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Deep Empire

Modified on 2011/10/18 09:53 by Kerrick Categorized as Books, Deathlands

   There are those who see the future as a place of sunshine, honey, and sylvan glades. Other see it as a time when eggs moulder in their shells, corpses lie rotting in the streets and the little children weep. Which is it? Only time will tell.

   - from Smiley Smile or Breaky Heart?
   Jeremy Christian, Ortyx Press, 1992

   As the book begins, the companions are being pursued through the Colorado mountains by Rick Coburn and his men. Rick's got a hardon for Ryan because Ryan killed the baron (it was justified, but still). There's a full-on blizzard going - if they don't get to safety soon, they'll freeze to death.
   They get to the door of the redoubt and Ryan punches in the numbers... and nothing happens. He tries again, with no results. So, he's forced to climb up and around to an accessway to get inside (which he does, with some effort). Unfortunately, Coburn has the same idea - no sooner does Ryan get inside and warm enough to get moving than Coburn fires at him. They're in a standoff, and it's quite cold inside - cold enough that neither man wants to wait around for the other to show himself. They decide to battle it out hand-to-hand.
   After a short fight, they break apart and Coburn pulls out a derringer. He promises to let the others go (his beef is with Ryan only) and is about to shoot Ryan when hundreds of worms burst from the walls, attacking and killing him. Ryan waits until they're thoroughly feeding, then sneaks past and opens the door. He and the others quickly head down to the gate and jump out.
   Meanwhile, Abe is on his way north and west, following rumors that lead toward his old boss, Trader. His most recent piece of news is from a man who got his leg caught in a bear trap and is dying of gangrene. He says he saw Trader a few weeks ago, then Abe puts him out of his misery.
   The companions arrive in a new redoubt. The place is empty, but they can smell the sea. They head out into the hallway to find that one way ends in a rockfall and the other goes down and is flooded. They decide to spend the night and figure out what to do in the morning.
   In the morning, Doc discovers that the water has gone down slightly - the tide's gone out - and also notices a light. This gives them hope that the redoubt might be close enough to the surface to swim, so Ryan goes to check it out. He returns shortly with good news - not only is it easy to swim, but they've got a beautiful sandy beach nearby.
   They go down in pairs; Krysty and Michael are the last two, but Michael gets snatched away by a gigantic sea snake. There's no hope of rescuing him, and the others are about to write him off when a group of dolphins appear and start attacking the snake, ramming it with their snouts. The snake, badly injured, gives up its prize and flees, and the dolphins carry the unconscious Michael to shore, where Mildred revives him.
   JB determines they're somewhere in the Florida Keys. The island they're on is fairly small, but the road is still there, so they follow it south - the same direction the dolphins came from. After a few miles, they come upon a small complex of buildings - the Institute of Peaceful Oceanographic Research. They're greeted by a band of scientists led by Mark Tomwun, who welcomes them inside.
   They spend five days resting and enjoying the Institute's hospitality. By day five, the companions are relaxed and split up to do their own things, but there are little incidents that show that not all is well in paradise. Michael is with Miranda, a girl who can communicate with the dolphins, and he calls their speech "weird noises". This angers Miranda, who has the dolphins attack him; Ryan and Krysty pull him out with severe bruising. At dinner that night, Dean comes up with something really nasty on his plate - it's a chunk of dolphin meat, one of the test subjects that died and was slipped into the meal by accident.
   That night, Ryan is walking along the beach and is attacked by a Seminole Indian. Ryan drives him off, and he flees into the sea, but the dolphins push him back toward shore; he tries to run up the beach, but Ryan kills him. Two nights later, the scientists have a beach party, where Tomwun announces a fishing expedition the next day.
   They go out in three boats. The day starts out perfect, and they encounter a shoal of mullet, which quickly fills their nets. Several people smell sulfur, though - signs of underwater eruptions. Mildred, who has her hand in the water, suddenly pulls it out because it's gotten very hot. The water starts to boil, and Ryan is thrown overboard. By the time he surfaces and figures out where he is, the boats are far away - they've left him for dead. He manages to swim to shore, far up the Keys from the Institute.
   Once he recovers, he heads inland to find the highway and make his way south again. On the second island south, he finds a wrecked boat with a hole below the waterline and five corpses, all of them shot to death. It isn't until evening that he returns to the Institute.
   That night, spurred on by his find, Ryan decides to see what's in the restricted areas of the Institute. He and Krysty sneak out and break into the building to find a series of tanks with dolphins in them. All the tanks are hooked up to a generator capable of delivering electrical shocks. They find that the dolphins were being trained to carry explosives.
   About this time, Tomwun and five men burst into the building. He's not willing to shoot first, though, so Ryan decides to talk instead of killing them all. One of the men is more interested in protecting their secrets, so he shoots at Ryan, who promptly kills him. Tomwun agrees to let them go and they'll talk in the morning.
   After breakfast the next morning, Tomwun explains everything to Ryan. They've been training the dolphins to stave off pirate attacks; the boat was their doing (an accident), but the people were killed by pirates. Ryan decides that it's not their fight and that it's time to leave. Tomwun doesn't stop him.
   About halfway back to the redoubt, the companions come across a pirate camp. Ryan and JB try to scout a way around, but they run into a woman taking a leak, and Ryan is forced to shoot her. This alerts the others, which leads to a firefight. They kill most of the pirates, but a mist rolls in, and Dean and Michael spot more boats incoming, so the group is forced to flee back south. When they get back to the Institute, Ryan tells Tomwun that they'll stay for five days. If the pirates don't come, they'll leave; if they do, he and his friends will help fight.
   Flash to Abe. He's in the high mountains now, holed up in a small cabin. It's been snowing for three days, and the snow is piling up under the only window, which is high on one wall - normally not enough for anyone to get in, but the snow makes a nice ramp. Abe wakes one morning to find a mutie cougar lying on him, purring loudly, and manages to kill it without getting himself torn apart.
   A couple days after they return, Ryan and Krysty take a boat up the Keys a bit to scout around. Krysty needs to "take a dump", so they steer the boat toward a small island nearby. Ryan goes scouting and finds a predark hotel nestled in a small valley - the high dunes protected it from nukes and weather. They go inside and poke around a bit, and they're attacked by several fish-men. They shoot their way free and race for the boat, but the fish-men are at home in the water; it's only through the intevention of a couple dolphins that they aren't killed.
   They return to find that the Institute has been attacked in their absence - a small group of pirates. Everyone says there were seven, but Dean insists he saw an eighth man. No one believes him, so he goes off on his own to find the extra man. He finds his target, but the pirate takes him hostage as a way to ensure he makes it to his boat. Michael races down the beach, drawing his knives, and leaps over the man, stabbing him in the neck.
   The next day, JB spots a truck with a white flag heading down the road. The pirates' leader, Red Jack Yoville, has sent his second-in-command along with a woman to parley with the companions. His deal: leave the institute, and they get safe passage. Ryan tells them he'll think about it, then shoots them both in the back as they're leaving.
   That afternoon, the pirates fire three mortars into the compound. One overshoots, one doesn't explode, and third kills one of the scientists. That night, Miranda tells Ryan that the pirates are on their way.
   By the time dawn arrives, the companions have arranged the defenses and the pirates are nearly in sight. There's a bridge crossing a small ravine north of the Institute, the only way in; Ryan filled several cans of fuel and buried them under the bridge. When the pirates' vehicles reach the bridge, he shoots the cans, which causes a large explosion and sets the bridge and two of the wags afire. Yoville, in the last vehicle, retreats; he and his men dig into the dunes to wait for the boats to arrive, trading shots with the defenders.
   Ryan goes to check the harbor and runs into Miranda, who tells him that something's wrong - the dolphins are agitated and refuse to leave their pens. They get quakes and such all the time, but this one is huge - possibly one that could wipe out the Keys entirely. Black clouds are building to the east, and the sulfur smell is strong. All the pirates boats have been swamped, which would be good news except, that several powerful quakes hit the island.
   Ryan and the others decide it's time to cut and run. Tomwun appears, tells them that they can't leave, and raises his M-16, and Ryan shoots him. Michael is about to go back for Miranda when another quake levels most of the buildings. Out in the Gulf, they can see a massive tsunami forming. When the quake stops, the companions race toward the pirates' line. Most of the pirates are stunned into immobility, making them easy targets. Ryan kills Yoville himself, and they take the vehicle and race north.
   Meanwhile, Abe is finally able to leave the cabin after the snow stops and the weather gets warmer. He runs into a hunter not far from the cabin, who leaves him a note from Trader.
   The companions barely make it to the gateway before a final massive earthquake hits, along with the tsunami itself.

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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