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Prodigal's Return

Modified on 2011/10/08 12:20 by Kerrick Categorized as Books, Deathlands

   Six mistakes mankind keeps making century after century:
   Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others;
   Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected;
   Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it;
   Refusing to set aside trivial preferences;
   Neglecting development and refinement of the mind;
   Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.

   - Marcus Tullius Cicero,
   63 B.C.

   The story starts off with Dean getting swept away down a river, away from his mother Sharona. His horse is killed, but he eventually gets over to the shore with only minor injuries. As he's looking around, a group of riders called the Stone Angels approach. He bluffs his way into joining them by saying that he was looking for them specifically, then decides to stick with them until he can find an opportunity to make his own way.
   Meanwhile, the companions are being chased by a howler. The find a redoubt and get inside; the howler is repulsed by the built-in anti-radiation systems, giving the companions a chance to rest. They head down inside to the gate, only to find that it's not operational. The only other way out of the redoubt is through the front door, so they build a huge war machine and blast their way out, eventually leaving the howler behind.
   After several months, Dean is still with the Angels. He saved a newborn from being killed, so the leader is keeping a close eye on him, preventing him from escaping. During the raid of one ville, he encounters a beautiful young woman named Althea who's about to be raped by one of his fellow Angels. He claims the woman for his own and spends the night with her in a house while the other bandits rape and pillage the ville.
   After losing the howler, the companions come upon Alton ville. The offer to trade the war machine for horses, but the ville's chief, Ralhoun refuses. She does tell them of a good place to camp for the night, however. The companions head up north to the spot, knowing an ambush is the offing. Sure enough, a group of men from the ville show up later that night and try to kill the companions in their sleep, but are killed themselves. The companions leave the war machine behind and take the horses. A group of huge mastiffs, also from the ville, track them down later, but the companions kill those too.
   Ralhoun, who's the daughter of a doomie, knows just when the ambush goes bad. She rounds up her men to go after the companions.
   When it's safe to stop, the companions do so and check over all the weapons they got from the Alton men. Doc finds a modern reproduction LeMat that fires actuall bullets instead of lead balls; after some consideration, he tosses the old one into a pond and keeps the new one.
   Not long after, they hear screams and gunshots. They climb a low ridge to take a look - it's a group of bandits (the Angels, coincidentally) attacking a caravan. Ryan says (quite rightly) that it's not their fight and is willing to leave the victims to their fate, but they finally decide to help the travellers. They drive the bandits off with the help of the travellers; as they're chasing the last of the men away, Dean shoots and wounds Ryan in an attempt to keep them from following as he and the others escape.
   Back at the caravan, Ryan and the others meet the leader, Alan Crane. Ryan makes a deal to join up with them as guards until they reach their destination (somewhere in Kentucky) in exchange for some of the bandits' ATVs and ammo.
   That night, Ralhoun has a dream that she's being tortured and raped by the Angels' leader, Camarillo. She sees the dead body of her sergeant and best tracker, who (in the dream) charged into the bandits' hideout and got himself killed and her captured. After waking, she leads the sergeant off with the pretense that she needs to talk to him, then kills him.
   The caravan, accompanied by the companions, sets forth the next day. The see an aircraft carrier that has been partially buried in the ground, upright; the companions rad counters indicate it's hot, so they detour around it. Not long after, a chem storm starts rolling in, so they ride hard toward the ruins of a predark city, taking shelter in an old power plant. Unfortunately, every other creature in the area knows the power plant is a safe haven, so the humans are in for a fight. They find where the creatures are coming in (a crack in the floor) and detonate a barrel of black powder to seal it.
   Meanwhile, the howler that was chasing the companions earlier finds the ship and crawls inside in search of the nuclear reactor. The fissile material inside has broken down, though, and the howler's entry sets off defense protocols, which activates a spiderbot. The droid slices the howler apart with its belly-mounted laser, then leaves the ship in search of new commands. Finding none, it heads toward the nearest redoubt.
   In the Angels' home base, Dean and Althea are planning to escape. Althea won't leave without her cousin Bill, so Dean has a plan to create a distraction while Althea frees Bill; they'll meet at the wall and go over together. The plan goes off without a hitch, except that Bill has been tortured and is near death. She puts him out of his misery and frees the other slaves, who revolt and add to the chaos. Dean and Althea make it over the wall and find the horse a friend has left for them.
   The people from Alton have been watching the camp for a couple days now, waiting for an opportunity to strike (Ralhoun thinks Ryan is part of the group and wants him dead). The slave revolt is the perfect chance, so they attack. Ralhoun and Camarillo realize that they're not actually opposed to each other - Ralhoun thought Ryan was a Stone Angel sent to infiltrate her ville, and the Angels thought the Alton men were slavers. Once the confusion has been cleared up, they join forces to kill Ryan and Dean, along with anyone who opposes them.
   After the storm passes, the caravan heads into the city to look for supplies. Ryan, Krysty, JB, and Mildred split off to search for signs of Dean. They find another redoubt, this one packed full of sec hunter droid parts; it also has a gateway, but this one is also inoperative. Discouraged, they rejoin the main group.
   Dean finds Jak not long after. As they're talking, the Angels and Alton men appear on the scene, and a huge battle ensues. Camarillo and Ralhoun are killed, along with most of their men, and the rest scatter. Ryan spots Althea (dressed as a bandit) running toward Dean, weapon in hand; since he doesn't know who she is, he shoots and kills her. Dean is furious with his father for killing the woman he loves, so he parts ways with the group on bitter terms.
   The companions continue on with the caravan until they reach Kentucky; freed of their obligation as guards, they continue on northeast until they find another redoubt. This one has a working gateway (they presume that the system had shut down for a routine update), so they 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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