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Stoneface

Modified on 2012/03/18 17:04 by Kerrick Categorized as Books, Deathlands
   America's like an ark, I always thought, different types and nations accounted for, to safekeep from another disaster sure to afflict the rest of the world. But what if the plague, the flood, the meteor, strikes our lands too?
   We'll just have to keep looking for tomorrow, keep looking real hard, for as long as it takes. And for now, don't forget Ozymandias.

   Star Gazing, by E. Edelon
   pub. Boston News Press, Boston 1996



   The companions arrive in a gateway in a base in Dulce, New Mexico. The place is untouched and fully stocked - they find a working armored vehicle, which they take north on a trip to Calgary.
   Several days later, in South Dakota, they're attacked by a swarm of screamwings, which are drawn by the sound of their engine. They shut off the engine and hunker down to wait the creatures out, but a man on a motorcycle comes by at that moment, drawing the muties' attention. They swarm on him, and the companions go to his rescue.
   He tells them his name (Zadfrak), that he's dying of rad cancer, and that he's from a ville called Helskel not far away, so they offer to take him back. They make camp near a river that night. The next morning, he, Doc, and JB are fishing when Doc hooks a huge fish. He's in the process of reeling it in when he's attacked by a mucksucker. His screams, along with JB's gunfire, draw the rest of the group, and they kill it with lots of firepower.
   Later in the day, they finally come to a ville near Helskel. As they're asking for directions, they're accosted by a group of sec men, who take them to Helskel itself. There, Zadfrak is taken away and they meet the baron, Lars Hellstrom, and his captain, Fleur. He invites them to stay for awhile, so they accept. They're told to remain in their rooms at the inn that night, because the Family (Hellstrom's chosen) is holding a ceremony.
   Undeterred, the companions sneak out to see what's going on. The ceremony is a sacrifice - Zadfrak's. He's slashed up and then placed on a huge pyre and burned to death. They decide to leave immediately, but when they get to their vehicle, they find all the tires have been slashed.
   The next morning, Hellstrom calls Ryan down to make a deal - he needs something done, and they need new tires for their wag. Since Ryan has no choice, he accepts. Hellstrom takes the companions out to Mount Rushmore, which is only a couple hours away, explaining along the way - he's been trading with the inhabitants of the Anthill, a complex buried in the mountain. He brings them organs, and they give him supplies - seeds for crops, weapons, vehicles, fuel, etc.
   They camp there for the night; in the middle of the night, they're attacked by a band of Lakota, who view the mountain as sacred ground. Hellstrom has his people harvest the bodies for organs, then lays out his plan: he wants two people - Ryan and one other of his choice - to stow away in the containers and get inside the Anthill, then kill the inhabitants so he can take it over. To sweeten the deal, he makes Ryan his sec chief.
   They return to Helskel the next day, and Hellstrom tells Ryan they have three days to decide. After the ceremony, Fleur finds Ryan and tells him that he needs to find Dog, one of the sec men who has a grudge against him. Dog is addicted to wolfweed and is likely in a den smoking some. Ryan knows it's a trap but has no choice, so he goes to find Dog. Dog is, of course, hopped up on weed and highly aggressive - he attacks Ryan, who is forced to kill him. Fleur then uses this as an excuse to get him arrested and executed, but Hellstrom steps in before anything can happen. She demands trial by combat, so Hellstrom accepts.
   The next day, Fleur and Ryan do a "track stand" - combat in a ring where both participants are mounted on motorcycles, armed with a whip and a knife. He wins the combat, and Fleur is disgraced and kicked out of the Family.
   The day after, Ryan tells Hellstrom that he accepts the deal (he has no choice). Hellstrom's men take him and Mildred out to the Anthill, where they're reeled inside in the containers. As soon as they get to the receiving bay, they pop out and head deeper into the complex. In a scale model of Washington D.C., they're attacked by sec forces and split up - Ryan leads most of them away from Mildred so she can find the cooling stations and shut them down.
   Meanwhile, back in Helskel, the rest of the companions are imprisoned. Fleur is tossed into the cell as well later. Doc comes up with a plan - he can cut out chunks of dirt from the floor with his sword, then they can scoop out the underlying dirt - enough for JB and Jak to hide; when the guards come to feed them, they notice that two people are missing and come inside, where they're attacked and killed. They hijack a vehicle and escape from the ville, blowing up the gas station as they go.
   Ryan makes his way through the complex and finds the Commander's office. Before he can kill the Commander, though, he's attacked and subdued by another of the Anthill members. The Commander takes him on a tour of the place. When they return to the office, the Commander monologues and Ryan takes the opportunity to slip his scarf free; he uses the weighted end to bash the man in the side of the head, then shoots him dead.
   Mildred escapes through a grille and slides down into a huge dust sump. From there, she climbs into a maintenance chamber, where she runs into a creature calling itself Uni - a genetically engineered hermaphrodite that can change its gender at will. It shows her where the cooling stations are; she drops a couple grenades on one of the generators and flees up an elevator.
   By this time, the rest of the companions have arrived at the base of the Anthill and are involved in a three-way battle between the Helskel forces and the Lakota. They head for a cave used to transport goods from above via mat-trans; Ryan uses a robot beetle to communicate with them and activates the gateway to teleport them all to him. Mildred rejoins the group, and they hop into the gateway and jump out of the Anthill.


  
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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