Fiction: Afterlife Volume 3 (Chapter 18)

by Mike Monroe on February 5, 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 17

Where:

Ayman and the members of the Wild Joe Rodeo Show escape from the Holy Warriors.
Mavery’s speech is played throughout Numurka.
Mavery recovers with Big Ed by her side and sees thousands of people coming to Rose City.

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 18

Abby lay in darkness, floating in a warm liquid solution.  Her body was completely relaxed and her mind was free of outside interference.  She’d been wrestling with the concepts of war and peace, and she’d been wondering if there was any possible peaceful solution to the current situation with the IAO.  Was it possible to find out what the IAO wanted ultimately and come up with some form of compromise?  Abby was done with revenge and she was done with violence.  She kept thinking about the son of the sheriff she’d killed and how he told the reporter he wanted to kill Abby for murdering his dad.  She kept thinking of Judith Isreal’s daughters.  Revenge and killing just led to more revenge and killing.  It was an endless cycle.  It was time for peace, and the sensory deprivation chamber only reaffirmed that for Abby.  She’d never felt more peaceful and relaxed in her life.  She was in a dreamlike state, her mind seemingly functioning on another plane of existence.  This lasted for a few minutes when she came back to herself.  At that point, continuing with the treatment seemed frivolous.  “Open,” she said.  The top opened and Abby stepped out of the pod-like structure, dripping wet.  Her back felt much better, at least temporarily.  She dried herself off and put her clothes back on.  It was time for bed.

<>

In her dream, Abby found herself on top of the high dune once again.  She looked around to see no sign of angels this time.  Just white sand as far as she could see.  Within seconds, the sun went down in a splendorous display of orange on the horizon and the sky became dark.  The darkness closed in quickly and enveloped her, and all she could see was the sand just beneath her.  Soon, that was also gone, leaving complete darkness.  “What’s happening?” she asked.  “Where am I?”

“With me again,” Pastor Earl said.  He was standing next to her, a smile on his face as he looked at her with his kind blue eyes.  He still had the wooden cross around his neck and the long, white ponytail Abby remembered.

She smiled.  “So I’m not alone.”

“You’ll never be alone,” he said.

Abby looked around them to see fields of colorful flowers.  And beyond them were trees, and beyond those, mountains.  The colors were vivid and varied.  She figured nearly every shade of every color was represented in the flowers that surrounded them from the brightest yellow to the softest pink to the most vibrant blue.  “What’s happening?” she asked.

“This is what could be,” Pastor Earl said.  “The dunes and the darkness are what exists now.”

Abby nodded.  “All of my dreams are of what could be.”

“Aren’t all of anyone’s dreams?” he asked.

She looked down at some purple and blue flowers near her feet.  “I don’t know what to do.  I can’t fight any longer.  Violence only destroys.  I understand that now.  I’ve given up my guns.  I will never kill again.”

Pastor Earl nodded.  “I once said the same thing.”

“But it’s true,” Abby said.  “I’ll never again take up a gun.  It’s time for peace.”

“But to find that peace, you need to put an end to the IAO.  There will be no reasoning with them.  They’ll act like they’re your friends and they’ll stab you in the back.  Meanwhile, they’ll rape, murder, and steal from whoever they chose.  This group has shunned morals, Abby.  They’ve done it deliberately.”

“You sound like Winston Cooper,” she said.

“Winston Cooper’s a wise man,” Pastor Earl said.  “Wise about a lot of things, at least.  Maybe not everything.”  He smiled at her.  “The IAO represent chaos, Abby.  That’s their goal.  You know this.  You also should know there’s no way to compromise with them.”

“But we do need peace.  The world’s seen enough destruction.”

He nodded.  “We do.  And it has.”

“So what do you think I should do?  I’m definitely going to get the rest of the diamonds and I’m definitely going to take them to Rose City.  But what else?  What after that?  I need to lead the people.  I realize that.  But lead them to where?”

“To war, I’m afraid,” he said.

“You can’t stop the evils of the world by killing thousands of people in a war.  Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds?”

“If you can stop the killing of millions by killing thousands, you’ve succeeded,” he said.  “There’s a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.  A time for war.”  He smiled.  “And a time for peace.  And in this instance, you need one to get the other.”

Abby nodded.  “I see that, on the one hand, but on the other…  So many people have died already.  People I love.  If I go to war, how do I honor their memories?  I used to think that I could make things right through vengeance, my own form of justice.  But now I realize that killing just makes the wound bigger, and spreads it to others.  By killing the people I’ve killed, I’ve created even more fatherless sons and daughters, even more widows.  It has to end somewhere.”

Abby noticed her father standing next to Pastor Earl.  “If you really want to honor our memories,” he said, “you’ll fight.  You’ll continue the fight we died fighting.  Not for us or for yourself, but for those who are still alive.  So they can be free.  So they can be safe.”

“Keep your pacifism for another time,” Pastor Earl said.  “There will be a time for it, but that time isn’t now.  If you give up, then all of our deaths, and the deaths of everyone who’s been fighting to fulfill the dream of the resistance, will have been for nothing.”

“Nat once said that same thing to me,” Abby said.  “And he was right.  Just like you’re right now.”  She looked at her father.  “Warrick Baines is in Drummond.  That’s where the next set of diamonds are.  I’m gonna have to come face to face with him.”

Her father nodded.  “Be careful, Sweet Pea.”

“You have to kill Baines,” Pastor Earl said, looking straight into her eyes.

Abby shook her head.  “I’ve gotten past that whole revenge thing.  I’m done with killing.  I’m done with revenge.”

“Not for revenge,” Pastor Earl said.  “Like I said, this isn’t for you.  It’s for the safety of the world.  The world will never be safe with Warrick Baines alive.  You have to kill him.  But don’t let yourself enjoy it.  Do it out of duty.”

Abby nodded.  “I’ll try.  I guess I have to.”

“That’s why they call it duty,” Pastor Earl said as he hugged her.  “You’ll be fine.”

He stepped away, letting her father hug her.  “Goodbye, Sweet Pea.”

“Goodbye, Daddy,” she said as she stood in his arms.  She closed her eyes, not wanting the moment to end.

<>

Mavery was sitting up in her bed eating a chicken sandwich as Big Ed sat in a chair near the door to her hospital room and Matt Lund stood beside her.  “So you’re feeling better?” Matt asked.  His salmon colored shirt was buttoned all the way to the top, as usual.

Mavery nodded as she swallowed her bite.  “My arm’s never gonna be what it used to be, but I’ll manage.  So how many people have come over the past day?”

“One hundred and ten thousand,” Matt said.  “It’s a logistical nightmare.  Our soldiers are still working on preparing the Undertown.  A lot of the people are staying there at least temporarily, especially the new soldiers, but we won’t be able to defend them as well there.”  He frowned.  “There are still a lot of people living out of tents, too.”

“How many new soldiers?” Mavery asked.

“At least twenty thousand,” Matt said.  “Maybe more.  They’re coming from everywhere.  Anyone who can escape the IAO is coming here, basically.  The IAO are definitely going to be attacking, though.  Our defense system took down a nuclear missile heading here this morning.  If they manage to slip one through, we’re goners.”

Mavery looked at Big Ed and frowned.  “How likely a scenario is that?”

“They don’t have the technology to jam our system,” Matt said.  “At least not yet.  We’ve been taking missiles down for months now.  We don’t announce it publically, obviously.  This information can’t leave this room.”

“Understood,” Mavery said.  She glanced at Big Ed and he nodded.

“First, it was Rennock’s missiles,” Matt said.  “Now, it’s the IAO’s.  It’s nothing new.  Our missile defense system is top of the line.  I heard Bernard Parks was involved with its development.  The guy’s a genius.”

Mavery nodded and leaned back in her bed.  Matt walked over to the window and looked out at the dunes.  Mavery glanced at the wooden door of her room.  “Do you have any idea where all of this natural wood comes from?  It seems to be everywhere here.  Wood’s so rare everywhere else.”

Matt nodded.  “The founder of this city, Randolph Ellerman, was a lumber tycoon.  He and his family owned most of the world’s trees for a time in a forest in the Rockies.  Of course, they cut them all down eventually and were unable to continue the operation.  His family’s greed overtook their good sense, from what I hear.  They had a system for replanting as fast as they cut the trees down which worked for a long time, until one of his descendants just decided to go all out and get all the money he could.  He cut what was left down and sold it all off to amass an even bigger fortune.  Wasn’t happy with his family’s billions, I guess.  Some say it was a woman who talked him into it, but that’s probably a sexist lie.  Besides, we’re all responsible for our own actions.”

“Right,” Mavery said.

“Anyway,” Matt said, “I hear the Ellerman descendants alive today are almost penniless and living in Iron Town.  Rumors are some are even working as slaves in the Iron Mines.”

“They do have some white people in there,” Big Ed said.  “Not many, but a few.”

“Nothing compared to what they do to our people,” Mavery said to him.

Big Ed nodded.  “Yeah.  I know.”

There was a knock on the door.  “Who is it?” Mavery asked.

“Sergeant Giles,” the stern voice said.  He was one of her bodyguards.

“What is it?” Mavery asked.

The door opened revealing a smiling man in a tan uniform.  “I received news from our sentries.  General Javier Rodriguez and Colonel Frank Fife have just arrived in the Undertown.”

Mavery grinned.  “So he’s alive.”

“Most definitely, ma’am,” Sergeant Giles said.

Matt was also smiling.  “And they couldn’t have come at a better time.”

<>

Abby had spent most of the morning and afternoon in the library at Green Horizons.  If she was going to be leading the resistance to war, she wanted to make sure she did it right.  The library was a large circular room with shelves stacked with books of all shapes and sizes.  There were ladders that must have gone up at least fifty feet to reach the tops of the shelves, and there were ledges with wooden railings every ten feet or so.  A skylight at the very top let sunlight in, and there were also glowing orbs set in various places which provided a faint blue light, along with plants and vines climbing up the ladders and the railings.  Abby was sitting at a table in the center of the room.  She closed the most recent book she’d read and leaned back in her chair.  The table was stacked with books on military theory, strategy, and tactics from both the old world and modern times.  There were books by Sun Tsu, Clausewitz, Machiavelli, Barry R. MacCaffery, and Mao Tse-tung.  There were books about famous generals like Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, and George S. Patton.   Two of the more modern books were a famous book on military strategy by General Javier Rodriguez and another about tactics by Colonel Frank Fife.  The book she was eyeing to read next had actually been written by Herman Rennock’s most famous general, Tom Schmidt.  Abby’s brain was a mess.  All of the new information she’d been consuming in her crash course was seemingly floating in oblivion.

“You can’t become a military genius overnight,” a voice said from behind her.  She turned to see Bernard Parks walking towards her.  He took a seat at her table, looking over the books she’d chosen through his glasses.  “Seems like you’ve had a change of heart.”

“Nobody wants war,” Abby said, “but sometimes it’s inevitable.  I’ve always understood that.  Maybe I’m tired.  Maybe I’m world weary.  Tired of all the killing, all the death.”

Bernard smiled.  “If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be human.”

“When we establish our new nation,” Abby said, “it will be very clear to everyone that our military will be for defense only.  But it has to exist.  And it has to be strong.”

Bernard nodded.  “There can be a hazy line there sometimes, though, which can be easily crossed by those who are reckless or unscrupulous, or both.”

“I’m neither,” Abby said.  “Not anymore.”

“You’re not,” Bernard said.  “So we’ll have to put plenty of checks and balances in place, just in case someone comes along who is.”  He wiped his glasses off on his shirt.  One of the copper clockwork robots walked into the library holding a tray with two glasses of water.  “I thought you could use some hydration,” Bernard said.

Abby took one of the glasses and drank from it.  She watched the robot walk away.  A smokestack on its back expelled a small puff of what appeared to be white smoke.  “How are they powered?”

“Hydrogen power,” Bernard said with a smile.  “We get our hydrogen gas from the water reserves underneath Green Horizons using electrolysis powered by solar cells.  If there’s one thing we have a lot of on Earth these days, it’s sunlight.  Anyway, the hydrogen engines I’ve created emit mostly steam, which is the puffs you see.  It’s a clean technology your father helped me with.  Your father, as I’m sure you know, was an expert in hydrogen power, hydropower, wind power, and solar power.”

Abby nodded.  “Everything in our house was solar powered.  But our hover car used hydrogen.”

“I invented that car,” Bernard said with a grin.  “I’ve been doing a lot of work with artificial intelligence lately, among various other things, but I always had a thing for cars.”

“Artificial intelligence has always interested me,” Abby said.

“It is a very interesting subject,” Einstein said from Abby’s wrist.

“It scares a lot of people,” Bernard said.  “Technology has always scared people who don’t want change.  There was a communist uprising late in the history of the old world, if I remember correctly.”  He chuckled.  “Winston’s asleep I think.  Otherwise, he’d be able to tell you more than I could about it.  Anyway, one of the worst byproducts of the revolution was that technology was halted.  They didn’t want robots and computers stealing any more jobs from people, basically.  They romanticized labor and hated people in the tech field because they supposedly stole jobs from the people who did the real work.  This basically amounted to a form of slavery.  Rather than letting technology improve life by making menial jobs unnecessary, therefore creating easier jobs for anyone willing to learn, they forced everyone to take labor jobs.  Technology stagnated.  Everyone was miserable.”  He shook his head.  “What an awful, silly way of life.  Then with Rennock, thousands of years later, you had those at the top hoarding all of the technology and all of the money so they were the only ones who benefited from it.  And now the IAO is back to destroying everything, or using it for their own personal gain.  What needs to happen is technology needs to be embraced and made available to everyone, no matter their economic standing.  Replace all the menial labor jobs with machines, and encourage the people who’d been doing those jobs to learn the new technologies being made available.  It’s a win for everyone.  Quality of life would skyrocket.”

Abby nodded.  “Makes sense.”

“I never understood this silly romanticism attached to hard labor,” Bernard said.  “Let’s get rid of hard labor once and for all so no one ever needs to do that kind of work again.  Give people easy jobs in the technology industry to start with and they can work themselves up from there.”

“Some people don’t want to learn, though,” Abby said.

“Then they can retire,” Bernard said.  “If we fix the system sufficiently, no one will need to be poor.  If people chose to retire, they’ll be well taken care of.  I know we have some work to do, but we need to get to a point where poverty is eliminated and the need for manual labor is also eliminated.  It’s doable.  We just need to get our minds and our hearts in the right place.”

“That’s what we’re working towards,” Abby said.  She looked down at the military books on the table.  “Do you know anything about Valhalla?”

Bernard bit his lip.  “Not really.  Not much more than anyone else.  It’s sort of become a legend.”

“Is it a real place?” she asked.  “And if so what’s there?  I’ve always been told that what the resistance needs to win this thing is all right there.  I don’t know if it’s weapons or technology or what.  A secret city, maybe?  Someone must know the secrets.  The leaders of the resistance are mostly dead now.”

Bernard frowned.  “And there’s a chance the secrets of Valhalla died with them.  I can assure you, Winston and I don’t know anything.  You can ask Winston yourself I guess, but he’s never mentioned it to me.  Maybe Heather Cylburn knew something.  Maybe Alex Harris knew something.  Or Barney or your father.  Who knows?  If any of them did, they never said anything to me about it.  And they’re all dead now, so…”

“I’m pretty sure it had something to do with Prometheus,” Abby said.  “Maybe he put something there.”

Bernard smiled.  “Your ancestor.  Do you know people are starting to call you Prometheus now, Abby?”

She grinned.  “That’s jumping the gun a little.  I haven’t given them anything yet.”

“Hope,” Bernard said.  “You’ve given them a possible light at the end of the tunnel.  It might not be here yet, but it’s coming.  Whether you find Valhalla or not.”

“My father must have known about Valhalla,” Abby said.  “He placed the location inside Einstein.”

“But I won’t tell you anything until you’ve obtained all of the diamonds,” Einstein said from Abby’s wrist.

She nodded.  “That’s his programming.  He’s never been more tight-lipped about anything.”

“I helped design him,” Bernard said.  “He’s a tough shell to crack.”

“I thank you for your contributions,” Einstein said.

Bernard chuckled.  “Oh, no problem, old friend.”  He smiled at Abby.  “I do have something to give you.”  He handed her a chip.  “This little chip has all of our secrets.  My research, Winston’s research, and your father’s, along with lots of other stuff.  Once Averil Jones defected, I took all of our most important computer systems offline.  She knows too much already and would have an easy time getting whatever she wanted from us.”  Abby took the chip.  “What you have there,” Bernard said, “is everything necessary to rebuild a green world one day.”

“I’ll guard it with my life,” Abby said, putting it in her bag.

Bernard stood.  “Well I’ll leave you to your reading.  Don’t forget to take a break for breakfast at some point.  I’ll be reading in the waterfall room if you need me for anything.”

“All right,” Abby said as Bernard walked away.  She opened General Schmidt’s book and started reading.

<>

Cheering, clapping hands, and stomping feet from the crowd of thousands filled the tunnel with a rush of sound when the doors opened.  The guards pointed their old-style rifles at Razor as she walked out into the sandy arena.  The huge circular battleground was surrounded by fifteen-foot-high metal walls, and beyond those, the crowds rose up in the bleachers towards the sky.  The sun was bright as ever, burning a yellow hole through the sky and blazing the sandy arena.  The heat was palpable.  Razor looked out across the arena at her adversary, who also just exited a tunnel.  Like Razor, she was wearing a grey jumpsuit.  The doors closed.  There were two swords stabbed into the sand in the center of the arena.  From what Razor had heard, they were made from atlantium, and their blades were atomically sharpened to the point that they could slice through metal.

Razor scanned the crowd and noticed several soldiers in gray uniforms standing at the top of the wall that surrounded the arena, making any possible escape attempt practically impossible.  She noticed Brevington sitting near the wall, his guards standing all around him.  He had the same smug expression Razor remembered from when she met him.  His Adolf Hitler hair made her sick to her stomach.  She realized the crowd was chanting her name.  Did they like underdogs or something?  Why would they be chanting for her?  “Razor!” they shouted over and over.  Brevington had his fist in the air and he was chanting right along with the rest of them.

Razor immediately recognized her adversary when she looked at her face.  It was Simone Blaze, the muscular bully who’d killed the Hispanic girl in the cafeteria a few days ago.  Razor remembered Jenny mentioning that Simone was the women’s gladiator champion.  Simone was black.  That’s when Razor heard the “White power!” chants, faint enough that it seemed like they were hiding behind the “Razor!” chants, but they were definitely there.  Razor gritted her teeth in anger and she noticed Simone Blaze looking at her like she wanted to tear her heart out.  Razor considered an escape.  The last thing she wanted to be was some racist hero for a stadium full of Nazis.  She thought about Bobby and she thought about her unborn child.  But she also remembered the Hispanic girl Simone had killed.  She remembered the other gladiator, Star, mentioning that Simone had killed lots of others.  If Razor didn’t fight, Simone would likely kill her, and her child would be dead right along with her.  Simone sprinted towards the swords in the center of the arena and Razor knew she had to do the same.

Simone got there first and leaned down to grab one of the swords.  Razor met her with a flying kick and knocked her several feet backwards.  Razor spun to grab a sword when she felt a muscular arm wrap around her neck.  She started choking and she pedaled backwards with both of her feet as hard as she could until both she and her attacker fell to the ground.  Simone’s arm was still wrapped tightly around Razor’s neck as they rolled on the ground.  Razor elbowed Simone hard in the kidney several times.  Simone grunted but didn’t ease her grip.  If anything, she tightened it.  Razor started gasping for air.  She jabbed both of her thumbs behind her into Simone’s eyes as hard as she could and elbowed Simone again hard in the kidneys with both elbows and was able to pull away.  She stood catching her breath and saw the swords just a few feet away.  Simone was running towards them again.  Razor ran towards them also, sliding past Simone to grab one of the swords by the hilt.  She leapt to her feet and spun to see that Simone had the other sword.  The two of them faced each other, circling the center of the arena.  The “Razor!” chants were louder than ever.

“You are a racist bitch, ain’t you?” Simone shouted.  “Listen to them cheerin’ for you.”  Razor shook her head.  Simone lunged at her and Razor blocked her blade, taking several steps backwards.  Simone swung her sword at Razor with all of her might.  The blade was coming straight for Razor’s neck.  Razor blocked it, but the force of the blow hurt her hand and sent her backpedaling several steps.  “You’re in over your head, ain’t you?” Simone asked.

Razor looked at her and pictured Brevington’s smug face.  She pictured Warrick Baines and her anger boiled over into a shout.  “I’m gonna kill you!  And then I’m gonna kill that racist asshole Brevington!”

Simone lunged at her and Razor blocked the blow again.  Razor shouted again and lunged at Simone with a lightning fast flurry of stabs and slices.  She sliced Simone’s left arm and her right side, spraying blood into the sand.  She stabbed Simone’s stomach, causing her to step back a few paces.  Razor kicked Simone hard in the stomach and she fell backwards onto her back.  The crowd was cheering wildly.  Razor swung down at Simone’s face, but Simone was able to block the blow with her own sword and push up with force that sent Razor backwards a few steps again.  Simone leapt to her feet, her face a grimace of hatred.  “You got lucky.”

“Did I?” Razor asked.  Simone came at her with a massive swing and Razor ducked under it, slicing Simone across the chest, spraying more blood.  Simone stumbled to the ground as Razor faced her with her sword.

“Kill her!” someone in the crowd shouted.  Razor was suddenly disgusted with herself as she looked down at her helpless prey kneeling in front of her and she stepped backwards.  Simone spun to her feet and lunged at Razor again.  Razor dodged the attack, slicing with all of her might.  Simone’s head rolled across the sand and her headless body thumped to the crowd.

“Razor!” the crowd shouted.  “White power!”  Razor was horrified.  She looked over at Brevington, who was clapping as he sat in his hover chair.  She took several deep breaths, her mind on her unborn baby.  Razor stood with a look of anger on her face, dropped her sword and put both of her middle fingers high in the air, making sure the whole crowd could see.

She walked towards Brevington.  “I’m coming for you!” she shouted, pointing at him.  “You’re dead, you racist bastard!”  She would have killed him right then and there if he hadn’t been surrounded by guards with rifles.  She turned and started walking back towards the door she’d entered the arena through, giving the crowd both fingers as she walked.  Her mind was on Brevington.  And it was on Bobby and Warrick Baines.  And her anger burned like lava, clouding everything else.

 

 


To be continued in Volume 3, Chapter 19:

Appearing here on February 19, 2017. Stay tuned!
Where:
Paul attends a Denver town hall meeting with Aiyana.
Razor and Jenny grow closer.
Della has lunch with Matt Lund, his former fling.

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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