Exile to Hell

Exile to Hell

Exile to Hell

1 in the Outlander series James Axler

Charles Fort


Once called the land of the free, in the aftermath of the Russian-American conflict in that end-of-the-world year 2001, it became the Deathlands. A shockscape of ruined nature, a hell on earth for the few huddled survivors. But life’s raw drive made sure that enough endured, and that they carried on.

Even after a full century had passed since the skydark following the nukecaust that devastated the planet, the population was well below the vital level. Infant-mortality rates were staggeringly high, and outside the baronies, life in the Deathlands was cheap, brutal and short.

There were a few who thrived in this new environment. Tribes of American Indians believed the nukecaust was the purification of ancient prophecy, and they reclaimed their ancestral lands.

Others gained power and wealth, digging out Stockpiles, the surviving caches of tools, weapons and predark technology laid down by the government.

And then there were the hidden ones, shadowy, their existence only hinted at during the predark years and dismissed as hoaxes or the imaginings of conspiracy fever and paranoia.

Traces of their existence remained after skydark, but those few people who stumbled across them assumed they were the handiwork of whitecoatsthe government scientists working on projects to safeguard America from the very holocaust that had consumed it.

Persisting over the course of postskydark generations, strange stories, rumors, campfire tales circulated about bizarre places buried deep in the Deathlands.

Barbarism and anarchy lasted 150 years roughly, and then another change came over the irradiated wastelands.

The baronies united, and power spread outward from their fortified villes, a power enforced in the newly christened Outlands, where the exiles roamed, along with the rebels and all the unwantedthe very ruin of humanity’s lifeblood. Black-armored Magistrates brought them a taste of the baron’s power on punitive expeditions.

Technology made a mysterious and surprising comeback in the villes, along with law and order. It was a technology used to control and punish, and law and order was imposed to banish any vestige of freedom.

All for the people’s own good, necessary penance for a better future. That is what Kane, born and bred a Magistrate, had been taught at his father’s knee.

Chapter One

Wings outspread, the Deathbirds swooped out of the setting sun and plunged into the hellzone.

The cliffs on either side of the three choppers were worse than sheerthey tilted crazily above the floor of Mesa Verde canyon, sloping inward, then outward. Crevices beneath the out-thrusting overhangs were in deep shadow and could conceal anything, even alarm devices.

Though the Deathbirds’ approach trajectory was too low for a ground-based radar sweep to find them, Intel had indicated vid cameras and motion sensors were planted on any likely area where an aerial incursion might be attempted.

The vanes of the Deathbirds chopped the dry air. The engines and turbines were equipped with noise bafflers, so only the hiss of steel blades slicing through the sky was audible.

All three of the craft were sleek, compact and streamlined, painted a matte-finish, nonreflective black. The curving forward ports were tinted in smoky hues. The metal-sheathed stub wings carried thirty-two 57 mm unguided missiles, two full pods to a wing. Multibarreled .50-caliber miniguns protruded from chin turrets beneath the cockpits.

They flew in a delta formation, and the Deathbird occupying the forepoint of the V flooded the rock-strewn canyon floor with infrared light, the electronic eyes of the craft reaching out to their full five-mile limit. The signal-processing circuitry broadcast the view to monitors aboard all three aircraft.

Seated in the cockpit of the point bird, Kane gazed at the computer-generated image of the landscape on the overhead tactical display. It was a harsh black-and-white view, all colors and shadows washed out. Data scrolled down the side of the screen, reviewing primary areas of interest beyond his line of vision. Each boulder, outcropping and curve in the canyon showed in detail. A red square of light suddenly appeared on the screen, superimposed over a small, grid-enclosed area of the terrain. Simultaneously the warning chime sounded.

“Registering an anomalous signature,” Kane announced, the voice-activated microphone at his throat transmitting his words on the scrambled frequency to the crews of the other Deathbirds. “Looks like part of the ground ahead is made of plastic.”

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Categories: James Axler