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Crucible of Time

Modified on 2011/10/18 09:48 by Kerrick Categorized as Books, Deathlands

   Belief is expressed through shared thoughts and words of wisdom.
   Blind belief can only be expressed along the barrel of a rifle.

   -From Happiness is the Good Book and a Warm Gun
   By Blessed Bob "Bobcat" Bobson
   Apocalypse Press, Waco, Texas

   The group arrives in a new gate after a bad jump. They take some time to recover, then move out into the redoubt. They find nothing until they reach the elevator; when the doors open, a pair of shotguns rigged inside go off - only Krysty's last-second warning saves them from getting killed.
   At the top, they find a map, along with a notice that the place has been cleared, except for quarters near the entrance. They find the quarters easily, have dinner, and bed down for the night. Doc gets up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom; on the way back, still half-asleep, he accidentally enters the morgue and locks himself inside.
   When morning comes and he hasn't appeared, the others search for him; they quickly find the locked morgue door, and Ryan shoots out the lock. They get him into a warm shower and then to bed, where he quickly recovers. After eating breakfast, they leave the redoubt to find themselves in a large pine forest. JB determines they're in California, near Fresno.
   They find a road heading downhill, so they follow it. Some time later, they find an old rest stop with a faded map of the area, along with some notices. Mildred has to pee, so she goes to use the facilities. Unfortunately for her, the women's side is now the home of a huge black panther. She shoots it just as it leaps at her, knocking her down. The others hear the shot and burst in, but she tells them to hold off. She shoots it again, in the head this time, and it dies.
   Further down the road, the start to find signs for the Children of the Rock. They spend the night at another rest stop, then head onward. Around midmorning, Krysty senses the presence of several people ahead. Ryan goes on alone to scout and sees a group of five Apaches sitting around a fire cooking a couple rabbits, with two more sitting nearby.
   Ryan figures they can take the uncooked pair without a fight, so everyone sneaks up to the camp and draws their weapons while Ryan informs the men they're going to take the two rabbits. One of the Indians calls them Children of the Rock; all five draw their weapons, and they're all killed.
   They keep going and eventually stop for the night. Jak hears screams, and they decide to check it out. They find a group of religious zealots having a firelight ceremony; a sacrificial victim is crucified upside-down on a tree; he's been tortured. Ryan is all for not getting involved, but Krysty overrides him, so they open fire on the group, killing them all.
   A storm arises during the fight, swelling the nearby river enough that they can't cross it. They spend the night in a cave formed by the roots of a fallen sequioa. In the morning, the river is still too high to cross, so they head upstream and find some rapids filled with fish. Mildred shoots one, and they have enough food for a couple meals.
   The next day, they head onward. They find a dead baby pig nailed to a tree with a card attached to it, signed by the Children of the Rock. Some time later, they come upon a sign advertising Mom's Jerky about a mile ahead. About halfway there, they come across a trio of mutie rats. Ryan shoots two, but the third moves too fast for him; Mildred shoots it in the spine.
   Not much farther along, they come to Mom's Place. They have a delicious meal, then she puts them up in some cabins out back. In the middle of the night, Ryan has to take a leak, so he gets up to do so. As he's looking out the window, he sees another mutie rat crawling around near a trail past the last cabin, where Doc, Jak, and Dean are staying. Curious as to where it's going, he goes out to follow it. It heads down a trail and starts feeding on some bones - the castoffs from Mom's jerky. Ryan finds, to his horror, that the bones are human.
   After puking his guts up, he hurries back to the cabin to check on his friends. The door is tightly locked, but he just happens to notice a secret door next to it. He opens it, and Mom herself bursts out wielding a hatchet. She drives him back and is about to kill him when Doc stabs her from behind with his rapier.
   Ryan wakes everyone and tells them what happened, then they drag Mom's body back to the main building and set it on fire. After eating some real food, they head out.
   After some walking, they encounter some scouts for the Children of the Rock; the men decide to take them back to the camp to meet their leader. Unfortunately, their leader turns out to be Joshua Wolfe, an old enemy from Ryan and JB's days with Trader. He calls out from the darkened doorway of a house, taunting the group. While the discussion is going on, an old mongrel creeps close to Ryan and leaps at him; Ryan beheads it with a single swing of his panga.
   Joshua comes forward, and Ryan finally remembers where he met the man. Joshua declares their past sins forgiven and welcomes them into the compound (though they have to undergo some tests first). They're given accommodations. Doc notices that there are very few children in the compound, and most of those look like Indian, not whites. Their rad counters indicate a hotspot nearby, so they quickly reach the obvious conclusion - everyone's sterile, and they're stealing Apache children.
   After the noon meal, everyone goes to the church for a short service. Doc's been showing symptoms of a nasty cold, so Mildred confines him to bed for the afternoon. The others go for a walk to see the cause of the hotspot; it turns out to be a redoubt with a cracked nuclear reactor.
   That night, they eat dinner and immediately start to feel sleepy - their food's been drugged. The Children take their weapons in preparation for the testing the next day.
   At noon, they get tested. Mildred goes first, pitting her pistol against the finest marksman in the ville with a rifle. She wins, easily. Jak faces off against two of their finest brawlers in unarmed combat; he beats both without breaking a sweat. Krysty then goes up against a huge woman named Sprite, also unarmed (and to the death). She has to use her Gaia power to win, but she manages to break Sprite's neck. Wolfe knows what Ryan and JB are capable of, and Dean's a child, so they're exempted. He wants Doc to do his testing, but the old man is deep in the grip of a fever, so he postpones it for 24 hours.
   That night, the companions get Doc to sneak out into the forest and hole up somewhere to await the others. A hunting party goes out to find him as soon as they discover he's gone.
   Doc runs into a pair of Apaches, who think he's one of the Children and try to kill him, but he kills them instead. Some time later, he finds the home of Maya Tennant, an old woman who lives alone with dozens of cats. She hides him in the attic when the hunting party comes by, and they don't find him. A strong quake hits the area, starting a fire. Maya gets him out, but the hunters come back. Their leader shoots one of the cats, then Maya attacks him and he shoots her; Doc kills him with his sword, and the others flee.
   As it turns out, the quake also starts a fire in the Children's compound. The companions use this as an opportunity to escape. They slip into Joshua's mansion and recover their weapons, then leave the ville and circle around to get a good view. Joshua himself is at the head of a bucket brigade fighting one of the fires, on top of a ladder; Ryan shoots him, and he falls into the fire.
   They leave and quickly find Doc, help him bury Maya's body, then head back to the redoubt and jump out.

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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