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View Full Version : It's Captain-Tai Geskar! (2,700 words approx) (slight language)



Jeko
March 13th, 2012, 06:23 PM
An excerpt from Chapter 8 of 'Freelancer', a sci-fi WIP with all the trimmings about the life of John Carris as he trains in the Freelancer's Guild.
Dal Mars' flight training exercise has gone horribly wrong. A bandit cruiser has attacked, and has already claimed the life of one of the Guild's recruits. Now, they have boarded the craft in a desparate attempt to put an end to this nightmare.

There was a mood that could sum up the cargo hold. It wasn’t fear, surprisingly. They were past that. They’d all just flown straight into an Ellipsis cruiser, landed on the hull, cut their way through and made it inside just before their Zenphars were destroyed in a barrage of plasma. No, it wasn’t fear. Nor was it dread – half the people (most of them Katorian) were excited about the prospect of a real fight on their own terms. The feeling – the sole emotion that drove through every person – was Neval. His name had become a powerful word. It was grief to some, guilt to others, but all felt the sorrow. John looked over to a band of Atarn, standing in an incomplete circle. They were saying some sort of prayer. It was amazing to see their faith still intact.

Dal called for attention. He banged a blade against the low ceiling, leaning against a large cylindrical box. He pressed a few buttons, and it came alive. Slots and compartments escaped in a flurry of motion. Each protruding section held weapons; swords, rifles, pistols, grenades. One even contained a small rocket launcher.

‘That’s right.’ Dal barked. ‘We brought guns. Take your pick – don’t worry about the cost. The Guild’s military budget is larger than a Xorn’s anus.’ The recruits began to collect their deadly tools. ‘We came prepared. We always come prepared. And now, now we will fight. Through that door-’ He pointed to the door. ‘Through that door are our enemy. The Ellipsis. The second-most-feared-non-ancient-group there is! But do you know who are the most feared?’

‘US!’ they all boomed.

‘That’s right. There ain’t no bandit strong enough to take us down. Not when we’re on solid ground. It wasn’t fair for Neval – he was fighting against the tide. But he shall be the last that this cruiser kills. Who shall he be?’

‘THE LAST!’

‘The first?’

‘THE LAST!’

‘That’s right. We’re gonna tell these sons-of-bitches who really owns this terr.’ He took out a small, flat cylinder, and tossed it to an unaware Atarn. It bounced off his face. ‘Stay alert, soldier. The enemy are. Now, that’s a shield.’

The Atarn’s face lit up with pleasure. He slapped it into the slot in his armour, feeling it hum with power.

‘Yep, we got shields too. You don’t ever want to fight without a shield on your chest.’ He tapped the cylinder, and another slot opened. It contained row after row of shields. John went to grab his, along with the rest of the recruits. After a moment or two, each person had a slightly blue film around their entire body.

‘The shield is weaker round the head, so don’t go poking your noggin out unless you don’t care about it. That reminds me...’ His hand went for his thigh-plate, from which he removed two rectangles of armour. ‘You all have these in your armour.’ The recruits all removed theirs, examining them as Dal continued. ‘These are the components for your helmet. Sure, they don’t look like much yet, but this is Axunian technology you’re holding. Powerful stuff. Basically, you press down on the circle on each of the pieces, and they do this.’ In his hand, the two rectangles became like semicircles, folding inwards to create two hollow halves of a hemisphere. ‘Then, you join them over your head, like this.’ He placed the two parts onto his head so that they came together. There was a small flash, and a little mechanical noise, and the pieces of metal transformed over his face, creating a layer of transparent sharrowglass that formed perfectly over his rocky skin. Then, around the back of his head, there came plates of metal that bound the whole helmet together as one, solid, tight-fitting piece of armour. It all happened in under a second. John heard the recruits try it out for themselves, and soon everyone had their own, perfect helmet.

‘Cool, isn’t it? They aren’t expensive, either – not compared to some of the other stuff we’ve got. To take ‘em off, just press down on the top of your head with your fingers – you’ll feel where the circles are.’ His helmet reversed its transformation, rearranging itself back into the hollow quarter-spheres, and then into the rectangles. ‘Some of you will prefer the thing round your head. I don’t – it messes up my hair.’ He chuckled. ‘I’m kidding! I’m not that vain. You don’t get where I am for pissing around. No; I just find that I can’t see as well with the thing on. I gotta see snipers and the like before they see me.’

John silently agreed with him, disengaging his helmet, clicking the rectangles back into their slots.

‘Anything else?’ Dal continued. ‘Well, I guess I should tell you about the grenades too so that you don’t go wasting them.’ He picked a few out of the cylinder. The red ones’ll fry your innards with a super-heated blast or dirrium 7. They’re best on unshielded targets, because the shield will absorb the thermal energy easily. The green ones are universal plasmatic grenades, which’ll hurt anything badly. The blues are EMP – use ‘em to quickly shut down androids and shields and the like. That just about covers it, then. We ready?’

The excitement had slightly drained out of all the recruits. Some said words, but most just nodded in response.
‘I don’t blame you if you’re fearing this little scuffle. My first fight caught me by surprise too. But when you’re a Freelancer, you’re ready with your gun twenty-four seven. That’s what makes you special. The Feds are just soldiers, but you are Freelancers. I’m glad you got picked for my squad; I wouldn’t want to go out there less I had every one of you by my side. So, we ready?’

More nods. Only nods this time.

‘Alright... save your energy when you need it. Kiresh, get me a charge on that door.’

Kiresh obliged, slamming a hemisphere of red metal on the cargo bay door. The sound it made meant that the door was thick, and very dense.
‘When that door goes, we’re having Ellipsis for breakfast.’ Dal gave the signal.

Kiresh pressed the button; a smokeless bang. The door vaporised with a clean hole. Through it, was a surprise.

There were no soldiers pointing guns at them; no barricades set up, or automated defences. No grenades flying or people dying. It was quiet in that corridor. The rest of them sounded the same.

Dal’s eyes raced from place to place, but he saw nothing. There wasn’t even any distortion, so no-one was cloaked. There was nothing there. Just air.

‘Curious. Proceed... with caution.’

They slowly filed out of the door. Each of them had their weapon primed, walking rigidly as if a monster would leap out of the dark. The inadequate lighting threw blurred shadows around them, against the silver walls that engulfed the squad like faceless terrors. There was an icy cold that lingered like a disease, but the recruits couldn’t feel it. Their shields warmed their bodies like a fire beside their heart. It gave them confidence, and resolve. And a headache. Dal noted that they’d get used to the buzzing, but few believed him.

They rounded each corner with a natural precision, scanning for their enemy. It was like a ghost ship. There were no Ellipsis to be seen, and none appeared on Dal’s radar. And yet they were always alert; always ready for what seemed to be impossible.
It took some time before they began to talk. It was a hushed whisper, as if someone was listening.

‘It’s strange...’ Ceris mumbled.

John said, ‘The ship? Why isn’t anyone around?’

‘No, not that.’ She contemplated something. ‘I just knew that this would happen. That our training wouldn’t just go past as it should.’

‘Same.’ John replied. It was really a lie – he’d never come across the thought until today. But it seemed so obvious now. ‘Listen, if we don’t-’

‘Oh, save your speeches, hero.’ Ceris said, putting a hand on his shoulder. ‘We’ll make it out fine. We’ve got guns, and we know how to use
them. There ain’t anything that can stand in our way.’ Those were Jsathu’s words. John wished that he was here. Dal was great, but John knew Jsathu as the most powerful friend he had. He was probably tucked away back at the Guild, playing some poker or enjoying a moment of peace. They needed him. But John didn’t doubt Dal; he was a natural leader, that was for sure. They’d be fine.

Someone said, ‘Maybe there is no-one on board. Maybe it’s automated or something.’

‘Well, I don’t know any Ellipsis ships that’ve got robots running them.’ Dal countered quietly. ‘The Atarn like technology, but not that much.’
They stopped. Dal had called them to a halt. John could see why; they were exiting the maze of corridors. In front of them was a large, spacious chamber, twice as tall as it was wide. There were no signs of activity, but Dal knew better than to just waltz into open areas. He checked his radar again.

‘Nothing on old bleepy. This thing can’t be wrong – it’s Axunian.’ He signalled for them to advance. Their footsteps clanged on the metallic ground as they entered the hall. The sound echoed throughout the expanse.

They got about half way, when Dal noticed something. A red dot paced itself around a recruit’s head. He froze, unable to do anything before the shot was fired.

It missed.

‘You bloody moron!’ Came a voice, pugnacious and prudent. ‘I told you to hold fire, damn it!’

‘But-‘

‘I don’t care if you had a bleeding clear shot! I told you to hold fire!’ The doors shut the second that the recruits began to run for them. Another shot was heard, but it was not at them. There was a soft clang above as a dead head hit steel, and then someone emerged on the balcony.
‘Well if it isn’t Mr Mars himself. And you brought me gifts! Fantastic!’

‘What do you want?’ Dal replied to his former adversary, Captain Tai-Geskar.

He yawned, flexing his muscles. The man – Tai-Geskar – had an aura of youthful age about him. His cracked skin was drained and showed his scars with no remorse for their disfiguring attributes. He stood proud and tall and brilliantly audacious in his mirrored armour, the key style of any Ellipsis garb. A drop of moderately purple saliva escaped his mouth for a moment before being snared by his inhalation, showing his immaculate front teeth – only the front teeth, since those further back in his mouth hadn’t been offered the same expensive treatment. In one long hand he clutched a pistol. In the other, another pistol. They had a congruent design and a sinister fluctuation of power coursing through them, as if they would explode any second.

‘Oh Mr Mars, isn’t it obvious?’ He took another step closer, so that he would almost fall off the raised pathway. ‘I want you.’

A dozen noises, clacking of barrels of the rails of the pathways above them. A dozen snipers emerged in a flash, with an equal number of red dots positioned on the heads of the recruits. The ambushed squad stood firm, but inside they were screaming like mad.

‘The last time I saw your face it was with a waving hand, mocking me in my supposed destruction. You thought you had done me justice, but yet I stand here now, before you. A few minor scratches, but that is of little concern – a soldier does not have vanity, just pride in his appearance. Dal, I have searched far and wide to see you again, so that I could bear witness to your slaughter. But now, I shall be the author of your destruction! Isn’t that ironic?’

‘Why, I didn’t know you were familiar with the term...’ Dal mocked, untouched by Tai-Geskar’s words. ‘This doesn’t have to be the way, Tai. If you were an honourable man, you’d fight me in true style, with blade or staff. Not this.’ He gestured around him, at the reflective snipers that were as still as the ground on which they stood.

‘If I was an honourable man, then yes, this would demean me.’ The snipers lowered their weapons slightly, looking over to the Captain. ‘But you forget my place, Mr Mars. I am Ellipsis!’ The snipers had snapped back to the squad, their weapons again making a cacophony as they clashed with the rails. ‘I have no need for your words any more, Dal. You bore me with negotiation. The only thing I desire is your head.’

‘Then please,‘ Dal exploded in humble manner, ‘Let these children go. They were not the ones that destroyed your empire in a single strike! They have nothing against you, and you should have nothing against them.’

‘True.’ Tai-Geskar then laughed. ‘But then again, complete crap as usual. Your squad’s armour will fetch a high price on the Highwaymen’s trade circle. Those helmets you have – marvellous things... I’ll flog them for a song; and your guns, and even your bodies– the grand Bonsanna needs food to keep him from eating the stars. Oh Dal, I am so sorry, but this seems to be then end for you. Men?’

The snipers were primed, their rifles overcharging, waiting for the solemn signal. Dal raised his hands, but few were focused on him.

A hand moved like a dart.

They fired, but the chorus of precision was silenced by his hands. Dal emitted a distortion that formed a Barrier. His gesture – which had seemed surrender – became their salvation. Each and every round hammered against the air, losing all power and becoming just a ripple above the squadron, who watched with wide eyes, still fearing for their lives. The men above continued to fire like their lives depended on it, but they found no gap in Dal’s defence.

Truly, they were not dazzled by his display; he had used the ploy on numerous occasions to a number of audiences. The Barrier was never a showpiece; it was a Freelancer’s closest companion. Complicated, but so effective it was mandatory that every Elite knew it perfectly. Back in the old days, the Ancients had fought with such protection as if it was second-nature to them. In fact, it probably was. The only way to break it was a mental assault – something that none of the snipers could muster at their basic level of understanding. All they were trained to do was decapitate those who carelessly placed their heads. They had no knowledge of the Arts.

The Captain however revelled in the task. By now the snipers had stopped firing, seeing the Captain cut them off so that he could focus. John could already see Dal struggling to maintain his shield – he wanted to help the man, but knew nothing of what he was doing or how he was doing it. He could guess what the Captain was up to, though. Tai-Geskar struck at his mind with vicious blows, the sort Dal had been trained many times to defend against. It wasn’t the pressure that was getting to him; it was fatigue. He had little energy after their earlier battle in space. He had to concentrate, but he was now balancing his power between two realities, both vital for his survival. The snipers waited for their moment.
It came like thunder on a sun-struck noon. The Barrier broke, but simultaneously Dal turned, and with his remaining power thrust vicious explosions at the large sealed door. Even before it blew open he and his squad were running for it. The oerenium plating ruptured and flew in all directions, and then – only then – did the snipers fire, too late to have any fun. Distracted by Dal’s magic, years of training had fluttered away. But it wasn’t the explosions that had fazed them. Dal had wormed his way out of the Captain’s barrage and for the briefest moment burst forth a Fuddling; a projection of temporal disorientation, caused by pre-prepared illusion. It had given the squad the precious second they needed to make their escape.

‘Keep running.’ Dal yelled between two breaths. ‘Shoot anything that isn’t us.’

Three demons appeared from the air; Ellipsis soldiers, their mirror armour gallant and obvious. They pulled out rifles as they decloaked, blasted the scene, but Dal’s dexterity overcame them instantly. He popped an EEB into each of their skulls, not slowing at all. Another two emerged from nowhere – John dealt with them, his aim true. They ran through many corridors, into many rooms with many soldiers, never stopping for a breath or an easier shot. Together, they killed all that met them.



This chapter continues - might post the rest at a later occasion.

I really need feedback on:


How the ship is presented.
How Tai-Geskar is portrayed
How Dal is shown in general and in relation to Tai-Geskar.
The quality of the dialogue.
The use of technology.
The pacing of the action.
Is anything overwritten? I'm sure some of it will be (it's my current weakness).


I don't need it for all of them, but any feedback on the characrter of Tai-Geskar will be the most useful.

Thanks for reading!

Limburglar
March 14th, 2012, 05:39 AM
This part particularly caught my attention:

"'I’m glad you got picked for my squad; I wouldn’t want to go out there less I had every one of you by my side. So, we ready?'

More nods. Only nods this time."

This reminds me of a confident leader who's asking his soldiers to follow him into a fight...the soldiers aren't totally convinced, but they do their duty anyway.

To comment on the Technology:

The Helmet is interesting. Does it just protect against mechanical missiles, or does it also protect against Psychic bombardment?

Jeko
March 14th, 2012, 09:49 AM
Thanks Limburglar. I'm considering the versatility of the helmet - I'm thinking that due to the Freelancer's enemies, it should probably offer protection against the Ancient Arts (magic) - escpecially Psyche Arts. Then again, I don't want it to be too powerful. I think that it will protect them from the Arts to a moderate extent. Besides, those who use the Arts can defend against them anyway.

Outiboros
March 14th, 2012, 10:14 AM
I wasn't planning on reading this, but I caught a sentence and kept reading a bit. I just wanted to say that the explanation of weapons and shields and all came off as believable where I had expected rampant technobabble.

I'll edit post after I've read it all.

Now that I have, I will try to answer your questions with the idea I got after reading.



How the ship is presented.

I didn't really get a clear picture of how it looked like, inside or outside, so my mind snapped into the standard Alien-type craft with straight metal squares and straight angles.


How Tai-Geskar is portrayed

An eloquent warrior, lacking in the moral department. He hates Dal.


How Dal is shown in general and in relation to Tai-Geskar.

a drilling sergeant of sorts, the kind who cares for his men but doesn't show it, respected by his men, and a veteran of sorts. Not as powerful in the Arts as Tai-Geskar and more open to reason.


The quality of the dialogue.

I'd say I liked it, but that's from a reader's viewpoint.


The use of technology.

Very well done, especially because of the lack of technobabble. The only things that are unclear are the names of species you use and what an EEB is.


The pacing of the action.

I can only speak of it from a reader's point of view, and it didn't bug me while reading, so I guess it's good.


Is anything overwritten? I'm sure some of it will be (it's my current weakness).

Jeko
March 14th, 2012, 04:49 PM
Thanks Outiboros. I was worrying that the ship was a bit vague... I should at least mention some sort of colour scheme. The species and technology like EEBs (Energy Enhanced Bullets) is all explained and exploited prior to this section - the Atarn are one of the most dominant races in the story, as are the Katorians. The fact that the pacing and dialogue were both good is great - pacing is something that I always seem to get wrong in some way, escpecially in fast action scenes.