Fiction: Afterlife Volume 3 (Chapter 6)

by Mike Monroe on August 21, 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 5

Where:

Razor leaves Ramona’s apartment.
The mayor of Drummond meets Warrick Baines.
Paul learns that he can’t leave Denver, among other 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 6

Della woke up to find himself in the passenger seat of the hover station wagon he and Ace had stolen, his seat all the way down.  Ace was snoring next to him in the driver’s seat, which was also down as far as it could go.  Della quietly opened the door, stepped out into the sand, and stretched.  He checked to see that the green light on the motion detector on the dashboard was still on.  Nothing had approached during the night.  They had parked in a valley between dunes to stay hidden during the night, and the motion detector had a range of one hundred feet, so if anyone approached close enough to see them, they would have been woken up.  The only place they were vulnerable from was the air.

Della paced back and forth in the sand, wondering what to do while he waited for Ace to wake up.  The alarm hadn’t gone off yet, but Della felt well-rested and didn’t want to go back to sleep.  He looked into the back seat to see his silver dress folded up.  Next to it was the new suit and top hat Ace had bought for his Abe Miller disguise.  The sunglasses were the same ones Ace always used, since he needed their magnification in order to cheat at poker, but the rest of the disguise seemed to be disposable.  So how did Ace always seem to get the right cards at the right time?  Della quietly opened the back door of the hover station wagon and got in.  He looked at the jacket, checked the sleeves, and looked at the inside pockets.  There didn’t seem to be anything special.  No place to hide cards.  Besides, Della had been watching Ace like a hawk.  He wasn’t switching cards unless he could move faster than the speed of light.  Della looked at the top hat.

At first inspection, it just looked like a dark blue top hat.  When Della looked more closely, however, he realized that the top hat had been altered.  He noticed some tiny holes near the seam on the top, near the edge.  He flipped the hat over.  He put one hand inside, and one outside on the top, and he realized there was a secret pouch attached to the inside top with some sort of adhesive.  He slowly pulled a small silver box out of the pouch.  It was too small to hold cards, and it had a very small blank screen.  It was a computer of some kind.  Della flipped it over and saw tiny holes for nanobots.  Nanobots went through the holes in the top hat and into and out of the computer.  Della smiled with recognition.  This had to be a gift from Digits.  It resembled a device Della knew of that magicians used for card tricks.  The resistance often used the device for smuggling small items, also.

Basically, it was a computer housing a combination of projection nanobots and other nanobots that could be programmed to move small objects.  The computer must have been programmed to send nanobots out to look at Ace’s cards, then put a projector image surrounding the dealer’s deck on all sides.  While the dealer’s hands were away, the nanobots probably sorted the deck to make sure things turned out in Ace’s favor.  The projector image hid what was happening, projecting an image of the deck the whole time.  Someone looking very closely may have noticed something change ever so slightly once the nanobots were done and the projected image disappeared, but most people probably weren’t looking that closely.  The nanobots must have been able to work extremely quickly in order to avoid detection.  If Ace was smart, he used this sparingly, and Della knew Ace was smart, especially when it came to poker.  It was genius, though highly unscrupulous.  If that wasn’t what this computer did, then it had to be something similar.  The song “Ramblin’ Man” by the Allman Brothers Band started playing.  It was Ace’s alarm.

Della quickly put the computer back into the top hat and put it down on the jacket.  He started rummaging through his dress.  “You’re already awake,” Ace said, looking back at Della.

Della nodded.  “Just trying to find my lipstick.  Ah, here it is.”  He pulled it out of the folded dress and showed it to Ace with a smile.  “I thought I lost it in all the craziness yesterday.”  He put it in the pocket of his black pants and got out of the car.

Ace opened the driver’s side door and slowly got out and stretched.  “Hot as ever.  How about some breakfast.  What do we have?”

Della walked to the trunk of the car and opened it.  Inside were the backpacks with the diamonds and bonds.  There was also a cooler.  He opened the small cooler to find some bacon, four eggs, and some yogurt.  He relayed this information to Ace.  There was also a camping stove in the trunk, which Della took out, put on the ground, and lit.  “We’ll eat a quick breakfast and head for Black Rock,” he said as Ace got some pots and pans out of another bag in the trunk.  “Do you think we’ll make it there tomorrow?”

Ace shook his head.  “We were pretty far west.  I’d say at least two more days, possibly more, depending on our pace.”

Della cooked the eggs over the stove as they talked.  “So I haven’t asked you this, but how are you holding up over Annabelle’s death?  You seem to be keeping things to yourself.  You don’t have to feel like you have to do that in front of me.”

Ace shrugged as he watched the eggs cook.  “I’m dealing with it in my own way.  She was the most important person in the world to me, but we both knew it was likely to happen someday.  Somebody’s probably going to kill me, too.  The odds are against me.  If it isn’t law enforcement, it’ll be an angry gambler after a poker game.  Still, I can try to put off the inevitable as long as possible.”

Della nodded.  “Well, that’s an interesting way of looking at it.”  He paused and looked into Ace’s reflective green eyes.  “What about Abby?”

Ace frowned.  “What about her?”

“Well,” Della said, “you definitely seemed to have taken an interest in her.  Especially recently since Annabelle’s death, but I’d say even before that.  And you…”

Ace interrupted him with a laugh.  “You think I’m interested in her in that way?  No, of course not.  I admire her, that’s all.”  Ace had one of the best poker faces Della had ever come across, but something in his eyes said he was hiding something.  It may have been something subconscious; feelings Ace didn’t even realize he had.

“Right,” Della said with a grin.  “But you don’t seem like the type to take up a cause.”

Ace shrugged.  “I’m softening up in my old age.”

“Old age?” Della asked with a chuckle.

“Old for a gambler,” Ace said.  “Old for a wanted criminal.”

“Well, anyway,” Della said as he served the eggs onto small metal plates, “I hope we find her in Black Rock, because if she’s not there, I think we’re done.”  He didn’t want to think about the ramifications of that statement.  Maybe she was dead.  They really had no idea.  He started cooking the bacon.

Ace nodded.  “There are cities and towns all over the place out here.  I wouldn’t even know where to look if she’s not in Black Rock.  But she probably is, if she’s still alive, of course.  As I said, that’s where the biggest enforcer presence is around here.  Rennock’s biggest bank in the region is there, and the regional enforcer headquarters is there.”

“But if she’s not there,” Della said, “what do we do then?  Where do we go?”

“Maybe head for Rose City,” Ace said.  “That’s probably the largest resistance presence in the region.  By the off chance Abby somehow manages to escape, that’s where she’ll probably go.”

“Barney Chambers’ blog was there,” Della said.  “I wouldn’t be surprised if Mavery Thomas ends up there, too.”

“Who?” Ace asked.

“One of the other people we were traveling with when we ran into you in Dead Man’s Bluff,” Della said.

“Either way,” Ace said, “it sounds like you have friends there, so it’s as good a ‘plan b’ as any.”

Della nodded and smiled.  “And it’s been a while since I’ve been with a man.”

“Before you get any notions,” Ace said, “that’s not the type of man I am.”

Della chuckled.  “Oh, don’t worry.  You’re not really my type anyway, honey.  I said that because I have an old fling who lives in Rose City.”

“All the more reason,” Ace said.  “And if we do find Abby in Black Rock, we could still head to Rose City.  She can regroup with what’s left of the resistance there.”

Della nodded as he served the bacon and the two men ate their breakfasts under the already sweltering morning sun.

<>

Mavery sat on the back of the sand bike as Big Ed drove it away from the Ruff Ridah and the rest of the Warriors of Freedom.  She turned and watched as the huge, black-painted leveler disappeared behind waves of white sand dunes.  Alpha had given her and Big Ed one of their sand bikes and sent them on their way.  They were about a half hour’s ride away from Rose City.  Alpha didn’t want to bring his army too close to the city for fear it may have alarmed people.  Mavery leaned close to Big Ed as the dunes whizzed by on both sides.  “So what’s the plan once we’re in town?” Big Ed asked as he drove, speaking loud enough to be heard over the bike’s engine.

“We find a hotel,” Mavery said.  “Get some rest.  Then tomorrow, we head to Phoenix Books.  That’s where Barney ran his pirate blog and radio stations from.”

“Will they trust us?” Big Ed asked.

Mavery hoped so.  “Yeah, we’ll tell them we worked with Barney.  Hopefully they’ll know who I am.”

Mavery watched the dunes on the horizon until the glint of metal appeared.  As they rode closer, she could see that a platform rose above the dunes, supported by thick metal columns.  On top of the large platform, a town was built.  There were sandstone buildings, and others made from metal and glass.  The glass reflected the sun, causing her to squint.  The tallest structure was a water tower in the center of the town with a red rose painted on it.  As the sand bike approached Rose City, Mavery could see several sandstone buildings underneath the platform in various states of disrepair.  These buildings stretched out farther than the platform above them on all sides.  Many were mostly or partially buried in white sand.  All of them appeared to be deserted.

Mavery had heard that up until recently, the poorer residents were forced to live in the Undertown as it was called, but as the resistance presence in the town grew, everyone was brought up into the Overtown, where citizens were partially shielded from the shifting sands and storms that plagued the area.  Rennock’s staunchest supporters were kicked out of town to make room for the refugees from below, forced to migrate to nearby cities like Iron Town and Black Rock where Rennock’s sympathizers were still in control.  Rose City’s unique architecture made it a hard place to attack, so Rennock had yet to reclaim the city, though rumors said that an attack was in the works.  Mavery figured those plans were probably scrapped now with the rise of the IAO, however.

Big Ed drove towards the city until Mavery noticed an opening in one of the huge columns.  “Head there,” she said, pointing.  A hover car rode through the opening and parked inside the column as Big Ed sped towards it, whizzing past the deserted sandstone huts of the Undertown.  There were several soldiers inside the column questioning the driver of the hover car.  They were dressed in the tan uniforms of resistance soldiers.  One of them pointed at Big Ed and Mavery as they approached.  Big Ed slowed down and entered the column, stopping and letting the sand bike lower onto the metal floor.

“What brings you to Rose City?” one of the soldiers asked.

“We were sent by Barney Chambers before he died,” Mavery said.  “I’m Mavery Thomas.”

The soldier typed something into small wristwatch computer and took Mavery’s picture.  He smiled.  “It’s nice to meet you, Ms. Thomas.  I’ve heard a lot about you.” A metal door closed over the opening and Mavery realized they were in some sort of elevator that was now going up towards the Overtown.  When it reached the top, the door slid open again, revealing a cobblestone street lined with sandstone buildings.

“Where’s the closest hotel?” Mavery asked as the hover car left the column and drove down the street.

“Follow the road towards the center of town,” the soldier said, pointing at the cobblestone street.  Mavery followed his finger and saw the water tower high over the center of the city.  “There are plenty of hotels and motels there.”

Big Ed nodded and drove through the opening and over the cobblestone street.  “We’ll relax tonight,” Mavery said, “and head for the bookstore tomorrow.”

“Relax?” Big Ed asked.  “Couldn’t we do other things?”

Mavery grinned and squeezed Big Ed’s huge waist.  “We can do whatever you want, sugar.”  They rode past sandstone homes and storefronts as they headed for the center of town.

<>

As Razor drove Nat’s old sand bike past white dunes and rock formations on her way to Drummond, the Rockies loomed on the eastern horizon like a line of huge shadows.  Razor’s mind was fixed on Warrick Baines, and she felt like she was so close.  Drummond was probably fifteen minutes away at most.  She knew there would be plenty of IAO men waiting for her, but she was ready for them.  They’d be no match for her EMD belt and her swords.  Then, she’d take out Warrick Baines once and for all.  The thought put a smile on her face.  She was so close she could smell it.  “This is for you, Bobby,” she said as she increased her speed.

She slowed the bike down when she noticed a vehicle parked far ahead of her.  It was a large hover truck, and it appeared that someone was riding a horse into the back of it.  It was too far away for her to make out much more than that, but she didn’t like the look of it, so she accelerated and rode to the west, hoping to avoid whatever was happening.  Her sand bike’s steering mechanism suddenly shut off and she found herself veering towards the side of a high dune.  She leapt off the bike, which went skidding along the dune and she hit the sand hard.  When she stopped rolling through the sand, she stood and looked down to see that her EMD belt wasn’t working.  Someone had apparently hit her with an electromagnetic disrupter.  “Using my own tricks against me,” she muttered.  She felt achy and was bruised up a bit, but she didn’t seem to be injured in any significant way.  She hoped the baby hadn’t been affected in any way, either.  Razor drew both of her swords from her back and crept up the side of the dune, her eyes and ears alert to everything around her.

She noticed someone riding a brown horse on a nearby dune.  The rider rode down into a valley, disappearing behind another dune.  Razor ran down the side of the dune she was on towards where she’d seen the horse.  She trudged up the side of the other dune and the horse appeared a few feet in front of her, having come up from the other side.  The animal reared and whinnied, and Razor noticed the rider was wearing a gray uniform with a gray slouch hat and there was a patch over his left breast picturing the old Confederate battle flag from the Civil War.  Fear came over the bearded man’s face and he raised a carbine with a faux wood stock, taking aim at Razor.  Before he could fire, she leapt and swung one of her swords, cutting off both of the man’s hands which fell to the sand, still holding the carbine.  On her way down, Razor swung the other sword, slicing through the man’s stomach and he slouched.  The horse, smelling blood, freaked out and stormed off in the opposite direction from where Razor was now crouching, two bloody swords in her hands.

Razor had heard that Phillip Brevington’s men wore gray uniforms and displayed Confederate flags, but she was still pretty far away from Iron Town.  If that’s who these guys were, what were they doing near Drummond?  Before she could react, eight more horses galloped onto the dune.  The two closest ones reared and whinnied and Razor noticed that all of the riders were in gray Confederate uniforms, much like the first, and they were all holding either carbines or old world revolvers.  “Put your hands in the air,” the closest man said as the rest surrounded her.

Razor turned slowly, holding her two swords in front of her as she sized up the men confronting her.  There’s no way she could take out all eight without getting shot.  She thought about the baby she was carrying.  If it weren’t for the baby, she wouldn’t have cared.  She would have attacked anyway.  “What do you want with me,” she growled.  “Leave me alone.”

“You killed one of our friends, missy,” the apparent leader said as he pointed his revolver at her.  He had a blonde beard and long blonde hair came out from the bottom of his slouch hat.  “We’re gonna have to take ya in for that.”

Razor knew about Brevington’s prisons and work camps.  She knew how he treated his slaves and prisoners.  Many died and those who didn’t were subjected to countless hours of grueling, dangerous work.  There’s no way her unborn child would make it through such tough conditions, even if she could.  She started trying to think of a means of escape.  She could dive between two horses and slide down the side of the dune.  Then she’d make a break for her sand bike.  She frowned.  They’d probably just use their disruptors again.  She noticed the metal rod dangling from the leader’s saddle.  “He attacked me.”  She glared at the leader and eyed the other men.

“I saw it,” one of the other men said.  “She attacked him.  Didn’t even give ‘im a chance to say anything.”

“If I say he attacked me,” she said angrily, “he attacked me.”

“She’s a feisty one,” one of the men said.

“We’ve got eight guns on you,” someone behind her said.  “You better learn to hold your tongue.”

“You better learn to hold yours,” she said.  “I’ll kill all eight of you.”

The leader looked her up and down with a smirk.  “You ain’t IAO.  You ain’t a regular bandit.  Why, you’re that girl that’s been killin’ folks all up and down the foothills, ain’t ya?”

“I’ve been killing IAO men,” she said.  “They killed someone who was very important to me.”  She knew Brevington’s men were a bunch of racist punks.  If they knew she was carrying the child of a black man, they’d probably slaughter her on the spot.

“Well maybe you’ll be of some use,” the leader said with a smile.  He stroked his blonde beard.  “Phillip could probably use you as a gladiator.”

“Be careful you don’t hurt her, then,” one of the other men said.

Razor knew she couldn’t let these men capture her.  Gladiators didn’t have very long life expectancies.  While she didn’t care about herself at this point, she did care about her baby.  And when the baby was born and Brevington’s men saw it was biracial, they’d kill it in a heartbeat, and they’d kill her, too.  Razor figured her best bet was to go for the leader.  She didn’t see any other disruptors.  She leapt at the leader with lightning speed, her swords raised in the air and ready to strike, when she felt a sting in the back of her neck.  She collapsed into the sand and lost consciousness, hearing laughter and voices around her on her way out.

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 3, Chapter 7
Where:
A prisoner has a visitor.
General Rodriguez and Foxtrot come face to face with the IAO.
Warrick Baines experiences some difficulties.

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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