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Freedom Lost

Modified on 2011/10/18 10:15 by Kerrick Categorized as Books, Deathlands

   Now that the Atomic Age has apparently passed, future historians may well coin this the Shopping Center Age, the United States of the Mall, the New Mall-en-nium. Love them or loathe them, malls are a major economic force and a modern fact of life, a powerfully pervasive - and privately controlled - cultural phenomenon. Those priceless, misplaced Main Streets are no longer part of the community, someone once said, they are the community.

   - Excerpt from The Mall-aise of America
   by Jeff Huebner, 1992

   The book starts off shortly after the fall of Willie ville. Two men, a norm and a mutie, are walking down the road. The norm is Lester Johnson, former sec man for Baron Willie Elijah; the mutie is a stickie named Budd.
   The next chapter finds the companions returning to the redoubt in the barrens from the city of Aten. They head to the gateway, make the jump, and end up in a new one, which is different from the others they've seen. After recovering, they exit and find themselves in an empty room - another sign that they're not in a standard redoubt. They smell smoke and go on alert.
   The source of the smoke is a scavvie named Alton Adrian. He'd heard rumors of freezies sealed away under a hospital, frozen with their riches, and has blown a hole in the wall to get to the sealed level. The noise draws a band of stickies, which start a fire, hoping to smoke him out.
   The companions run into one of the stickies, which Ryan kills. The smoke gets thicker, but then the emergency fire suppression system kicks in, dumping halon on the fire just as the companions run into the rest of the stickies. They deal with the muties, but one of them yanks JB's glasses off his face; in the chaos, he accidentally steps on them and breaks them.
   As soon as everyone's recovered from the short battle, Dean runs off around the corner ahead and straight into Adrian. He tells them why he's there, so they split into two groups and sweep the level, then head for the cryo-center (leaving Adrian outside). They find a dozen capsules inside, but all the occupants are dead.
   Disappointed, Adrian leads them up to the surface and takes them to the nearest ville, Freedom. Along the way, they're ambushed by two scouts from the ville, who jump down on the party from a tree. The two are easily subdued (to their embarrassment), and Adrian says they look like Freedom sec men. As the companions are questioning them, more men come up the road on horses - the rest of the patrol. Their leader, Rollins, confirms their identity and says he'll give everyone an escort to the ville. They take him up on the offer and head to Freedom.
   Once inside, the companions get rooms for the night and get some sleep. The next day, they wander around the mall. There just happens to be an optician's store, but a pair of glasses for JB costs more than the group has. As they're discussing their options, a dwarf happens by and offers a solution: one of them can fight in the arena against the ville's champion. The winner gets 1,000 mall credits, which would be more than enough for two pairs of glasses.
   Ryan accepts the challenge, so he's pitted against a sec hunter droid. He wins by tearing one of its arms off, causing it to short-circuit. With his winnings, they get the glasses and stock up on supplies. During JB's eye exam, he receives some bad news - he's got glaucoma. He swears the doctor to secrecy and doesn't say anything himself.
   That night, Dean and Jak, who are staying with Doc, get bored with Doc's endless droning and head to the arcade. Doc stops by Ryan and Krysty's room shortly after to let them know he's going to get a drink. About 4 AM, Ryan awakens in a cold sweat. He feels that something is wrong, so he goes to find Doc, who's half-crocked. They're about to leave the bar when Rollins shows up - Dean and Jak have been arrested.
   They ran into two of the local bullies playing Mortal Kombat. Once the boys left to get more tokens, Dean and Jak jumped in, but the bullies weren't happy to find the pair playing "their" game. One drew his blade, so Jak faced off against him. As a crowd formed a ring around them, Dean noticed the other lurking at the edges, drawing his pistol to shoot Jak, so he shot first. The first shot damaged an arcade game, but the second killed the boy, and Jak slashed the other's face.
   Since the two were troublemakers, no one's really worried about the death or assault, but they caused a good deal of damage. Ryan doesn't have enough money to pay it off, so the mall administrator, a man named Morgan, offers him a deal - he and his friends can serve as sec men for 30 days, and their debt will be paid. They have little choice, so Ryan accepts.
   As it turns out, the mall has been under attack by stickies from the nearby ruins for months. They've shown tactics far beyond normal creatures of their type, which indicates someone smart is leading them.
   This someone is none other than Lester, who has gathered together the remnants of Kaa's stickie army and now calls himself Norm. He and his stickies have captured Adrian, who tells Norm he ran into the companions. The mention of Ryan's name sends Norm into a fury; after having Adrian killed, he makes plans to attack Freedom immediately, instead of waiting for more weapons.
   The companions choose to work the night shift. A couple days after they start, the stickies make their assault. Several stickies user hang gliders to drop napalm and other stickies on the roof; they wipe out one team of sec men before Ryan, Krysty, and Jak kill them all. Unfortunately, more are on the way, and the fires are spreading; the alarms and smoke are causing widespread panic down below.
   Mildred, JB, and Doc, who were in the movie theater when attack started, race back to the sec offices, where they're joined by Ryan and the others. They head down to the cells, where Dean is being held, and break him out.
   Morgan, meanwhile, is holding his ground outside a furniture store. He's attacked by Budd when the companions find him; Ryan saves his life and kills the stickie, then they join Morgan behind the barricade. Norm hears their voices and attacks Ryan; after a short fight, Krysty shoots him in the chest, killing him.
   Morgan leads the companions to an escape route through the sewers, which leads out into the parking lot well beyond the fighting. The book ends with the group debating whether to go visit Front Royal or head back to the gateway 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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