Fiction: Afterlife Volume 3 (Chapter 17)

by Mike Monroe on January 22, 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 16

Where:

Mavery is attacked and wounded.
Warrick Baines kills all of the IAO men in Drummond.
Ayman Ali and the members of the Wild Joe Rodeo Show are ambushed by the Holy Warriors.

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 17

Ayman was pinned against the hover truck with lasers hitting the sand all around him.  Joe and the other members of his show were behind the other hover trucks now and they were returning fire up at the dunes that surrounded them.  Still no sign of Ava.  Ayman had to find a way to get the bags of diamonds and the briefcase that contained Karl Bergson’s fortune.  He fired his laser pistol at the top of one of the dunes where he thought he’d seen something move.  The cover wasn’t great.  The Holy Warriors would probably try to reposition themselves where they could get a good shot at him.  And there were twenty bags weighing about forty pounds each.  Plus the briefcase.  The fire was starting to spread from the front of the hover truck towards the middle.  If it hit the fuel tanks the whole thing would explode.  Ayman was going to have to get Joe and the others to help him.  It was the only way.  He’d have to tell them about the diamonds.  In the middle of a firefight.  What a mess.  Ayman closed his eyes and said another prayer to Allah.

“Hand over the takfir and we will make your deaths less painful,” the voice from the dune shouted as the lasers continued firing intermittently.  Ayman wasn’t sure who the voice belonged to.  It may have been Bashar Abboud, the leader of the squad he and Samir Khan had belonged to.  Or it could have been anyone, really.  Bashar and the Chosen One had probably told all of the Holy Warriors about him by now, and they’d probably had his picture to identify him.  Everyone was jockeying for the Chosen One’s approval so they all wanted to bring him, the traitor, to justice.  Ayman was certain of it.

He looked behind him to see Ava running through the sand towards him.  She fired her laser pistol up at the dune rising above them to Ayman’s left and a man fell down the side of the dune, rolling through the sand.  Ayman noticed a long laser rifle tumbling next to the man and realized it was a Vanguard BB-44 block-buster, a continuous stream laser gun used to fire at vehicles and penetrate armor to the engine and fuel tanks.  That must have been what was used to penetrate the military grade armor of the hover truck Ayman had been driving.  He frowned as he watched Ava run towards him.  “Go back!” he shouted as a laser blasted her side.  She stumbled the rest of the way to where he was taking cover and fell to her knees next to him in the sand.  “What are you doing?” Ayman asked.  “How bad are you hit?”

Ava grunted as she held her bloody left side.  “I’ll live.”

“You didn’t have to do that,” Ayman said.

“I thought you might be hurt or something,” she said.  “This truck’s on fire.  We need to get you back where everyone else is.  There’s better cover there.”

Ayman could tell she was in pain, but it didn’t look like a critical wound.  He frowned.  “Let’s go, then.”  He followed her as they ran through the sand to the big hover truck the others were ducking behind.  He made sure to grab the BB-44 on his way.  The last thing they needed was for their attackers to reacquire that weapon.  Lasers blasted the sand all around them and the sides of the trucks.  The animals in the truck to the left were going crazy.  The horses were whinnying and stomping around.  One of the cows was dead.  There were two other hover trucks behind the spot where Joe and the others were taking cover, blocking any shots from the nearby dunes.  Ava had been right.  There was better cover where they were.  Ayman had been practically out in the open before.  The two of them took cover with the others, close to where Joe and Buckaroo Billy were.  Big Bob and Jimmy Thumb were also nearby.  Mary Cassidy, Belle, and the Chief were at the other end of the truck.  Mary and Belle were firing laser rifles at the nearest dune.

When the Chief saw them, he rushed to Ava’s side and started looking over her wound.  “It could be worse.  But we need to get her to a doctor.”  He ripped some cloth from her pants and wrapped it around her abdomen, covering the wound.

Joe frowned with concern, then glanced at Ayman.  “The Chief has some medical knowledge, but he ain’t no doctor.”

Billy glared at Ayman.  “Maybe we should just give you to ‘em.  You’re the one they want.  You’re one of them anyways.”

Joe shook his head.  “I ain’t sellin’ out one of our own.”

“One of our own?” Billy asked.  “He ain’t one of us.  You said yourself he didn’t want any part of us.  Called us a bunch of frauds, right?”  Billy smiled at Ayman.  “Well if we’re frauds, maybe you’d be happier with your own people.”

“I’m one of us, right?” Ava asked, her voice strained by her noticeable pain.  “If I’m with you, why can’t he be?”  She nodded towards Ayman.

“’Cause he don’t wanna be,” Billy blurted.  He leaned over the hood of the truck and fired several shots at the top of the nearest dune with his laser rifle.

“He’s travelin’ with us,” Joe said.  “If he’s travelin’ with us, he’s one of us.”

“I don’t think we’ll be able to hit them,” Ayman said.  “No clear shot.  We should make a run for it.”

“That’s what I’ve been sayin’” Billy said, adjusting his cowboy hat.

Joe frowned.  “But you wanted to leave Ayman, here.  We ain’t leavin’ nobody.  When he got hit, we all stopped.  Now we can go.”

Ayman frowned.  “But there’s something I need from my truck first.”

“That thing’s about to blow!” Billy shouted.  “What on earth do you need to get out of there?”

“552 billion dollars,” Ayman said.  Billy’s jaw dropped.

“Say that again,” Joe said.  Ava and the Chief were also in awe.

“I was traveling with a group of resistance fighters who were working with Abigail Song,” Ayman explained.  “They were collecting diamonds with her.  We also had Karl Bergson’s fortune.  The total is 552 billion dollars in diamonds and paper money.  All in that truck.”  He nodded toward the burning vehicle.  “If you bring it to Rose City with me, I’m sure you’ll all get a cut of that money.”

“Or we could take it for ourselves,” Billy said.

“And make yourself targets for both the IAO and the resistance,” Ayman said.  “Do the right thing and you’ll get rich anyway.”

Joe nodded.  “Abigail Song.  I’ve always wanted to meet her.”

“I never met her,” Ayman said.  “She left the group before I joined up with them.”

“Then how do we know they’ll welcome you with open arms?” Billy asked.

“Who wouldn’t welcome 552 billion dollars with open arms?” Ayman asked.

“He’s got a point there,” Joe said.

“What you do once we get to Rose City and give them the money is up to you,” Ayman said as laser fire continued spraying sand all around them and lasers thudded the sides of the trucks.  “We just need to get it there.  The money’s in compartments under the truck, but the truck’s flipped so it’s pretty high up now.”

“All right,” Joe said.  “Bob!” he shouted, and the big man came to him quickly.  “Come with me.  I’ll need you to open the compartments in that truck and I need you and Billy to help me carry some cargo back over here.”

Big Bob the Giant nodded.  “What’s the cargo?” he asked in his booming voice.

“Diamonds,” Joe said.  He looked at Ayman.  “Stay here with Ava and the Chief.  Keep her safe.”

Ayman nodded and handed Joe the keys to John Bernard’s truck, including the secret compartment.  “It’s the bronze one.”

Joe motioned to Belle and Mary.  “Give us some cover!”  With that, Joe, Billy, and Big Bob the Giant ran through the sand towards the burning hover truck.  Belle and Mary fired at the dunes around them.  Lasers blasted the sand as Joe handed Bob the keys and the giant opened the secret compartment.  He proceeded to pull twenty bags and the briefcase out, letting them drop into the sand.  Each of the three men picked up two bags and ran back to the other trucks as Belle and Mary continued providing cover, shooting at any movement to prevent anyone from getting a good shot at Joe and the others.  They went back to the truck again and brought back more bags.  After one more trip, they started to load the bags and the briefcase into the back of one of the trucks.  “All right,” Joe shouted when they were done.  “Time to make a break for it!”

“I have the BB-44 they used to hit my engine,” Ayman said, nodding down to the large laser rifle he was holding.  “Assuming this was the only one they had, and knowing the price, it probably was, we should be able to get away now.”

“What if they have rocket launchers?” Billy asked.  “Or some other heavy artillery?”

“Don’t you think they would have used it by now, moron?” Ava asked.

“They will have it if we wait for them to get reinforcements,” Ayman said.  “We need to get out of here now.”

Joe nodded.  “To the trucks!” he shouted.

Ayman helped Ava towards one of the trucks and they climbed up into the passenger side as Joe got into the driver’s seat.  Ayman tossed the BB-44 in the back to get it out of the way.  Lasers were blasting the sides of the truck as the others got into the other three trucks and they all started their engines.  “Can they get a good shot at the fuel tanks?” Ayman asked.  “Or the engine?  We don’t need another truck going down.”

Joe shook his head.  “Not without another BB-44.  It’s shielded with Atlantium.  Can never be too careful with all the bandits around.  Anything’s possible, though, I guess.”  The three trucks ahead of them took off and they followed them past the dunes.  The lasers stopped.

“They’re going to try to follow us,” Ayman said.

“Well we can try to lose them,” Joe said.  He glanced at Ava and her wound.  “We need to get to Rose City fast, either way.  We may have to go nonstop.”

“Do we have the fuel?” Ayman asked.

“I hope so,” Joe said.  “I doubt if there’s a safe place we’ll be able to stop, regardless.”  The four trucks sped through the desert.  Ayman looked through the window to see seven sand bikes following them in the distance.  There may have been more behind them.  It was hard to tell with the bright sun beating down.

<>

Janie Mitchell sat with her mom on their couch.  It was the only furniture they had left.  The IAO thugs had taken everything else, including their beds.  They had to sleep huddled in a sleeping bag together.  There was no air conditioning for the hot days and no heat for the cold nights.  There were no toys in any of the stores anymore.  Janie had to play with the same old doll she’d had since she was little.  Its hair was mostly gone now and its dress was ripped.  She held it close as she and her mom waited for the broadcast.  Their hologram projector didn’t work anymore, so they’d have to listen on their tiny sound system.  The IAO had said everyone had to listen or they’d be punished.  Their thugs were going to go around after the broadcast questioning people on the specifics of the message to make sure everyone had tuned in.  There was some static on the sound system.  “Broadcast in three…”  It was a robotic male voice.  “Two…”

“You were expecting to hear from the International Anarchy Organization,” an articulate woman’s voice said.  “I’m not with the International Anarchy Organization.  My name is Mavery Thomas, and I work for the Southwest Resistance.”  Janie and her mom looked at one another.  Janie wasn’t sure whether to be scared or happy.  “The IAO is in control,” the voice said, “but they shouldn’t be, and with your help, they won’t be for long.  As many of you have seen, they are barbarians and criminals who steal, murder, and rape in order stay in power.  They need to be stopped, and we are going to do that with your help.”

“Should I listen?” Janie asked her mom.  Her mom nodded.

“Some of you may feel discouraged after years of being oppressed by Rennock and now the IAO.  You may feel that there’s no one on your side, no one to look out for you and your families, so you’ve decided to do your best with whoever’s in charge.  You may feel that no ruler or government could ever be good, so you’re going along with what you believe to be the lesser of two evils.  You’re choosing to go along with the status quo to see if you can somehow get by.  You may even want to try to work with them to get a piece of the pie for yourself and your family.  Maybe the IAO doesn’t seem to be as harsh as Rennock’s organization when it comes to treatment of the poor, and they may not seem to favor the wealthy to the extent that Rennock’s organization did, but they are not a suitable replacement and will turn on you in a heartbeat.  They’ve used your anger to turn you against one another.  They kill the wealthy and the powerful to the cheers of those who feel they’ve been oppressed by them, but the IAO are just as oppressive.  They are murderous and calloused towards anyone who doesn’t suit their needs, and the second they decide they no longer need you, they’ll turn on you.  They’ve turned on many of you already.  There has to be a better way.  I believe that we, the Southwest Resistance, are that better way.”

The sound system crackled and there was static.  Janie’s mom hit it with her fist.  “It’s time to stop settling,” the voice continued.  “It’s time to stop being content with just getting by.  It’s time to stop choosing the lesser of two evils.  With the fall of Rennock, we are at a crossroads.  This is the perfect time for us to build something worthwhile.  Something new.  This is the perfect time for us to form a government where all people can be a welcome part.  Regardless of whether you are rich or poor, regardless of your race or religious beliefs or cultural background, regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, you will all be welcome.  Bring your burdens to us and we will do what we can to help.  We won’t favor any one group over another.  Our government will be one for all people.  We will find practical solutions to the problems you face.  We will work as hard as we can to see that no one feels left behind.  Join us and we will make this a reality.”

Janie looked at her mom to see that she was smiling.  It was the first time in a long time.  “The only thing standing in our way is the IAO and the chaos they’ve wrought on the world.  We have to stop them first before we can create something new.  So join the fight against them.  Use guns if you have them, fists if you don’t.  Use anything at your disposal, for if all of us rise up against them, they won’t stand a chance.  This is a time for heroes, and you can be that hero.  Come to Rose City if you can.  We will join together here to form an army that will be ready to fight.  We are already capable of defending the city against almost any attack.  And they will attack, but we will be ready.  If you can’t come to Rose City, stay where you are and do whatever you can to stop the IAO from there.  Our lives are but a drop in the bucket of history, and our children and their children need us now.  If we don’t stop the IAO, our children and all of our future generations will be enslaved by chaos.  If I take a stand against the IAO, I may die, but I know that through my sacrifice, future generations will be free to live happy, peaceful lives.  I hope you will feel the same way and join the good fight.  For your children and their children and all future generations, stand up against the evil that is the International Anarchy Organization.  Join the cause.  Be a hero.”  That was the end of the message.  The sound system shut off.

Janie’s mom was still smiling.  “Is everything going to be okay?” Janie asked.

“I think it is,” her mom said, and she hugged her.  “I hope it is.”

<>

“You must be bored out of your mind,” Big Ed said as Mavery lay in her hospital bed, covered with a white sheet.

“Not as bored as you probably are,” Mavery said.  “I enjoy the peace and quiet.  I have time to read.”

“Well at least you’re well protected,” Ed said.  “We’ve got four bodyguards outside your door.”

“Can we trust them?” Mavery asked.

Big Ed nodded.  “Matt knows them personally.”  Mavery frowned.  She wasn’t sure if that was reassuring enough.  Better than complete strangers, at least.  Big Ed looked through the window out at the desert.  They were on the fifth floor and the hospital was close to the edge of the platform most of Rose City had been built on.  “Too bad about our date last night.  I mean, I realize there are more important things than that.  Your health of course.  Still, I was lookin’ forward to that.”

“Yeah, me too.”  Mavery smiled.

“It would have been nice to celebrate,” Big Ed said.

“Yeah,” Mavery said.  They’d been planning on going out to celebrate after Mavery’s speech was broadcast, but the attackers that morning spoiled their plans.  “I’m okay, at least.  Mostly, anyway.”  She looked down at her left arm in its sling.  “I’m alive.”

“You know you could always get a cybernetic arm,” Big Ed said.  “It’s not like we don’t have money.  Your buddies pay really well.”

“Whether I can use it or not, I prefer the one I was born with.”  The doctor had said that even after Mavery healed, her left arm would be pretty much useless.  She would have no strength in it and her grip would be next to nothing.  Big Ed looked out the window again.  “Is there something out there?” Mavery asked.  “You keep looking out there.”  She felt a jolt of pain in her right side and pushed the button that sent morphine through her IV.

“A lot of people,” Big Ed said

Mavery tried to sit up, but the pain took her back down.  “People?  What do you mean?”  She saw fear in Big Ed’s eyes.  “An attack?  Is it an army?  Is it the IAO?”

“I don’t know,” Big Ed said.

“How many are there?”

Big Ed shrugged.  “Thousands.  Tens of thousands.  Maybe a hundred thousand or more.  All marching towards the city.  I see men, women, and children.  It ain’t no army.”  He squinted.  “Or maybe some of them are.  I see some men with guns.  Laser rifles.”

“What are they doing?” Mavery asked with worry in her voice.

“Like I said,” Big Ed said, “they’re marching through the desert.  Comin’ this way.”

Mavery fought through the pain and sat up.  Beneath the window were the cobblestone streets and timber-framed sandstone buildings of Rose City.  Beyond the outer wall, the dunes spread out to the horizon, which was full of people.  Mavery squinted and saw the diverse group of people Big Ed had been describing.  A resistance attack copter was hovering above them and several resistance soldiers were talking to some of the people in the crowd.  Many had weapons.  As the crowd came closer, Mavery saw a resistance soldier on a sand bike give a thumbs up to the sentries beneath the platform Rose City had been built on.  “They’re with us,” Mavery said with a smile.  “They’re coming here to help.”

“They heard your message,” Big Ed said.  “It worked.”

“Yeah,” Mavery said.  “Maybe it did.”  She noticed there were several groups of armed men in particular who seemed to be wearing uniforms of some sort.  Militias, maybe.  There were thousands of new soldiers.  The logistics were going to be a nightmare.  They’d have to do their best to weed out any potential IAO infiltrators.

“When the IAO come,” Big Ed said as he looked out at the crowd, “we’ll be ready.”

“We will be,” Mavery agreed.

“And this is probably just the beginning,” Big Ed said.

“Maybe,” Mavery said.  “Who knows?”  She felt a jolt of pain in her side and dropped back down into the bed.  At first, she considered pushing the morphine button again, but she decided against it.  She didn’t want to become too dependent on it.

Big Ed smiled at her.  “You’re a celebrity now.  Whether you like it or not.”

Mavery smiled back.  “You do realize that makes you one, too, right?”

“I’ll stay in the background,” he said.  “I won’t steal your limelight.”  Mavery laughed and closed her eyes.  “Well you look tired,” Big Ed said.  He walked over to her bedside and kissed her lips.  “I’ll let you sleep.  I’ll be outside with the other bodyguards.”

“See ya,” Mavery said as he walked out, shutting the door behind him.  “A celebrity,” Mavery said to the empty room.  It wasn’t about her, though.  This was about the resistance and taking down the IAO.  Maybe now they actually had a chance.

 

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 3, Chapter 18
Where:
Abby does some soul searching and comes to a realization.
There are some important new arrivals in Rose City.
Razor has her first fight as a gladiator.

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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