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Fury's Pilgrims

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

   There is so much evidence that the future is totally shrouded from our vision. If you don't believe this then pick some odd moment from your present life. Imagine you have a video camera to film this moment and a time machine. Travel back to when you were, let's say, eighteen and show your young self the video. Five gets you five hundred that your past persona would be staggered at what you've become.

   - All Truth is Perceived, Therefore All Truth is Fallible,
   by Melissa Moore, 1991

   The companions jump from the Dulce redoubt and arrive in a new gateway. The air is thinner here, it's chilly, and gravity is weaker than normal, implying they're somewhere in space. After recovering, they open the door to find the usual control room; this one has a body lying in it, wearing a uniform Ryan has seen before - cream-colored top, maroon pants with a jagged black line down the sides, green gloves, and black leather combat boots.
   They walk down the hall, finding more bodies and some portholes. The portholes look out into space, but neither JB nor Doc can identify any constellations. They arrive at a blank steel door, which is locked; before Ryan can stop him, though, Dean reaches out and activates the lever, which causes the door to rise.
   The room beyond is the main control room. They find two corpses (one a suicide) and some ammo, along with a log that says they're on the space station Enterprise. As they're looking around, a computerized voice comes on over the intercom warning of unauthorized entry onto the bridge and demanding authorization codes. When the companions provide none, the computer goes into a self-destruct sequence.
   In his haste to flee, Ryan loses hold of the captain's log and is forced to leave it behind as the control room door closes behind them. They barely make it to the gate before the entire station blows up.
   They arrive in a new gate, this one with crimson walls. The control room hasn't been cleaned out - there are still some papers and a few paperback books lying around. Outside of the control room, someone has painted on the wall: "SO LONG CHI-TOWN" and "GOODBI WINDI CITI". They head out into the redoubt and find a map; most of the sections have been marked "Cleared"... except for the mat-trans and another section faintly labelled "Chron-temp". Doc, upon hearing this, faints dead away.
   While they're trying to wake Doc, Dean wanders off down a hallway and ends up running into a huge spider's nest. When the others find him, he's frantically holding off a few dozen of the things. Ryan runs into to grab Dean and carry him to safety while the others shoot or stab spiders that come at them.
   When everyone is safe, they head off to the chron-temp section. Doc is unutterably happy for some reason, leading the way. Many doors they find are locked down, forcing them to take a circuitous route; at one point they find a door lowered about three-quarters of the way, with a neat stack of twelve M-16s lying against the wall beyond it. Krysty peeks into an open door nearby and finds the owners - a dozen men, apparently tasked to clear the final parts of the redoubt, who had instead made a suicide pact.
   They head on to the chron-temp section, which they find is more or less in perfect working order. While Doc wanders off to look at various things, Ryan sits down at one of the computers and, with Mildred's help, pulls up a file on Doc. They find a bunch of information, as well as a video shot seven days before his trawl. It's grainy and black-and-white, but it shows him, Emily, and his two children out for a walk. At one point Emily looks directly into the camera (Doc says later that she thought she'd seen something that day). Doc sees her and goes crazy, attempting to smash the computer. They restrain him, and he eventually calms down.
   An hour later, the companions sit down to eat. Doc is still in the control room, viewing the video in slow-mo, freezing the screen on his wife's face. He spends the entire night there, replaying it over and over, while the others sleep in the dorms.
   The next morning, they explore the chron-temp unit more fully, and they find that it's set up for an experiment - three subjects have been chosen and were due to be trawled before the evacuation orders came down. The three are Graham Oswald Vair, a sporting-goods store clerk from Mitford City, Wisconsin; Dolores Mae Melville, from Tehachapi, California; and Michael Brother, an oblate (monk) also from Nil-Vanity, California. After some discussion, they decide to bring the three people forward in time.
   The first trawl works, but what ends up in the reception pod bears only a slight resemblance to anything human. Ryan has Doc reverse the trawl, which dissipates the unfortunate man's remains into the ether.
   The second trawl works perfectly - Dolores arrives whole and in good health. Oddly, though, she's wearing what appears to be a strait jacket. Krysty has a very bad feeling about her, and Mildred mentions that there's nothing much in Tehachapi except a high-security prison. Dolores tries to get them to let her go, but Ryan doesn't trust her, so he looks up her file on the computer. It turns out that she's a death-row inmate sentenced for killing 26 (confirmed; they suspect she did at least 50) young boys. Ryan goes over to the capsule, pulls his pistol, and shoots Dolores in the head without a word.
   As they wait for the third trawl to commence, they search for Michael's file, but it is oddly bereft of information. Michael arrives whole and in good health, but he refuses to believe their stories that he's now in a post-apocalyptic Earth. He decides to stay with them for a bit, though, out of curiosity.
   They head up to the garage, which has been entirely cleaned out except for a lone APC. It's in good working order, so they decide to take it out of the redoubt and see what's become of Chicago. Michael flatly refuses to come with them, however, so they leave him behind. As the main redoubt door is closing, he changes his mind and dives under it, then races after them.
   Walls on either side of the road prevent them from seeing anything for the first couple hundred yards, but when they can see, they're shocked - most of downtown Chicago has been reduced to charred rubble (likely due to a firestorm, similar to what happened in Dresden during WWII). Michael is affected most of all - this is irrefutable proof that he's not in his time anymore. Krysty manages to convince him to stay with them, and they return to the APC.
   They cruise around the city for a bit, but the APC starts to overheat, so they stop and let it cool off. Everyone gets out to stretch their legs and get some air when a burst of semi-auto fire rings out. They race back to the APC, all except for Michael, who remains rooted in place. Doc runs back to grab him, and they make it safely back. Mildred shoots one of their attackers, who bleeds out on the ground, and the rest disappear into the rubble.
   They head west, eventually coming to suburban areas that weren't as badly hit. Seeing a storm brewing on the horizon, they decide to stop in an intact house for the night, though Abe and Doc both report catching glimpses of someone following them. They set watches for the night.
   Abe and Dean are on second watch; Dean is nervous, so Abe tells him to open the front door and tell off anyone he sees. Dean opens the door to do just that - and runs right into a mutie with a knife. He yells and slams the door, breaking the mutie's arm; when the mutie retreats, Dean closes the door and locks it.
   His yell wakes the others, who take up defensive positions. Ryan, Dean, and Krysty take the back door, JB and Mildred go upstairs, and Doc, Abe, and Michael defend the front. The first two groups do well, but the three on the front door are struggling - Abe is backed into a corner, Doc is holding off several with his rapier, and four are converging on Michael, who is standing still. Suddenly Michael draws his knives, and all four muties are down and dying in the blink of an eye. The others, seeing this, retreat. Abe chases after the two he'd been fighting, around the back of the house. Doc and Ryan follow, getting there in time to see Abe and one of the muties fall into a rain-swollen stream that dives into a culvert. Neither Abe nor the mutie surfaces, leading the others to believe both are dead.
   They search the next morning, even going a mile downstream, but find no sign of Abe. They head out after breakfast, still going west, though the APC is experiencing more problems. A couple hours later, Abe walks out onto the road in front of them, stark naked and badly bruised, but alive. They get him inside and warmed up, and he tells them that after going through the culvert and downstream, Trader himself reached down and pulled him out. He's not sure if that actually happened, but it reinforces his belief that Trader is still alive. He decides that he needs to go his own way, to see if he can find Trader. Reluctantly, the others bid him farewell and good luck, and he leaves while Ryan has JB turn the APC around to return to the redoubt.
   Some time later that day, the APC breaks down and Ryan and JB are forced to tinker with the engine. Three hours pass, and when they finally get it going again, Doc and Michael are gone. Doc has convinced Michael to return with him to the redoubt, so that he can send them both back to their times. They hide out in another house until the others have left, then set off in a direction Doc thinks is east (but is really north).
   A few hours later, the APC breaks down again - this time for good. They set off on foot, but are forced to hole up for the night in an old record store. Ryan and Krysty take their watch around midnight, and Krysty steps out to pee; she's immediately surrounded by a half-dozen women, all armed with pistols, who drag her off to their lair. After two minutes pass and Krysty doesn't return, Ryan goes looking, but they're all long gone.
   Meanwhile, Doc and Michael are spending the night in a ruined house. Doc is having bad dreams; he cries out Emily's name, which draws the attention of another Midnite patrol. The three women immediately descend on the house seeking easy pickings, but Michael kills them all.
   Krysty finds out that she's intended to be the Midnites' savior - a prophecied woman who will lead them across the Mississippi to a new land. She, of course, has no intention of doing so, but they hold her prisoner anyway.
   Ryan and the others follow the tracks, but lose them when they hit bare rock. Ryan and Dean both guess Krysty's attackers are living underground; with no way to find them, they decide to wait and see if they can find anyone wandering about.
   It takes the better part of the day, but they finally spot a four-person patrol. They kill three of the women and take the fourth alive, but she refuses to speak until Mildred tortures her; Ryan puts her out of her misery.
   They follow the woman's directions to an entrance to the Midnites' lair, where they send Dean forward to distract and kill the guard. Everone slips inside, but they're quickly lost in the warren of passages. Dean finds Krysty's prison cell, but he's captured and chained up with her.
   Meanwhile, Doc and Michael are still making their way back to the redoubt. Doc has badly sprained his ankle and is babbling madly, lost in his own world, thinking only of being able to rejoin his family once more.
   Ryan, JB, and Mildred escape the tunnels through a manhole cover, shoot one of the women pursuing, then hide out. When the coast is clear, they return through the same entrance, killing several more women along the way.
   By this time, Doc and Michael have returned to the redoubt, and Doc proceeds to program the computers. After a couple setbacks, he gets everything set - he can only set the time delay to 10 seconds or 150+ minutes, though, so he sets it for 150 minutes and they sit back to wait.
   Dean tells Krysty that the others are coming for her, but she bears little hope that three can prevail against a hundred or more. She uses hes Gaia power to free herself and Dean, and he helps her out of the cell and down the hall, where they run into their erstwhile rescuers.
   Ryan and the crew return to the redoubt only minutes before the chron-jump is set to activate. The computers are blowing up from the strain on the system, though Doc is too far gone to notice. He's already in his capsule. Michael comes at Ryan, trying to delay them long enough for Doc to leave, but Ryan kicks him in the crotch. Doc pulls his LeMat out to shoot them, but Mildred shoots the latch on the capsule, which drops onto Doc's hand and knocks the pistol free (though not before he gets the shot off). They pull him out and hold him while the clock counts down. The capsule implodes in a shower of multicolored flames, melting in on itself. The fire starts to spread, so they leave the chron-temp area and head for the gate to 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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