Bitter Fruit

   Was it just a quantum shift -
   magic mushroom,
   the Reaper's white umbrella.
   Lo, Nineveh and Tyre,
   Sodom and Gomorrha.

   - from the diary of Marylou Crawford
   A.D. 2001

   As the story begins, the companions are exploring a redoubt in White Sands, New Mexico. Ryan and JB are outside, taking a break from the heat and stuffy air inside, when they're attacked by some of the locals, humans suffering from rad mutations. Their "god", a giant spider, joins the fray, grabbing up Ryan and trying to eat him. JB shoots it with a LAW rocket, blowing it into pieces.
   The locals, enraged by the death of their god, charge, but they're cut down by a hail of machine gun fire as several military vehicles appear. They holds men who used to live in the redoubt, part of a military unit led by Major Drake Burroughs. Burroughs has heard of Ryan and his band and wants them to join him, to rebuild the old US. Ryan refuses, so Burroughs tries to kill him.
   The companions retreat into the redoubt, fighting a running battle, and head for the mat-trans. They collapse the tunnel behind them with explosives, blocking most of Burroughs' men behind it, and escape.
   They end up in a bolthole in England built by the former commander of the redoubt, who had been working with a civilian company. They find two cryotubes; one is occupied by a man who's long dead, and the other is empty. The mat-trans is trying to activate (apparently Burroughs' men), so they jam the door open, grab supplies, and head out.
   Not long after, they find a trio of hunters who have been ritually executed. They continue on and find a cave to spend the night. Meanwhile, a group of men led by Sergeant Conte make it through the gateway and start tracking down Ryan.
   At about the same time, a teenager named Tarragon is fleeing from Prince Boldt's men. Around dawn, he stumbles into the cave where the companions are staying, followed closely by his pursuers; Jak and Mildred happen to be outside hunting deer, and Mildred is taken prisoner. Jak flees back to the others, and they retreat through a passage in the back of the cave to the other side of the mountain, pursued by Boldt's men.
   On the other side, they run into a group from New London led by Blackjack Gehrig. He and his people are opposed to the Celts (Boldt's people) and offers the companions a ride to safety. Ryan accepts, so they head back to New London.
   Gehrig tells Ryan that he and his men raid the Celt lands for tangler plants, which the Celts have genetically engineered for defense; their seeds are processed to create a powerful drug. Ryan gets as much info as he can about the Celts, their lands, and their home base of Wildroot.
   While Ryan and Gehrig are chatting, Doc wanders the town. He runs into a toymaker who tells him that a man named Long Johnson might know something about his descendants. Doc goes to the local theater (where Johnson is) to watch Romeo and Juliet, then talks to the pirate. The man recognizes Doc's last name and goes ballistic, yelling something about Chronos and trying to kill Doc. Doc and Jak flee the theater, and Johnson returns to his ship, which hauls anchor and leaves the port.
   After talking to Gehrig, Ryan goes to see Tarragon, who tells him of Boldt's plans - the prince intends to unleash a horrific plague on the earth to wipe out all humanity, then start over. JB and Jak are out stealing horses for their escape; at the same time, Conte and his men, who have tracked the companions to New London, infiltrate the ville. Jak spots one of them and tosses a lantern against a building, starting a fire. Chaos ensues as Conte and his men, as well as Gehrig's men, get into a running battle with each other and the companions.
   The companions make it out of the city with both groups hot on their heels and head to Wildroot to get Mildred back. Tarragon helps them get through the tanglers and into the ville, where they meet up with rebel forces. The rebels rise up against Boldt's men, and the companions use the distraction to slip into the fortress and find Mildred. They find Boldt and kill him, but only after he starts the countdown to unleash the plague. Ryan fights off and kills Boldt's father, whose intelligence was implanted into a genetically engineered plant creature, and stops the countdown at 1 second. He and the others then escape through a gateway before Conte can get to them.