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The world was not destroyed—just a way of life. The global population was cut down to perhaps one-fifth of what it had been. The ecosystems were utterly disrupted. The climate was transformed. In what had once been North America, the survivors struggled to prevail in a new age of plague, radiation sickness, barbarism and madness. There were days of seemingly endless night, eerily lit by fires in the sky.
Pyrotoxin smogs blanketed the earth. Fetid strontium swamps created new and terrible life forms. Two- hundred-mile-an-hour winds hurtled across the landscape, and when by some freak chance a storm cloud swept in from the sea, it was acid rain that fell— pure acid that stripped a man to the bones in sixty seconds of shrieking agony. Philippine copyright Australian copyright All rights reserved.
Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the permission of the publisher, Worldwide Library, Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9.
All the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are riot even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention. There was an irony that only a very few people fully appreciated. That is, about 0. Back about thirty years or so a science fiction writer called Arthur C. Clarke had gotten together with a movie director called Stanley Kubrick and made a film called A Space Odyssey.
The film, the beginning of a series of such films, had a message. For many who had seen it and read the story in the last quarter of the twentieth century, the year had become a symbol of optimism and hope for the future of mankind. Calmer times were only just around the corner.
Peace and prosperity were assured. The bomb was not triggered above the city, nor was it the result of a preemptive strike by a passel of missiles hurtling in through the air defense screens and hitting the deck.
It erupted without warning in the bowels of the Soviet embassy, in a basement section that was a restricted area even to the ambassador, V. Vorishin, who, like just about everyone else within a five-mile radius, was vaporized. Vorishin was not actually in the embassy at the time.
He, along with a multitude of other foreign dignitaries and a vast assemblage of national and civic leaders, journalists, members of the judiciary, show biz personalities and thousands who were just along for the spectacle, was on Capitol Hill, attending the inauguration of the forty-third President of the United States, a man in his sixties, a man who had first come to fame back in the early s as a dark-horse contender for the Democratic leadership, strongly favored at the time by young.
Within the blast area itself a number of things happened inside a very short time. The flash, which grew in brightness to one thousand times the sun's radiance in two seconds, ignited all flammable materials.
The blast hurtled outward, pulverizing anything and everything that stood in its way. Tall buildings were uprooted like trees, falling apart as they descended to the earth, the shattered pieces of masonry, stone, steel girders and glass sent whirling in a deadly vortex.
A tremendous ball of fire, expanding rapidly and angrily, roared like dragon's breath up into the troposphere and beyond, fed by the thousands of smaller conflagrations that had started almost instantaneously.
Incredibly, a few, a very few, of those in the city survived the initial blast, but they were soon put out of their misery. Within a few minutes two other, smaller, bombs exploded: one, to the northwest of the city in Bethesda, beneath a chic art gallery owned by a man whose father had "defected" to the West from Bulgaria twenty years earlier; the other, to the south, in the basement storage area of a large drugstore situated in Indian Head, across the river.
The effect of these two secondary bombs can only be described as monstrous. The initial shock wave, already losing momentum, was renewed, strengthened, fortified. A firestorm developed. Hurricane-force winds hurled the superheated fire-mass around until the very air itself seemed to ignite. The Potomac River was sucked up into the fiery sky in a vast, roiling waterspout that evaporated even as it rose.
Dust and ash and pulverized debris cut off the sunlight, as though someone had thrown a switch. Immense damage was sustained in Baltimore, Hagerstown, Fredericksburg, Annapolis. The city of Washington, along with its inner and outlying suburbs, was wiped off the face of the earth, leaving only a crater large enough to house a few Shea Stadiums and a lot of seared rubble. For the catastrophe was not the result of a sudden mistake on someone's part, an ill-understood order or a chance accident.
There had to be a prologue. Some might argue that the prologue began to unfold when Karl Marx first met Friedrich Engels and began to postulate an alternative political creed to that which. Others might push the jumping-off point further back in time: to the French Revolution, say, or the teachings of Rousseau and Babeuf. Or perhaps the insurrectionary sermons preached by the fiery hedge priest John Ball prior to the Peasants' Revolt in England in were indirectly to blame.
Or even…. But this is academic. Although the roots of the virtual destruction of a global way of life must necessarily lie deep in the past, the actual concrete and significant causes clearly took place within a generation of the moment of disaster. The history of the last fifty years of the twentieth century is one of general gloom shot with stabs of light. Perhaps one could say the same about the history of the world since man first shuffled out of the caves and began to hunt and gather and till the land.
But so much happened during the twentieth century, and so much of it happened so fast, that a good analogy might be of a car on a long downward slope whose driver suddenly discovers that the fluid is running out of his brakes.
No matter that the slope is a gentle one; once momentum has been achieved, a certain point reached then passed, there is no stopping the downward rush that very soon becomes headlong, irreversible, terminal. The United States, deliberately isolationist in between the First and Second World Wars and yet historically jealous of Great Britain's high global profile during and before that period, was swift to change its foreign policy and seize the guardianship of the Western world from the s onward.
During this time atomic power became more than just a science fiction cliche; West and East glared at each other during the Cold War; tensions eased as detente became a political priority; pacts were signed, treaties ratified; an arms race began, got out of hand; black-gold blackmail became a hideous reality when the Arab oil states became greedy for power; money markets throughout the world rocked and teetered; enormous economic depression arrived, stayed for more than a decade.
In the s and s America got its fingers burned in Southeast Asia, fighting a war that, despite what later apologists maintained, could never have been won. In the late s to early s, the same old story was rerun in Latin America, for the same old reasons. This time, however, the stakes were higher and the face cards more evenly distributed.
For a time the world tottered on the brink of a. Third and probably final World War. In the end, both superpowers, Russia and America, backed off. For the moment, mutual face-saving became the order of the day. In President Reagan was succeeded by his vice president. The crisis in Latin America had slowly grown during Reagan's two terms of office, but it was his successor who, early in , had to face the Soviet leader Mr. Gorbachev across a table in Geneva so that both could pull back from the brink with as much grace as could be mustered.
One might have expected that a grateful U. But the electorate is notoriously fickle. In the Republicans were skinned by the Democrats, led by an aging Democratic figure, a long-time politician from a family of political stars, a man with a terrible driving record in his native Massachusetts.
The American public had had it up to its collective back teeth with the GOP. Over the previous twelve years there had been too many close calls, too many near disasters.
It was time to turn to a symbol of the past, time to revert to a New Frontier style of politics. But the presidency of this East Coast aristocrat—whose political acumen, never particularly strong in the first place, had been frayed and shredded by years of self- indulgence and self-pity—was an unmitigated disaster.
After four years of inept rule, verging at times on the catastrophic, the electorate demanded the return of the devil they knew, and in the previous President, in any case still regarded by the mandarins of his own party as a sound, even muscular, choice, took the country by a landslide and became, for only the second time in American history, an ousted President who returned to the White House in triumph.
But this had little effect on the global situation, and toward the end of this man's second term, in the spring of , there occurred an event that was to have a shattering effect on the course of world history. Or what was left of it. In a spectacular and bloody coup the Soviet leader N. Ryzhkov was gunned down, in the corridors of the Kremlin itself, by hardline Stalinist revisionists.
Most of. Ryzhkov's key associates, inherited from his predecessor, Gorbachev, who had died in a plane crash in the Urals in ; were shot, and for six months the USSR was racked by a civil war far more atrocious in the short term and far more damaging in the long term than that out of which Soviet Russia had agonizingly emerged back in the early s.
The upper echelons of the Soviet army, in particular, were decimated. The coup had been masterminded by KGB chief V. Pritisch who, it was rumored, had already disposed of the previous head of the KGB, V. Chebrikov, five years earlier.
Chebrikov, a close ally of both Gorbachev and Ryzhkov, had died of a brain tumor and been given a full and impressive state funeral; however, some said a lethal injection, administered by Pritisch himself, had helped Chebrikov on his way. Pritisch was a hard-liner who detested the West, favored the bleaker aspects of Stalinism and was determined to revert to the original Marxist-Leninist line of total world revolution leading to total world domination.
On the other hand he was as much of a pragmatist as any serious politician, and although it might be supposed that the bombs that destroyed Washington were detonated at his instigation, this was by no means the case. Pritisch needed time to plan, a ten-year breathing space, after the short but savage mayhem he had inflicted on his own country, in which to develop his global strategies. The bombs that destroyed Washington gave him nothing.
They were the work, in fact, of a secret and even more extreme junta of disaffected senior internal security officers who, for five years or more before the Pritisch coup, had been plotting not simply for revolution but for outright war. This group, headed by two shadowy figures in the Soviet hierarchy, B.
Sokolovsky and N. Yudenich, were fanatical purists who believed that over the past generation there had been too much humiliation and marking time, too little action. They called themselves vsesozhzhenie, or "terrible fire. Their grievances, real or imagined, were many. The fat-cat corruption of the Brezhnev era had, they felt, never been entirely eradicated, even under the brisk, no-nonsense rule of Gorbachev.
The gradual erosion of influence over the lesser partners of the Warsaw Pact and Russia's European satellites during the s and s worried them. The growth of consumerism, the importation of decadent, Western-style petit bourgeois values into western Russia appalled them.
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Pilgrimage to Hell
On a crisp January day, a Presidential inauguration day, a one-megaton blast ripped through the Soviet embassy in Washington, D. Subsequent explosions around the globe changed the face and the shape of the earth forever. Out of the ruins emerged Deathlands, a world that conspired against survival. In the blasted heart of the new America, a group of men and women plan desperately to escape the eerie wastes and mutated life forms of their nuclear hell. Three warriors—the tough, intelligent Ryan Cawdor, an enigmatic beauty called Krysty Wroth, and the armorer J. Dix—set out on a harrowing journey to find a rumored enclave high in the mountains.
Pilgrimage to Hell by James Axler
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