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Shadow Fortress

Modified on 2011/10/18 11:42 by Kerrick Categorized as Books, Deathlands

Storm'd at with shot and shell,
  While hero and horse fell,
They that had fought so well,
Came thro' the jaws of Hell,
  All that was left of them...

   Alfred, Lord Tennyson

   When last we left our heroes, they were searching for a plane that Dean had spotted in the treetops. They reach the area where they assume the plane to be just as they hear vehicles pulling up nearby, then machine-gun fire - it's Glassman and his men. Ryan climbs up a tree to take a look while the others hide. He finds the plane, so everyone climbs up.
   It's a C-130 Hercules cargo plane, still sealed. Once they get inside, they find several pallets of cargo along with a dozen or so crewmembers who all died in the crash. JB gets into the cockpit, and he and Ryan disable the ejector seats and pull out the survival kits underneath - pistols, ammo, meds, flare pistols, food, and other items. Mildred finds a briefcase filled with papers; the papers are a manifest saying that the plane was carrying weather-sensing equipment, along with balloons and helium. From this, they develop a plan - they'll inflate the balloons, tie them to a cargo pallet, and use that to fly to Forbidden Island.
   They've got the balloon built and are loading supplies when Glassman and his men find them. They frantically hold the men off while everyone climbs into the basket and they cut the anchor ropes. After they're away, Dean and Krysty fire their flare guns into the plane, puncturing the remaining helium tanks and causing the entire plane to explode, killing most of the sec men.
   The companions fly out of Glassman's reach and over Cascade, then they're over the ocean. Just when they think they're safe, though, they're attacked by another flock of mutie condors. They are fighting off the birds when Glassman's men appear at the cliff edge and fire off a bunch of rockets, but the companions manage to shoot them down. Finally safe from birds and rockets, they sail off into the night.
   A few hours later, though, they approach Forbidden Island and its twin volcanos. They barely avoid flying over the radioactive part of the island, but the thermals from the volcanos catch them and send them soaring toward the chem clouds. They drop ballast and hit cooler air, which drops them faster than they wish. They plummet toward the ground, drawing the attention of the pirate ville on the island, and crash land.
   Meanwhile, Glassman, Mitchum, and their men are chasing the balloon in the PT boats. They get close enough to see the pirates' cannons firing at the balloon, then they realize they're close to Forbidden Island and stop dead in the water, afraid to go any closer. They also realize that they've finally found the pirate's home island. Glassman has an idea, so he turns around to get more men and a bunch of slaves.
   Ryan awakens from the crash to find that it's daylight and he's in a cage on the back of a cart. Dean, JB, and Doc are with him. They're escorted to the baron's residence, where they go inside (under heavy guard) to meet the baron himself. Baron Withers' men recovered the weather balloons, and he's eager to find out how to refill them. Ryan convinces the baron to unchain them, then says that Doc invented the device. Doc, in turn, claims that he needs something to draw with. They don't have chalk or knives, so he asks for his walking stick - the ferrule on the end is sharp enough.
   Once he has it, he draws the sword and kills the nearest guard. The others use the opportunity to kill the guards, and Ryan gets the baron to tell him where the escape route is before killing him too. As it turns out, the door the baron points out isn't an escape route - it's a secret armory. Good enough for the men, though - they arm themselves and start blasting their way out.
   Krysty and Mildred awaken to find themselves prisoners of the local madam, who intends to use them as gaudy sluts. Mildred is tied to a chair, and Krysty to the bed; Mildred manages to break one arm off the chair, stabs the woman in the kidney, then beats her unconscious. She gets free and unties Krysty, and they grab some weapons.
   Meanwhile, Jak is being led to the arena, along with a bunch of other slaves. Just as they emerge into the area itself, he breaks free, grabs a gun, and starts shooting. One of the sec men charges him, and he's pushed into a boar pit.
   By this time, Glassman and Mitchum have returned with a full complement of slaves. They send the unfortunates to shore, one at a time, to figure out where the safe path lies. They quickly find it, but the pirates also spot them and start firing the cannons. Two pirate ships sail around the island, but the PT boats destroy them and the cannon emplacements. Mitchum sends one last slave ashore and finds a good path - right alongside a river emptying into the ocean. He and Glassman take all their Hummers ashore and head for the pirate ville in full force.
   In Maturo ville, Baron Kinnison gets word of the impending attack and has all the rest of the fleet hunting pirates converge on the pirate stronghold. His new chancellor brings in a woman (one of the clones) to be his new bride. The woman says she'll be the mother of his heir (his "son" was killed after he was imprisoned), so he orders everyone out and has sex with her right on the table.
   Back to Jak. Luckily for him, the pirate who fell into the pit was carrying his .357. He grabs it and kills one of the boars, then throws a knife at a spectator in the stands who has another pistol and a belt full of ammo. That man falls into the pit, and Jak gets more ammo. With all this, he kills the biggest boar, a sow, but the guards are firing at him now. He crawls across the pit to a concealed door... and then an alarm bell starts ringing and everyone flees the arena. The door is barred from the other side, so he piles up boar carcasses and attempts to climb up the wall; Mildred and Krysty show up at that point and help him out.
   They waylay a passing man to find out where the baron's residence is (figuring that's where the men will be), but before they can get there, it blows up rather spectacularly. Ryan and the others appear shortly after, though - they'd blown up the building themselves. Reunited, they make their way through the ville while pirates and sec men wage all-out war.
   They head for the west gate, which is guarded only by a single man and doesn't appear to have been opened for decades. After they get into the jungle, they find out why - they're attacked by large four-armed gorillas the locals call Hunters. They kill several of the creatures, finally getting the others to stand off, until they come to a mesa, atop which is an untouched predark city - their goal. They climb up the rock, followed by the gorillas, but they manage to kill the half-dozen pursuers.
   They wander through the city, which is untouched - it looks like it was hit with neutron bombs. They find a department store and load up on supplies and find some motorcycles, which they get working again. As they leave the store, a walker crawls out a window. Ryan shoots at it, so it attacks with a pulse laser. They blind it by shooting out its camera, then Ryan charges it and rips off the laser with his bare hands, taking most of the guts with it. He's also electrocuted, but Mildred manages to revive him with CPR.
   They ride downtown and find a bank to spend the night. They end up spending a few days there resting and healing before setting out again in search of the redoubt. They return to the department store to find it completely trashed - it looks like the hunters had been there. They search the city for sources of guns or alcohol (for fuel). They find a sporting goods store, but a key is snapped off in the lock in the grating covering the door. There's a pawn shop across the street that's open, so Ryan and JB go to check it out. Ryan steps on something hard in the doorway while JB is working on the lock, and he warns everyone there's an ambush by using their special code; he and JB return to the bikes, and he tells them that the lock on the grating was melted, as if by a laser - chances are the walkers have set a trap for them.
   They stop by a recruiting station and find a map that shows the location of a National Guard armory. It's on the other side of the city, so they take the highway bypass around. At one point they come up to a gigantic spider web strung between two skyscrapers, over the highway. They walk their bikes under it, and then are attacked by a monstrous spider, but they outrun it.
   They get to the armory and find that the front gate is locked, but they blow it open. Inside the compound is a large warehouse, locked with a complicated keypad, and a smaller building. The second building houses the CO's office, which has a key for the back door to the warehouse.
   Inside the warehouse, they find a large, empty, vehicle bay and a hallway with several doors. They force on and set off a trap - mustard gas. Krysty shoots one of the sprinklers, setting them off and diluting the gas. The doors all lead to empty storage rooms, so they take the stairs down to the lower floor.
   It's a huge bay filled with crates, packing material, and assorted junk - the soldiers evacuated and took everything with them. In their haste, though, they left all sorts of things behind, like weapons, ammo, and even a flamethrower. JB opens the elevator to find a whole pallet of weeping dynamite. The companions immediately tiptoe outside and race away before the whole place blows up.
   With their new weapons, the companions return to the pawn shop (avoiding the spider again) and shoot a couple M-203 grenades through the front window. Two are moderately damaged, and one has sustained severe damage; after finding no one outside, the worst damaged one heads down the street toward what the companions hope is the redoubt.
   They follow it to a trio of buildings, the middle of which has the symbol they found in the gateway when they first arrived (see Savage Armada). They head inside and are immediately attacked by security systems and several walkers. After dealing with those, they head up to the penthouse with the intent of working their way down.
   Upstairs, they're attacked by a hunter who batters down the window to get inside. They shoot the thing back through the window, then discover that Krysty and JB are gone. Apparently they'd stepped into a side office, and when JB try to jimmy a locked desk drawer, it triggered a thick Lexan panel to seal off the office. JB finds a button and hits it, but that just draws more walkers, which the rest of the companions have to deal with. JB flips the desk over to find a bundle of wiring. He grabs a couple and twists them together, which causes a secret door to open.
   The door leads into a lab where the pilots were created. The ancient computers think that Krysty is one of the test subjects, so the robotic arms try to restrain her and place her on a table for harvesting, but between JB and the rest of the companions (who finally get past the sec panel), they finally disable the computers, which starts an electrical fire that vents smoke outside.
   Another door in the lab leads to an office with a still-working computer; Mildred boots it up and searches the files for any information. She finds that all the equipment from the armory was brought to the redoubt, which is under the building. They find a bunch of subway tokens, and there's a subway station only a block away, so they head for it.
   Meanwhile, Mitchum and Glassman followed the trail of dead hunters to the base of the mesa. They winch the Hummers up to the top of the mesa and spot the smoke, so they head for the building. They arrive just as the companions reach the subway station and the spider finds them. The sec men, not seeing the companions, immediately attack the spider, which goes after them. The companions take the opportunity to blow the gate open and get inside the station; after dealing with the spider, the sec men follow.
   A running firefight follows; the companions get down to the tracks and find a horde of bats, which they stir up, sending them straight for the sec men. They use the distraction to run down the tunnel to a steel sec door - the entrance to the redoubt. As soon as they open it, a Cerberus pours out, but Dean presents a security pass he found in the office and the Cerberus goes around them to kill Mitchum. Unfortunately, the dying man triggers the remaining rockets, which hit the ceiling. No one's hurt, but a falling chunk of masonry hits Dean's hand and he loses the pass. Without their defense, the companions rush into the redoubt and slam the door shut, but the Cerberus starts to ooze inside and chases them through the redoubt. They barely make it into the gateway before the Cerberus catches them.
   Back on Maturo Island, Kinnison is driving around his lands with his new wife when a nearby volcano erupts, dumping loads of ash on the island. The truck bogs down, so he gets out and runs, but the ground opens up and swallows him. His wife, meanwhile, flees for the cliff edge to dive into the ocean, but a lava flow dumps into the water just before she hits, and she's boiled alive.

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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