Fiction: Afterlife Volume 3 (Chapter 7)

by Mike Monroe on September 4, 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 6

Where:

Della and Ace discuss their next actions.
Mavery and Big Ed arrive in Rose City.
Razor continues her journey to Drummond.

Find the Volume 3 Table of Contents page here.

View the Map here.

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

 

Afterlife, Volume 3, Chapter 7

The pain was immediate.  The room was mostly dark, but the stone walls and the metal toilet were still barely visible.  It was a jail cell of some sort.  There was one barred window through which the moon and the stars shined some light.  This wasn’t the first time Abby had been awake since falling.  Everything was coming back to her.  She’d seen this room several times before.  She was drugged.  Everything she’d gone through to get off pain killers and now here she was high as a kite, and yet still in pain.  Her back periodically sent sharp jolts through her body.  Occasionally, it was a dull throb.  Other times, she was fine.  There were bandages around her abdomen and she was in some sort of gray jumpsuit, her wrists and ankles strapped down to the bed she was lying in.  She wanted to sit up but was unable to.  The strap holding her cybernetic leg was metallic, and her leg seemed weaker for some reason.  There was something clamped to it which she couldn’t see through her jumpsuit.  There was also an IV in her left arm.  She noticed a closed metal door.  She looked down at her wrist to see that Einstein was gone.  Of course.  Why would they let her keep her computer?  They were probably trying to hack into him to find any relevant information.  Hopefully, they didn’t know the last two locations of the diamonds Abby hadn’t been able to pick up yet.

The door opened and an enforcer walked in.  He was wearing the blue uniform but not the helmet.  He had the same arrogant smirk Abby often noticed on the faces of Rennock’s men.  “You’re awake.”

“Where am I?” Abby asked him.

“None of your business.”  He checked the bag leading to her IV.  “There’s someone who wants to talk to you.  Don’t go back to sleep any time soon.”  He left the room, shutting the door behind him.

Abby wondered who to expect.  Probably the local sheriff, or whoever took over the lead of the enforcers after Warrick Baines’ death.  She stared up at the ceiling, trying to remember things.  She remembered killing Judith Israel and robbing banks with Ace and Annabelle.  She remembered being on the run, Annabelle and Digits being killed.  She hit an armored car with Ace and Della, then was shot and fell from a roof.  Then she was in the cell.  She didn’t remember anything in between so she must have been unconscious.  She thought more about Judith, and the sheriff she killed.  She remembered her promise to herself, her promise to God that she would never kill again.  She thought about Bobby, Nat, and Shelly, wondering if she’d ever see them again.  She also thought about Della and Ace, wondering if they’d made it out of Shady Hill alive.

Her mind was racing, so she closed her eyes and looked for peace.  She said a prayer and tried to clear her mind.  “I need to get back on track,” she said to the empty room.  She needed to find Einstein and she needed to escape, so she could get back to her goal of forming a new nation where everyone could be free from the tyranny of both men and money.  The constitution was still in her bag.  She needed that, too.  She had no idea where any of the diamonds were, or the money.  Hopefully Alex and his group still had most of them.  She’d have to reunite with them somehow.  And then Della and Ace had the money, bonds, and diamonds from the bank robberies.  Abby just needed to get Einstein, get the last two batches of diamonds, and reunite with Alex and Ace and Della.  She pictured Ace in her mind and remembered how sexy he was.  She was becoming more and more attracted to him.  She also thought of Horseman.  She shook off the thoughts and tried her best to fight the pain and the haziness of the drugs.  She found a renewed determination as the door opened again.

Abby immediately recognized the young woman standing in front of her, though she hadn’t seen her in seven years or so.  It was her best friend from middle school, Eileen Traymont.  Abby blinked to make sure she wasn’t hallucinating, but there Eileen was.  She was much older, but she still had the same round face and glasses.  Her hair was pulled back tightly into a pony tail and she was wearing a spotless enforcer uniform, to Abby’s disgust.  “Hello, Abby.”  Her smile was cold and her eyes pierced like daggers.

“Why are you wearing that?” Abby asked.  She’d heard rumors that Eileen was quickly working through the ranks of Rennock’s organization, which in itself made her sick, but she didn’t realize her old friend had become an enforcer.

“A better question,” Eileen began as she paced the cell next to Abby’s bed, “would be ‘why have you resorted to robbing banks and murdering sheriffs?’  Do you realize how disgusted I was when I discovered my old friend had become a common criminal?”

“I’m not a criminal,” Abby said.  “I was working with the resistance.  We were hitting Rennock’s banks.  Your boss is the criminal.”

“Herman Rennock is a great man,” Eileen said.  She opened her mouth as if to add something else, but she didn’t.  Abby wondered if she was hiding something.  “Herman Rennock’s principles, and those of his family before him, are what gave your family the means to live the way you did.  You owed him everything, and you stabbed him in the back.  Or I should say, your father stabbed him in the back.  Now you’re just following your father’s bad example.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as they say.”

Abby tried her best to remain calm as she listened to Eileen badmouth her father.  “Do you realize how awful life is for those outside of New Atlantis?  For those who weren’t lucky enough to be born into rich families like we were?”

“I’ve worked for everything I have,” Eileen said.

“I’m not saying you haven’t,” Abby said.  “But your family allowed you to do that.  What about all of the others who didn’t have those opportunities?  What about all of the people who’ve worked hard their whole lives only to have the rug pulled out from under them by Rennock and others like him?”

“They should have followed the rules,” Eileen said.

“If they follow Rennock’s rules,” Abby said, “their children starve and end up in the body pits.”

“Anyone who works hard has the opportunity to thrive,” Eileen said.  “That’s how the free market works.”

“There’s no such thing as a free market,” Abby said, remembering some of the conversations she’d had with Pastor Earl and Alex Harris, or Karl Bergson.  “At least not free for everyone.  It’s a question of who controls the markets and what their motivations are.  In the Southwest Territory, Rennock controls the markets, and his motivations are to gain and keep power and wealth for himself and his friends while everyone else suffers.  He uses his power and political clout to see that no one who’s a threat to him is successful.  My father was almost as wealthy and powerful as he was.  That’s why Rennock had my family killed.”

Eileen grinned.  “I’m not going to get into politics with you, Abby.”

“Because you know I’ve always been smarter than you.”  They’d become friends because the two of them were the shortest, smallest girls in their class.  They stuck together and defended one another from bullies.  And Abby often helped Eileen with her homework.  Then Eileen’s family moved to another district.  Abby and Eileen sent letters back and forth for a few years but they eventually lost touch with one another.

“Smarter or not,” Eileen said, “the truth is the truth, and you’ve become a thief and a murderer.  I’m here to see that you’re brought to justice for your crimes against Herman Rennock and the people of the Southwest Territory.”

Abby nodded with a frown.  “Where are we?”

“Black Rock,” Eileen said.  “There’s an army of enforcers here, so don’t think there’s any way you’ll be freed.”

“Can I ask you for a few things?”

Eileen glared at her.  “That depends.”

“Can you stop the drugs?  I don’t want pain killers anymore.”

“Really?” Eileen asked.  “You were shot in the back.  From what I hear, you’re recovering very well, though.  You don’t know how lucky you are.  The laser didn’t hit any major organs and it missed your spine.  The surgeons used the most advanced technologies.  There was a hole in your intestines they had to patch up, but you should be okay to walk by tomorrow.  At least that’s what they’re telling me.”

“Well that’s good,” Abby said, “I guess.  Still, I don’t want any more pain killers.”

Eileen shrugged.  “All right, suit yourself.  Is there anything else?”

“My computer,” Abby said.

“No.”  Eileen smiled.  “We have our best hackers working with your computer as we speak.  We know you’re searching for diamonds, and we’re going to get the locations and we’re going to be the ones getting the diamonds.  Not you.”

At least they didn’t have them yet.  “Are they going to keep me strapped down like this?”

“That was temporary while you were recovering,” Eileen said.  “We’ll be unstrapping you soon.”

Abby nodded.  “I need my bag.”

“No,” Eileen said.  “Nice try.  Unless there’s something specific in there.”

“My Bible,” Abby said.

Eileen chuckled.  “A Bible?”  Abby remembered that they both came from Catholic families.  They had to keep it secret in New Atlantis, but they had still worshiped together in people’s homes from time to time.  “What are you, finding religion?” Eileen asked.  “Do you really think God will forgive you for what you’ve done?”

“He already has,” Abby said.

Eileen shook her head.  “Sure, I’ll see if I can get you a Bible.”

“No,” Abby said.  “I need my Bible.  And a reading light.”  Her Bible had formerly belonged to Pastor Earl.  It was her only connection to him, just like her copy of On the Road was her only connection to Bobby, at least until the day she’d finally get to see him again.  Still, she didn’t want to ask for too much, and she figured she could use their Catholic bond to her advantage.

“All right,” Eileen said.  “I’ll see what I can do.”  She stepped towards Abby.  “But let’s get this straight, Miss Song.”  Any familiarity was now gone from her voice.  “You’ve committed serious crimes in this world.  And you’re going to have to pay for those crimes in this world.”

Abby nodded.  “I’m prepared to do that.”

“There’s going to be a jury trial,” Eileen said, “and I have faith that our system of justice will give you the punishment you deserve.”

“Do you?” Abby asked.  “Is that Herman Rennock’s justice?”

“Miss Song,” Eileen said, glaring at her, “I’m going to be very frank with you.  I’ll get you your Bible, and I suggest you start reading it.  Get yourself right with God.  Because before this week is over, you’re going to hang.  You’re going to hang from your neck until you’re dead.”  She turned and left the cell, shutting the door behind her.

Abby pictured herself hanging from the gallows.  She pictured all the people cheering, and at the forefront, Eileen Traymont, and Herman Rennock.  Abby wasn’t afraid of death, and now its nearness seemed almost inevitable.  There was nothing she could do about it.  She was strapped to a bed in a cell with a hole in her back, surrounded by armies of enforcers.  “I can’t give up, though,” she said to the empty cell.  Too many people had already died fighting for the same things she was fighting for.  The resistance was too important.  The lives of the poor and needy were too important.  She promised herself that she would be their champion.  She would fight for all those who were unable to fight for themselves.  So she had to fight on.  She had to fight Rennock, the IAO, and anyone else who was a threat to the well-being of the world’s struggling people.  She had to find some way to get the diamonds to Valhalla and whatever was waiting for her there.  Whether it was a town, a city, an army, or whatever else.  “I have to carry on,” she said.  “I’m sorry, dad.  I’m sorry, Pastor Earl.”  She looked at the dark stone ceiling of her cell, and through the barred window at the moon.  “I’m sorry, God.  I’m sorry for all of my sins, all of the suffering I’ve caused.”  She closed her eyes.  “I need to have faith in myself, but more importantly, I need to have faith in you.”

<>

Foxtrot stopped the sand bike as he was confronted by the two bandits standing near the outskirts of the small desert village.  They were both dressed in leather and holding laser rifles.  “If ya wanna enter,” one of them said.  “Ya gotta give us somethin’.”

“And seein’ as you ain’t women,” the other said, “and you ain’t got no women, it’ll have to be somethin’ worth some change.”

“We don’t have much,” Foxtrot said.

“It don’t matter,” the first bandit said.  “Give us your sand bike.”

“Then we won’t be able to leave town,” Foxtrot said.  He could feel Javy’s anger behind him.

“That ain’t my problem,” the bandit said.  “This is our town.  Give us your sand bike.”

“I’d rather not,” Foxtrot said.  “How about if we just turn around and find somewhere else,” he said to Javy, who grunted.

“How ‘bout you ain’t got that option now,” the bandit said.  “This town is ours.  You already came here.  You gotta give us your sand bike.”

“And if we don’t?” Foxtrot asked.

“We’ll do a public execution,” the bandit said.  “It’s the IAO way.  We’ll put ya up on a stage in front of everyone in town and we’ll tear out your intestines.”  He chuckled.  Foxtrot frowned.  So this was what had become of civilization?  “So it’s our sand bike now,” the bandit said.  “Give it to us.”

“And what’s with those guns?” the other asked, noticing the laser pistols Foxtrot and Javy had on their hips.  “And what’s with his stupid polka dot outfit?”  He nodded towards Javy.

“You gotta give us your guns, too,” the first bandit said.  A laser blasted from behind Foxtrot and blew the first bandit’s face open.  He collapsed to the sand as the other bandit aimed his laser pistol in a panic and fired, barely missing Foxtrot’s head.  Javy fired at him, too, blasting through his heart and he fell on top of his friend.

“Did I ever tell you that you talk too much?” Javy asked as he returned his laser pistol to its holster.

“All the time,” Foxtrot said with a grin as he adjusted his glasses.  “I didn’t want to stir up any trouble, though.  We don’t know how many of these punks are in town.”

“I don’t care,” Javy said.  “I’m ready to fight.  And I need some whiskey.”

Foxtrot had felt him shaking for most of the trip.  Javy wasn’t feeling well.  He’d been complaining almost constantly about how he needed more alcohol to get him back to normal.  Foxtrot wasn’t sure what sort of accommodations they’d find in this village, but there was probably at least a bar or a saloon if nothing else.  “Well let’s see if there’s a motel first.  One that’s not overrun with IAO thugs.”

“I don’t care,” Javy said.  “I’ll take out all of those undisciplined savages by myself.”

“That one almost killed me,” Foxtrot said.

“We’re soldiers,” Javy said.  “If something almost kills you, consider yourself lucky.”

Foxtrot drove past the two bodies and into the small village.  He drove past sandstone buildings, looking for anything that resembled a motel.  One of the buildings had the IAO skull and crossbones graffiti painted on the side, but Foxtrot noticed that “Prometheus Lives” was painted over it in black.  Black X’s were also painted over the skull’s eyes.  Foxtrot found a motel at the end of town and stopped the sand bike, letting it settle into the sandy road.  The sandstone building was a small one with a cardboard sign leaning against the wall.  “Doesn’t look like much,” Javy said as he stepped off the back of the bike.

Foxtrot turned off the engine and hopped down into the sand when he saw four more IAO men walking towards them.  They were walking quickly and they had laser pistols drawn.  “Maybe you shouldn’t have killed those others,” Foxtrot said.

“What?” Javy asked.  “Were we going to give them our sand bike?  Take cover!”  He drew his gun and ducked behind the sand bike.  Foxtrot ducked down next to him as the four bandits fired their lasers.  Blasts hit the side of the bike with metallic thuds as Javy peeked out and fired several shots.  He stood for a few seconds, surveying the area.  “All right,” he said.  “All dead.”

Foxtrot stood beside Javy and looked at the four bodies in the sand.  “You never cease to amaze me.”  He looked around the town to see if there was anyone else.  The road was empty other than the six bodies now lying in it.  “Maybe we should get out of town now,” Foxtrot said.  “Before more of them show up.”

“No!” said a voice from the doorway of the motel.  An older woman was standing there, wearing a red dress.  Her skin was sunburnt and she was frowning.  “Please stay.  Help us.  They overran our town a few days ago.  They killed most of us.  They killed men, women, and children.  Then they executed a few more.  Right in front of all of us.  They made us come out of our homes and watch.”

“Where’s everyone else?” Javy asked.

“They’re too scared to come out,” the woman said.  “After everything that’s happened.  Please stay, though.  At least for a few days.  There will be more of them.  We need help.”

“Can we stay in your motel?” Foxtrot asked.

She nodded.  “Free of charge.  As long as you want.  Just make sure no more of them come into town.  They’ve taken over all of the towns around here.  They’re barbarians.  And there’s no one to stop them.  They rape the women and they take whatever they want.  We’re all living in fear.  For ourselves and for our sons and daughters.  Those that are still alive, anyway.”  The sorrow in her eyes suggested she’d lost someone close to her.

Foxtrot nodded.  “We’ll stay for a day or two.  But we’re going to Rose City, where we can drum up an army.  Then we can take these scumbags out once and for all.”

She frowned.  “There’s no army left.  There’s no news.  No nothing.  At least with Rennock, there was a sense of order.  He didn’t control this territory out here, but with him in charge of the Southwest Territory, neighboring territories never stepped too far out of line.  And we could watch his news on our projectors.  It’s all gone now, though.  Now that the IAO’s taken over, it’s like…”

“Wait,” Foxtrot said.  “Rennock isn’t in control of the Southwest Territory anymore?”

The old woman shook her head.  “It’s the IAO now.  Everything’s IAO.  Total chaos, though, really.”

“We’ll make an army,” Javy said as he walked past her into the motel.  “They’ve pissed enough people off.  All we have to do is unite them.”

Foxtrot nodded and smiled at the woman as he walked past her into the motel.  “Thank you for the room.”

“No,” she said.  “Thank you.”

<>

Jim Brantley watched as Mayor Ulrich entered the Drummond sheriff’s office Warrick Baines was now using.  Three other IAO men were standing around the room holding laser rifles, and Warrick was sitting behind the large desk, his feet up on the faux wood.  The mayor smiled nervously at Warrick as he slowly entered.  “Everyone is on board.  They said they’d do what they could to see that you and your men are treated well as long as you’re here.”  He cleared his throat.  “Your men won’t have to pay for anything in the saloon.  Drinks or poker games.”  He grinned.  “Or female companionship, if you know what I mean.”

“I appreciate your generosity,” Warrick said.  “I’m sure my men do, too, but I don’t allow them to consort with ladies while they’re on the job.”  Jim looked around at the faces of the other guards.  John Douglas, a muscular man with a Mohawk, was grinning.

The mayor nodded.  “Well, maybe when they’re off duty…”

“If I hear of my men treating the women of this town in an ungentlemanly fashion,” Warrick said, “they’ll suffer consequences.”  Jim frowned, thinking of the four men who’d dealt with some of Warrick’s punishments for mistreating women the day before.  They weren’t dead, but they probably wished they were as they recovered in the town’s doctor’s office.

The mayor nodded and cleared his throat again.  “There was one thing, though.”  He cringed a little.  “If you don’t mind.”

“I’m an accommodating man,” Warrick said as some electricity sparked across his skull-like face.

The mayor nodded.  “If you could please tell your men not to steal anything from the general store or the guns and ammo shop, I’d greatly appreciate it.”

“I instructed them to obtain supplies and weapons,” Warrick said.  “Those orders came from me.  From what I hear, the prices in those shops are through the roof.  I’m sure the proprietors can afford to give a little up for a good cause.”

The mayor nodded and took a deep breath.  “I’m just telling you what they’re telling me.  We’re a little strapped in this town right now, so we need all the business we can get.”

“Of course,” Warrick said.  “Next time I’ll ask them to pay for those items if possible.  Is there anything else?”

Mayor Ulrich smiled.  “No, Sir.”

“You don’t need to call me sir,” Warrick said.  “You’re the mayor.  I’m just the acting sheriff.  Just call me Warrick.”

The mayor nodded.  “Okay, Warrick.”

Warrick stood and walked around his desk to shake the mayor’s hand.  As they shook hands, Jim watched as electricity sparked across the cyborg’s face.  Warrick twitched and some smoke seeped out of the bullet hole between his eyes.  There was a sudden movement and before Jim realized what was happening, a blade shot through the mayor’s back.  He coughed up blood and Warrick withdrew the blade, letting Mayor Ulrich’s body flop to the floor, where he convulsed violently for a few seconds and stopped moving.  His face jolting with electric light, Warrick drew a laser pistol and swiftly fired at each of the IAO guards in the room before any of them had a chance to defend themselves.  Each of them was on the floor, their heads bleeding out into puddles of blood.  Warrick turned on Jim, moving slowly towards him with his laser pistol pointed straight at Jim’s face.  Jim was breathing heavily.  He fumbled his laser rifle and dropped it on the floor as Warrick pointed his laser pistol between Jim’s eyes.  The red light at the end of the barrel was inches away from Jim’s face, which was contorted in a look of horror as he watched Warrick’s face spark.  Warrick took several steps back and dropped the laser pistol.  “I’m so sorry.  What’s happening to me?”  Jim didn’t know what to say.  He realized he probably needed to kill Warrick before something similar happened again.  Things were definitely getting worse.  Warrick looked around at the bodies.  “So I killed the mayor and three of our men.”

Jim frowned.  “We’ll have to find a way to explain it to the rest of the men.  They’re already on edge after your punishments you doled out.”

Warrick nodded.  “We’ll figure something out.”  He looked at Jim with his two red eyes.  “You’re still on my side, aren’t you, Jim?”

“I am,” Jim said, though he wasn’t so sure anymore.

“That’s good,” Warrick said.  “You can help me clean up this mess, then.”

“I’ll do my best,” Jim said.  He walked over to the closet where the cleaning supplies were, though he realized there’d be a lot more to clean up than blood and bodies.  He was starting to fear that he was a dead man at this point whether he tried to kill Warrick or not.

“You don’t know how grateful I am to have a friend like you,” Warrick said, “who can help me clean up my messes.”  Electricity sparked across his skin-patched, bony cybernetic face.

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 3, Chapter 8
Where:
Mavery and Big Ed visit Phoenix Books.
Razor confronts Phillip Brevington.
Abby has a dream in her cell.

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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