|Publication date||June 2000|
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In the post-holocaust wastelands of 22nd-century America, precious little remains of life before the nuclear blowout. Legends circulate of Redoubts, secret preDark military bases with caches of food, medicine and, most important, weapons. Yet only a few of the ragged elite possess the arcane knowledge that enables them to locate and access these valuable storehouses.
In a hidden redoubt in Ohio, Ryan Cawdor and his band of warrior survivalists take possession of the ultimate Deathlands War Wag - a crude but effective tank called Leviathan. But having this steel - plated behemoth is a double-edged sword when they fall into the trap of Lady Ward of Novaville, who wants Leviathan for her own means of destruction and domination.
In the Deathlands, the future is just an idea.
The book begins with the group running through a redoubt heading as quickly as they can to the gateway. Hot on their heels, literally, is a lava flow. They close the door and hope for the best that they will be able to jump out before the lava hits.
When they come to the gateway is simmering with heat and they can smell the lava. Some of the lava made it into the gateway and was cooling with them. They leave the gateway and find the control chamber. The exit is blocked by wood paneling and they find that it is very thin and not booby trapped.
The hallway past is filled with broken lights and they find a couple of corpses who look like they killed each other about five weeks previous. They spend some time exploring before they decide to head up to the top level. They spot a man above them and he fires. They return fire but it appears to have no effect at all. Instead the man drops a pair of grenades.
Once the grenades detonate they go back and see that it was a booby trap, that the man had been dead for a long time. Their firing caused him to drop the explosives that had been strapped to his hands. They spot a tattoo on his arm and the other bodies they’ve seen have had the same tattoos.
The group continues to explore the redoubt and find a large number of dead. Each one has the Tattoo. Inside one of the rooms they find a young girl that had only minutes before took her own life with a handgun instead of starving to death. They speculate at what her purpose in the redoubt might have been.
After leaving the girl they head up and find a huge motor pool. It was obvious that the tattooed men had been stripping the other vehicles to create a monstrous war wag. It was fully functional and fully armed and even had stores of ammo and equipment inside. When they get the door open Hellhounds, bioengineered mutant dogs leap out and attack them. The group manages to kill a pair of the dogs but the rest scatter into the motor pool. Knowing how dangerous it would be to stay out, they cram themselves into the APC that they dub the Leviathan and drive it down a long narrow tunnel they are certain leads out of the redoubt.
Outside the redoubt they find a nuke blasted landscape. JB determines that they are in Ohio, in the lakebed of Salt Fork Lake. When they leave they spot more of the Hellhounds racing out of the redoubt and quickly disappear as they blend into the surroundings. The group uses the IR and thermal scopes to find them and they wound one of the dogs but before they can finish it the other escapes. At the same time they pick up a contact on their Radar.
The contact turns out to be a automated robot tank called the Ranger. It takes the Leviathan as a threat and fires upon it, using its main weapon which is a high powered laser. The robot tank chases them and Doc tries to stop it by firing a LAW rocket at it but he misses. JB comes up with an idea, and they take out the lenses of the laser with an AP round. Even with its main weapon damaged the Ranger continues to pursue them.
They head into a blast crater hoping that the ambient radiation will force the Ranger to give up as it would be damaged. The ploy works and the tank gives up its pursuit. The computer controlled vehicle heads out in order to find someplace that it can repair its damaged lenses.
Seventy miles east of their position is the Novaville barony. Lady Ward Amanda Coultier is taking a bath and is being attended to by her servants as she talks to her brother Richard. She is planning some sort of attack.
Ryan and his companions enter the small city they spotted. The ruins are choked with vines and they see no sign of human or animal habitation. They spot the Ranger tank and instead of trying to take it out with their weapons, they instead drop a ruined building on it by blowing out the foundation.
They head out the APC and are attacked by the plant surrounding them. Krysty is taken away and they chase it in the APC following the sounds of her firing. She is taken into an old furniture store. The others smash into the store with the APC and are forced to go on foot in order to go after the woman. They take the empty fuel cans with them to keep the vines at bay. The plant is clearly intelligent and tries to stop them using the shells of humans, thinking that they won’t fire on their own kind. When that doesn’t work it uses insects. They eventually find Krysty and free her and make their way back to the APC. As they make their break, a huge creature comes out of the sewers. It appears to be the central body for the plants. They take it out by dropping blood coated explosives.
Amanda Ward stops at a gas station where she knows of a huge underground tank still containing fuel. The bikers, the sons of the knife use the same stop for the fuel as well. She is planning to head to the ville with the vines to try and negotiate with the ‘beast’ or the Ranger. She is willing to marry the commander if it means getting access to the predark goods the city contains. She is attacked by the bikers.
Ryan and the others arrive at the same time Amanda is being attacked. But at the time they don’t know it. They have to get transmission fluid from the trucks inside the ruins for the Leviathan and while JB works on that, Dean and Ryan head out together to recce the ruins. They come across Amanda being raped and Ryan decides to leave her but Dean is angered and opens the fight. Ryan has to act and they quickly kill the attackers and rescue Amanda. They make the connection with the attackers to the corpses they found in the redoubt when they spot the tattoos on them.
Amanda introduces herself to them. Neither father nor son really care what she says or does to get their attention. But they do offer to let her drive her bike behind them when they head out. As they talk she reveals she was heading to the vine-covered city, which is known to them as the Wheel to negotiate with the tank commander. When she sees the Leviathan she freaks until the others are able to make her use common sense.
The ruins are filled with the bikers, and they decide to attack the group and get revenge for killing their brethren. They throw everything they have against the leviathan and Ryan’s crew but are unable to destroy it or kill his people. Despite their best efforts they are defeated and are forced to retreat, having suffered incredible losses.
Once things seem clear they manage to salvage two bikes as well as more weapons from the dead bikers. Dean is trying out some boots when Amanda ambushes them using some sort of gas. They are all knocked out by the attack.
When the companions awaken they find that they are in an immaculately clean dungeon and find that everything they had in their possession, with the exception of their clothing, has been taken from them. They meet a fellow prisoner, a man named Shard. When they talk about escaping he refuses to listen to them. Putting two and two together, they figure that the ville might actually be an old prison.
A Eunic brings in a convicted thief and forces them to watch as he tortures the man. They have no choice but to watch as the man works his hideous skills.
Amanda Ward and her brother Richard Ward talk about her capture and the prisoners, how Ryan and Dean were not interested in her advances. It is also clear that Richard has un-natural feelings towards his sister and they both have to wait until the passing of their father before they can give into the carnal feelings and become man and wife.
Once the torture is complete JB goes through the vomit and finds a lock pick he took the time to swallow before they were captured. They make short work of the locks and bring the prisoner, Shard with them. He leads them to the armory and Ryan fakes an injury, pretending to know one of the guards. It works and they kill both guards. They enter the armoury and get what weapons they can use and boobie trap the room.
The group makes their way through the prison; killing many guards and even a number of sec men trainee’s that were in full plate armor. They go past a boobied escape tunnel and find the leviathan. When they reach it they succumb to the same sleep gas that Amanda Ward used to stop them earlier.
One of the sec men Lieutenants goes to see the Wards and informs them about the escape. The Wards want everyone they can get their hands on interrogated in order to find Ryan and his people. The one sec man who failed in his duty is to be stripped of rank and privilege and sent to work with the slaves. Amanda gives the Lieutenant until nightfall to find the escapees.
When Ryan’s people come to, they discover that they are inside a cave. All their wounds have been treated, their clothing washed and mended, and their weapons and gear have been returned to them, cleaned as well. They meet their rescuers and find out that they are the leaders of the resistance and also discover that they are deep in the mines below the ville. The leaders want their assistance in overthrowing and killing of the Wards.
The resistance leaders bring maps that show the exact layout of the prison. Ryan and JB study the maps and figure that the Wards must have their best weapons with them where they sleep. They must have turned the main armoury into their private chambers as well.
Amanda and Richard talk about the escaped prisoners and decide that promoting one of the sec men would be in order. It appears that Amanda isn’t quite as interested in the carnal intimacy that Richard is. Richard tells her that they are almost out of the sleep gas. They are both afraid of an attack. Amanda orders that one slave be killed an hour until the escaped prisoners are found and brought to them.
The Wards get wind of this when the chief sec man tells them what happened. They think that Ryan and his people are trying to get to the fuel dump and in order to protect it they split their forces accordingly. As they threatened to do, Richard randomly kills one of the slaves. The deed complete, they send out the Chief of security.
While heading through the ville, the companions stumble upon Shard who’s being tortured by a man in order to find out how to start the Leviathan. The torturer doesn’t believe that Shard doesn’t know. The man refuses to break under the tender care of the torturer. The companions kill the would be baron and free Shard from his shackles. They then find out from him the true location of the Leviathan.
Outside the ville a sentry watches as the Ranger approaches the prison. He is amazed that it easily shrugs its way thought all the outer defenses. He fires 3 flares, something that has never happened before in the history of the ville. Just after this the Ranger destroys his guard shack and kills him.
After Shard gives them the location, they partake in the sleep gas antidote and go to the tower. When they enter, they see slaves taking off the last tire from the Leviathan. Eugene, the torturer, tries to force them to put down their weapons by getting JB with his whip. It doesn’t work the way he expected and they first blow off his hand then kill him. The slaves and dogs go to defend their master and are promptly dispatched as well.
The Ranger continues to plow its way into the ville, brushing off attack after attack from the sec men, and killing whenever it can, running down people and not slowing for anything. One attack with cannons actually tips it on its side but it quickly rights itself and continues.
Once they finally get enough tires back on the vehicle they enter it, only to discover that the Wards had already re-decorated it. The removed component isn’t a problem for them and JB is able to get the Leviathan started. Wasting no more time they head out.
Amanda is with Richard and she tells him that they have to make a run for it. The defenses have been breached and they have lost the ville. Richard doesn’t want to leave their father. She tells him that she killed him years before, after giving him a son. It is clear that they are not brother and sister but are actually mother and son. He goes insane with rage and kills her. As a final act he opens the gas containers and leaves them permanently in the open position.
Using Shard's directions they blow their way through an old blocked tunnel. The Ranger is still hard on their heels and is determined to stop them. They cross a river and make it to an old bridge. Despite the condition of the bridge, it takes their weight but find them trapped in a dead end.
Shard grabs the satchel of explosives and climbs on top of the Ranger. He ignores the drones attacking him and sets off the satchel, dying in the process but severely damaging the vehicle. The companions finish the tank by blowing away part of the supports on the bridge below it, causing it to fall to its destruction.
The ville is in ruins and a group of sub human muties enters it and begins to strip the dead and still living of their flesh, knowing that they will have enough food to last the hard winter months that are coming.