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Ice and Fire

Modified on 2011/10/18 10:49 by Kerrick Categorized as Books, Deathlands

This ae nighte, this ae nighte, every nighte and alle,
Fire and sleet and candle-lighte, and Christe receive thy soule.

   - from the medieval ballad,
   "The Lyke-Wake Dirge"

   The group awakens in a new gateway. After recovering, they exit into the control room. There's little of interest, so they head out into the redoubt itself, where they find evidence of quake damage - cracks in the walls and floor, and some of the lights are out. Further along the corridor, they come to a door; Jak hits the lever, but it goes only partway up before freezing in place. The corridor beyond is mostly dark, so he goes first.
   He hasn't gotten far when a huge mutie cockroach drops on him. They quickly see that the passage beyond is packed with them - thousands upon thousands of the creatures. The companions form a line and force their way through the infestation, each person beating the roaches off the one in front of him or her.
   Once they get to a clear area, they find a map. One section in particular draws their interest: Cryo Restricted. Doc tells them of the cryogenics program, so they decide to check it out after a good night's sleep.
   The next morning, they explore the redoubt. The armory is their first stop; it's still fully stocked, so they happily top up on ammo and grab some grenades as well. JB finds an H&K MP7, which he exchanges for his old Mini-Uzi.
   After that, they head for the Cryo section. An airlock leads to a control room with 25 caskets. Only nine are operational - five aren't in use, and the other 11 have malfunctioned over the years. Ryan wants to unfreeze them, but they have no idea how to do it until Krysty finds a switch labelled Emergency Mass Release Controls. It's locked, but a little plastic explosive blows the cover off. With little fanfare, Ryan pulls the switch.
   The malfunctioning capsules open first, revealing their occupants to be long-dead and mummified. The others take some time to open. Only three work properly; the rest malfunction, defrosting their occupants too quickly and turning them into goo. The first one reveals a woman who starts shrieking. She has an inoperable brain tumor and is in incredible pain, so Ryan puts her out of her misery. The second has a man with massive trauma from a car accident. He's conscious and raving, but he experiences a moment of lucidity, takes the IV from his arm, and plunges it through his eye into his brain, killing himself.
   The last capsule works properly, and its occupant wakes up briefly to ask where he is, then falls asleep again. The computer says he's Rick Ginsburg, a tech who had a highly-classified job. They eventually get him awake and talking; he's understandably shocked to find out what's happened. When he gets some food in him and feels like he can walk, they head for the exit.
   They get outside, and Rick happens to ask if they'd heard anything about a gateway. Lori says they use them, and he reveals that he used to work on Project Cerberus. He knows little about the gateways, though, beyond a code to prevent them from materializing in a destroyed or malfunctioning gate.
   They find themselves in southern California, high up in the Sierra Mountains. The trek down is hard, especially for Rick, but they make it to a forest to spend the night. The forest gives way to scrubland, where they find snake tracks and smell gasoline. As they're walking, Doc hears a strange buzzing noise; Rick recognizes it as an airplane. Ryan doesn't believe him, but it turns out to be an old biplane, which flies by without seeing them.
   After it's gone, they continue on, finding a trail of sorts with motorcycle tracks. Lori hurries on ahead and runs into a monstrous mutie rattler. Doc jumps in to save her, and the others use his distraction to blow its head off with concentrated fire. They find a silver tag around its neck with a stamp: Azrael 12.
   The next day, they come upon the town of Snakefish. A dozen men on motorcycles come to meet them, introducing themselves as the Last Heroes, the ville's sec men. After questioning the companions, they let them go on into town. One of the men asks how they got past the snakes, and Ryan says they didn't see any. Zombie, the Heroes' leader, tells him that he was lucky - while Snakefish is run by a baron, the true power lies in the hands of the Motes, a family that runs a snake-worshipping cult. With a final admonition to behave, the Heroes ride off into town.
   The companions head into town themselves after some debate. Ryan is all for returning to the redoubt, but Rick wouldn't be able to make the journey, so they decide to rest up for a couple days. When they reach the main strip, the bikers tell them that Baron Brennan wants to see them. They're taken to City Hall, where they meet with the baron and his assistant, Carla. He welcomes them to the ville and has Carla set them up in the local inn with some money for supplies, then tells them there's to be a service the following morning - everyone is expected to attend.
   After eating lunch, the companions split up and tour the ville. Rick gets himself some new clothes and finds a book of poetry by Poe, but the shock sends him back to his childhood. Krysty uses her powers to pull him back to the present.
   The next morning, they attend the service. After the sermon, Norman mentions that a base near Death Valley has been raided by stickies twice in the last week, and that one of their snakes, Azrael, is missing. Afterward, Ryan is taken forward to meet the Motes, who ask him if he and his friends are mercenaries. Norman wants to make sure they haven't been hired by anyone to "take their side if there was to be some sort of difficulty". Ryan denies it, of course, and Norman warns him to stay out of trouble or things could go badly.
   At lunch, Carla comes to talk to the companions. She (speaking for Baron Brennan) wants to hire them, but Ryan tells her the same thing: no way. They plan to stay for a couple days and move on.
   A little while later, a few of the Heroes come riding up. They want to take Jak for a ride. Ryan lets him go, then decides to come along too. They head out to one of the outlying wells, the one where the stickies have been raiding.
   They're riding slowly along a rutted road through a defile when they're ambushed by a band of stickies. Two of the bikers are killed almost immediately, and another flees over a hill with a stickie in hot pursuit. Ryan, Jak, and Riddler, the last biker, fight off the other stickies and go after their companion, but he's been caught and torn apart.
   Once they get back to town, Norman comes to pay Ryan a visit, demanding to know what happened. Ryan tells him, and the priest decides that all the bad luck lately requires a "feeding" (read: a sacrifice to the snakes). He hurries off to make plans. The companions discuss things among themselves and decide to stay, but they'll stay out of the town's affairs.
   That night, Doc awakens to find Lori gone. He looks out the window and see a tall blonde figure near the church, so he goes to see. He finds her up in front, sitting next to Joshua, having a good time. He takes her with him, threatening to blow a hole in Joshua if the boy draws his weapon.
   The next morning, the innkeeper brings dire news - Azrael's remains have been found. The Motes hold a service to announce it to the town at large, then tell everyone that there will be a feeding as well. Afterward, the companions retire to their room along with Carla and Brennan to discuss things. The innkeeper starts up a huge brushfire behind the inn, which draws a stickie that climbs the wall. Lori spots it clinging to the window outside their room, and Ryan calmly shoots it in the face. Not long after, some of the Heroes come to ask if the companions will help root out the nest of stickies, but Ryan refuses.
   That night, everyone turns out for the feeding. Riddler, who feels he's indebted to Ryan for saving his life from the stickies, warns him to stay out of things - he knows who Marianne Mote will choose for the sacrifice, and he doesn't want things to get bloody. Marianne, with a great display of going into a trance, points to Carla as the chosen one. JB steps forward to protect her, and his friends are forced to back his play. Before things can descend to a firefight, though, a band of stickies appears, drawn by the fires lit around the area. Everyone flees in panic, and several are killed by the stickies. The companions make it safely back to the inn along with Carla and the baron.
   The next morning, Zombie comes to inform the companions that they are to come along on a punitive expedition - they, the remaining Heroes, and the men of the ville are going to root out the stickie nest once and for all. Ryan elects to leave Krysty, Lori, and Rick behind.
   They ride out to the area where the stickies live, split into two groups, and circle around to attack from two sides. Unfortunately, the stickies see one group coming and attack early. The norms win, but at a terrible cost.
   The next day, Layton, the baron's nephew, invites Ryan out for a flight in the plane. Ryan eagerly accepts. They haven't gotten far, however, when the plane runs out of gas - one of the Last Heroes who was supposed to fuel it, didn't - and it crashes. Layton is killed in the crash, but Ryan survives with only minor injuries. Carla uses this opportunity to ask the companions again for their help, but they refuse once more. Lori's been gone all day, and when Doc asks the innkeeper about her, he's told that she was seen in the company of Joshua Mote again. He and Ryan go out looking for her.
   They find a bunch of Heroes out in front of the church; Riddler warns them not to go in, but Ryan ignores him. They go inside to see Lori and Joshua having wild sex up by the altar. As they're leaving, Joshua insults her and says they'll give her to the snakes, whereupon she snaps back that they've already killed one of them.
   They make it back to the inn without trouble - everyone's too shocked to stop them. Nothing happens until later that evening, when Johsua and Zombie ride up to the inn. They offer the companions a deal - hand over the women and their blasters, and they'll be escorted out of the ville (the unspoken addendum is that they'll be killed soon after). They're given an hour to think it over.
   Before the hour's up, Carla and Brennan come to the inn. They know things are going downhill, and that their only chance is with the companions. An hour and a half later, the Motes make their move. Several men start pushing a vehicle toward the front of the inn, using it for cover, so Ryan and the others make a break out the back. They catch the guards there offguard and slaughter them, then head down a gulley that leads out of town.
   Brennan says he used to play in the gulley as a kid and knows it blind, so they let him lead. He gets ahead of the group near the end, goes around a corner, and is shot down by Zombie. Ryan shoots the biker dead, and Carla takes his bike and rides off.
   The companions run toward the gas storage facility, where three huge tanks sit. They're pinned down by the ville's men, but they have enough firepower to keep the men at bay. Ryan comes up with an idea: they're uphill of the men, so he has Jak punch a few holes in the tanks, which lets the gas flow down the road. When the time is right, he has JB toss an incendiary grenade into the gas to light it.
   Unfortunately, the gren doesn't go off. The last five Heroes come riding up the road to break the stalemate; one of them spots the gas and signals to his compatriots, and all but one pull off before riding through it. The last man isn't paying attention, though, and his hot exhaust sets off the fumes. He goes up in a ball of flames, and the fire races back toward the storage tanks. The companions kill three of the four Heroes; Riddler, the last one, says he's done and rides off.
   Meanwhile, the fire has turned into a wildfire that is carried back toward the town by the wind. The companions have to go through town to get back to the redoubt, and Ryan wants to make sure the Motes are dead. They catch the trio near the church, saving their possessions. Doc gut-shoots Joshua; Norman comes out, and Ryan shoots him. Krysty says they have to go, that the fire's turning, so they start to flee. Rick has stopped and is looking through the papers Joshua was carrying, so Ryan goes back for him. Marianne appears, holding a machine pistol, and Rick shoots her in the back before she can kill Ryan.
   They flee the town ahead of the fire, making it to safety on a rocky ridge. Lori is lagging at the back of the group, too far away to save; she trips and falls, and the fire sweeps over her. The rest of the companions return to the redoubt and jump away.

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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