|Keepers of the Sun|
|Publication date||April 1996|
| Preceded by|
| Followed by|
The nuclear storm that swept the globe has left behind the Deathlands, a legacy of hate and violence. Pockets of survivors live off the ravaged land or on stockpiles found in redoubts. But from out of the ashes, a fearless man spearheads the drive to pierce the heart of darkness....
STRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND
The gateways are secret installations from predark days used by Ryan Cawdor and his group as escape routes. Once again the warrior survivalists emerge from a jump and into a world -- and empire fallen -- ruled by the samurai code. And here Ryan has to face a new threat that could destroy the only home they know.
A new dark age has dawned with the hope of a promised land. But in the Deathlands, hope is not enough.
There are those that believe the mysteries of Japan were discovered in the nineteenth century. This is fallacious thinking. The true mysteries of Japan have not yet been discovered. Nor will they ever be.
- from Scouting in the East by Sir Arthur Bowden-Powell, Crest Press, Norwich, 1895
The book starts off with the companions in a gateway in a Colorado redoubt. The place is quickly flooding, and the door won't latch properly, starting the jump. After the third try, the door finally latches and the jump process takes place.
They end up in a new gateway, bone dry, with no water in evidence. The door has been oiled recently, and they find a table of Oriental make with a scarf on it in the gate room. Several of the computers in the control room have labels in Japanese on them.
As they're looking around, the gate starts to cycle - someone's coming in. They hide and wait; two people exit the gate and make their way out, but since the companions are so well hidden, they can't see who it is. After waiting a sufficient period of time, they emerge from hiding and follow the pair.
They find an elevator and take it upward to what appears to be a small office filled with cubicles and more Japanese artwork here. A sealed airlock-like door leads into a normal house. Since it's obvious no one's been upstairs in a long time, they go outside and JB determines that they are, indeed, in Japan. A road leads away from the house, so they follow it.
They reach the top of a small rise and Ryan stops to admire the view when two arrows thunk into the ground nearby. A hidden voice asks them if they wish to accept the hospitality of Lord Mashashige, or if they wish to die. Given that they have little choice (they don't know how many men are out there), Ryan accepts.
The warriors then show themselves. Their leader is a samurai named Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Mashashige's number two man. He takes them back to the fortress, where they're met by Mashashige himself. After dinner, they retire to a lounge so he can answer their questions, but before they can get to it, Takei Yashimoto, Mashashige's number one man, appears, and he's furious. Ryan killed his brother when they met near Washington Hole, and he wants revenge. Since they are guests of the lord, however, they are under his protection. Yashimoto eventually calms down, and Mashashige tells them of Japan as it is now.
After their talk, Mashashige has Hideyoshi show them to their rooms for the night. Some time later, Krysty tells Ryan she needs some water, so he leaves the room to get some. He smells blood and quickly finds a dead servant. A little further down the hall, he finds two more, along with a child. As he advances down the hallway, a sword bursts through the paper wall, disarming his pistol. A short man dressed in black appears, holding a katana. Ryan draws his panga, and they fight, and Ryan wins.
He's pulling his panga from the corpse when Mashashige and Hideyoshi appear. At first they think he's a murderer, but he tells them to look at the corpse. Hideyoshi turns it over, and Mashashige recognizes him as a ronin - a renegade once in his service. Ryan gains their thanks and returns to bed.
The next day, at breakfast, Yashimoto brings news that Hideyoshi's men captured another of the ronin outside the fortress. The man is due to commit seppuku at noon, and the male companions are invited to witness the ceremony (whether they want to or not). Afterward, Mashashige announces that he will move against the ronin, and the outlanders will join him.
They head north in a large procession toward the ronin camp, which is located on a headland at the far north end of the island. It takes a day and a half to get there; the ronin are long gone by the time they arrive, but there's a crucified pig with a message for Mashashige telling him that he will suffer the same fate. He sends some of his samurai down to the beach to search for boats while the others look for tracks. There's an undersea quake just then, and a huge tsunami starts bearing down on the beach. The men below are doomed, but everyone else runs for the high ground and is safe.
They head down the coast, past several American stores and a truncated golf course, and spend the night in a hotel. All of Mashashige's men are gathered in the ballroom, while the companions spend the night in guest rooms. Ryan and Krysty walk around with Mashashige after everyone's bedded down; they head into the ballroom, and someone locks the doors behind them, then poison gas starts to pour from the vents. Ryan shoots out the glass in the doors, drawing the attention of the other companions, who rescue them. Most of the men die from the poison, though, and many more are badly affected.
Once they deal with the dead and Mildred takes care of the ones she can, they leave for home, traveling by night. At dawn, Mashashige asks his samurai and the companions whether to keep going or wait for dark; after some discussion, he decides to keep going.
They're passing through a small valley when the ronin open fire on them with a massive 35-mm autocannon, which is emplaced on the hillside. Ryan convinces the shogun to let him and his people handle it, while the others get the wounded to cover. Ryan takes a position in a tree to pick off as many men as he can with his rifle, and the rest of the group sneaks up the hillside, using the trees for cover.
By the time JB and the others get to the emplacement, the ronin have fled; Mashashige and his samurai ride kill two and capture another. The companions pack the gun's barrel full of mud and pull the trigger, blowing it up. They make it the rest of the way back to the fortress without incident. That evening, Mashashige holds a trial for the prisoner; he's found guilty and has to face the lord in single combat. Mashashige kills him easily.
Sometime later, Doc finds a karaoke machine. Several of the companions take their turns; while Mildred is singing Mashashige's sister enters the room. She's offended by the singing and spits in Mildred's face, which is an automatic death sentence. Mildred is furious about the verdict, but the loss of face suffered demands nothing less than the woman's death, so she's forced to watch the woman commit jigai, the woman's version of seppuku.
The next day, Mashashige takes the companions hunting. They go hunting miniature wild pigs. Soon after they encounter the pigs, a horde of locusts appears, swooping down on the area. The party takes shelter in a wrecked bullet train, though one man is killed as the locusts suffocate him.
The next day, a theater troupe arrives at the fortress. They put on a play, then a second allegory written by Mashashige which details his plans for the gates. The day after, the troupe performs several sumo matches. Jak claims that he could beat the champion easily, so - after much discussion - Mashashige allows it. Jak wins, but the champion falls out of the ring and breaks his leg.
Now that the companions know Mashashige's plans for the gate, they decide that it's time to go. They'll destroy the gate on their way out so no one else can use it. They wait until 10 PM, when things are quiet, and make their way out to the courtyard. They're just in time to see the beginning of a ronin attack - the ronin infiltrated several men into the recruits, and these open the gates to let the rest of the force inside. The ronin blow up the armoury, which starts a fire; since the companions are guests of the lord, Ryan figures they're honour-bound to help, so they retreat to the centre courtyard to hook up with Mashashige.
Along the way, they encounter Yashimoto, who wants to settle the score with Ryan once and for all, but Mildred shoots him instead. They find Mashashige in the courtyard, along with Hideyoshi and the remainder of his samurai. Mashashige releases his samurai from their oaths and tells them to take as many servants as they can and escape, but they're killed shortly after leaving. Ryuku (Mashashige's brother) and a group of his men appear from the same hallway. He shoots Hideyoshi, then tells the outlanders that they can leave if they drop their weapons first. Ryan pretends to be cowed by the overwhelming might of the ronin, which lulls Ryuku into a false sense of security, then he and the others open up on the group, slaughtering them all.
By this time, the fortress is burning merrily - it's going to be a total loss. Most of Mashashige's men are dead, so the only thing left for him to do is commit seppuku. Since Hideyoshi is dead, he asks Ryan to be his second (cut off his head), which Ryan does. He and the others then flee the burning fortress, bringing along Issie, a geisha who's taken a shine to Jak.
They run back to the manor house while massive quakes shake the island; they're in the courtyard when the ground opens up and swallows Issie. They make it inside, toss a few grenades into the elevator to disable it, then jump out right before another quake hits, destroying the gate.
Director Bob Supan
Starring Richard Rohan, Terence Aselford, Nannette Savard, Colleen Delany, Delores King Wiliams, Ken Jackson, David Coyne andy Clemence, James Lewis, M.B. Van Dorn, Eric Messner, Elisabeth Demery, M.J. Casey and Mort Shelby
Book Adapted for GraphicAudio by Joshua Christiano
Dialogue Editors Greg Reinfeld and Brian Rogers
Sound Designers Greg Reinfeld and Brian Rogers
Original Theme Music Mark Ashby
Additional Original Music Dan Sondak, Bryan Patton and Matt Webb
Producers Richard Rohan and Duane Beeman
Executive Producer Anji Cornette