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Wretched Earth

Modified on 2012/07/31 02:49 by Kerrick Categorized as Books, Deathlands
   There are more dead people than living. And their numbers are increasing. The living are getting rarer.

   - Rhinoceros
   Eugene Ionesco (1909-1994)



   The story begins not with the companions, but another group of folks exploring a redoubt in eastern Kansas. In the course of their wanderings, they happen across a medlab with a cabinet containing vials of a prion. One of the guys stuffs his pack full of vials, thinking they might be useful, then the group is attacked by mutie rats. He falls and breaks several vials in the chaos, but they get free (minus their guide, who's killed) and flee the redoubt.
   That evening, at camp, he cuts himself on one of the vials and becomes sick. He attacks the woman of the group, Lariat, and infects her as well; the remaining member, Reno flees.
   Meanwhile, the companions are not far away in a way station, taking a break from their duty as sec for a small caravan. Mildred and Krysty are walking across the square when they come across some of the locals beating up a young man. Mildred jumps in, and Krysty backs her; the rest of the group hears the commotion and comes out of the tavern, ending the fight.
   The man turns out to be none other than Reno, who bears news of a horde of rotties headed their way. The companions agree to let him stay with them, but they take his story with a grain of salt.
   That night, the rotties attack. The companions hop onto a bus owned by a local cult and hitch a ride out of town as the cultists flee; most of the rest of the people are killed. When they get safely away, they find that several of the cultists on the bus have been infected; the infected promptly rise and start noshing on the others. The companions take advantage of the chaos to hijack the bus and keep going west, toward Sweetwater Junction.
   After the bus breaks down, they start walking and run into a group of traders headed east. They exchange news: Sweetwater is involved in a civil war, since the sec chief attempted a palace coup and failed; he now controls half the town, while the dead baron's wife and son control the other half. When the traders hear news of the rottie attack, they decide to head north instead.
   The companions need to warn both factions about the rotties and get them united to fight the horde, so Ryan comes up with a plan: they'll split up and hire themselves out as mercies to both sides. Ryan, Krysty, and Doc go see the new baron, Miranda Sharp, while JB, Mildred, and Jak go to the sec chief, Geither Jacks.
   The first task Miranda gives her new mercies is to clear out a watchtower in the center of town overlooking the square, a tactical strongpoint for snipers. They do so, and some of Miranda's men occupy it. Not long after, Jacks gives his new mercies the same order, so they take it back, but JB leaves a booby trap behind. When Sharp's men go retake it for the second time, one of them sets off the trap and blows the tower up.
   Meanwhile, the companions attempt to warn everyone of the rotties, but no one believes them. Miranda wants to hold a ceremony to invest her son, Colton, so Ryan uses it as an opportunity to draw out and kill a bunch of Jacks' men.
   The next day, Ryan takes Colton out to teach him basic marksmanship, since he's never fired a gun before. While they're out there talking to Miranda, a rider comes up with news - he says a trading caravan was attacked ten miles to the east and there are only two survivors. They rode into town, passed their story on to anyone who would listen, then fled west. Miranda sends four men out to see what happened, and the companions take a wander around the ville to listen to rumors.
   Only one of the men returns, and he's been bitten. Ryan urges Sharp's healer to tie the man down, which he does; after the man changes, Miranda believes them and tries to parley with Jacks to fight a common enemy.
   Meanwhile, Reno wanders into town bearing his story of the rottie horde. He happens to talk to Jacks and mentions the companions in passing; Jacks realizes the companions are playing both sides against the middle and arranges a parley, where he tells Miranda what's been going on.
   All the companions are imprisoned and tortured, while the two leaders arrange for a formal truce. Ryan, Krysty, and Doc are freed by Colton; JB, Mildred, and Jak break free on their own. Both leaders and their people gather in the middle of town, but both have planned preemptive strikes.
   Unfortunately for both sides, the rotties have their own agenda; they break through the perimeter and attack anyone in reach, wounding Miranda badly. Colton is forced to kill her; Jacks declares himself baron, but Colton shoots him dead and takes charge. With the civil war effectively over, Colton unites everyone against the rotties.
   During the course of the fighting, the companions run into Reno, and they find out that he's a carrier - he's been bitten, but isn't infected. He tells them that Lariat was also attacked, but she didn't die - she's reached a state of balance with the infection, effectively becoming a sentient zombie queen, and she has control of the horde. He attempts to escape the ville to go to her, but she sics her zombies on him.
   Fortunately for the folks in the ville, there's an acid rain storm on the way - an annual occurrence. Ryan has everyone take shelter indoors, then blows the east gate, letting the rotties into the ville. Most of them are caught outdoors as the downpour dissolves their rotting bodies, and the rest are easily dealt with.

  
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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