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Judas Strike

Modified on 2011/10/18 11:00 by Kerrick Categorized as Books, Deathlands

   Beware of smiles. A heart-bound oath spoken with ease often signals duplicity. Betrayal is a two-edged sword that can mortally strike your enemy while only wounding you - if you are wise, if you are ruthless, and if you know exactly when the betrayal will take place, and more importantly, by whom. Then the spiteful traitors will die in their own trap.

   - Li Quan, warrior/philosopher,
   China, 700 B.C.

   The book starts with Ryan being dragged along the beach by a crab-like creature that has partially wrapped him in goo. He fights his way free and manages to kill the thing, then goes looking for his friends.
   He finds Krysty first and frees her. They walk down the beach a bit and see the giant spider they fought on the bridge before the rockets brought it all down; it's dead and being picked apart by hundreds more of the crabs.
   They hear sounds of gunfire and hurry toward them, hoping it's their friends. As it turns out, it is - they rest of the group is gathered around an old lighthouse that was been partially buried by an earthquake. The top is too high to reach, and there's no door visible, but Doc spies the chimney for the keeper's cottage. Dean is the only one small enough to get inside, so he shimmies down.
   Meanwhile, the crabs have decided that the companions look tastier than the dead spider, so they start pouring over the hill toward them. A desperate battle ensues, and it looks like the companions are going to get overwhelmed when Dean appears at the top of the lighthouse with a rope. He throws it down and everyone climbs up and heads inside.
   Inside, they find the remains of the lighthouse keeper and a journal, which the man had written before his death - he'd seen the bombs fall and lived for ten years after skydark before finally going insane and hanging himself. They discover that the Navy had emergency supplies under the lighthouse, in a secured room. After stocking up on supplies, they decide to wait for a week to rest up and recover from nearly being killed, and hope that the crabs will lose interest and leave.
   Meanwhile, Baron Kinnison is driving around his island toward an isolated cottage. He arrives and sends his doctor, Glassman, inside to retrieve the child. Since Kinnison can't seem to sire a male child, he gave one of his sec men (who had saved his life) a wife and a cottage. When they finally had a child, Kinnison came to collect. Glassman kills both parents and returns with the child. They drive back to the ville, then Glassman drops Kinnison off so he can walk back alone and not raise suspicion, while Glassman kills Kinnison's latest "wife" and plants the child.
   Kinnison goes to his throne room to hear petitioners. Glassman finally shows up with the baby, proclaiming he has a son. Not long after, Lt. Brandon appears, looking like he's been on the losing side of a war (which he has). Brandon tells him everything that happened, and Kinnison has him dragged off for failing to secure the sulfur being brought from Cold Harbor. He gives Glassman command of a PT boat and sends him out to inform all the villes in the islands that there's a reward for capturing or killing the outlanders.
   A week later, the companions - rested and re-supplied - leave the lighthouse. The crabs are still around, but the companions have left a little surprise. They get halfway across the strait to the next island before the ten thousand gallons of diesel in storage blows up, taking the lighthouse and the vast majority of the crab horde with it. They get the rest of the way across and deal with the crab leaders, a half-dozen massive and intelligent specimens, then head inland.
   They soon find a small ville built from cargo containers. It appears everyone in the ville is dead from cholera, but Ryan finds a young girl still alive - she's one of the women left behind when they rescued the Constellation, named Ann. They take her to the baron's house and Mildred starts to treat her, but a group of men on horseback ride into the ville, tossing smoke grenades. They capture JB and Ann, then escape.
   JB awakens to find himself tied to a horse, his Uzi stuck in a bag tied to the saddle. He manages to grab the Uzi and shoot his way free and runs, just in time to see the rest of the group riding to his rescue on a bulldozer from the ville. The riders flee, with Ann still in their possession, so the companions give chase - she knows where they can find a ship.
   Jak tracks the men to their camp, and the companions find that the men aren't slavers as they thought, but cannies. They assault the camp, killing everyone they find, then discover that one of the tents covered a hole leading to a network of tunnels. JB tosses a block of C4 down the hole to seal it. They then check the prisoner holding pen to find another door leading to the tunnels. They head in, killing as they go; eventually they find another holding cell filled with people - including Ann. The rest are the remainder of a crew of the sec men from Ratak ville led by Cal Mitchum. In gratitude for saving them, Mitchum says he'll take them back to his ville and give them a ship.
   Back in Maturo ville, Kinnison's chancellor, Griffin, is planning a palace coup. He's bought off or killed all the men loyal to Kinnison. Another sec man brings Kinnison a gourd of wine laced with jolt (he drinks it for the pain), but Kinnison sees the obvious trap and refuses. Still, he needs a fix, so he goes to his private rooms and drinks from his own stock... which is infused with far more jolt than he normally takes. He collapses, insensible, and Griffin has the guards take him to the dungeon.
   Kinnison, not being a fool, has planned for this eventuality. He's kept a secret stash in one of the cells, which he kept empty, and which Griffin happened to choose for him. He frees himself with a key hidden under one of the bandages, then digs out a stash of supplies and sits down to wait.
   Meanwhile, the companions are heading over the mountains toward Ratak when they're attacked by a snowcat. The cat kills Ann, then everyone else blows it apart. After killing a horse for meat and eating lunch, they continue on toward Ratak.
   They reach the ville the next day. Baron Thayer greets the companions and offers them free room and board for a month for saving his men. Mitchum takes them to a local tavern then leaves to attend to his duties. While they're eating, he returns with bad news - Thayer knows they're wanted by Kinnison. Since they saved his life, he's willing to help them escape, but after that they're square. He tells them about the baron's secret escape tunnel, then Ryan shoots him in the leg and the arm to divert suspicion. He gets angry about the second shot, however, and swears blood vengeance against Ryan. The companions flee to the escape tunnel, which is camouflaged as a private latrine. They follow the tunnel to a hidden lagoon with a school bus, load up, and drive out.
   Back to Kinnison. The guards have finally come for him, so he pretends to be strung up. When they come into the cell, he slashes the throat of one and crushes the other between the door and the wall. With their keys, he frees the other prisoners with promises that he'll make them all councilors if they help. They go forth to find the armory, while he heads for a secret room with a MAC-10 in it, then up to the roof to set up a Firebird. He then returns to the throne room, shoots Griffin, and claims that he's launched all the Firebirds. If he doesn't call them off, they'll all streak back to hit the palace and kill everyone. The sec men and barons buy the lie, and only the one Firebird explodes. Kinnison is back in charge. He orders all his PT boats to break off from pirate hunting and concentrate on finding the outlanders - kill on sight.
   The next morning, Glassman and Mitchum are standing over the ruins of Ratak ville, which they've partially destroyed (presumably in retribution for letting the outlanders get away). There are only three villes on the island with ships - one was the ville hit by plague (who burned their boats), one is Ratak, and the last is Cascade, on the other side of the island. Glassman orders Mitchum to ride overland while he takes the boats around the island.
   The companions, meanwhile, are stuck in a mud field. They eventually get the bus free by sticking branches under the tires, and run over a stickie that charges the bus. As they keep going, they see more and more stickies, but not enough to bother them. They get bogged down in another mud field, however, and a horde of stickies come charging out to swarm the bus. A desperate battle ensues, wherein the stickies try to get inside and the companions try to keep them from getting in, while Ryan keeps driving the bus toward a forest. They make it to the trees without the bus getting stuck completely and manage to kill all the stickies, then they find a predark road. Just as they think they're home free, though, they hit a rotten tree that's fallen across the road, wrecking the bus.
   Not long after, Mitchum and his men come upon the ruined bus. The companions are long gone, but they've left behind a pile of flintlocks and ammo in the bus - booby-trapped, of course. The resulting explosion kills all the men except for Mitchum.
   The companions head through the jungle toward Cascade. JB tries to shoot their position with his sextant, but the map says they're half a mile into the ocean. He pulls out his compass and sees that the needle keeps flicking to the west. Ryan has Dean climb a tree to look around, and the boy spots a plane not far 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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