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View Full Version : The Emperor's First (short story, sci-fi ~ 5200 words)



CyberWar
July 24th, 2014, 12:44 PM
Fenris was a magnificent ship. Almost 16 kilometers long and with a displacement of 5.8 billion metric tonnes, she was among the largest warships to ever sail the dark voids of explored space. The lead ship of her class, Fenris was one of only less than three dozen superdreadnoughts that had survived through the Age of War and remained operational in the Imperial Navy. Back before the Age of War, hundreds of gargantuan ships like her would sail between the stars, keeping the peace and conquering new worlds in the great Emperor's name. Most of them had met heroic ends over the embattled worlds of the Imperium of Sidhae, until now only a few remained, and while the Imperial shipbuilding industry had somewhat recovered in the centuries since, only a handful of new superdreadnoughts like Fenris had been commissioned, the Naval Command these days much rather preferring to build 20 conventional battleships for the same cost.

While the superdreadnoughts were designed mostly for show, a sort of multi-trillion investment in dickwaving, they were every bit as deadly as intimidating. Each of these city-sized warships had the firepower to face down entire fleets alone and emerge victorious, and to reduce an entire world to ashes and molten slag in less than an hour, it's gargantuan holds capable of transporting a quarter of an entire Imperial legion of troops, over 250 thousand soldiers with all of their equipment. Still, above all else, the superdreadnoughts were statements of power, decorated lavishly to show that the Imperium had enough resources to spare for beautifying her capital ships.

And indeed, the grand vessel resembled a spaceborne cathedral, shining in gold and bristling with countless spires that were every bit as decorative as they served a practical function, mounting shield generators, sensors or a point-defense systems. The broadside gun ports and the hangar doors of fighter bays looked like the gaping maws of demons, massive relief images of angels, legendary monsters and great heroes of old adorned the ship's metres-thick armor plating, and a grand figure of the ship's namesake, the wolf Fenris of ancient Norse legend, adorned the ship's reinforced bow, shining in gold, the gape of it's maw exceeding the height of the Eiffel Tower of old Terra. The wolf stood proudly just above the ship's main weapon, a250-petawatt Armageddon-class particle cannon that could vaporize a fully-shielded battleship in a single blast or burn through planetary crust and create a multi-gigaton explosion that could reduce an entire continent to rubble. Inside, behind the gaping maws of demons lining the flanks of the reinforced bow, lied massive fighter hangars that could house as many aerospace fighters and bombers as six Federation supercarriers. The top and bottom of the dreadnought bore a total of twelve gargantuan turrets, each housing three Armageddon-class particle cannons, smaller than the main gun that ran through the length of the ship and only operating in the 10 petawatt range, but still sufficiently powerful to gut a battlecruiser or destroy a city with a single hit. The barrels of these monster guns each ran the length of several kilometers, it taking several minutes to turn the massive turrets to their maximum angle. These pieces were obviously intended for long-range combat for this reason, firing on large and slow or stationary targets like planets, starbases and other dreadnoughts up to several million kilometers away. For shorter ranges, dozens of much smaller turrets and and broadside gun ports lined the ship's hull.

Evidently, only the most prestigious legions of the Imperial Army were granted the honour of having such a formidable vessel in their supporting naval armada. Fenris in particular had the honour of being the command ship of the dreaded Alpha Legion, the oldest and most notorious of the Imperium's elite legions.

Strictly speaking, Alpha Legion was only the most prestigious Army legion, being outclassed by the thirteen legions of the Imperial Guard, the personal elite army of the Sidh monarch. However, within the Army their reputation and battle prowess was second to none. Alpha Legion proudly called themselves the Emperor's First, since they were always the first to go in and last to leave, spearheading planetary invasions and leaving only after the last resistance had been crushed. They prided themselves on the fact that in the 500 years of their history, the Alpha Legion hadn't retreated a single time, even upon being nearly annihilated on several occasions, with only a few hundred men from over a million left. They prided themselves on bearing the first letter of the Greek alphabet in their name, which signified their status as the elite of the elite. Other elite legions had to make do with consequent letters of the Greek alphabet, while the rest of the Army was even more below them, bearing plain numbers and descriptive terms as their names.

However, what the Alpha Legion was most notorious was their extreme brutality. Even many of the fellow Sidhae saw their methods as excessive, while the enemies of the Imperium couldn't describe the Alphas as anything less than the worst collection of mass-murdering sadists and sociopaths to have ever menaced the galaxy. Soldiers of Alpha Legion were known for their utter disregard for collateral damage or civilian casualties, their habit of torturing prisoners and mistreating civilians, their extreme heavy-handedness during occupation of whatever world was unfortunate enough to be captured by them, and their involvement in multiple planet-wide genocides, in which they carried out their grim duties with unswerving zeal. They didn't flinch at the idea of tying enemy prisoners to the armor of their vehicles so that any shot from the enemy killed their own, they often replayed records of the tormented screams of their victims at deafening volumes on vehicle-mounted loudspeakers to terrify the enemy as they charged in battle, they habitually took trophies from their dead and dying enemies in the form of skulls, scalps, skins, body parts and flayed faces and fashioned them into macabre accessories to adorn their powered armor with for the same purpose of sowing fear and horror. They were monsters, and they knew it, but they always got the job done and that was all that mattered to them or the Imperium.

It wasn't like the Alphas were all about slaughter and mayhem though, having a certain sense of chivalry. They did hold respect for a valiant foe who went down fighting to the last rather than attempt to surrender, as was their own way. Such a foe could at least expect honourable burial and a praising mention in the legion's chronicles. They also carried out the orders from above to the letter - if for any reason, the Empress wanted a conquered world's population to be left unmolested, then warriors of the Alpha Legion would oblige without question, only using violence towards those who resisted them with arms, and woe to the legionnaire who dared to mistreat the innocents without command - he would quickly find out that his legion would make no exceptions of it's own kind in cruelty. The black armor, the mark of the elite legions, could bear many stains including that of innocent blood, but the stain of disobedience was most certainly not one of them.

That was the kind of force commanded by archistrategos Arcadius Drax, the most feared man in the armed forces of the Imperium of Sidhae.

---

Arcadius sat on his throne quietly. Although many would scoff at the idea of an ordinary military commander having such a display of vanity as his own throne, then again, he was no ordinary commander, and his was no ordinary legion. A strategos was, after all, figuratively the king of his legion, his legion was his kingdom, his command ship - his castle and his soldiers - his subjects. The throne itself was shaped as a massive Gothic chair, it's armrests holding multiple control keys for concealed holo-displays. The base of the throne and the ends of the armrests were lined with the bleached skulls of prominent enemies, each having a rank insignia and the name of it's former owner neatly painted on the forehead, few of them having belonged to anyone below the rank of a Lieutenant General or it's alien equivalent. Most of the skulls were human, although here and there were also the tusked reptilian skulls of the Skargh, sworn enemies of the Sidh race, and the odd skull of some different alien from a lesser race. Each of them belonged to an enemy commander or champion slain either by Arcadius himself in single combat, or gifted to him by his troops.

The throne itself was located inside the personal office of the strategos, where he would receive his top officers and visitors for private meetings and informal gatherings. The walls of the office were all lined in trophies - battle standards taken from vanquished foes of the Imperium, ragged by bullets and shrapnel and scorched by particle beams and plasma bolts. These trophies were arranged rather carelessly, as if they were merely put here for storage, both to signify to visitors that Alpha Legion had so many victories that these individual trophies mattered little, and also because strategos Drax was never really good at organizing his private space. These were indeed but a few of the legion's trophies, many more adorning the great hall of the dreadnought, where warriors of the legion currently aboard could assemble for celebrations and feasts, and more were also stored in the mobile command center deployed planetside whenever the legion had an extended stay on some world. The strategos had no desk in his office, since most of desk work could be done from holo-displays projected from the concealed projectors of his throne, and in the event he needed an actual desk whatsoever, an appropriate panel would emerge from the wall behind and deploy before him at the flick of a switch.

Arcadius Drax wasn't a man of particularly great stature, though by no means short either, his powered armor suit that Sidh soldiers rarely removed making him whole two heads' lengths taller than he actually was. A human observer, seeing him without armor, could easily mistake him for a man in his fifties, his hair having prematurely greyed. But Drax was obviously no ordinary man - he was a Sidh. Beneath that armor, there was more of machine than man, and what flesh was left too had been heavily enhanced through genetic engineering, as was the Sidh way - that was what separated his kind from the rest of Mankind, and had ultimately been the cause of the bitter enmity between Sidhae and the rest of Humanity for several centuries now.

At the age of 324 Terran years, Drax had been shot, stabbed, burnt and dismembered more times than he cared to remember. Sidh medical science was advanced enough for these injuries to be of little concern to him. He could easily have had all those lost limbs and organs regrown, but had preferred to replace them with mechanical parts, even if it ment removing more of his flesh to make his body compatible with them - his mechanical parts served as a reminder of his failures, his moments of laxity where he had let his guard down and suffered the consequences at the hands of the enemy. Perhaps the most visible reminder of it all was his left eye, crossed by a large scar left there by a Skargh rashyyk wristblade and covered by an eyepatch. Drax didn't need the eypatch that was actually translucent from the inside while appearing opaque from without, merely concealing the dim red glare of an unsightly cyber-implant that replaced his damaged eye and made him look somewhat like the Terminator cyborg from that ancient 20th century film. His good eye, dark brown in colour, projected a piercing gaze that complemented his rough, chiseled features and buzz cut of silver hair. Anyone who beheld him would somehow imagine that this is exactly what a true Sidh general must look like.

The rest of his scarred, battered body that had undergone dozens of rejuvenation treatments and countless more life-saving surgeries and augmentation procedures was concealed in the ornate parade armor of a strategos. The massive shoulder pauldrons were shaped as eagles, their wings being shaped to somewhat resemble the officers' epaulets of old, being partly covered by a direwolf's pelt that lined the upper part of the crimson cloak of a strategos, arranged more on one shoulder and draped over the side of the throne so that the wearer wouldn't sit on it. The cloak itself was held together by a massive golden chain in front of the armor. The bulky chestplate of the armor prominently bore a flaming skull, it's jaw agape in a scream, surrounded by Greek letter Alpha - the symbol of the Alpha Legion. The symbol itself was flanked and held up by two direwolves, the beasts who held an important status in Alpha Legion's heraldry and tradition. The rest of the armor was covered in finely carved symbols inlaid in gold, each having a meaning signifying a particular campaign or battle, life event and personality trait of strategos Drax, following the elaborate system of decoration that all Sidh soldiers practiced. The eyes of the eagles, the wolves, and many of the symbols were made of synthetic diamonds created from the ashes of fallen friends and comrades once dear to Drax, who now carried their crystalized remains so that his late brothers-in-arms could continue to witness the glory of battle even in death, as was the practice of many Sidh warriors. Below the waist, encircled by an ornate belt with a buckle shaped like the Imperial Aquila, the eagle symbol of the Imperium, his armor had a knee-length skirt of scale-mail, protecting the soft joints of the groin, each scale engraved with a quotation from Word of the Emperor, the most sacred of all Sidh texts. From the belt also dangled a chain holding several human skulls. The knee guards were shaped like flaming, screaming faces, beneath which the armor ended in pointed Gothic sabatons. The strategos's feet were actually located somewhere midway inside them, the rest of their length being occupied by the powerful servomotors that powered the armored feet and were seamlessly slaved to the wearer's movements.

"If only you knew the burden of command, my dear child," Arcadius spoke, his words betraying weariness, bearing of the weight of a mountain
that commanding an elite legion was.

He addressed these words to his closest companion, who sat faithfully at his feet.

D'Anna Hausser was Drax's secretary, aide-de-camp and protegee, quite literally centuries his junior. Old general had taken the young woman under his wing during the Reconquest Wars when he still held the rank of Cohortarch. She had invited his attention after saving his life during a battle against the forces of the Federation of Mankind, after which Drax had her reassigned to his personal retinue. Years later, already a strategos, Drax again found his life in peril - it wasn't the Sidh way to command from the safety of headquarters well behind the front lines, and especially not the Alpha Legion way - and again D'Anna was there to save him. Incapacitated in the process, she had the misfortune of being taken prisoner by humans, where she spent the next three years being tortured, raped and otherwise abused on a daily basis in a human prison camp. Human rights might have applied to human prisoners, but D'Anna was a Sidh, a cyborg and therefore not human, so her captors had used that argument to full extent. When finally rescued by a Sidh commando raid to free other Sidh captives, her mind had all but lef her, and it was only on Drax's insistence that she wasn't marked for euthanasia. Drax felt obliged to repay his debt and would take an extended leave from duty to personally care for D'Anna in his private estate on New Aedun - a step which his legionnaires, cold and battle-hardened as they were, applauded as a great example of comradeship. After all, not every day one would see a general entrust his legion to the command of someone else in order to personally care for a common soldier. He had arranged for the best doctors in the Imperium to care for her, and indeed, his efforts paid off as D'Anna gradually recovered to the point of being able to resume her duties. However, while the scars of her flesh had long healed, her mind remained scarred, the horrors of imprisonment having awakened the darkest demons of the female mind in her.

Rumors outside the legion had that the two were lovers, and in Sidh society, it wouldn't have been any big deal if it turned out to be true - as long as they both were willing to give their lives for the Imperium as proper soldiers, nobody had a reason to care who they slept with. Alpha Legionnaires themselves had no opinion on their relationship, since they knew better than to gossip about their strategos, and frankly didn't care, seeing whatever transpired between Drax and D'Anna as their private business.

There was, however, nothing romantic about their relationship. Arcadius was simply too busy and weary from his duties to take much interest in women, and felt it improper for his age and status as well, leaving womanizing and romance to the younger generations, while D'Anna didn't much care about the affections of men after her experiences with the male sex in the prison camp. If anything, their relationship more resembled that of father and daughter - or as close as it would get in a society of cyborgs, where people were quite literally grown to adult size and programmed to full functionality, the concept of family being but a vestigial world describing something that humans have.

D'Anna was, as could be expected from a woman, of smaller and slighter stature than Arcadius. As far as her tight-fitting custom-made armor with high heels that were the butt of many jokes within the legion and beyond allowed to see, she was a somewhat slender woman, but one which still didn't lack in curves. Any Sidh or human would find her face attractive, endowed with a small mouth, lithe thin nose and a pair of blue eyes that seemed adrift, daydreaming and slightly sad, yet also betrayed something dark and sinister lurking within. Her long blonde hair currently fell loose over her armored shoulders which like the rest of her armor were relatively modestly decorated because of her lower rank and experience. In battle, when Sidh soldiers would wear utilitarian combat armor suits, D'Anna would gather her hair in a tail and tuck it beneath her armored collar on the back in order to put on the helmet that completely enclosed the wearer's head. While off-duty, however, most Sidh soldiers would prefer their parade armor suits minus the accessories reserved for military parades, and D'Anna was no exception. Since she was one of Drax's retainers, she had the luxury of being permitted to wear a non-standard, custom-built armor suit as long as it met the regulations in colour and heraldry.

"How long until this campaign is over? Maybe then we can go back to your estate together and rest from all this," D'Anna said.

"As long as Imperium's enemies draw breath, there can be no rest," Drax said, "Not for me, not for you, not for anyone. Sometimes I wonder why the great Empress even honoured me with a personal estate of my own - if I spend a few weeks every five years there anyway, that manor could as well be put to better uses than serve as a glorified storage room for maintenance bots."

He looked down upon his companion and found it somewhat surprising that she now sat at his feet, leaning her head on his knee docile as a lamb, when he had witnessed the rage she visited upon enemies in battle and captives unfortunate enough to invite her attention alike. Right now, her darker side was only betrayed by her favourite accessory - a purse made of bits of human skin with tattoos, carved from the bodies of men who had invited her wrath. Whenever Drax needed information extracted or a gruesome example made, be it from a single individual or an entire settlement, none of his legionnaires was better for the task than D'Anna, who had aptly earned the moniker of Black Widow, the image of this venomous Terran spider being prominently engraved on her armor, it's characteristic hourglass mark being inlaid with blood-red synthetic rubies. Sometimes she spent days travelling between Alpha Legion's many field camps after battles, seeking out human prisoners caught in acts of rape or other atrocities against Sidhae, and would exact most dire revenge upon them. Even though her efforts could have been put to better uses, Drax felt compelled to allow her to indulge in this habit, her hatred for human males being what drove her onwards. Many times had he witnessed her leave the dungeons of this very dreadnought all covered in blood, her blonde hair mottled and red and a satisfied smile on her lips. At the same time Drax knew she often cried at nights after waking up screaming - her quarters were just next to his own. On such occasions, he would sometimes go and calm her, caress her back to sleep.

"Sometimes I wonder why we even fight," D'Anna said, "No matter how many humans and Skargh we kill, there are always more to take their place, no matter how many worlds we burn in nuclear fire, there are always more to churn out more enemies at us. Will it ever stop? Look at what we have become because of it - you, the famed Arcadius Drax, a broken shell of a man held together by his armor and will alone, me, a heartless, vindictive bitch that even our own people much rather avoid, Darius, a walking corpse of what used to be one of the most handsome lads in the legion... How much more until we can finally rest?"

Darius, nicknamed Tooth-helm for his custom-made helmet that had two rows of large teeth engraved on his helmet along it's visor, making it look like a terrifying mouth slightly agape, was another of Drax's retainers. Once among the most handsome men of the Alpha Legion like D'Anna had said, the conqueror of countless hearts of Sidhwomen, he had now been reduced to a withered husk of his former self after he had thrown himself in front of a plasma blast aimed for Drax during a battle some years ago. A human would have been completely incinerated by it, and Darius, with all his cyber-augmentation and protection that powered armor provided, had fared hardly better, being reduced to blind, deaf, limbless torso with 98% third-degree burns in which life unbelievably somehow still lingered. The doctors had done a spectacular job even by Sidh standards, rebuilding him from a scratch and theoretically even his good looks could have been restored, if only something hadn't went wrong along the way. The doctors called it augmentation rejection syndrome - an adverse reaction to cyber-augmentations that even they were powerless to stop once it had started. It could have been avoided if his injuries had been less severe and some of his body parts could be replaced with cloned organic tissue, but more immediate solution had been required if Darius was to survive. In any case, what remained of his flesh now looked like that of a corpse and he had to install an artificial organ constantly producing immunity-suppressing drugs straight into his bloodstream to prevent his skin and cyber-limbs from literally decaying and falling off. For this reason, Darius never removed his frightening helmet when somebody was around - even close associates like D'Anna had only seen his face once or twice since that fateful battle. D'Anna remembered all too well the almost-white, waxy corpse-like skin, the glazed, lifeless eyes that covered even unsightlier cyber-implants beneath them, the monotonous, robotic voice coming from lips that almost didn't move, words seeming to come out of them with great pain and effort. No wonder, she had thought, that Darius chose to conceal the battered remains of his body beneath that frightening helmet of his.

Poor Darius... D'Anna too had fallen for his charms once. He was the one memory of her encounters with the male sex that she could still remember fondly, his touch having roused a storm of passion within her. After that one time, they both had agreed to keep things professional in the future.

And now, war had destroyed them both. War had made D'Anna a vicious, sadistic monster who revelled in torture of men, war had reduced the handsome ladies' man Darius to little more than a walking cyber-augmented corpse, bitter, twisted and evil, full of seething anger he too didn't hesitate to unleash upon Imperium's enemies in his own twisted way - his favourite accessory was a cloak crafted from human scalps, taken from women with long flowing hair, and the cloak grew larger with every new campaign. D'Anna had never asked, but other legionnaires working in the HQ spoke that it is only one of several such cloaks, women being singled out for scalping by Darius because the operator of that fateful plasma cannon had been female.

"I ask myself that same thing," Arcadius said, "How long until all this is finally over... But do we even really want it to be over, ever? What would people like ourselves do without war? Who would need us back home, twisted in body and mind, evil and knowing nothing but war and violence? Without war, would we even have a reason to exist anymore?"

"Soldiers of the other legions seem to get by somehow," D'Anna spoke, "Folks in the citizen legions rarely serve for more than a decade or two before returning to civilian lives."

She was referring to the informal division between "professional" and "citizen" legions within the Army. "Professionals" were composed mostly of the "alphabetics", the elite legions named after letters of the Greek alphabet, and a few dozen of the more prestigious non-elites, where the majority of servicemen were career soldiers aiming for a lifetime in the military. The "citizen" legions composed the majority of the Army, legions whose personnel consisted mainly of Sidhae enlisting for a limited term in order to earn themselves full citizenship and the rights to enter politics and hold government offices that came with it along with numerous other smaller privileges. Evidently, there existed considerable rivalry between these two factions, one looking down upon the other, and the other viewing the former as overly smug and overrated.

"Citizen legions..." Arcadius muttered with disdain, "Sure, those weekend soldiers might know how to hold a line, but that's pretty much all they are good at. They claim to know the hardships of service and brag their petty little victories when they come home as if they had held the Hades Gates or Krodoss Seven by themselves, and yet call us who know real victories freaks on the rare occasions we take rest. All they care about is earning their citizenship and the right to warm their asses in a comfortable office chair well away from all peril while Sidhae like us do all the real fighting and dying for them..."

While his assessment of the skills of the average Army legion was evidently an overstatement born out of personal and professional disdain for non-elite legions, it was indeed true that soldiers of the elite legions and Alpha Legion in particular couldn't really fit in on the rare occasions they stopped back at the core worlds for a few months of R&R before moving on to their next assignment, and hence kept mostly to themselves. Seasoned in battle as they were, citizens who had homes to return to and plans for a future that weren't pertaining to warfare couldn't possibly understand what it was like to spend years upon years on the battlefield or aboard starships travelling from one battleground to the next, no possibility of peace ever in sight. They had no grasp of the sacrifices it really took to get the job done - their idea of "getting it done" revolved merely around completing their assigned missions, but none grasped the true meaning of the phrase. The job would be done when there would be no enemies left to fight, when the last feeble child who could ever grow up to threaten the survival of the Sidh race again would be cast into a mass grave and covered in soil, or be incinerated in a plasma furnace, and until that happened, there could be no rest. The Emperor's First knew what it meant to get the job done, and they couldn't rest until it was done. Every Alpha Legionnaire from Drax himself to the lowliest grunt knew it, or they wouldn't be wearing the black armor of the elite in the first place.

"I wonder if they would even want us back when all this is over eventually," D'Anna wondered, "Maybe they will cast us into furnaces and burn us just like we now burn entire worlds for them, afraid of what we might do without an external enemy to unleash our wrath upon. The lot of us would certainly deserve that..."

"As do all tools who have outlived their usefulness. Without war, we would no longer have a purpose, a reason to exist, and without remembering anything but war, I doubt most of us could find any other purpose to live for anyway," Arcadius said, "But victory is still centuries away, and we both will rest in the Halls of Eternal Glory at the exalted Emperor's side long before anyone in this legion will have to worry about losing purpose. And even when we crush the humans and the Skargh eventually, who knows what other, maybe even worse enemies might lurk out there in the void among the stars, waiting to be met in glorious battle by future generations of Sidhae who will have the courage and strength to be found worthy of the black armor. And so we must bear on the burden that we chose for ourselves, and be the Emperor's First for as long as it takes. It is our job to get done, our purpose."

"Indeed," D'Anna agreed, having little to contend the old strategos with.

This was one of the few times that the two could afford to speak their minds, after lights-out when only the third watch of the dreadnought's crew was awake, and there was nobody in the command center near Drax's office who might overhear and misunderstand their conversations. The young Sidh woman with a mind twisted by war, and the weary old general who had come to regard her as a sort of daughter, reminding each other about the importance of duty, of being the Emperor's First, pride of the Imperial Army who always got the job done.


They were the Emperor's First. They would always get the job done.

LeeC
July 24th, 2014, 02:04 PM
It looks to me like you have the makings of more than a short story in mind :-)

As presented though it's mostly "tell" with very little "show." By that I mean it reads more like a lecture than an engrossing story.

Oh, it's a common enough start for many early writers, something I've struggled with myself. At one point another writer offered up some insight that I'll pass along.

There are two different mental processes in writing an interesting story. The first is to envision what one wants to write about, recording and correcting thoughts so the story is consistent and not forgotten. The second, completely different, mental process is to work out an interesting presentation of the story.

One way to develop this second mental process is to read, read, read, studying writing techniques. Look for stories that grab the reader's attention up front, and hold one's attention as backstory is peppered in where necessary.

I hope this helps in some small way :-)

Write on,
LeeC

CyberWar
July 24th, 2014, 11:01 PM
Oh, it's just part of a much greater sci-fi universe I've thought up. I haven't written much stories set in it in English though, so expect more to come :)

Perhaps I've tried to zip too much background into 5000 words, leaving less room for characters and their interaction.

Daniel Loreand
August 17th, 2014, 03:17 AM
Reminds me of the warhammer 40k setting. Your writing style is very descriptive but I think it could do with a little more happening and less describing. But hell, what is described is brilliantly done. Like you said in your comment, theres a lot of background info and less character interaction. The one thing I was wanting for in this peice was character interaction. Can't wait to chow down on some more of this - as I'm sure theres going to be more!

Daniel.