Sunspot [Deathlands Series No. 80] [Secure]
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by James Axler
Category: Science Fiction/Suspense/Thriller
Description: BELLY OF THE BEAST.... In the wake of a nuclear Armageddon, the hellscape of Deathlands conspires to torment strong and weak alike, festering most deeply in those who still possess the deepest core of human decency. Now the past lies in the ashes, while the mysteries of the future unfold in the hands of those willing to live each new day in search of hope for tomorrow. VIRULENT COMPROMISE.... The endless struggle for power among the barons is a way of life in Deathlands, but Ryan Cawdor and his warrior survivalists take no sides unless forced to. But as the land around the Rio Grande reaches the breaking point in a bitter war, the companions are harnessed into battle, moving toward a grim confrontation with an old enemy whose secret stockpile of twenty-first century nerve gas is poised to unleash infinite madness once more upon a ravaged earth. In the Deathlands, history readies to repeat itself.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Gold Eagle,
eBookwise Release Date: December 2007
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Available eBook Formats [Secure - What's this?]: OEBFF Format (IMP) [460 KB]
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Ryan Cawdor stood out of the line of fire, his back pressed against a mud-brick wall. The ground was partially frozen underfoot, the early morning sky streaked with scudding low clouds. Gusts of wind shrieked through the ramshackle hilltop maze of Redbone ville, drowning out the screams of the dying.
A makeshift barricade of rocks and dirt and tree limbs stood less than one hundred feet from Ryan's position. It blocked the entrance to a narrow path that was the ville's only remaining escape route. The blue-less sights and muzzles of three AK-47s poked out through firing ports, gaps in the layers of piled debris.
From the opposite direction, near the center of the pesthole ville, a frantic flurry of gunshots rang out. With black powder revolvers and remade single-shot 12-gauges, Redbone's trapped residents fought off a superior force. The resistance was answered by short, efficient bursts of heavy-caliber autofire.
Time was running out, for all concerned.
Ryan stepped from cover, his scoped Steyr SSG-70 longblaster slung over his shoulder, a SIG-Sauer P226 semiautomatic blaster securely holstered under his left armpit. With empty hands in plain view, he advanced up the rutted path, past a rude stock pen on his right, toward the waist-high, twelve-foot-long barricade. A blast of wind scoured the frosty earth, whipping up the stench of pig manure. The pigs themselves were nowhere to be seen, but mounds of loose droppings lay scattered over the track.
The worn AK sights held steady on his chest as he closed the distance, walking straight into the maw of a firing squad. Fifty feet. Forty feet. The adrenaline coursing through his veins made his fingertips tingle and his scalp crawl. The empty socket of his left eye began to itch like a rad bastard under its black patch. The sensation spread along the jagged welt of scar that split his brow and cheek. Ryan didn't scratch. He kept his hands in sight, well away from his body.
"Stop there!" someone shouted from behind the barrier.
Ryan kept walking, spreading his arms wide, displaying open palms in a gesture of surrender.
"Stop or you're dead!"
Ryan was betting they wouldn't shoot unless he made a move for his blasters. Baron Malosh paid his press gangs by the head. The live head. This crew's job was to capture or to turn back any ville folk trying to escape conscription into the baron's army. To Malosh even a one-eyed man had value, if only as cannon fodder.
"I give up," Ryan said as he continued forward. "You win. Take my weapons…"
"Get on your belly! Now!"
"No way am I going to lie facedown in pig shit," Ryan shouted back. Though his words and tone were defiant, as he advanced he raised his hands even higher. "I said you could take my blasters."
Ryan was five yards from the barricade when the baron's men realized they had a problem. The man was tall and broad across the shoulders, and the closer he came to the narrow path entrance with arms spread, the more he blocked their view—and their ability to control the entire kill zone. To see around him, to see what was coming directly behind him, they had to move to the side and stand from cover. This they did more or less in unison.
As the men jumped up, Ryan dived to the dirt in front of the barrier, leaving them exposed to incoming fire.
At once, tightly clustered blaster shots and the canvas-ripping clatter of an Uzi rang out from behind him. The volley of slugs whined a yard above his head, thudding into wood, ricocheting off rock and smacking flesh.
The burst of blasterfire lasted no more than three seconds. Ryan pushed up from the ground and, drawing his SIG from shoulder leather, vaulted the barricade, leaping into the tight, shanty-lined lane.
All three of Malosh's men were down.
Over the sights of his SIG, Ryan quickly checked the fallen for signs of life. Overlapping layers of worn duct tape held the soles and tops of their boots together. They wore no insignia or badge of rank. Their bearded faces and gloveless hands were encrusted with layers of grime. Only one was moving, his legs mule-kicking spastically. His skull had been cratered by multiple bullet hits, front and side; gobs of steaming brain matter clung to the coarse mud wall.
No follow-up shots required.
Ryan raised his weapon in a two-handed grip and surveyed the alley. The tight passage was like a wind tunnel; he squinted his good right eye as grit peppered his face. On either side of the dirt lane, a dozen one-room shanties shared common earthen walls and corrugated metal roofs. The crooked, doorless entryways faced one another, raising the possibility of a nasty, close-range cross fire. Two-thirds of the way down the path, a huge dead hog lay on its side in a pool of blood. Through the gap at the far end of the alley, Ryan saw distant blue mountains bathed in bright sunlight, beyond the edge of the coming storm. Because of the elevation and the angle of view, he couldn't see the cultivated fields around the hilltop's base, or the border where they gave way to desert scrubland. For generations, the area's farmers had retreated to higher ground for their common defense. The fortified ville had easily held off bands of predatory muties and coldheart robbers. Against a large, well-trained and equipped military force, however, Redbone was a sitting duck.
Ryan took a quick glance over his shoulder to check on his companions, who were charging toward him.
Jak Lauren ran in front in long, loping strides, his .357 Magnum Colt Python in his fist. Jak's face was bloodlessly white, his long, lank, platinum hair streamed back from his head. As the albino ran, his ruby-red eyes scanned the doorways and rooftops of the wall-to-wall huts for enemy snipers. Following hard on his heels, puffing from the effort, was John Barrymore Dix. The bespectacled Armorer gripped his Uzi machine pistol in both hands, his shoulder-slung, Smith & Wesson M-4000 12-gauge pump slapped wildly against his back. His prized fedora was screwed down on his head to keep it from blowing off.
Copyright © 2007 by Worldwide Library.