J.B. was far from happy

He could see that Correll’s strategy was already falling to pieces, and he and Mildred were a long way from where they wanted to be—at the side of Ryan and the rest of their companions. The only way to get out of this situation was to be back-to-back with people they could trust. At least that way they all had a chance.

The Armorer straightened his wag and headed toward the gap between the rocks that formed the entrance to the arena. Ahead of him he could see the Summerfield convoy from the rear, but the front was lost in the swirl of the dust storm. Sec men were racing back to their wags, and those who were already mounted turned, blasters at the ready. He could also see sec men standing guard on the top of the supply wags, with homemade flamethrowers. They bore little resemblance to anything the Armorer had ever seen, but he recognized the danger with an unerring instinct.

“Get into position and hold on,” he yelled. “This is going to be a little tricky.”


#65 in the Deathlands series

James Axler

Chapter One

The swallowing mire of darkness began to clear. To Dean, it seemed as though the swamp mist on the blackest of moon-clouded nights had begun to lift. The darkness that was all around him began slowly to loosen. He felt life return to his leaden limbs, and most importantly, it seemed to him that his brain began to work properly, bringing him back from the strange worlds of unconsciousness and the deep, dark fears that surfaced during every mat-trans jump.

Feeling a well of nausea in the pit of his stomach, Dean rose slowly on one elbow, moving with care and allowing his tortured frame to adjust to the new equilibrium.

Dean Cawdor was the youngest of the band of seven people gathered in the mat-trans chamber. Sitting upright and risking opening an eye when he felt the spinning in his head begin to recede, the youth looked at his companions. His father, Ryan, was already on his feet, although still looking a little groggy. Dean resembled a younger, leaner version of the man, with only time and harsh experience telling in the few inches of height between them and the older man’s more strongly developed musculature.

Dean risked rising to his feet on muscles still a little shaky. He was trembling slightly as he looked around the chamber. They’d obviously all been unconscious for some time, as the disks that usually glowed before and after every jump were flat and colorless. He reached down and grasped his Browning Hi-Power, the blaster that felt so comfortable in his grip it was like an extension of his hand.

“You okay, son?” Ryan asked, the ghost of a smile crossing his face. The curling, dark hair and serious countenance were mirrored in Dean, but the jagged scar that ran the length of the left side of Ryan’s face, broken by the eye patch that covered the empty eye socket was courtesy of his brother Harvey, the now deceased former baron of Front Royal.

Dean nodded, then grimaced as the nausea returned at his sudden head movement.

“Take some time—who knows what’s out there?” Ryan said, casting a glance at the door of the chamber, which would open out onto…who knew what? Some redoubts they had landed in had been occupied, some deserted, some providing food and shelter, some leaving them almost completely blocked off from the outside world. Beyond the sealed door of the chamber—automatically locked once the old comp terminals put the mat-trans programs into operation—could be anything, and they needed to be fully alert before they could risk taking a look.

Beside Ryan, at his feet and beginning to regain consciousness as he spoke, was Krysty Wroth, Ryan’s lover, fellow fighter and friend. A tall, Amazonian woman, she opened startling green eyes on the world, still fogged slightly by the jump.

“That was a bad one, lover,” she whispered to Ryan as she began to slowly rise. “It feels like we almost didn’t make it.” She winced as every muscle in her body protested at her ascent. Her long, flowing red hair hung freely over her shoulders. Ryan noted this, and had a notion that outside the chamber held little in immediate danger: Krysty’s hair was sentient, a result of her mutie genes, and could foretell danger ahead. It would curl in tightly to her neck and scalp and warn of any approaching enemies, be they natural or the result of human activity.

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Categories: James Axler