Authors: Ryder Stacy
One hundred years after Russia’s thermonuclear first strike, the radioactive wasteland that was once America has become a slave state crushed under the iron fist of the Soviet invader. Only a small, fierce group of survivors refuse to submit to the oppressive Red overlords. Led by Ted Rockson, the ultimate soldier of survival, the Freefighters are dedicated to returning freedom’s way to their nuclear-shattered homeland; to push the hated Russian oppressor into the sea—or die in the attempt.
And when the savage KGB blackshirts, in a vicious power grab, launch a bloody but unsuccessful attack against the ruling Russian Army, Rockson risks an alliance with a deadly archenemy in one final, desperate bid for freedom. But first he must find and destroy the most powerful weapon in the world, a force that once unleashed would consume the entire planet in a nuclear hellfire. The future of all mankind will be settled once and for all in the fateful showdown between the forces of evil and the . . .
CHROME DOME DEATH
Rockson was suddenly confronted by a huge shape silhouetted against the raging fires in the camp. It wasn’t human, that was certain. Its half-torn-away uniform revealed glistening chrome and steel parts. In a frightening metallic voice it uttered three words:
“You die here.”
“Not today,” Rock said emphatically. He opened up with his shotpistol, firing directly at the thing’s chest. Bullets ricocheted off metal. It should have been blasted to bits, but it stood. Rock fired again, spraying the giant gleaming metal thing with the rest of his cartridges. Nothing. Then it smiled and began moving forward.
“Time to die, Rockson.”
are published by
Kensington Publishing Corp.
475 Park Avenue South
New York, N.Y. 10016
Copyright © 1986 by Ryder Stacy
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.
First printing: November 1986
Printed in the United States of America
ike the red mists of hell itself, the radioactivity from level eight drifted along the concrete corridor as if hoping for flesh to burn, cells to disintegrate. It rolled back and forth between the ice-cold cement walls in waves of purple, glowing like the phosphorescent death-creatures among coral reefs. These gaseous waves contained hot death for those mad enough to enter their domain.
Ted Rockson, his mismatched violet and aquamarine eyes watching from behind the leaded glass of his helmet for the slightest sign of impending collapse of the tunnel ahead, walked slowly forward leading a team of Freefighters. All wore the anti-rad suits of white, leaded asbestos and layers of plasteel.
The rad-suits made them appear to be a good foot taller than they actually were as they lumbered awkwardly through the narrow passageway. On their chests were small Geiger counters that chattered incessantly, screaming out warning. The going was agonizingly slow as falling rocks and twisted beams blocked their way like an obstacle course. Through the rectangular leaded glass of their faceplates the others nervously watched Rockson and Chen edge forward and carefully place small explosive charges in the maze of debris. Wires were attached to a detonator. Then the nine-man team rushed back down the corridor and around the bend.
This part of Century City had been sealed off, untouched, since the nuke attack by Killov’s bomber’s several months earlier. But now it had to be opened and restored. Some on the Century City Council, Intel Chief Rath for one, had pleaded to keep this section closed forever—an eternal tomb for those who lay mangled and crushed inside. But others, including Rockson, had vehemently opposed the concept.
“Century City lives,” he had told the council at the debate. “No part of it should remain a tomb. We honor our dead more by carrying on what they worked all their lives for—a fully functioning city—than by letting them rot in darkness!” His faction had won. And now the dirty work had to be done.
Century City: born over 100 years earlier, in a rage of atomic fires. Originally it was just a highway tunnel that collapsed at both ends when nukes hit nearby, sealing hundreds of cars, trucks, and trailers in its blackness. Back then, on Interstate 70 winding out of Denver and into the mountains toward Utah, thousands of vehicles had been moving through the five-mile tunnel that bored through the heart of the mountain. The nukes that struck Colorado Springs, Longmont, and Fort Collins quaked the Rockies, and the tunnel entryways were buried in an avalanche of rocks, sealing off the sea of humanity. It saved those trapped inside the eight-lane tunnel from the direct effects of the blasts, and from the rain of fallout which obscured the sun for weeks.
Those that survived, men and women and children from all the cross sections of American culture, divvied up the food and water from two tractor-trailers trapped inside that were filled to the brim with supermarket goods. Then they looked at one another and tried to figure out just what the hell to do. Days later they burrowed through the eastern entrance to the tunnel for air, which they cleansed through makeshift filtration systems. However, they soon understood the magnitude of what had happened: The first man to step out sighted Soviet airlifters dropping troops over Denver.
The Reds weren’t content with wiping out half of America—they wanted to take it over as well.
Survival was the name of the game now—the highway-people cleaned themselves off again and went to work. The dreams, careers, loves, and hates that had meant everything to them just days before were now but dust blown into the stratosphere by nuclear devastation. They concentrated on constructing some kind of base, a headquarters to live in and from which they could strike out at the Russians.
Leaders emerged—men like Bonne and Ostrader who were determined to do more. They would build an underground city networking nearby mining tunnels and the tunnel of Interstate 70. They would set up lighting, ventilation, even hydroponics for the cultivation of their own food supply! The involuntary dwellers of this new subterranean world included mavens in almost every field—scientists, doctors, chemists, mechanics. Most important, they were Americans. They were the people whose country had been born of guts and imagination and an eternal struggle for freedom. They swore they all would one day be free again—even if it took a hundred years. Hence, they named their subterranean home Century City.
Rockson set the detonator down and yelled through the helmet to the team. “Duck your heads. I’ve seen blast shrapnel come around corners.” The men did so, and with a final check to make sure everyone was back, he pressed the detonation switch. There was a loud
and a rolling echo. Then a choking cloud of dust nearly blotted out the beams of the lanterns mounted atop their helmets.
When the dust finally settled enough to see, they pressed forward into the smoky maelstrom, into the graveyard of their fellow Freefighters. They passed the first bodies—a child and a man huddled together. The man’s back had been crushed from the fall of a beam. When the nuke had hit he had probably tried to shelter the small child half under him. The bodies were greenish with rot. Rockson gritted his teeth, pushing down a sickly feeling in his guts. In the other parts of the city all seemed almost back to normal. But here . . . The moldering corpses of the butcher Killov’s handiwork paid mute testimony to the maniac’s evil.
“Bastard,” Chen muttered just behind Rockson as his eyes focused down on the little crushed face, its features melted together like a doll thrown in a vat of acid. “I think it’s Cindy Adams,” the Chinese fighter yelled through the helmet—the one disadvantage of the thick anti-rad suits and visors being that it was hard as hell to communicate through them—“and her father . . . he had been bringing her to my children’s classes in self-defense. She would have been good, Rock, real good.”
But there wasn’t time to mourn—not when they saw the pile of bodies squeezed tightly together in the chamber.
They had been on an excursion—a dozen children and three adults—showing the youth of Century City the full extent of their subterranean haven. Then the bomb had hit.
The bodies rippled with a flickering radioactive incandescence.
“Looks like high-rad contam,” said the stocky black cannonball of a man called Detroit Green.
“Too much radiation,” Rock answered. “We’ve got to vent this tunnel—get the gases, the particles, outside. There should be an emergency exit just around this curve, according to the map.”
“I’ve got the M87-K charges wired and ready, Rock,” Detroit said, a basket of the high-explosive goodies tucked under his arm.
“Not too much, Detroit, we can only afford to make a small vent hole to the outside—get rid of some of this trapped radon gas. The bigger the blast, the more likely the damned red spy drones will see it—and we don’t want to disrupt the blackout on Carson Mountain.”
Indeed, Schecter’s demand for a blackout despite the men swarming above doing nightly restoration, graveling over the exposed areas, may have been unnecessary. The Reds were embroiled in a civil war with each other—KGB versus Red Army. In fact, they were probably too busy to attack the Freefighters’ main base again. But Schecter’s motion had passed, over Intel Chief Rath’s objections. Rath was a thorn in the side of the unanimity that had existed before Killov’s attack. Rock noticed that Rath opposed anything that he or Schecter wanted to do.
The Doomsday Warrior was still nursing a grudge against Rath for managing to squeak through a reduction in the men and materials for his attack on Fort Minsk. In the end it hadn’t mattered that much—the KGB-held fort had fallen anyway—but it could have.
The charges were again set, and the
of fresh mountain air poured in as the wreckage blocking the shaftway was blasted free. The rad reading began decreasing in intensity within minutes as the gases and high-rad dust was sucked out by the pressure differential.