Ground Zero
Author Laurence James
Illustrator Michael Herring
Publication date July 1995
ISBN 0-373-62527-8
Publication Order
Preceded by
Followed by
Emerald Fire

Back CoverEdit

Ryan Cawdor and his band of survivalists search for a better future in the devastated ruins of a city once called Washington. Facing double jeopardy posed by a barbaric baron, and the indifferent wrath of nature, Ryan Cawdor and his band of warrior survivalists are determined to persevere against predatory foes.

In the Deathlands, everyone and everything is fair game, but only the strongest survive.


Deathlands is desolate and mute testimony to the aftermath of the nuclear blasts that laid waste the earth. Wayfarers in their blighted world, Ryan Cawdor and his band of warrior survivalists search for a better future in the devastated ruins of a once-proud land. The radiation-poisoned hellhole is their home, and they are determined to defend it from the predatory foreigners emerging from a gateway.

And where its proud heart, the city of Washington, had stood, Ryan Cawdor faces double jeopardy posed by a barbaric baron, and the indifferent wrath of nature. In the Deathlands, everyone and everything is fair game, but only the strong survive.



The White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the parks and fountains of the most beautiful city of the United States. It fills me with hope and pride to know that whatever might happen to this dusty old planet of ours, these things will never, ever vanish from Washington.

- from "A Thousand Ages in Thy Sight - An Informed Comment on the Permanence of the US." by Angus Beauregard Wells, Cresta Press of Ontario, January 13, 2001


As the last book ended, the companions were paddling a raft back across the straits to an island holding a redoubt, leaving Trader and Abe behind. The fog closes in, obscuring Ryan’s view of Trader and Abe. They consider going back to help them, but the current is too strong and there is no way that they can take the others on board. Very reluctantly, they return to the redoubt. They spend five days resting and recovering from their various wounds before finally jumping out.

When everyone's feeling better, they pile into the gateway. Ryan attempts to closes the door, but nothing happens. He tries several more times before the process begins with the door stuck ajar; apart from some odd dreams, with each involving snow, and coldness, they make it through all right.

In the new redoubt, they find that it was only partially evacuated - all those left behind are long dead. The exit appears to be blocked by a cave-in, but they find some small tracks - like those made by a woman or large child. They find a way out and discover they're near Washington Hole. They make camp for the night in an abandoned house.

In the middle of the night, Ryan goes out to take a leak, and he's attacked by a Japanese samurai. He kills the man and wakes the others, who go on alert as another one appears and shoots several arrows into the house.

Doc experiences the sudden need to take a dump, so he races out to do his business. The second man appears again and draws a bead on Doc, but Mildred shoots his bow, shattering it, and he flees; Doc gets off a shot at him, but they don't find a body.

The next morning, they decide to check out some of the shanty towns around the Hole. They find a place called the Lincoln Inn, run by a man who used to know Trader. He puts the companions up free of charge for the night and gives them dinner.

As they're heading upstairs after eating (they want to avoid the crowd), the see the night's entertainment, a seer named Emma Tyler. One of the men challenges her, saying she's a fake, so she reveals that he's a pedophile. He threatens to kill her, but Ryan draws his pistol and shoots the man first.

Now that they've drawn attention, the companions decide they might as well stay and mingle. A group of sec men in plain clothes infiltrate the crowd. Some time later, Jak, who's playing darts, is accused of cheating and attacked by two of the men, whom he kills. The rest of the group kill the other men. The innkeeper lets them stay the night, but wants them gone in the morning and warns them to stay clear of Baron Sharpe's ville.

The next morning, they head onward. They stop in the ruins of an old church and find Emma Tyler; she warns them that if they travel together, she sees death (whose, she's not sure), but they take her along anyway.

They travel on all day without incident, until Emma Tyler and Krysty both sense the presence of stickies nearby, with prisoners. Ryan doesn't want to help (the stickies outnumber them), but when one of the men starts screaming, Ryan relents. They go in, but are too late to save two of the men; the third is one of Sharpe's sec men, Joshua Morgan. He invites them to come to the ville to get a reward for saving his life, so they accept, despite him telling them that Baron Sharpe collects muties for his personal zoo.

In the ville, Baron Sharpe gives everyone quarters and walks off with barely a word. The next morning, he has his sec chief takes them to see his collection of muties (just the animals). At dinner, they note that there's a storm rolling in; she blurts out that it'll be a tornado, catching Sharpe's interest. The companions realize that he'll want her for his collection, so they slip out before dawn.

They're heading through the ruins when they're attacked by ghoulies; right after that, the tornado hits, splitting the group up. Ryan jumps into an old house and falls through the floor into mud. Jak and Emma take cover in another house, along with Doc, while the rest of the group ends up together. Jak, Emma Tyler, and Doc are captured by the sec men Baron Sharpe sent after them, but the companions don't find this out until after they rescue Ryan. They immediately head back to the ville to spring their friends.

Jak and Doc are tossed into a cell, while Emma Tyler is taken to see Baron Sharpe to tell his fortune. Ryan and JB infiltrate the ville through a side door and make their way down to the zoo, while Doc (who kept his sword stick) convinces the guard to let him use the bathroom. Doc kills Joshua Morgan, and runs into Ryan; together they free Jak and go looking for Emma Tyler. Emma Tyler tells Baron Sharpe the manner of his passing, which makes no sense to him. He takes her down to the zoo to show her to her new cell, but she breaks free and runs. He chases after and catches her near the cage holding his favourite [muties], a creature named Rupert. He beats her to death, then Jak shows up and kills him with a knife. Baron Sharpe crashes through the glass into the enclosure and is eaten by Rupert.

With the baron and Emma Tyler dead and everyone else saved, the companions flee the ville, headed back to the redoubt. There, they find a blood trail - presumably left by the samurai Doc shot at earlier. They pile into the gateway and jump out.


  • This novel marks the first physical appearance of he Japanese Samurai in the novels, and also the first encounter the Companions have with them.
  • Although the Shens are barely 100 km away, no one in the ville seems to recognize Ryan's family name, even when he said he's from the Shens.




Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.