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Modified on 2011/10/18 11:04 by Kerrick Categorized as Books, Deathlands


   With its notorious extremes of terrain and temperature, the area of southern Texas known as Big Bend is the only place on earth where one can witness both Purgatory and Paradise in the same day.

   - Water and Stone
   J. McKinley Thompson, 1943



   The book starts off with the companions fleeing from the Dulce redoubt, where they've accidentally set off a trap that destroys most of the redoubt. After JB figures out they're in southern Texas, they decide to head south, to try to find the second cryo-center near Big Bend. They come to the Ballinger farm and convince the folks there to let them spend the night. The farm is occupied by R.G., his sons Larry and Jim, and his daughter Christina. They spend the night in two bunkhouses behind the main house; as Christina is making them up, she warns Krysty and Mildred to stay alert.
   That night, Larry and Jim come out to rape and kill the women, but are killed in turn; Jak kills R.G., leaving Christina the farm. He makes a promise to her to come back soon, and he and his friends leave the next morning on some horses.
   A huge storm rolls in shortly after, causing a flash flood that kills all their mounts and nearly kills them. Mountless, they continue to wander south and run into a caravan headed east. Major Ward is the chief of security for the caravan, and he welcomes them and their guns. He tells them of someone called Skullface, who has recently appeared with a pack of coldhearts and is raiding settlements and caravans in the area.
   They continue east, running into packs of stickies and scalies, and then come upon a ville called Salvation. What gets their attention, though, is the locomotive moving along a set of railroad tracks into the hills above the town. The caravan leader decides (despite Ryan's advice) to stay in town for three days, to rest and recuperate. Meanwhile, Ryan, Krysty, JB, Jak, and Major Ward decide to check out a point marked on Ward's map as a huge mall a half-day's walk away that might have predark vehicles. The mall is there, but it was destroyed in the quakes caused by the nukes.
   They're on their way back when they find that the train has returned to Salvation, along with Skullface and his band of men and women. They round up all the people, and Skullface is revealed as Cort Strasser. Ryan and the others slip back into town and hide, but Strasser finds Doc and questions him; Doc reveals that Ryan is nearby. Strasser searches the town, and Ryan and his group kill six of the scouts. In revenge, Strasser holds a lottery to choose six civilians to kill if Ryan doesn't show himself. Ryan remains hidden and Strasser kills all six people, but Mildred (who hid her weapon, along with Doc's, when Strasser rolled into town) slips off to get her pistol, then uses it to start killing guards. At the same time, Ryan and the others mount an assault on Strasser's men, killing many of them and forcing Strasser to flee on the train.
   The companions hop on a trolley car and make it most of the way into the hills before the slope forces them to dismount and walk. They find a high trestle bridge crossing a gorge, on the other side of which is the end of the rail line - a tourist town. They plant some C4 on the bridge, draw the locomotive out and grease the tracks so it can't stop, and have JB shoot the C4, destroying the bridge, the locomotive, and most of the rest of Strasser's men. Strasser flees the town again, driving down a mountain road with his girlfriend and two of his men, and Ryan and the others give chase.
   The bottom of the road is blocked by a landslide, but there's a hotel down there - predark people would go white-water rafting down the Grande. Strasser grabs a raft and flees once more, after killing one of his men. Ryan and the others are not far behind.
   They ride all day and finally stop for the night on a small beach in a bend in the river. As it turns out, Strasser is just on the other side of a rock outcrop. Mildred gets up in the middle of the night to take a walk, goes around the outcrop, and stumbles into Strasser's grasp. He waits for the rest of the group to follow, but they're not that dumb, so he sets off once again.
   A few hours later, they reach Satan's Drop, a high waterfall. Their boat is destroyed when it hits bottom, and Mildred strangles Strasser's woman in the ensuing chaos and recovers her revolver, but Strasser still manages to capture her when she climbs out of the river.
   They head up into the hills once more, Ryan and the others still following. They pass through a forest inhabited by huge mutie wolves, which kill the remaining sec man, and head toward the Big Bend redoubt, which has been mostly destroyed by quakes (inlcuding the cryo-center, as they find). After leading the companions on a merry chase through the ruins, Strasser proposes a final battle - him and Ryan, knives only, on a high bridge between two towers over a lake of quicksand. Ryan agrees, and tells JB to shoot Strasser if Ryan loses.
   The instruction is unnecessary, though; midway through the fight, the bridge starts to give way. Ryan stomps on it to hasten the process, and the whole thing collapses. He grabs for a handhold, but Strasser is bent on revenge and falls into the quicksand. He asks Ryan to shoot him, to give him a quick death, but Ryan refuses, so he slits his own throat and throws the knife at Ryan.
   After the companions are reunited, Jak decides to part company and head back to the Ballinger farm, where Christina is waiting for him. The others climb into the redoubt gate and jump out.

  
Copyright
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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