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View Full Version : Aerial assault (intense violence, possibly some naughty words; I forget)



archer88iv
March 2nd, 2013, 06:00 AM
Mostly looking for feedback on pacing, overall effect, etc. I have one specific question I would like to ask, but you'll have to read to the end before you get to see what it is.

No cheating. Seriously, read through it and then look at the bottom.

---

The men of the Duke’s Own 71st gathered close about the fire each morning when served breakfast. They were, almost without exception, dressed much too lightly for desert service. Temperatures in the Sovrek often plunged well below freezing after nightfall, and even the men’s sable overcoats were insufficient against the slashing winds that whipped across the sand. Some years ago, Thorne had made the same foolish assumptions about the desert. Now, beneath guarding layers of linen and wool, he could afford to stand some distance from the fire, avoiding the questioning eyes and unfortunate words of the others. It meant he took his porridge without sugar, which he did not like, but that was a price he willingly paid in order to avoid certain recurring conversations. He could see one brewing even now.


The man was young for the regiment, especially for an officer: thirty or so, by Thorne’s reckoning, though possibly a few years older than Thorne himself. His name was Ritter, or perhaps Vitters, and he cast his eyes nervously about before setting them on Thorne from amid the gaggle of soldiers beside the fire pit. He was ashamed of what he had to say, and of who he would say it to. Thorne spat.


“Ah,” the man, Ritter, began, unable to think how else to do it. “Sir,” he said at last, settling on the most respectful term he could bring himself to use. “Sir, I was wondering if you might… That is, if you would trouble to… I have drawn the long patrol through the Mine this morning.”


There it was again: the fear that hung about this camp like a sickness, wrought by the chilling presence of the Temple. The men of the Duke’s Own had been rotated, company by company, through the Sovrek site over the past seven years and, other than Major Patterson and Thorne himself, no one man had been deployed to the desert for more than a single season. Even the scholars and archaeologists who took it upon themselves to study the site tended not to return for a second season, and certainly not for a third. There came a time for every man, woman, and child in the Sovrek when enough was enough, and the sights, sounds, and senses of this place could no longer be tolerated. It seemed that time had come for Ritter.


Thorne’s stomach turned and, in the back of his mind, he cursed the duke again for allowing these men to be devoured by this place. “All right,” he said. “Meet me by the pit road in—”


Thorne’s words were lost in the concussion of an explosion as the heavy, canvas-walled tent before him disintegrated. For an instant that seemed to drag on, he was suspended in air. Ritter’s left arm shot past him and then both he and the arm slammed hard against the sturdy frame of another tent. The dust beneath him went black, stained with blood that poured from his nose as he staggered automatically back to his feet. A corporal nearby opened his mouth to say something, but Thorne’s world was silent beneath the ringing in his ears. Another shell burst and flung them against the ground once again, with more falling farther away, near the transmitter that was the camp’s only link to the greater world. Thorne stood a second time, but the corporal did not. The man’s eyes were still open as his face lay in the dust.


Even the men of the Duke’s Own could not help being caught off guard by such an attack. Thorne caught two of them as they staggered to their feet and shouted at the top of his voice: “To arms!” His voice was ragged, drowned out by the hurt in his ears, and so he shoved them roughly toward the barracks where the first shell had struck. “Your rifles. Go! Now!”


He could feel it now: the low, chest-borne thrum of luftkerns driven hard and hot by a diving ship. He could see it: the way dust seemed to waft into the air of its own volition, without any wind to carry it. He could smell it: the tang of blood and the burning stench of cordite that always clung to the nostrils and the throat long after the battle had ended. He took the knife from his belt and cut a length of rope from the shattered tent behind him in order to tend Ritter’s injury.


“Aerial attack,” he said as the major approached, but Patterson could not hear him. Patterson knelt beside him and helped to hold Ritter in place as Thorne wound a makeshift tourniquet about the stump of his arm.


“Aerial attack,” Thorne said again, and it sounded louder now as his hearing began to return as well. “Look to the east. They probably used the sun for concealment as they approached.”


Patterson swore and glanced back at the men of his regiment, loading their rifles, fixing bayonets, and preparing for a fight they couldn’t win. “What good are rifles against a warship?” he muttered.


“She’s flying low, Major,” said Thorne. “There will be troops on the ground soon enough, if not already.”


Ritter’s cry of anguish interrupted them when Thorne pulled the knot tight, but there was no time yet for anyone to hurt. “Keep that line tight, lieutenant,” he said as he pressed the end of the loop into the lieutenant’s remaining hand. “Get on your feet. Get into cover with the others. Now, lieutenant!”


More detonations rocked the desert as the incoming fire intensified. The attacking vessel could be seen now, firing at what would be nearly point-blank range for her, with great gouts of black smoke pouring from her guns, but the shells fell elsewhere. That meant he had time, still, but not much. “Give me a pair of riflemen,” he said to Patterson, knowing now what he had to do. “Anyone who can run and shoot.”


“Plumber! Sanders!” Patterson’s bellowed words cut through the cacophony about them like a sword and not more than a few seconds passed before a pair of grizzled, veteran soldiers appeared, their faces caked with dust and soot, their uniforms already bloodied. “You will obey the captain as you would the word of the Empress herself. Is that clear?”


The two men stiffened even as they acknowledged his order, and then Patterson clapped a hand on Thorne’s shoulder and forced the grip of a pistol into his hand. “And you take this. That’s an order, captain.”


Thorne didn’t bother pointing out that he been expelled from the Service seven years ago or that Patterson would need stout men like these to hold the line against the coming assault; he took the pistol and ran as hard as he could because there was no time to argue, and the two men followed after him. The crack-drum of bursting shells grew more intense as they approached the transmitter tower, still standing in spite of the fusillade it had sustained. The lighter pop and hiss of small arms fire joined the ghoulish symphony of battle and Thorne knew then that his guess had been correct: ground forces had entered the fight, engaging Patterson’s men in the camp. That meant that the full fury of the warship’s guns would now be directed at him and his two companions.


“Cover me from here,” he said to both of them as they sheltered behind what looked like bags of meal. “One minute only! Then you rejoin Patterson. Clear?”


Dirt showered down on them as he spoke, and then sizzling hot fragments from a burst overhead. Their gunners had the range now. Rifle fire snapped past him as he stood and ran for the transmitter but, next to the fury of the artillery, rifle fire was as the buzzing of flies. The little hut that contained their only wireless transmitter would be obliterated by a single direct hit, or even a good, close miss. His only concern was to steady his hand enough to send the signal, and to try to remember his codes properly. It was easier than he expected. Had it really been seven years? He flung himself down against the unforgiving earth and cast just one click glance around the corner to see one of the attackers firing on him before crawling into the hut. The green uniform was unmistakable: these were Austran Imperial Marines. He had to drag a corpse off of the transmitter key before he could begin.


SOVREK ATTACKED. AUSTRAN EMPIRE.


He resent it, twice, and then a third time when he considered that he might have botched some of the letters. Through the door he could see the meal bags where he had left Plumber and Sanders: they were scattered in all directions, torn apart by the impact of an artillery shell. For just a moment he reflected on how curious it was that he was still alive at this point, and then he forced himself to leave the wireless set to try to rejoin Patterson’s contingent. As he staggered toward the door, the long, cruel point of a bayonet swung into view, fastened to the end of an Austran battle rifle. He tried to stop, stumbled, fell, and both his hands wrapped round the muzzle of the gun to push it away as it fired. His fingers burned and he was deafened again, but the bullet passed him by unharmed. The rifle but swung round to catch him on the temple and he tumbled, blood tickling his cheek as he tried to stand again, dizzy.


“Please keep your seat, Baron,” said voice made distant by the pounding in his skull. “I would hate to shoot you. Especially as I thought you were already dead.”

---

Question for readers: What is it that bothers these men about the site?

The end of the scene, now that I've finished it:

---

The crackle of small arms fire continued from within the camp, but the roar of the warship’s guns had gone silent, and already Thorne’s stomach was churning, his hands shaking with the sickness that always came after a battle. It was over, for him at least; he had lost. He staggered upright, blood running onto his jacket from the cut on his temple, and he fixed his eyes on the man who spoke: stark black hair and a black mustache over fine, pale skin, he was utterly unmistakable.

“Baron James Lake,” said Thorne, and he inclined his head politely in greeting even though it was pounding, “formerly of the 106th Hussars. I see you are still in service to the Margraf.”

“And it seems the Iron Duke has managed to find a use even for a traitor,” said Lake with a haunting smile. He nodded to the soldiers who now held Thorne at gunpoint and gesturing toward the center of the camp, toward where the sounds of battle were dying even now. Thorne walked before them, a heavy tiredness settling over him as the magnitude and the reality of the attack began, at last to hit home. Plumber, or perhaps that was Sanders, lay broken in the sand, and some bitter part of him wanted to exchange places with the corpse.

“I suppose, then, that the duke shielded you from punishment for your crimes,” said Lake. “You know, as a combatant out of uniform, I can order you summarily executed for your actions here today. It would be fitting, really, if we were the ones to kill you in the end, but I will spare you that as long as I can. Do you think your message got through?”

Thorne did not answer. What remained of the two barracks tents now smoldered before him in the midst of the now-flattened tent city, along with what remained of VI Company, Duke’s Own 71st Regiment: men on their knees, bruised and bleeding, waiting, their hands clasped behind their heads. He swept his eyes over the gathered prisoners and counted, quickly, figuring some sixty men had come through the battle intact. He did not see Patterson. He felt sick. He couldn’t shake the one question that twisted in his gut like a knife, and he couldn’t bring himself to ask Lake for the answer. What secrets did Emperor Leo III believe were hidden in this desert to justify such treachery and carnage?

“This is barbaric,” said Lake when he observed how the Duke’s Own were being held. “Collect their weapons and tend their hurts,” he ordered his men. “We are not animals, gentlemen. We are guests here and you will behave as such.” Then Lake turned and set his eyes on Thorne again. They were like black pearls. Unblinking. Fearless. He ordered the soldiers guarding his prisoner away before he continued. “I am of a mind to demand your weapon as well, Baron,” he said, “but I fear I would lose your affection forever if I did.”

Thorne’s glanced automatically at his trunk, charred and broken, in what was left of his home. “Share a drink with me,” he offered as he stepped down into the pit that had been a long tent. He paused when he opened the chest, taking out his last bottle of whiskey, thankfully spared destruction during the onslaught.


“Then, if you are a gentleman, kill me.”

Angelwing
March 2nd, 2013, 07:12 AM
Intriguing action for sure. I found this pretty interesting, and could be an effective prologue or teaser

DPVP
March 2nd, 2013, 07:43 AM
Interesting, i am very poor at spelling and grammar so i cant help much their but as far as the story, ill take a crack with my first critic.

it rasis a lot of questions like about the sight, what they are doing, and more about captain Baron Thorne . my guess is that this sight has some religious or historical significance. also lieutenant Ritter at 30 being young for an officer. is that a cultural thing where people are seen as entering adult hood latter?

one thing i found confusing, and maybe this is to my dyslexic use to hierarchic mind, was the command structure. i think, Thorne the XO of the post and Patterson the CO, with a company assigned to the post. this was exacerbated by not knowing what was in the camp for forces. its probably not significant but it would give you another captain to play with for characters.


I think the biggest issue to me is a lack of visuals. we have no idea what this attacking ship looks like, or the Imperial Marines. what type of desert is it? i think its good but needs more visuals and explanations of things.


now my nit picky technical stuff.
up at the top you say companies where rotated trough

The men of the Duke’s Own had been rotated, company by company,
but latter you say

atterson swore and glanced back at the men of his regiment


with great gouts of black smoke pouring from her guns

i thought it was cordite, its the smell Thorne mentioned

some medical observations. these guys are getting tossed around a lot by blasts. its visually cool, but, a medical risk is that of internal damage.
turniqutes, most people, never seen an exception yet, are in too much pain, blood loss, and are having hypovolemic shock. at minimum knot it good so he is not holding the pressure, it works of pressure so great that it stops blood flow. sorry it was a huge break from reality for me.

Angelwing
March 2nd, 2013, 08:01 AM
I just realized the Company-Regimet discrepancy after the above poster pointed it out. Although my force structure in my story's a little different, A Regiment is a Brigade (I believe, at least in British structure), and would then split up into Battalions, which then are composed of multiple companies.

archer88iv
March 2nd, 2013, 09:26 AM
Notes on vocabulary:

In the now-defunct regimental system of military organization, a soldier's regiment was sort of one's home and family in the army; they are members of both a company *and* a regiment.

In the modern US army, at least, a brigade is composed of about three regiments (although, again, regiments are now defunct as organizational units in the regular army; I think this may apply only to cavalry? ...Don't remember), so I would guess a brigade is generally larger than a regiment. This applies to British usage as well. If you recall the Charge of the Light Brigade, immortalized in verse, there were actually multiple regiments of horse involved, though they were reported as a single "brigade."

DPVP
March 2nd, 2013, 08:13 PM
i get that archer88iv but it still confusing, in the text.

archer88iv
March 3rd, 2013, 06:26 AM
The end of the scene, now that I've finished it.

---

The crackle of small arms fire continued from within the camp, but the roar of the warship’s guns had gone silent, and already Thorne’s stomach was churning, his hands shaking with the sickness that always came after a battle. It was over, for him at least; he had lost. He staggered upright, blood running onto his jacket from the cut on his temple, and he fixed his eyes on the man who spoke: stark black hair and a black mustache over fine, pale skin, he was utterly unmistakable.

“Baron James Lake,” said Thorne, and he inclined his head politely in greeting even though it was pounding, “formerly of the 106th Hussars. I see you are still in service to the Margraf.”

“And it seems the Iron Duke has managed to find a use even for a traitor,” said Lake with a haunting smile. He nodded to the soldiers who now held Thorne at gunpoint and gesturing toward the center of the camp, toward where the sounds of battle were dying even now. Thorne walked before them, a heavy tiredness settling over him as the magnitude and the reality of the attack began, at last to hit home. Plumber, or perhaps that was Sanders, lay broken in the sand, and some bitter part of him wanted to exchange places with the corpse.

“I suppose, then, that the duke shielded you from punishment for your crimes,” said Lake. “You know, as a combatant out of uniform, I can order you summarily executed for your actions here today. It would be fitting, really, if we were the ones to kill you in the end, but I will spare you that as long as I can. Do you think your message got through?”

Thorne did not answer. What remained of the two barracks tents now smoldered before him in the midst of the now-flattened tent city, along with what remained of VI Company, Duke’s Own 71st Regiment: men on their knees, bruised and bleeding, waiting, their hands clasped behind their heads. He swept his eyes over the gathered prisoners and counted, quickly, figuring some sixty men had come through the battle intact. He did not see Patterson. He felt sick. He couldn’t shake the one question that twisted in his gut like a knife, and he couldn’t bring himself to ask Lake for the answer. What secrets did Emperor Leo III believe were hidden in this desert to justify such treachery and carnage?

“This is barbaric,” said Lake when he observed how the Duke’s Own were being held. “Collect their weapons and tend their hurts,” he ordered his men. “We are not animals, gentlemen. We are guests here and you will behave as such.” Then Lake turned and set his eyes on Thorne again. They were like black pearls. Unblinking. Fearless. He ordered the soldiers guarding his prisoner away before he continued. “I am of a mind to demand your weapon as well, Baron,” he said, “but I fear I would lose your affection forever if I did.”

Thorne’s glanced automatically at his trunk, charred and broken, in what was left of his home. “Share a drink with me,” he offered as he stepped down into the pit that had been a long tent. He paused when he opened the chest, taking out his last bottle of whiskey, thankfully spared destruction during the onslaught.


“Then, if you are a gentleman, kill me.”