being a lawman and an outlaw after all, if you don’t mind my saying so.”

“I guess so,” Warrick said.  “These men are animals.  We’ll have to deal with them.”

“What do you propose?” Jim asked.

“We’ll work something out,” Warrick said.  “But I’ll tell you one thing.  I’m not going to sit here waiting for them.  We’ll take the fight to them.”

“Surprise them?” Jim asked.

“If we can,” Warrick said.  “But either way, waiting for Michelle Hemingway to come when we had overwhelming numbers was one thing.  Waiting for overwhelming numbers when you’re just two people is something else altogether.”

Jim nodded.  “They could just hit us with RLR’s or concussion bombs and that would be the end of us.”

“If we stay here,” Warrick said.  “So maybe we can set a trap.  Make them think we’re here when we really aren’t.  And then when they think they’ve won, we pounce.”

Jim smiled.  “Sounds good.”

“So it’s two against thirty,” Warrick said.  “I’d say the odds are in our favor.  But after I take out my thirty, what will you have left for yourself?”  Jim chuckled.

<>

The old man with the bushy white moustache opened the door behind the counter in the small bookstore.  The two soldiers led Della behind the cramped counter and through the doorway.  He looked closely at the door, realizing it was made of real wood and worth more than such a small store should have been able to afford.  The back room of the store was crammed with desks, stacks of papers, and holographic computer projections.  There was an open door in the back through which Della could see wooden stairways leading up and down.  The wood didn’t look fake, but Della would need a closer look to know for sure.  There was some awfully convincing faux wood out there.  Still, the door was definitely real, so there was a good chance the stairs were also.

The first person Della noticed sitting at one of the desks was an Indian woman with short black hair.  She was wearing a white dress and she was pointing her finger at some of the words being projected in front of her.  She spoke softly into a speaker device on the desk and the words changed.  Della also noticed a cute black man with glasses who was wearing a pink sweater vest.  His feet were up on one of the desks as he flipped through the pages of a book.  Finally, Della’s eyes rested on a familiar face.  Matt looked just like Della had remembered him, tall and thin with short, blonde hair.  He still had the awful habit of buttoning his shirts all the way to the top.  Not all gay men had style.  Matt was more nerd than fashionista.  Still, he was handsome as ever as he sat at one of the other desks, and Della greeted him with a wide smile.  Matt looked back, but he didn’t smile, so Della swallowed and tried to change his expression.  “This is Della Luscious,” one of the soldiers said.  “You said to bring him to either you or Mavery as soon as he arrived.”

“Thanks, Bill,” Matt said with a grin.  “You two can leave now.”  The two soldiers who’d escorted Della nodded and left the room, shutting the door behind them.

Della smiled.  “It’s nice to see you again Matt, after all these years.”  He noticed the black man glaring at him.  Della thought he maybe sensed a hint of jealousy and his heart sank a little.  Were Matt and this guy together?

“Do you know where Abigail Song is?” the Indian woman asked.

“Wow,” Della said.  “Pretty forward, even by my standards.  Everyone keeps asking me that.”

“Della and I know one another,” Matt said.  He finally smiled.  “How are you, Della.  It’s been a long time.”  There was no warmth in his voice.

“It has,” Della said with some disappointment.

“Well,” Matt said as he nodded towards the black man, “this is Victor.”  He nodded towards the Indian girl.  “And this is Sandy Patel.”  Della nodded to each of them.  “Sandy,” Matt said, looking in her direction, “would you mind stopping what you’re doing for now and going downstairs to get Francis, Mavery, Gale, and Ed?”

Sandy nodded and walked through the back door.  She disappeared down the stairway.  “Where’s Barney Chambers?” Della asked.

“He’s dead,” Matt said sadly.

Della frowned and nodded.  “Sorry to hear that.”

“We’re trying to recruit for the resistance army,” Matt said.  “We’ve had some success, especially since Mavery’s gotten here.  She has a real talent for writing and talking.  She was recording a sound cast for our pirate net just now.”

“Pirate net?” Della asked.

Matt nodded.  “The IAO have practically shut down the Satellite Net for all intents and purposes.  It’s been hard for us to get any information out there.  Our hackers have managed to do it using this pirate net, though.  Most people who could access the Satellite Net can find it.  We just have to inform them.  It’s getting harder and harder these days, though.  The IAO have the people separated and isolated, and it makes it easy for them to keep their control.”

Della frowned.  “Well at least you’re managing.”

“A little,” Victor said.  Della sensed some frustration in his voice.  He wasn’t sure if it was directed at him, or just general frustration about the IAO situation.

“We still need a lot of help,” Matt said.

“Speaking of which…”  Before Della could finish speaking, Sandra Patel emerged from the doorway, followed by Mavery Thomas, Big Ed, an older man in a gray suit and sunglasses even though they were indoors, and a silver android molded to look like a woman with a ponytail.  Mavery was wearing a dark blue pantsuit and she had some new, stylish glasses with black frames.  Big Ed looked uncomfortable and silly in his black suit and tie, which he’d actually untied and both ends were dangling over his chest.

Mavery smiled.  “It’s good to see you again, Della.”

Della smiled back.  “It’s good to see you, Mavery.  And you, Big Ed.”  The big man nodded to Della in acknowledgement.

“I’m Francis Ford,” the older man said in a gruff voice.  “I work for Victor.  I do all of the sound work downstairs in our makeshift radio station.  I also do some video work.”

“And I’m Gale,” the android said, “and I’m here to help in any way I can.”  Her voice had a metallic ring to it, but it sounded much like a female human voice.

Della nodded.  “There is something.”  He decided to bring up what he was going to bring up to Matt before the interruption.  “I was captured with Ace McCoy in Black Rock.  He’s working with us now.”

“Ace McCoy?” Matt asked.  There was definite surprise and confusion in his expression.

“We picked him up in Dead Man’s Bluff,” Mavery said.  “What about Annabelle?” she asked Della.  “And Abby…”

“Annabelle didn’t make it,” Della said.  “And Abby was captured by Rennock’s men and most likely taken to Black Rock.  She isn’t there anymore.  She may have escaped.  Ace and I figured she’d come here.  I was hoping to find her here.”

Mavery shook her head.  “Well I hope she’s okay.”

“Me, too,” Della said.  “But Ace needs to be set free immediately.  He was working with us.  He was helping Abby and I rob Rennock’s banks for the resistance.  Those soldiers outside have fifty-one billion dollars in their hover truck.  The money wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Ace.”

“He’s a criminal,” Matt said.  “He needs to stand trial and be punished.”

“For what?” Della asked.  “Stealing from our enemies?

“He’s murdered innocent civilians,” Victor said.  “And regardless what anyone says about us, we aren’t thieves.”

“I am,” Big Ed said.  “At least I used to be.  If you can forgive me and let me work with you, why not Ace?”

“There’s an issue with public perception, also,” Mavery said, first looking at Big Ed, and then at Della.  “I’ve been doing my best to quell the rumors that Abby had been working with Ace McCoy and Annabelle Rose.  There are still some in town who are starting to view Abby as a criminal, though.  We can’t have that happen.  We’ve had an uptick in people joining our army lately.  It’s because they want to fight the immorality and the chaos that the IAO represent.  If we want to continue pushing that narrative, we can’t have people who represent chaos and immorality working with us.”

“But Abby did work with Ace and Annabelle,” Della said.  “So did I.  And I’ve never been one for lying or covering things up, honey, as you well know.  Let the people know that we were fighting Rennock, helping to bring him down.  Let them know that Ace was a big part of that.  We stole money from Rennock and now we’re gonna give it to the resistance.  The Robin Hood angle there writes itself.”  He frowned.  “Do you want me to do it for you?  Put me on the radio, sista.  I’ll have the whole world flocking to you.”

Matt chuckled.  “You aren’t getting anywhere near our radio station, Della.”

“We can’t let Ace out,” Mavery said with a frown.  “I’m sorry.  He has to have a trial at the very least.”

“Well I’ll be the first witness for his defense,” Della said, frustration in his voice.

“You should go now,” Matt said.  “The soldiers outside will show you to your room.  We have a nice apartment rented for you.”

“Already?” Della asked.

“As soon as I heard they picked you up,” Matt said.  “I set everything up for you.”

“Thanks,” Della said.  “Can we meet up?  To talk privately?”  He glanced at Victor, who was still glaring at him.

“We can get coffee some time,” Matt said coldly.  “I’ll have my men set it up.”

“How very formal of you,” Della said with an elaborate bow.  “Until next time.”  He turned and walked out the door, heading past the old man at the counter and the dusty rows of books as he made his way out to the hover truck waiting for him.  One of the first things he’d do was hit the stores in town.  He couldn’t wait to get rid of his awful bandit clothes.

<>

Wherever Rennock was, it was dark.  It wasn’t his cell, though.  There was a tiny bit of light flickering ahead.  A candle, possibly.  He started walking towards it.  He realized that he was wearing a white silk suit.  All of the buttons were large, expensive diamonds.  He was also wearing a golden wristwatch computer which was studded with diamonds.  This was more like it.  Maybe it had all just been a bad dream of some sort.  As he approached the candle, he realized there was a family sitting around it.  A mother with two young kids.  Probably three or four.  They were eating something.  The mom was slicing bits off and feeding her kids.  Some kind of meat.  Rennock was famished.  As he approached, he reached into his pocket and found several hundred dollar bills.  “Here,” he said with his thick southern accent, holding out five hundred dollars towards the mom.  “I’m starvin’.  I’ll give you five hundred dollars for a decent portion.”  It had been a while since he’d heard his voice.

The mom looked at him and frowned.  Her eyes were like pitch black holes, as were those of the children who were also looking up at him.  Their clothes were tattered rags, and they were thin as bones.  “She’s ours,” the mom said.  “This was their sister.  No one can eat her but us.”

Rennock noticed the human shape of what they were eating and turned away.  “But I’m starvin’.”  He reached into his pockets and found more hundred dollar bills.  Endless amounts of hundred dollar bills.  But you can’t eat hundred dollar bills.  You can’t eat diamonds.  You can’t eat silk suits.  He fell to his knees and wept.  “I’m sorry,” he muttered through his tears.  “I’m so sorry.  Please forgive me.”

<>

Rennock woke up in the darkness of his cell.  He was curled up on the padded floor.  Most of the pain was gone, but he was hazy with pain killers.  At least they gave him that much.  The Duke had told him they didn’t want him to pass out or die before his big day.  Rennock tried to talk and only breaths came out.  He’d forgotten that they’d taken his voice box in the last procedure.  He’d spent one night screaming and the Duke decided he’d had enough.  Rennock felt the staples in his neck and fell back down, crying.  Rennock was powerless.  He wished he’d done more for people when he had the power and the money to do it.  He maybe could have stopped what was happening now before it started.  Now it was too late.  Now there was nothing he could do but sob into the darkness.  He’d written that he was sorry on a piece of paper the last time the Duke had visited him to have some fun with him.  The Duke seemed satisfied.  Now it was just a matter of waiting.  Waiting for the end.  Rennock remembered the dream.  It was one of many.  He tried again to say he was sorry, to ask forgiveness of the empty room, but his breath was the only sound.

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 3, Chapter 13
Where:
Paul explores Denver with Aiyana.
General Rodriguez and Foxtrot help the villagers fight some IAO bandits.
Razor adjusts to life in the slave quarters in Iron Town.

Find the Volume 3 Table of Contents page here.

View the Map here.

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

Check out Michael Monroe’s page on Amazon to find other stuff he’s written.
Like Afterlife on Facebook to find out when the next chapter is posted.
Follow Afterlife on Twitter to get updates on new postings and other news.
Follow Afterlife on Tumblr for access to supplemental material.

Mike Monroe

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

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