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Chill Factor

Modified on 2011/10/18 08:40 by Kerrick Categorized as Books, Deathlands

   Most of us would not be able to take the life of another human being, no matter the provocation. A minority might do it if sufficiently aroused. But there have always been and will always be the mercifully small number of men, and women, who can kill. And kill. And kill again.

   from The Upward Spiral of Death
   - by Hamilton Binder, 1903

   The book starts off with the companions arriving in the Dulce redoubt. Jak is riding from his farm to meet them, bearing bad news - Dean has been captured by a raiding party. Jak and Christina caught one of the raiders and questioned him, and he gave up his leader's name - Zimyanin.
   Ryan, of course, has to go after his son. Jak decides to go with him, but Ryan tells everyone else to stay behind - fewer is better in this case. They ride out to the redoubt and make the jump, but it affects Jak worse than usual. They're walking down the hallway from the gateway when they encounter a trio of cuddlies. These ones, however, are vicious killers - one slashes Jak up before he and Ryan kill them all. After his wounds are patched up, both men decide that he should turn back, rather than be a hindrance to Ryan, so Ryan goes on alone.
   After Jak is safely gone, Ryan heads out of the redoubt to find himself overlooking a deep valley with a mine. A trail leads down into the valley, but he would be too exposed to take it, so he goes back into the redoubt to see if he can find another way down.
   A second passage splitting off from the main one leads deeper and deeper into the mountain. At one point he looks up and realizes that it was designed for a monorail. He keeps walking for about four miles before reaching a sec door bearing a sign stating that this is a weapons research section, part of Project Styx, and that there are deadly traps inside. He bangs his fist on the door in frustration, then is about to turn back when he notices that it's moved slightly. With a little effort, he gets it open far enough to slip through, finding a large room with a checkerboard tile floor. Luckily for him, the electrical current running through the metal tiles isn't enough to kill him, only stun him.
   Once he recovers, he finds the room is empty except for something large in the middle, covered by a sheet. He yanks the sheet off to find five humanoid robots standing on a stone plinth, surrounded by a red line five feet out. A small card has fallen to the floor, and Ryan steps over the line to read it, activating the hunters. He finds out these are sec hunter droids. Uneasy, he decides to leave and spend the night somewhere else. After he leaves, one of the sec hunters activates.
   Flash to Dean: He's in the dorms after a 12-hour shift in the mine, going over the events that brought him here. Zimyanin met all the new slaves personally. He pauses before Dean and asks his name - the boy looks familiar. Dean gives his name as Will Goode, which deflect suspicion from him.
   Ryan, meanwhile, has been hearing something scraping along behind him as he returned to the main part of the redoubt. He finally heads for the main entrance and takes cover behind a pile of rocks to make his stand. Shortly afterward, the first sec hunter emerges from the redoubt. He shoots it several times, damaging it and blinding it, but it keeps coming, so he tosses a rock near the cliff edge to draw it forward, then pushes it over.
   He goes back to the monorail tunnel to get some sleep and wakes a bare second before the second droid attacks. This one he disables by slashing at its knee joints, crippling it; he then runs back down to the section with the other droids and closes the door. The droid drags itself after him and hammers incessantly on the door until its battery eventually wears out.
   Ryan's counting his good fortune and flips off the remaining three droids when the third one activates - and promptly melts down, self-destructing in spectacular fashion. An hour passes and nothing else happens, so Ryan figures he's safe now. He curls up in the corner and goes to sleep, waking sometime in the middle of the night.
   Outside, there's enough moonlight for him to see; he picks his way along a trail around the far side of the valley from the mine itself, hoping to circle around and down without being seen. Along the way, he finds a small cave occupied by two escaped slaves: a girl named Kate Webb and her grandfather, Cody. They tell Ryan their story, and he says that he's here to rescue Dean. Cody goes out to take a leak and is killed by the fourth sec hunter droid. Ryan grabs Kate and drags her further into the cave, which is actually a tunnel that leads deeper into the mountain.
   They run for a half-hour or so before coming to a large hole. Ryan jumps over easily, and Kate barely makes it - Ryan has to haul her up - but the droid can't get over the hole, so it turns back to find another way. They keep going and eventually find an underground river, which they slip and fall into.
   They're swept downstream and are caught in a large net strung across the river, which was designed to catch fish. They crawl ashore to find themselves in a large cavern with a stone jetty and several tunnels. Ryan choose one at random, but then they hear a loud chorus of howls - the muties who strung the net up (trackies) are after them. Cornered, the pair is forced to jump back into the river.
   They shoot out of the mountain over a waterfall and into a deep pool of water in the valley. Ryan recovers first and drags Kate out of the water, then finds a cave and builds a fire. The next day, Ryan makes ready to leave - he has no intention of bringing Kate along, but she tells him that she knows the mines and can help, so he changes his mind.
   They sneak around the valley and infiltrate one of the work parties, which turns out to be a religious cult taken from Kansas. One of the men realizes Ryan and Kate don't belong, but Ryan tells him that they were assigned specifically by Zimyanin. The man doesn't like it, but isn't willing to call Ryan's bluff; he later tells his leader, Reverend Bluffield, about the pair. While they're digging, Ryan notices that all the women in the group are missing three fingers from their left hands.
   When they return to the dorm for the night, Bluffield comes over to Ryan and tells him of their group and gives him a veiled threat. That night, Ryan gets up to take a leak and is locked into the latrine; the Reverend has taken the opportunity to "induct" Kate into their cult by cutting off her fingers. Ryan kicks the door down and rescues her, then has one of the women cut off Bluffield's fingers instead.    The next morning, Bluffield is found hanging in the latrine, an apparent suicide. Ryan convinces the others that Bluffield gave him a message before he died, which keeps them from raising a ruckus and drawing the guards. Zimyanin, suspicious about this and other incidents, decides to have a full inspection of all the slaves that evening.
   Ryan and Kate hear about the planned inspection, so they slip away from their work party after they get into the mines and make their way through the tunnels once more. Along the way, they're attacked by more trackies, but Ryan kills them all (using up most of his ammo in the process). They run some more, then stop to rest and discuss their options. Kate's all for going back to the huts for the night, but Ryan vetos that, kicking a pile of rocks in frustration. This draws the attention of a sec guard, who thinks they've slipped away from his work party, so he forces them back with the group and keeps a special on them, preventing their escape.
   Forced to endure the inspection, Ryan takes his eye patch off and uses Kate's knife to slash his face. When Zimyanin sees him, he says he was injured in a rockfall; his muddy face and acting ability deflect Zimyanin's supicions once again.
   That night, Ryan breaks into the armory (accidentally killing the guard) and restocks on ammo. The next day, he and Kate slip away from their work party yet again and hide out in the tunnels, waiting for Dean's group (which is on the opposite shift) to return to work. The infiltrate that party and head down into one of the most dangerous shafts.
   Not long after they begin, part of the shaft collapses, burying Dean. Ryan digs him out, saving his life, and everyone is taken topside. The guard says he'll take Dean up, but Ryan resists and is beaten unconscious. Dean is taken to the infirmary with an injury to his left eye, while Ryan is taken to a holding cell. Zimyanin goes to see Ryan, telling him that he would've set Ryan free had he not fought the guard; since he did, he'll just go back into the mine. He then goes to see Dean, who's wearing a black patch over his left eye. Zimyanin nearly makes the connection right then, but is called away for other matters.
   That night, Zimyanin is having sex with two of the slave girls when it finally hits him - Ryan and Dean are father and son. He immediately heads out to the holding cell finds all the guards dead - Kate had snuck in and killed them, then freed Ryan. Zimyanin then goes to Dean's room and sets a half-dozen guards there, then goes searching for Ryan.
   Ryan and Kate, meanwhile, free all the rest of the off-shift slaves to create a distraction and keep the guards busy, then they sneak over to the infirmary and free Dean. They head to the ore processing plant, a massive building filled with old machinery, for a final showdown with Zimyanin.    The Russian orders all the slave rounded up and killed, and the remainder of the guards to surround the plant while he goes in alone. Ryan leaves Dean and Kate hidden while he goes off on his own, hoping to draw Zimyanin away; they're found by the sec hunter, which kills Kate. Dean flees and rejoins his father on the high catwalks, where they're chased by both Zimyanin and the droid.
   Ryan tells Zimyanin that the droid will kill them all (which is a lie - the droid would have ignored Zimyanin if he didn't interfere) and convinces him to agree to a truce until it's been dealt with. Zimyanin takes on the droid single-handedly, but it breaks his wrist and he loses his pistol. They discover that the catwalks aren't all that stable and the cables are rusted, so they rock the catwalk, causing large sections to collapse. The droid loses its balance and reaches for Ryan, but Zimyanin is in the way. He grabs it by the neck and heaves it over the edge, but not before it breaks several ribs. The catwalk gives way, and Zimyanin grabs hold of a cable to avoid falling. Ryan goes to save him, but Dean is hell-bent on killing him; Zimyanin says he "would not want one so young to carry so heavy a burden" and lets go, falling to his death.
   Ryan and Dean slip out of the building and back to the redoubt, jumping back to Dulce. After they're gone, the gate activates again - something else (the fifth droid) is coming through.

DEATHLANDS, OUTLANDERS, EARTH BLOOD, and JAMES AXLER are all the property of Gold Eagle / Worldwide Library, and are used here strictly under Fair Use guidelines.
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