|Publication date||September, 1988|
| Preceded by|
| Followed by|
Ice and Fire
A gateway that is part of a rambling underwater complex brings Ryan Cawdor and the group off the coast of what was once Maine, where they are confronted with mutant creatures and primitive inhabitants.
THE STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL CONTINUES...
The world blew out in 2001. Vast areas of what was the United States lie beneath an umbrella of noxious dust and radioactive debris, a mantle of destruction drawn over a land of doom. Much of the East Coast has been obliterated; the Southwest is a land of fire; cities of smoldering ash have given birth to horrifically mutated life forms. Such is the Deathlands, legacy of global annihilation.
But there were survivors, struggling to overcome a dark new age of plague, radiation sickness, barbarism and madness. Out of the ruins come Ryan Cawdor and his band of post-holocaust survivors, whose odyssey of discovery takes them in search of other pockets of civilization.
Emerging from a gateway in Maine, Ryan confronts a ruthless and brutal sea captain, a woman prepared to go to any lengths to get what she wants....
The group arrives in a new gateway. After recovering, they exit into the control room. The lone exit door doesn't lead into a normal antechamber, though: it opens into a huge room with a second door beside the first, that leads to another gateway - this one security level B19 instead of B12.
The second door leads to a larger anteroom with a row of lockers. They open the door to the mat-trans chamber itself and find that the gateway is in use - someone got into it right before they arrived and jumped away. Disappointed, the companions return to the anteroom and check out the lockers. They find a a Magnum .44 and some rounds in one, which they give to Donfil, and a spacesuit in another.
The passage out of the mat-trans heads straight for a large ship-style hatch, along with a set of stairs leading up to a closed door (probably access to the rest of the redoubt). JB opens the hatch, and seawater begins to pour in. It's stuck open, so the companions retreat up the stairs while the water continues to fill the redoubt. They're saved only because the air has nowhere to go, so it holds the water down low enough to keep them from drowning.
Some time later, the tide goes out and they can leave. The door opens onto a small beach with a quay, which is mostly underwater. They find a ladder bolted to the cliff face (an emergency escape route), so they climb up to the top. Ryan finds an access door up there; when he opens it, he's confronted by a mutie with a shotgun. He asks Ryan if he has any Coke, and Ryan says he has lots (and splays his fingers to show how many). This distracts the mutie enough that Ryan dive aside and let the others blast him.
They head down into the redoubt, find the dorms, and spend the night. A search of the rest of the place turns up little beyond vast stores of food - large sections of the redoubt were destroyed by earthquakes - so they head up to the main entrance to look around.
They find they're on an island in the ocean. A road leads from the redoubt down the island, and they find a shelter with a plaque identifying the place as Ile au Haut, part of Acadia National Park in Maine. Unfortunately, the road off the island was destroyed by the earthquakes, leaving them no way to leave, so they scout around to find something that will float.
Donfil and Krysty find a bunch of plastic chemical barrels washed up on a beach, entangled with lots of nylon rope. They managed to lash a bunch together and drag the whole thing up above the high-tide line before dark, then return to the redoubt to eat and rest.
The next morning, they set forth on their raft. They make it almost all the way to the mainland when they're attacked by a gigantic shark. Ryan empties an entire clip from his G12 into it, killing it, and they paddle the rest of the way to shore.
After reaching the shore, they find the remains of a trail that quickly peters out. A little further along, though, they find a couple signs. One is too faded to read, but the other says "Consequence, Maine. Population 843."
The town itself, as they find out, sustained a near-hit by a small missile. Most of the buildings are falling apart, but they find one large house at the edge of town made of stone and still in excellent shape, so they spend the night there. Doc finds a flyer advertising a restaurant opening in Claggartville, about ten miles away, so they decide to go check it out the next day.
Ryan is on watch that night when he notes movement in the yard. He goes to the front door and opens it to take a look around and sees well over a dozen muties standing outside. He slams the door and wakes the others, and they fight their way free. Jak sets fire to the house, catching several muties inside and driving the others away as the companions flee.
Later that day, the companions come across a pair of hunters roasting a haunch of venison over a fire. The men don't speak English, but Lori manages to explain to them that the companions just want their food. After eating, they head on and reach Claggartville by sundown.
They meet a trio of sec men on the road into town, who stop them and ask their business. After some discussion, the men welcome them into town and tell them that outlanders are welcome for three days; after that, they must find work or leave. The companions head to the town's inn, where they sign the register and are given food and a room for the night.
The next day, they eat and go out about the town to see what's what. Down at the docks, they see a ship set apart from the others called the Salvation; Ryan asks a young boy who it belongs to, and the boy tells him: Captain Quadde.
That evening at dinner, Ryan asks the innkeeper why no one will talk about the Salvation or its captain. He refuses to answer, so Ryan addresses the tavern in general. Finally, someone stands up and introduces himself as Jonas Clegg, second mate on the Salvation. He tells Ryan to mind his own business, but Ryan, spoiling for a fight, calls him a coward. This incites Clegg into rage, and he challenges Ryan to a fight. Ryan ends up killing the man and is wiping his panga clean on the body when Captain Quadde herself walks in. She takes Ryan's measure, then leaves.
The next day, Donfil shows off his prowess with a spear by making ten casts at a target forty paces away, hitting all ten in a circle a foot in diameter. That night, the companions eat early in preparation for their departure. Ryan notices that the two tables nearest the door are occupied by a bunch of men from the Salvation; he knows something is up, but not what. When the others go up, the innkeeper asks him to stay behind for a drink. He can't refuse without drawing too much attention, so he agrees, and Donfil drinks too.
The drinks are, of course, drugged. Ryan and Donfil wake up on the Salvation, which is well out of port, and put to work. The rest of the group, meanwhile, is confined their room and placed under heavy guard.
Things go quietly on the ship for most of the first day, until a storm blows in. Everyone's called up to reef the sails, after which they gather on deck. Quadde comes up and tells them that someone is missing - seaman Kenny Hill - and sends Ryan below to find and retrieve him. Ryan does so (not just to avoid angering Quadde, but because the man is a coward), and Kenny is chained to the mast as punishment.
That night, Ryan goes up to take a leak when he sees Quadde raping the man. He quickly slips back below before he's spotted. The next morning, Kenny is dead, with obvious signs of strangulation, but the crewmen just say he froze to death and tip his body overboard.
Two days pass before the men on Salvation catch sight of a whale. Ryan and Donfil are sent out on one of the three longboats. One boat is overturned and one of the men swallowed whole, and Donfil proves his worth as a harpooneer by sticking the whale twice, including the killing blow.
They rescue everyone in the water and haul the whale back to the ship, whereupon they start cutting it apart. They find the lost seaman in the whale's guts, but the poor bastard is half-dead from the stomach acids - his face is partially melted and he's blind. He dives into the water and vanishes into the depths before anyone can put him out of his misery.
Not long after, another ship comes into view. It's the Bartleby, another whaler from Claggartville. The captain lost both his brothers on a longboat and wants help searching for them, but Quadde tells him to get lost.
Meanwhile, back at the inn... the others come up with a plan. They're confined to their room except for bathroom breaks, so the women head down together to do their business. They overcome their escorts, then kill the innkeeper as well when they run into him by accident. They then head for the docks, commandeer the Phoenix, and tell the captain to find the Salvation. He holds no love for Quadde, so he's willing to help.
The Salvation, meanwhile, is headed north into the teeth of a storm. Quadde sights a pod of whales and, despite her mate's objections, sends a longboat out. It's swamped before it even hits the water, and most of the men aboard drown. Quadde finally sees reason and holds the ship steady through the storm, after which a fog rolls in. Since they can't hunt whales in the fog, she sets the men to work around the ship while she decides to "take herself some pleasure".
That evening, Ryan is escorted under guard to Quadde's cabin - she plans to rape and kill him like she did Kenny Hill. One of the men, who had earlier befriended Ryan, pulls out a pistol and threatens to shoot Quadde. He finds, to his dismay, that it's not loaded - she shoots him instead.
The Phoenix has come alongside the Salvation about this time, and the rest of the companions board her. Distracted by the sounds of gunfire above, one of the men slips in the blood and sets off his companion's shotgun, which kills him. Ryan seizes the opportunity and kills one of the other men, then grapples with the fourth in an effort to escape the cabin. He gets free, and Quadde shoots the fourth man in the back when he doesn't get out of her way.
On the deck, the companions quickly subdue the crew, kill any who resist, and lock the rest below. Quadde and her first mate, Ogg, escape in the confusion, taking one of the longboats to shore, so they're force to follow. They end up on a small bay on an island near Ile au Haut - coincidentally, the same where Quadde and her mate ended up. Both have their guns trained on the companions, and she tells them to disarm, which they do.
Several huge sharks have been drawn by the blood from the dead seamen, and they're now swimming around the bay. Quadde tells Ogg to drive them away, so he shoots one. The blood sends the others into a frenzy, which creates a large wave that washes into their boat and sets them off-balance. Ryan, seeing a chance, snatches up a harpoon from his boat and throws it at Quadde, impaling her. Ogg drops his pistol and tells them that he's no threat, but Ryan shoots him anyway.
JB determines that they're only a few miles east of Ile au Haut, so they hop back into the boat and row over. Ryan asks Doc about using the second gateway, the one with the spacesuits, but Doc says that it's likely they wouldn't be able to get it to work - it likely requires more than just closing the door. Disappointed, they pile into the original gateway and jump out.
- This book was authored by Laurence James.
- There is little mention of the second mat trans unit in the Ile au Haut gateway, such as what it was used for, and who was using it just before Ryan and his friends arrived in the redoubt in Dectra Chain?
- The Sentient Kelp may have been inspired by Frank Herbert's 1966 Novel Destination: Void, where such kelp are prominent in the story.