Fiction: Afterlife Volume 3 (Chapter 16)

by Mike Monroe on January 8, 2018

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 15

Where:

Abby has a disturbing dream as she rests at Green Horizons.
Winston Cooper and Bernard Parks talk with Abby over dinner.
Revelations and discussions make Abby rethink some things.

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 16

The muscular woman was holding a glowing yellow sword.  She was a black woman in green tights with a yellow mask.  The title at the top of the page read “the Last Warrior.”  She was Jahzara, a warrior princess descended from a powerful tribe of ancient Africans.  Mavery had been reading the comic since she was a little girl.  She had imagined what it would be like to have super powers like Jahzara.  Jahzara was four times as strong as the average man and four times as fast.  Her skin was impervious, her bones unbreakable, and she couldn’t feel pain.  And her magic sword gave her the power to look into people’s minds.  Most importantly, she was a black woman, just like Mavery.  Growing up, Jahzara had been Mavery’s hero.  She had always pictured herself saving the world with her superpowers, just as Jahzara had on so many occasions.  Mavery’s superpowers weren’t her physical attributes, though.  Her superpowers were her voice and her words.  If she was going to help save the world, it would be through the use of those.

She thought about her mom as she remembered her childhood and she frowned.  Mavery leaned back into the comfortable chair, still looking at the comic, but her mind was elsewhere.  She’d gotten a few messages from her mom since she’d been exiled from New Atlantis, but she’d been unable to respond, and now with New Atlantis under IAO control, the Satellite Net was almost always down and was all but useless.  Mavery had no idea if her mom was even alive.  The resistance in Rose City had gotten word that much of New Atlantis had been destroyed and the wealthy and powerful were all being executed.  The IAO had brought the poor in from all around to live in the city, along with criminals and gangsters.  The IAO was mostly an organized crime syndicate, after all, posing as a political organization.  Mavery had been exposing them through her blog and her sound cast and from what she could tell, she was having some success.  She talked a lot about the time she and Big Ed had spent among Marv and his IAO associates.  In her posts, she revealed the sorts of things the IAO did to acquire money and weapons, which were mostly criminal activities, as well as a basic overview of how the loose organization was structured and how the tribute system worked.  More people were coming to Rose City as refugees or to join the resistance every day, and many were familiar with Mavery and her sound cast.

Today was going to be an especially big day for Mavery and her sound cast.  The IAO had been announcing to everyone throughout Numurka that there was going to be an important message at six that evening and they were requesting that everyone tune in with computers, projectors, sound systems, or whatever else they had.  They were threatening people throughout the towns and villages and bullying them into submission in order to make sure everyone paid attention to whatever it was they were going to be saying.  Resistance hackers, however, had managed to find a back door into the IAO messaging system using intelligence gathered from spies and secret insiders, and they were planning to play a message Mavery recorded over the planned IAO message.  This was likely to be Mavery’s biggest audience yet and she was both excited and anxious.

She leaned back in her chair and looked around at the hotel room.  This room was far nicer than the one she’d had when she’d first gotten into town.  Matt Lund and the people at Phoenix Books had gotten it for her.  There was a big, comfortable bed, a chair and desk, a nice hologram projector, and the comfy recliner she was now sitting in.  The window looked out across the city from the fifth floor of the hotel, and beyond that, she could see out into the desert.  Big Ed had the room next door for appearances; Mavery knew her mother would have frowned upon her sharing a room with a man, even though they’d shared a tent when they were traveling out in the desert.  That was more out of necessity, though.  Still, Big Ed was in her room most of the time anyway.  He was now in her bathroom taking a shower and she could hear the water through the door.  Big Ed liked long showers.  He’d been used to the desert, having lived out there most of his life, but the one thing he seemed to like about civilization more than anything were warm showers.  Mavery, on the other hand, was more than happy to no longer be wandering around in the desert.  Growing up in New Atlantis, even though she’d never been rich by that city’s standards, she’d become accustomed to a certain level of comfort.  Here, she had that.  She leaned back in her chair and smiled, stretching out her arms.

The door to the hotel room flew open and two men rushed in.  They were wearing suits and holding laser pistols.  Mavery sat up in her chair and they fired.  She was in shock as she saw blood on her hands and felt intense pain.  The bathroom door flew open and the two men turned to see Big Ed come out wearing only light blue boxers.  He slammed one of their heads into a metal light fixture and there was a crack as blood splashed across the wall.  The other man aimed his laser pistol at Big Ed, who grabbed the man’s arm and twisted it behind his back, causing him to drop the weapon.  Big Ed put his huge arm around the man’s neck and squeezed until the man dropped to the floor.  He picked up the laser pistol and shot the man twice in the face, then turned to Mavery.  “You okay?”

Mavery looked down to see that one of the lasers had grazed her right side.  The other had hit her left arm, which was numb and bleeding.  There was a big charred hole that had been burned through the side of her nightgown.  “I think I’m okay.”

“Let’s get you to the doctor,” Big Ed said.  “That arm needs to be checked out.”

“Who were they?” Mavery asked.

“IAO probably,” Big Ed said.  “Trying to silence you.  Come on.  Let’s get you to the doctor.”

“I…” Mavery was still shaken up.

“We’ll get you more guards,” Big Ed said.  “I can’t be with you twenty four seven.  Let’s go.”

“I need to get dressed,” Mavery said.

“No,” Big Ed said as he went back into the bathroom.  He quickly put on his shirt and a pair of jeans.  “We need to go now.”

“All right,” Mavery muttered as Big Ed helped her towards the door.

<>

There had been a change of plans.  The IAO had men watching the sheriff’s office in Drummond like a hawk, so there was no way Warrick could have left without them seeing.  Jim Brantley left, though.  He’d left and feigned joining the revolt against Warrick, and now he was sitting behind a sandstone wall with Lonnie Garrett, waiting for the signal.  Jim liked his position.  If the IAO men managed to kill Warrick, however unlikely, Jim could join them and act like it had been his plan all along.  However, if Warrick survived and killed all of them, Jim could tell Warrick he was just with them to spy, just as he and Warrick had planned.  Jim was to leave the sheriff’s office and join back up with Jake Tinney and his men.  Warrick said this would be safest.  Once the fighting started, Jim would turn on Tinney’s men and join back up with Warrick.  That was the plan, anyway.  Tinney had thirty men including himself, but Jim knew never to count out Warrick, no matter what the odds seemed to be.

It was dark out and the town was very quiet.  The IAO had the sheriff’s office surrounded and they were planning to start the attack as soon as Jake started firing on the office.  Several of the other men were going to throw concussion grenades and they had ten RLR’s trained on the building along with a few sniper laser rifles.  The rest of the men were going to fire conventional laser rifles, which was what Lonnie and Jim had.  The IAO men were hiding behind walls and inside nearby buildings.  In their minds, Warrick didn’t stand a chance.  Jim knew otherwise as he watched the faux wooden front door of the building like a hawk.  To him, the yellow star on the door seemed to stand in defiance.  It was a small, two story building with two windows on the first floor and two on the second.  There was a grocery store next to it which the IAO men had taken over.  “When’s he gonna shoot?” Lonnie asked nervously.  “I wish he’d just get it over with.  What’s he waitin’ for?”

“Who knows?” Jim asked.  That’s when the firing started.  Laser blasts from every direction.  Non-stop humming.  And the explosions from the concussion bombs ripped the office to pieces, sending sandstone chunks flying, slamming into nearby buildings.  Jim ducked and held his ears as the explosions rocked his head with mind-numbing sound.  The sounds went on for a minute or two, what seemed like an eternity.  When Jim looked up, most of the building was gone, up in flames.  Part of the front wall was still there and the door remained.

The silence was maddening after the noisy attack.  “He’s gotta be dead,” Lonnie said.  “Let’s go.”

“Wait,” Jim said.  He noticed some of the other men coming out of their hiding places around what was left of the burning pile of rubble.

The faux wooden door opened and Warrick stood in what was left of the doorway.  His pants were in tatters and he was shirtless.  His hat was gone, revealing smooth, bloody bone and metal.  His upper torso was a bloody mess, but there was plenty of metal and bone left.  It appeared to be mostly metal, from what Jim could tell.  There was smoke coming off him, and there were scorch marks all over him.  The skin on his face was gone completely.  One of the red eyes was gone, but the other was shining bright as ever.  The skull was intact, bone and metal.  The IAO men were silent as the cyborg stood in the doorway.  He appeared to have no weapon.  “I surrender,” he said in his metallic voice.  Jim aimed his laser rifle at Lonnie’s head and fired, splattering his brains on the wall.  Warrick’s lighted eye went off and back on.  It was a wink.  Warrick knew Jim was still on his side.  The other twenty-nine men were now out in the open, closing in on Warrick.  As far as Jim could tell, no one had seen him kill Lonnie.

Jim noticed Jake Tinney, the big, muscular leader of the group.  He was facing Warrick with his arms crossed.  “You surrender?”

“I do,” Warrick said.

Jim watched as four of the men aimed sniper laser rifles at Warrick as the building burned behind him and next to him.  Jake laughed.  “No need for surrender.  You know we don’t like taking prisoners.”

“That’s too bad,” Warrick said.  “I gave you a chance.”  The four men fired their rifles.  Two lasers seemed to hit Warrick square in the head.  One went all the way through and came out the other side.  Jim expected him to fall as smoke seeped out of the new hole, but Warrick shot forward with lightning speed.  Two blades shot out from his wrists and he spun through a group of IAO men, slicing like a whirling dervish.  Limbs and blood shot out everywhere as four of the men seemed to practically explode, and Warrick smashed through the nearby door of another building, disappearing into the darkness.  There were twenty five IAO men left standing around the mutilated pile of bloody limbs, heads, and other viscera.  As the men stood dumbfounded, Jim ducked behind the wall, hoping none of them saw him.  He could hear the men discussing who was going to go in to get Warrick.  Not surprisingly, there were no volunteers.

“Let’s just shoot up the building,” one of the men said.

“Because it worked so well last time,” someone else said.

“And have our guns all run out of juice?” Jake asked.  “No way.”  One of the windows of the building shattered as Warrick rolled out into the sandy street.  Several men fired at him and he leapt up and sliced one of their heads clean off.  He picked up the RLR the man had been holding and the IAO men scattered in all directions, looking for cover inside the nearby buildings as Warrick fired all around him, taking several more of the IAO men out in a hail of laser fire and blood.  The RLR stopped firing and the red lights went out as Warrick stood in the middle of the street, smoke seeping out of his head.  He threw the useless gun to the ground and bashed through a nearby door, rushing into the building.  Jim watched as one of the windows broke and two heads flew out into the street.  He counted the bodies in the street who fell to Warrick’s RLR.  There had been six.  That made sixteen men left.  Warrick rushed out through the front door and smashed through the sandstone wall of another nearby building.  Jim heard several screams as Warrick shot through the front door, holding two men by their necks as he landed in the street.  He flung the lifeless bodies into a nearby wall and ran through the open door of another building.  Jim heard several laser blasts and Warrick came out holding a laser rifle.

“There are eight of you left,” Warrick said from the street.  “Come out and make it easy on yourselves.  I’ll kill you quick.  I’ll find you and kill you anyway.”

“Over my dead body!” someone shouted.  Warrick ran towards the building where the words had been spoken and smashed through a first floor window.  A few seconds later, the front door opened and the cyborg walked out with a body skewered on each of the blades that came out of his wrists.  He let the two bodies slide off and drop into the street.

“Fair enough,” he said as he stood over the bodies.  “Over your dead body, just as you requested.”  There were six men left now, as far as Jim knew.  He considered joining Warrick out in the street, but he figured he’d only get in the way.  Hopefully Warrick was okay with him hiding.

The front door of the grocery store opened and two men made a break for it down the street away from Warrick.  The cyborg ran twice as fast, catching up with them quickly and decapitating them with his blades.  He ran through the door across the street and Jim watched as a bloody body flew out through the upstairs window, shattering it as it fell and landed in the street below.  Soon, two more followed, thumping lifelessly into the sand, and finally, Warrick leapt out through the window, landing on his feet next to the bodies.  “It’s just you, Jake,” he said as he stood and walked towards a saloon near the destroyed sheriff’s office.  “Now you know why my men have never turned on me before.  I’ve always treated you well.  It’s a shame it had to end this way.”  He crashed through the large front window of the saloon and leapt over the bar.  A bloody arm flew up above the bar and fell back down behind it, followed by a leg, and finally a head, which landed on the bar, its eyes staring out lifelessly in Jim’s direction.  Jim recognized it as Jake Tinney.

Warrick stood up from behind the bar and slowly made his way towards the door.  Jim stood walked nervously out into the street, where Warrick walked to meet him.  “This wasn’t the end,” Jim said.  “More of them are going to come.”

“That’s inevitable,” Warrick said.  “And we may still have Michelle Hemingway to contend with.”

“So what do we do now?” Jim asked.

“I need some rest,” Warrick said as smoke seeped out of the new hole in his head.  The electric lights shooting across his face were almost constant now.

Jim nodded.  He looked around at the bodies, limbs, and heads that cluttered the street.  “It’s just you and me now.”

“It’s not the first time,” Warrick said.  He put his arm around Jim’s shoulder.  “We make a good team.”

“I guess you could say that,” Jim said.

“Where would I be without you?” Warrick asked.  “You’re my moral support.”

Jim nodded as he took in the bloody scene.  “Well, I’m glad you feel that way.”  He felt sorry for anyone who wasn’t on Warrick’s side.  This Michelle Hemingway had no idea what she was going to be up against.

<>

Ayman Ali had never felt more alone.  Any connection he’d had with Ava Hadid, the woman who called herself Princess Floating Feather, seemed to have disappeared over the past few days.  He’d been eating his meals alone, doing his praying alone, and driving alone.  He was driving John Bernard’s old hover truck, following the four hover trucks which carried supplies and props for Wild Joe’s show.  He’d considered turning away from the caravan and making a break for the mountains to the east, but he knew traveling alone would likely spell doom in the dangerous area they were traveling through, full of bandits and Holy Warriors.  Ayman would have to stick with the caravan at least until the next town, no matter how sick to his stomach traveling with a bunch of soulless, lying cowards made him feel.  He noticed the four other trucks stop on a dune ahead of him, so he pulled up next to them and also stopped, letting the vehicle settle into clouds of sand.  Wild Joe, Buckaroo Billy, Belle the Beauty, and Ava had exited their trucks and were standing on the dune, looking out at a burning town near the horizon.  Ayman got out of his truck and joined them.

“IAO,” Billy said, adjusting his cowboy hat.  Ava was looking at Ayman, but he was trying his best to ignore her.

Joe nodded.  “They’re everywhere.  That’s two towns now.  We can’t make a livin’ out here if we can’t play any towns.”

“So where do we go now?” Belle asked, stroking her moustache.  “Do we try the next town?  Sleepy Rock?”

Joe shook his head.  “Chances are, they’re taken, too.  We may need to go further north.”

“We can’t play in any towns under Rennock’s control,” Billy said.  “You’re a wanted man, right?”

Joe shrugged.  “Far as I know.  We may have to brave it, though.”

“We can head to Rose City,” Ayman said.  “From what I’ve heard, the resistance is strong there.  If any town’s still free, it’s that one.”

Joe nodded.  “Maybe.”

“We could join the resistance,” Ayman said.  “Fight the IAO.  It could be the only option for you and your group now.”  He glared at Joe, who looked doubtful.  “Or you could run away like a coward.  Soon, there will be nowhere left to run, though.”

“I don’t appreciate your continued insults,” Joe grumbled.  “You’re lucky we don’t leave you in the desert.”

Billy chuckled and glared at Ayman.  “You wouldn’t last long out here.  No one would.”

“Like I said,” Ayman said, “you’ll eventually run out of options.  I think we need to join the resistance while we have the chance.”

Joe shook his head.  “We’re showmen, not mercenaries.”

“We’d be fighting for a cause,” Ayman said.  “Not for money.”

“Well we ain’t radicals either,” Joe said.  “Look, I’m just about stayin’ alive in a rough world.  And dyin’ for someone else’s cause don’t fit with that objective too well.”

“Ayman might be right,” Ava said, glancing at him.  “Joining the resistance may be the best way to survive at this point.  At least we’ll have a group of people on our side.  And we can help them fight and maybe make the area safe for us to perform again.”

“That’s what you want?” Joe asked.  “You’ve been talkin’ about leavin’ us for a while now.  Now you wanna stay?”

Ava shrugged, glancing at Ayman again.  “We’ll see.”

Joe shook his head.  “We ain’t joinin’ the resistance.  But we’ll go to Rose City.  We can figure out our next move once we get there.  At least it’ll be safer than where we are now.”

“Safe?” Billy asked.  “It’s the middle of a war zone for all we know.”

“The whole world’s a war zone now,” Joe said.  “At least in Rose City we might have some allies around.”  He looked around at the others.  “Well, let’s go.  We’ll head west and then north.”  Billy and Belle nodded and headed back to their trucks.

Ava walked over to Ayman and stood facing him.  “No thanks for taking your side?”

“Take whichever side you want,” Ayman said.  Her previous cowardice still rubbed him the wrong way.  He knew everyone in that last village was either dead or under the control of the IAO, and he felt like they could have made a difference.

“Why have you been so distant from me all of the sudden?” Ava asked, looking at Ayman with her big, beautiful brown eyes.  He looked into them and almost broke down, but he kept his angry expression.  “You talk to me about private things,” she said, “get me to come out of my shell a little.  Then you save my life.  And now you ignore me completely.”

“We could have saved that village.”

Ava frowned.  “Is that what you think?  Do you have a death wish?  I’ll bet I know your story.  You were with the Holy Warriors.  You were killing civilians, women and children.  Or you watched as they did it.  Your guilt overcame you and you left.  And now you feel like you’re so guilty, the only way you can make things right in the eyes of Allah, and yourself, is to sacrifice yourself for some cause.  Well the cause isn’t what you think.  Everyone’s just out for themselves when it comes down to it.”

Ayman glared at her.  “You don’t know me as well as you think.”  He knew she was mostly right, though.  There was also the fight in Las Colinas.  All of his traveling companions had been killed while he was in the bathroom where he’d been unable to do anything about it.

“My parents wanted me to marry one of those awful people,” she said.  “He was one of the leaders of the Holy Warriors.  My father beat me when I refused.  He said he was going to stone me to death as an adulteress for shaming his family.  I was in love with someone else, though.  My father killed him.”  Tears appeared in her eyes and she wiped them away.  “My own father killed the man I love.  He thought that then, I’d marry this extremist madman.  So I ran away.  And here I am now.  I’m as guilty as you are, probably.  I don’t know what you’ve done.  But I’ve done my share of standing around while people died.  Life’s important, though.  That’s what people like you will never understand.  That’s what the Holy Warriors will never understand.  All of our lives are important.”

“We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person,” Ayman began, “unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”

“All of our lives are important in the eyes of Allah,” Ava said.  “Even yours.”

Ayman frowned.  “You’re talking to me about the will of Allah?  What do you know about it?”

“As much as you at least,” she said.  “You who would throw your life away just to make yourself feel better about the past.  That isn’t true courage.  True courage is living and learning to deal with it.”

“Hey!” Joe shouted through the window of his hover truck.  “We need to get goin’!”

Ava turned and walked back to her hover truck.  Ayman looked up at the sky.  “Allah guide me,” he said as he walked back to his own truck.  He got inside, started the engine, and followed the others as they headed west.

Ayman thought about what Ava had said to him as he drove past dunes, following the four other hover trucks.  It was true that all life was sacred.  That was precisely why he’d left the Holy Warriors.  They threw that concept out the window when it didn’t suit their own selfish motivations.  Ayman had never really thought about his own life being sacred, though.  Perhaps Ava was right.  Maybe he did have a death wish.  There were several thuds against the hover truck and there was an explosion, and Ayman lost control.  The hover truck flipped completely and Ayman’s seatbelt dug into his stomach.  His hover truck crashed into the dunes and the seat fell, causing Ayman to hit his head into the broken windshield.  There was a fire on the passenger side.  Ayman’s head was killing him, but he was able to unfasten his seatbelt and climb out through the window.  The next thing he knew, he was tumbling through the sand on the side of a dune.  He wiped the blood off his face and looked up to see that the fire was only in the front of the hover truck.  He had to get the diamonds and the briefcase with Alex Harris’ money in it before it all went up in flames.  He looked ahead to see the other four hover trucks had stopped.  Lasers were firing at them.  Joe and the other performers were exiting the trucks and trying to take cover.  Ayman couldn’t see Ava.  A laser blast landed in the sand near him, spraying sand all around him, so Ayman rushed to the side of the burning truck where he took cover.  “Ayman Ali!” a voice shouted from the dune.  “We’ve found you!  You are takfir and you must answer for your crimes against Allah.  You’ve taken the side of the kafir and will be erased from existence along with those who are with you.  Allahu Akbar!”  Ayman huddled against the hover truck and drew his laser pistol.  He had no idea how they’d found him.

 

 


To be continued in Volume 3, Chapter 17:

Appearing here on January 22, 2017. Stay tuned!
Where:
Ayman and the members of the Wild Joe Rodeo Show try to fight off their attackers.
Mavery’s speech is played throughout Numurka.
Mavery recovers with Big Ed by her side.

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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