|Publication date||May 1995|
| Preceded by|
| Followed by|
Adventure and suspense in the midst of the new reality
DAYS OF RECKONING
The nuclear conflagration that consumed the world generations ago stripped away most of its bounty, throwing survivors back to more savage ways of existence. Amid the ruins, Ryan Cawdor leads the daring few who wage a grim battle in a quest for a better future.
As elsewhere in the Deathlands, what remains of the Sunshine State is rules by tooth and claw and unbridled instinct. It's an alien, inhospitable terrain of sulfur pits and lethal geysers, inhabited by mutated life-forms. Here Ryan finds that survival demands hard and fast choices, and unexpected alliances. To hold his band of warrior survivalists together, he comes to an agonizing crossroads, torn by a debt to the past and loyalty to the present.
Hope died in the Deathlands, but the will to live goes on.
Fare thee well, no more, let us clasp our hands And swear no tears shallmar our manly cheeks; Now we must depart, to go to distant lands, Each of us alone, through valleys, o'er peaks. Yet in the dark, when my last breath shall end, My final thought shall be of you, my friend.
- from "A Wessex Boy", LJ Priv Prntd, 1742
The companions arrive in a new redoubt. After recovering, they exit the mat-trans to take a look around, and notice small footprints in the dust, and other signs that indicate the recent arrival of Samurai. Shortly after a strange chain of actions results in Dean getting knocked back into the chamber and the door slamming shut, activating it. He gets sent back to Maine; Ryan goes after him. Ryan finds the boy in the control room in Maine, suffering from the double jump; he grabs Dean up, but smashes a few computers along the way in his haste to beat the 30-minute LD function and starts a fire, which chases them back to the gate.
They make it back to the new redoubt, but both require some time to recover. While the others are searching around, Doc finds a journal written by one of the soldiers there in the days before skydark. While the adults are reading it, Dean and Jak go off to play in the arcade they found. Mildred, who's reading the journal, gets to the last entry, which mentions that one of the games is booby-trapped); Ryan races over to the arcade room, but Jak is faster - he notices the two implode grens attached to the back of the game and hauls Dean out as they go off.
Not long after, the companions decide to leave the redoubt. They find they're on an island near coast of what used to be California. They find a small beach with enough driftwood and kelp to build a raft, so they do so. By the time they're finished, it's nightfall, so they spend the night on the beach, where they're attacked by a monstrous mutie crab (which they drive off).
The next day, they set off for the mainland on their raft. They're in a region of sulfur springs and mild radiation, so they go inland. Along the way, they're attacked by a band of scabbies, whom they kill.
Further inland, past the hot springs, they come upon a camp of brushwooders. The folks welcome the companions into the camp and feed them; they also mention that they're planning to invade a nearby ville that has a weak baron. Their leader, Straub, see Krysty and Jak's hair and wants it to sell, but they refuse. That night, he and some of his men slip into the tents to murder the pair and take their hair anyway, but Doc (who got up to take a leak) foils their plans, and the companions flee.
There, they meet Baron Weyman and his son, Jamie Weyman, who looks just like Dean. Over dinner, they tell the baron of Straub's plans to attack the ville. He decides to send out a patrol, and asks the companions to go along.
The next morning, the patrol heads out with Ryan, Trader, Jak, and JB. Dean and Jamie Weyman slip out after the others leave with the intention of catching up, but they miss the party and are captured by Straub and his men.
Since the boys look alike, Straub can't tell them apart; he asks which of them is the baron's son, so he can send the other back with a ransom demand. Dean takes Jamie's place, and Straub sends the other boy back; he runs into the patrol, who goes looking for Straub and his men. They stumble across the camp, but bad luck strikes and they're driven back with heavy losses. They return to the ville with Jamie Weyman and let everyone know what's happened.
They slip out that night with another, larger force of sec men. The companions leave the sec men to watch the horses while they slip into the brushwooders' camp, free Dean, and kill everyone else. Straub goes around behind them, using fog as cover, and kills each of the sec men by hypnotizing them and slitting their throats. Krysty senses what's happening, but too late to save them. Ryan goes into the camp by himself and frees Dean.
Ryan comes up with a plan - the canyon where the pigs lair isn't far away, so he and Dean start a couple brushfires to drive the pigs through the brushwooders' camp. The plan works, and most of the 'wooders are trampled or killed, along with a bunch of the pigs. The companions return to the ville to let Baron Weyman know the threat is gone, then they return to the redoubt. Along the way, they're attacked by a combined force of scabbies and 'wooders, led by Straub; they reach the raft and push off, but Trader and Abe remain behind. The last anyone sees of the pair is them surrounded by hostile forces.
- This book was authored by Laurence James.
- Audio Cassette was released in March, 2000.