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The Mars Arena

Modified on 2011/10/18 12:02 by Kerrick Categorized as Books, Deathlands
Some say men love games
Some say that war's a game
And from the Roman days
The red god sets the pace

Mars, it's always Mars
With Venus in his arms

Don't they know the real arena
She draws blood to stoke her love
And the Reaper shows his bones
Shedding kindness like a cloak

Mars, his night of bliss
Venus and her blood-red kiss

   - From the Liar Cycle
   the rock group Polo Heads

   As the book begins, the companions are fleeing from a group of brushwooders near the Cific Islands, in what was once southern California. They'd encountered the group a few hours earlier after jumping to a gateway in the area. They'd been trying to avoid the 'wooders, but ran into a large group on a search for a pass through the mountains.
   Ryan comes up with a plan: send some of the group ahead while he and JB wait for the 'wooders to pass, then silently take out the stragglers, killing as many as they can. It works fairly well; Ryan himself kills four of them and finds a bow on the fourth one. By this time, those in the lead have figured out that the folks in the rear have fallen behind, and they've stopped to wait, so Ryan takes the opportunity to let off a few arrows. He manages to shoot three men before the others figure out where he is and return fire. He drops the bow, breaks out his rifle, and shoots three more, then blows off the clip and gets another three before he's forced to retreat.
   At this time, we're introduced to Hayden LeMarck, sec boss for Baron Connrad Hardcoe. He's been sent to take care of the 'wooders and has been following them for awhile, looking for their leader. He watches Ryan and gets an idea: he can use Ryan and his friends in something called "the Big Game".
   Meanwhile, Jak is leading Krysty, Doc, and Mildred up into the mountains. He's gone on ahead without leaving any signs of his passage, leaving the others stranded at what looks like a dead-end ledge. He's climbed up to the top, though, and is now dealing with a skike. He shoots it and shows the others the way up. They split into pairs to scout for a likely safe path.
   As Krysty is scouting, a quake shakes the mountain, opening a small crack much wider. Oddly, the dirt and rocks sliding into it are hitting something metallic. A closer look reveals a helicopter with the word "Rescue" on the door, partially buried in a large chamber below. Krysty decides to clibm down and see if there is anything useful inside - which there is; she stuffs her pack and pockets full of medicine, bandages, and other supplies. She accidentally cuts her hand; seeing the blood sends her into a vision of startling power and clarity.
   In it, she is somewhere else. She sees a boy (not Dean), badly wounded. A woman's voice tells her to wait and concentrate, so that Krysty can talk to Dean and save him. Dean himself soon appears, and Krysty tells him that his father is coming and to look for him, then the vision goes dark. When she opens her eyes again, she sees Ryan and warns him that Dean is there, and to look for him, then the vision ends again and she's sent back to the helicopter. She climbs out and is about to start up when another tremor sets the helicopter free and sliding toward her.
   And speaking of Dean... he's on a grand adventure with one of his classmates from the Brody School, Calgary Ventnor. They're going to see if one of the girls, Phaedra Lemon, really sleeps in the nude. They climb up to the top of the wall around the compound and jump over to the roof of the girls' dorm, then Dean climbs in through her window. She awakens as he's pulling the blanket down and, desperate to keep her from screaming, he kisses her. She then asks him why he came, and he tells her, whereupon she punches him in the nose and accidentally sticks her finger in his eye. He manages to subdue her (by kissing her again), and they're talking when Calgary (who's been leaning upside-down over the eaves the entire time) falls off the roof, making a huge racket. Phaedra's roommate wakes up, sees Dean, and starts shrieking. Lucky for Dean, she thinks Cal followed him, and she helps him escape out the window. Unfortunately, he and Cal are caught by the sec men.
   Ryan and JB find their way up and link up with Mildred and Jak as the other pair is digging a dead man from under a rockslide. The body has a tattoo of a solar system overlaid with a DNA helix. They find a backpack with supplies, a thermal tent, and a map. The map has a route marked from Montana through Idaho, Oregon, and California, with the starting point marked as "Heimdall Point". It has another asterisk marked near Carson City, Colorado, with "Shostakovich's Anvil" written on the map.
   Meanwhile, Ryan and the others go looking for Doc and Krysty. They find Doc, and he tells them what's going on. Ryan ties a rope around his ankles and dives into the cave after Krysty; she's swept over the edge, but grabs onto a skid, and he manages to grab her as the chopper is momentarily hung up. The others pull them up as the chopper finally goes over the edge. They head off a little ways and make camp with the tent.
   The next day, Ryan and JB find tracks - someone's been following them. The group is heading toward a bowl-shaped valley when someone up ahead starts shooting at them. Ryan and JB move ahead, distracting the shooter, while Jak sneaks up to the blind and ambushes them - there are two men, one with a rifle and one standing by. The second man is a member of the Heimdall Foundation named Bernsen (the dead man on the mountain was his companion), and the shooter, Hoyle, is his guide. They're tracking a Russian space station that's due to fall from orbit and land somewhere nearby.
   The brushwooders are coming up on their position, so Ryan and the others usher the pair (sans weapons) down into a cave passage, which terminates in an underground river. Hoyle tells them he's got a rubber raft stashed down there - he uses the river when it's low to travel quickly and safely, but it's too high now with the snowmelt. Unfortunately, the cave is their only way out, so they have to take it.
   They make it partway down before the boat capsizes and they're swept through an underwater passage, surfacing in another cavern. Jak gets carried away with the raft, but he manages to hold on; Ryan takes Hoyle on a walk and they eventually find him. Along the way, Hoyle tells Ryan of the seven local villes and the Five Barons who rule over them - every year, they hold a competition (using people they capture) to see who gets to take charge for the next year. Ryan gets Bernsen to tell them of the Anvil, and they decide to check it out - it's not far out of the way, and it might be interesting.
   Meanwhile, Dean has been asked to join a group of boys in a special training program run by one of the teachers, Mr. Solomon. Dean is taking the place of one boy who broke a rib during earlier training; they need 10 boys, so he's chosen to fill in. For that night's training, they split into two teams and race to a tree a half-mile distant; first one there wins. They've barely gone half the distance, though, when the boys are shot with trank darts.
   They wake up in a cage on the back of a truck. They find out that Solomon's sold them out, but not as slaves - Baron Vinge Connrad tells them that he just wants them to "chill a few people". Solomon opts out of accompanying the baron and his men to Vegas, so Connrad decides to have him killed - he knows good and well that if Brody finds out, he'll come gunning for the baron. He has Dean do the deed, with his own shotgun, then they roll out toward Vegas.
   The next morning, Brody's head sec man discovers the scene where Solomon had been shot. The body is gone, of course, but the amount of blood, along with shredded cloth from his shirt and pellets in the trees tells the tale. They also know the ten boys are missing, and they found a trank dart, suggesting it wasn't willingly. Brody sends the man out to track the boys and recover them.
   A couple days later, Ryan and the companions, along with Bernsen and Hoyle, reach Diamond Lake, the suspected impact point of the space station. They find several hundred muties there already, dancing around fires and awaiting the landing of their "sky god". The station enters the atmosphere and breaks into several pieces; the largest one lands near the mutie camp, bulldozing many of them before shooting into the lake and sinking. The muties flee toward the companions' position, forcing them to flee in turn. They run smack into Baron Hardcoe's men, who intend to capture the crew for their game. They succeed in getting Ryan, Mildred, and JB, but the others get away and Hoyle is killed. The next morning, Krysty, Jak, and Doc manage to get one of the baron's disabled vehicles running and go after their friends.
   Soon after, the baron's vehicles arrive in Vegas. Ryan, JB, and Mildred are taken directly to their staging area, where they're told what's going to happen - five teams, fight to the death, survivor wins. They're given their weapons and released into the pit. After some work, they spot a large building in the middle of the arena - the old Mirage - and head toward it.
   Meanwhile, Jak, Krysty, Doc, and Bernsen arrive in Vegas as well and make their way toward the arena. They find an old parking garage, which is right next to the arean, and set up plas-ex along a section of the wall to blow. When that's ready, she and Jak slip into the arena, leaving Doc and Bernsen to watch the wall.
   Dean and the other members of his team have also made it into the Mirage. The barons are watching; when Connrad gets confirmation of their entry, he sends one of his men to release a horde of mutie flying monkeys on the top floor. Ryan and his team have entered the Mirage by this time and are tracking the members of Dean's team - unaware that Dean is actually there.
   The barons' spotters see Krysty and Jak and send in a team to take care of them. In the chaos, Krysty and Jak kill several men on horses, then commandeer the mounts. Ryan and Dean meet up in the building, and they see Krysty and Jak; the group meets up and rides back toward the wall. They blow the explosives and ride through to the outside, killing Connrad along the way, then they meet up with the sec men from the Brody School, who give them a lift back.
   Once they return to the school, Ryan asks Dean if he wants to stay or come along, and he decides to go, so they leave the next morning.

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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