Iocouno Station [40k] [Extended Cut]

Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim, dark future there is only war.

Iocouno Station [40k] [Extended Cut]

Postby Mossy Toes » Sun Nov 11, 2012 9:46 am

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Iocounu Station

(Extended Cut)

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The world turned.

Axial rotation, angular momentum. Iocounu Station was a small world, all things considered. It was a carefully designed, delicately balanced world: a tiny ring of steel spinning through the night sky. It turned ceaselessly, pirouetting through its stately orbit of Iocounu below and held to that ellipse by constant, careful adjustment in the form of the two-kilometer plasma flares of its twelve stabilization jets.

The world turned by slow degrees, and within it, Lhyme fled for his life. He was sobbing uncontrollably as he ran, and the air reeked of piss and bile. The corridor’s walls pressed in on him with the weight of the darkest possible theological revelation.

Daemons.

Lhyme had never been a religious man—for all that he, as a foreman, had enjoyed putting the fear of the Emperor into his charges—so it shattered him to be forced into belief in this way; to have his humble assumptions about the nature of the galaxy to be disproved so viciously. And what the things had done to his workers: splashing through their organs, playing nonsense games with shattered limbs, and gleefully torturing survivors… he shuddered at the recollection. He been the only one to make the lift in time.

It was that damned Chalroes; he was sure of it. That sickly new arrival had been bending ears around the station for weeks now, poking his nose where it didn’t belong. It had to be Chalroes who had brought these horrors into the station.

Finally, he reached the doors to barracks. He came to a horrified halt. Not here. Not here too.

The corpses of Iocounu Station’s guardsmen were interwoven with each other in a mangled heap. As he watched, flayed flesh twitched and exposed bones snapped. The writhing corpses of a handful of guardsmen reared up, crumpling into the misshapen lobe of what was unmistakably a head. The lips of each of the amalgamation’s constituent bodies twitched into motion, releasing a score of gurgling, overlapping giggles.

“We’re coming for you, Mister Man,” the hulking abomination simpered in a thrumming voice as it undulated slowly forward. “We know you. We surround you. We’re all throughout this spinning playground. We can always find you, Mister Man.”

Lhyme let out an animal whimper and fled. Delighted laughter followed him, hounded him, and bored like a drill into his brain. He tried to imagine a place where he might be safe, but the thing’s words rang altogether too true. There was no telling where or when he might run into more of its horrific ilk. The station was too small—a bare handful of kilometers in circumference. He thrust away such concerns in favor of pure, animal flight.

Things followed; things that crawled and skittered, that clattered behind air vents and leered from the shadows. Insubstantial wraiths mouthed obscenities and plucked at his clothes. A group of tall, eyeless creatures straightened from their meal of human corpses and turned their heads to follow his passage. Their snakelike tongues licked bloodstained lips.

The power flickered irregularly, bathing the corridor in red emergency lighting for minutes at a time. Environmental controls had cut out: the air was getting fetid and stagnant, and the temperature was slowly slipping down.

In one particularly narrow corridor, Lhyme pushed past the decapitated yet still-animate corpse of Mess Cook Djerbas. It was scribbling inanities and perverted childrens’ rhymes on the wall using the mangled stumps of its fingers as blood-ink styluses. Fortunately, it was too engrossed with its work to pay Lhyme any heed.

For a time, Lhyme drifted as he ran, floating on a cushion of shocked disbelief. His stunned dislocation was punctured by the corpse an toddler-aged boy. Emperor, there hadn’t even been any children on Iocounu Station. Now, though, he found himself kneeling and cradling the limp and sodden bundle of limbs. Tears welled suddenly in his eyes: tears just as real and wet as the youth’s blood slicking his arms.

He eventually lifted his gaze, blurred by tears as it was, and received another shock: ahead of him was the corpse of a daemon. So they could die, after all. So... somebody up here was killing them.

He laid the body of the unknown child aside, rubbed his eyes dry, and crept timorously up to the distended daemon corpse. Lasbolts had pierced its hide, and the slayer’s bootprints were marked clearly in the beast’s black ichor, headed spinward along the station’s ring and hubward up a ladder. Lhyme followed the prints, shivering in the growing cold. He could see his breath as the temperature dropped.

More bodies, both human and daemon. Some of the daemons had died by lasbolt, and some by blade. Once he lost the trail of bodies in the poor lighting of a power-flicker and had to backtrack. Once he was forced to hide from a macabre stampede of pustule-ridden imps. The trail ascended into the innerworks: the tightest circle of passages in the ring. Here, the centripetal force of the station’s rotation weighed less heavily on the human body and made the simulated gravity lower.

At long last, and nearly too late, Lhyme found the daemon hunter. Slumped against the wall, bleeding through terrible rents in his suit of carapace armor, was Chalroes. The corpses of six chitinous, bleached androgynes lay dead around the man. He was paler than ever from blood loss, whiter even than the daemon corpses around him, and he clutched the shattered stump of a sword in his hand. The blade was embedded in the corpse of the last androgyne.

“Lhyme,” Chalroes croaked as the foreman approached.

“It was—you?" Lhyme stammered. "You killed them? Emperor, I’d thought—you had brought them.”

“The rot was already here,” said Chalroes, every word spoken clearly an ordeal. His free hand flopped to his belt pouch. “Couldn’t stop it. But no time. I’m dying. You have to…” he broke off coughing. Lhyme knelt beside Chalroes and fished the object out of his pouch—hissing, recoiling and nearly dropping the rosette when he saw it.

Chalroes’s lips twitched in a humorless smile. “Have to get outside. Station can’t be allowed to survive. Redirect stabilization jets… hub cables.” Lhyme flinched at the thought, but… what was there left, here in the station? Ruin, desecration, atrocity. He nodded tremulously.

“Get to airlock. Foreman’s authority… should suffice to open. I’d give you my laspistol, but… empty.” Chalroes laughed without humor at that, a low gurgle that reminded Lhyme unsettlingly of the earlier amalgamation, and died with his lifeblood dribbling from his mouth.

The laughter didn’t stop when Inquisitor Chalroes fell still. It redoubled and continued to grow. It echoed from a thousand twitching pairs of lips whose bulk slithered through the corridor like liquid, damming and spurting between narrow bulkheads.

The amalgamation had caught up to Lhyme, and all of the corpses it had come across, it had absorbed. Daemon flesh melted into human flesh and ichor sizzled where it mixed with blood. An amorphous serpent, now, it scratched and flowed down the innerworks corridor with surprising speed, and left a snail-slime trail of blood behind it.

“Mister Man!” cried the joyful chorus, its laughter unabated, “we see you!”

Lhyme fled again, but the horror, propelled by hundreds of twitching bodies, had gotten so very much faster. Lhyme fled through the workshops and repair bays of the innerworks, trying to get to the airlock, while the beast closed on him from behind. Once, when he risked a glance backward, he thought he saw Chalroes among the surging sea of corpses, nestled among the androgynes he had slain. The serpent had picked them all up when it swept over them.

Fangs of shattered femurs and cracked ribs snapped at Lhyme’s heels as he ran. An atmospheric breach panel came into view ahead of him, and he put on an extra burst of speed in desperation. He sprinted to the panel, smashed its glass covering with his fist, yanked the lever behind it, and stumbled onward gasping for breath.

Alarm klaxons blared and warning lights flashed. Blast shutters began to trundle down, attempting to seal the innerworks into small segments in order to contain a pressure breach. The serpent shrieked in sudden rage and fear, all mirth forgotten as the shutters pinched its bulk into an obscene chain of sausage links.

Then the power failed again, and the lumens flickered and died. Red emergency lighting came on, casting a hell glow on the serpent’s writhing fleshscape and the stalled, powerless shutters still half a meter from the floor.

The chuckling returned, low and malignant, and the amalgamation began to squirm forward again, its bodies squeezing under the gap.

Lhyme cast about the workshop frantically. He seized an industrial melta cutter and flared it to its highest setting. He averted his unprotected eyes and swept it across the serpent’s head. Flesh vaporized, bodies charred, and the monstrosity recoiled screeching. It slithered back beneath the stalled shutters, its nose blackened. Lhyme stood there for a minute, the melta cutter clutched in his uncontrollably shaking hands.

Soon the laughter billowed in the reddened darkness again. It trickled from the ducts and echoed along the hallway. It slunk under the gaps in the shutters and broke Lhyme’s frail, failing nerve.

The foreman ran, claustrophobically crushed under the shutters and dragging his heavy, awkward cutter under after him. Laughter and the slither-crackle of sliding flesh and grinding bones pursued him.

"Before," burbled the multi-layered voices, "I was only going to kill you, Mister Man, and eat you right up. Now that you've stung me, though… oh, we're going to have such fun!"

He finally reached the archaic, wheel-based airlock—and, wonder of wonders, its assigned pair of servitors were still attending it, albeit twitching and weeping blood. He had been afraid he would have had to burn through the lock with the melta cutter. Considering the thing pursuing him, though, that would have taken far too long.

He ordered the servitors to open the interior lock and grabbed a vac-suit, yanking it on with clumsy, hasty fingers. He fumbled at the seals and clasps as he pulled it over his coveralls, all too aware of theliquid rustle rising behind. As he dressed, the servitors hauled on their wheel-cranks and the interior airlock creaked slowly upward.

As soon as he was able, he ducked beneath the rising gate into the small chamber beyond and dragged his melta cutter after. He barked a command for the servitors to lower the gate and fastened the vac-suit’s bubble helm seals. He hoped that the two commands in quick succession—to open the lock, then to close it before they had finished opening it—wouldn’t overload or mindlock the servitors' feeble, lobotomized brains.

The door shuddered to a halt and he glanced through the view port back into the chamber from which he had come. In the next room over, swimming up from the darkness, the head of the serpent was pushing its way beneath the final blast shutter—but closer, the one of the servitors was leaning over from its cranking position to peer through the window.

It appeared to had been lent some higher form of cognition by the madness and warp-humors sweeping through the station: its usually non-emotive visage was contorted, now, into the eager and winsome smile of a child. The expression was more unnerving on that necrotized face, in Lhyme’s eyes, than the tears of blood streaming down it.

The serpent pulsated forward into the chamber with the servitors. Lhyme tasted bile on his lips. The interior airlock door was half-raised and the exterior one was tightly locked. He struggled to heft his cutter into some semblance of a defensive position. If he could hold off the monstrosity, prevent it from coming into the room with him, he might be able to alternate melta blasts against it and the outer lock, eventually burning his way through the door. Assuming, of course, the cutter didn’t run out of fuel. And that…

The airlock vox clicked on and the servitor’s joyful, jerking voice croaked into the room, “Good-good-goodbye, Fore-Foreman L-L-L-Lhyme!”

The servitor punched the emergency airlock release, blowing the explosive bolts in the outer lock, just as the serpent-beast slammed into it and its motionless comrade. Lhyme mag-locked his suit's boots to the floor just in time—the door casing disintegrated and the airlock chamber was opened to the void. The station's atmosphere howled past Lhyme, buffeting through the half-open shutters of the innerworks and the stalled inner airlock. The station’s precious oxygen was venting rapidly into the vacuum.

But the serpent was still coming vengefully for him. Foolish, really, to assume that daemons needed air to breathe—they were beasts of another reality, not bounded by the laws of nature. This daemon was made up of corpses, too: what dead thing needs to breath? The first of its bodies suctioned through the gap, choking off the gale as it began to writhe writhe its way forward.

The servitor—bless the thing—had bought him time, a gift from the Emperor Himself. But the daemon-thing could only be slowed so long, so Lhyme turned and fled into the silent void.

The only sounds were his labored breathing and the muted thuds of his boots against metal. The only smells were those of his sweat and the ozone reek of compressed air. Iocounu Station arched up to a kilometer above, before and behind him, blotting out a swathe of stars and a stripe of the planet, while to his left and right the panoply of stars turned, shifting visibly in their places because of the the station’s spin. He walked the inside face of a massive ring.

Twelve thick cables stretched taut around its interior facing, drawn to a central hub. The hub prevented the ring from warping under the inertial pressure of its own rotation and kept the station spinning at the proper rate. Interspersed between the cables were the six pairs of plasma jets, one on either side of the ring in each pair, pointing out into the abyss. A pillar of flame two kilometers meters long, almost twice the station's diameter, spat from each of them and feathered off into the distance. The jets gave the station the impression of a spoked wheel when one looked at it from a distance.

He stumbled toward the nearest jet, occasionally glancing back. A billowing wall of flesh was spilling out of the airlock, serpentine no longer now that it was no longer bound within adamantine corridors. Its pursuit was checked by the time it needed to choke its bulk through the one shallow egress, but that delay wouldn’t last. When it finished squeezing its way through—Lyhme shuddered. He didn’t have time to consider the fate to which he’d be subjected. He had to obey the Inquisitor's bidding.

As he approached the edge of the station, where the jet pointed down and out into the void, his suit's auto-senses darkened his visor so the jet's brilliance wouldn't burn out his eyes. The deck thrummed beneath his feet at the sheer amount of power blazing from the jet—power modulated to keep the station in perfect orbit around Iocouno.

The jet itself was taller than him by a meter and twice as thick as a barrel. It was surrounded by a narrow, guardrail-bounded walkway that hung over the open void and allowed access to its far side. From where he stood, it appeared to spit its fire straight down—just as from his point of view the jet above him, on the opposite side of the station, burned upward. The jet's plasma containment coils glowed as they harnessed their unimaginable energies. A power cable and coolant duct ran from its top, down its flank, and a short distance along the deck, where it sunk into the station's adamantium skin.

He breathed a silent prayer of thanks to the Emperor—a true, heart-felt prayer, unlike so many in his life until now—that the power draw of the jets required independent generators, and that the daemons that had destroyed the primary and back-up generatoriums had missed it.

The jet was secured by three braces, which cradled it and prevented it from tearing it loose with potentially disastrous consequences. His responsibility, now, was to remove those braces.

Lhyme knelt and flared the melta cutter back to its highest intensity, first running it along the bolts and fastenings latching the jet to the statin's side. Rivets vanished in a haze of superheated gas, sending molten gobs of metal spraying from the station's side to arc away into the darkness. These vanished from view swiftly, carried out of sight by the station's rotation.

He set to work on the first brace, urging the cutter on as it flared incandescently and bit into the adamantium. Metal twisted and distorted beneath the assault of temperatures of thousands of degrees. The brace soon succumbed, reduced to two stubs of white-hot metal that the open void cooled quickly.

Lhyme risked a glance behind him and his heart stuttered. The mountain of flesh had wrenched itself free and turned his way. It flowed toward him en masse, gathering speed and crashing upon itself like a rolling wave. Bodies, hundreds of them, flipped and tumbled with inhuman speed as the amalgamation rollicked in his direction. Behind it, atmosphere jetted from the damaged, now-unplugged airlock.

He cursed and scrambled to the second brace, flaring the melta cutter with increasing desperation. Too slow, too slow—but adamantium parted, finally, and the jet jerked in its cradle. The remaining brace flexed and groaned, and Lhyme knew that behind him was-

-the entwined, toppling horde: a rushing sea of flesh that would envelope him-

Lhyme jerked back around. Checking how close the daemon was had only slowed him down. Time, his most precious resource, was dwindling swiftly and he was squandering it. His breathing was unsteady. His hands and brow were sweat-slicked.

Third brace. He couldn't reach it from here, so he edged out onto the walkway. He had to lean down and reach awkwardly in order for his cutter to reach it. He flared the cutter, hitting the the strained brace with its superheated blast. He could feel the thudding of hundreds of bodies on metal through his feet: the amalgamation was close, now, and closing fast.

Metal warped, stretched, and—finally—snapped. The jet bucked in its cradle, rattling the walkway and knocking the melta cutter from Lhyme's hands. It tumbled away into space. Lhyme's stomach sunk at the implication: he was defenseless, now. For a split second, he considered hurling himself after it, but the jet was now loose and its last bolts were snapping fast. His self-preservation instincts took over.

He rolled back, throwing himself off the walkway as the jet tore loose. It crashed into the walkway in earnest, smashing it and its guardrail aside with ease. The jet shot free, little more than a loose rocket, now, except…

Except for the power cables looping from its top. The cables snapped free from the staples holding them to the deck, but did not break. The jet whipped around on them like a pebble tied to a string, whipsawing in a tight, twenty-meter arc.

Its immense tail of superheated plasma followed its path, sweeping across the interior of the station. It cut across and severed five of the dozen cables fastening the ring to the station's hub: cables whose arrangement was integral to balancing the massive, incredible stresses of the station’s rotation against each other. The plasma continued its sweeping path to score the far interior side of the ring, cutting through several layers of decking. Atmosphere vented in great gouts.

The jet's arc was cut to an abrupt halt as it crashed into the midst of the flesh-horde, crushing several and incinerating scores. The power cable having tugged taut flipped the blazing end in a different direction, which sent the jet racing forward, again.

It blazing toward Lhyme and passed a mere meter to his side. He felt the immense wash of heat even through his suit, and his visor warped crazily. The jet's burning tongue scored the monstrosity grievously, incinerating a hundred more of animated corpses, but its flight was swiftly checked by its short cable. It jolted to the end of its tether with such a powerful, direct jerk that the power cable snapped off entirely. The cable tore away, arcing electricity and a gushing of coolants.

The jet died immediately after it broke off of the cable, its tail fading. The guttering husk of the jet spun away through the void, end over end, falling into oblivion.

All of this in seconds. The monstrosity writhed and lashed about itself in agony, and Lhyme slowly began to draw himself up from where he lay.

A shuddering quake shook the station, the reaction to the rogue jet's calamitous flight. The deck bucked violently beneath Lhyme's feet, sending him tumbling. He grabbed the remnants of the guardrail, keeping himself from tipping over the edge, and held on for dear life. The amalgamation was also unsteadied by the station-quake, and spread itself low and thin to mitigate the quake's effects.

Eventually, the shaking subsided. Gasping with exertion and terror, Lhyme pushed himself to his feet and staggered along the rim of the station, away from the re-gathering amalgamation. It howled with outrage, a scream Lhyme could hear even in the emptiness of space, and crashed after him in pursuit.

It was faster than him, far faster, and it was on him within half a minute. Something swatted him from behind with an impact like a sledgehammer and sent him sprawling to the deck. He cried out, rolled over, and saw the looming mountain of woven, semi-charred bodies that prepared to crash down upon him.

A grinding groan and a rising roar swept through the deck—not so much heard as felt—and another station-quake hit. This one was punctuated by sharp, staccato cracks that shook the station especially violently and sent Lhyme bouncing across the deck like stray baggage in the back of a shuttle. The monstrosity was heaved to and fro by the convulsions, and was forced to grip the deck rather than pursue the battered, tumbling rag-doll that was Lhyme.

Pain. Whiplash. Starbursts in his eyes. Thudding, crashing agony. He crunched down on something hard and instinctively grabbed hold of it—a handhold by which this drowning sailor could float. He clutched it and tried to orient himself.

He could see that the perfect ring of Iocouno station was distorting into a kinked oval. It had creased along the gash that the jet's tail had scored in it and bellied out along the side that the hub cables had been severed on.

The quake did not only punish Lhyme and the amalgamation: it also yanked intensely at the seven remaining cables. As he watched, another snapped, falling victim of the unevenly distributed rotary tension and the intense forces being unleashed. The hub writhed and twanged, a spider in a web whose threads were being snipped one by one.

The quake subsided, and before the battered Lhyme could so much as stand, the abomination broke upon him. Flesh, battering hands and clawing jaws pressed in. Pain in half a dozen places as shards of bone punctured his suit, accompanied by the cold chill of the void. He fought against the weft of bodies: drowning, being crushed, and suffocating inside the amalgamation's press.

The flesh-wave heaved precipitously around him as a third quake struck, this one far more violent than the second. Lhyme clawed himself up through the lashing bodies. He broke to the surface, momentarily, and gasped at what he saw.

The station's adamantium walls clashed with the terrible, wrenching force of inertia, and adamantium had lost. The station had cracked and broken apart at the gash. Now the ring rapidly unwound itself, shattering into spinning chunks up to a kilometer in length. Segments snapped off and spun away into decaying orbits around Iocounu.

The chunk Lhyme and the monstrosity were on tore away, whiplashing them erratically about as the centripetal-force induced artificial gravity died.

Tears beaded in Lhyme's eyes at the station's dying convulsions—so majestic a work of human ingenuity, destroyed, and worse, destroyed by his own hand by his own hand—and the bodies of the daemonic amalgamation closed over him with pain and crushing darkness.

He’d done his best. He'd fulfilled the geas the Inquisitor had lain upon him. Any surviving daemons, this one included, would burn up on atmospheric re-entry as the fragments of the station fell to Iocouno.

He'd defeated them. That was all he could tell the Emperor, when he came before the Golden Throne—and he was sure, now, that he would meet Him there. If there were truly daemons in the galaxy, it stood to reason that the Emperor opposed them. He'd done his best, and defeated the daemons.

He was dying, now, but that didn't matter.

He’d done his best.

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Last edited by Mossy Toes on Wed Nov 14, 2012 3:37 am, edited 2 times in total.
What sphinx of plascrete and adamantium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Imperator!
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Re: Iocouno Station [40k] [Extended Cut]

Postby Mossy Toes » Sun Nov 11, 2012 9:51 am

Why is this an extended cut? Because the original won the RiaR: Turning competition, and I felt that the idea just couldn't be bound within 1149 words satisfactorily, so I expanded it by 3051 words.

Yes, Chun, "Iocouno" is a deliberate reference. No, dear, I still haven't read any of the Dying Earth books--my only encounters with the fellow have been the two rather mediocre stories in the Songs of the Dying Earth anthology. Yes, I threw in the name anyways.
Last edited by Mossy Toes on Sun Nov 11, 2012 7:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Iocouno Station [40k] [Extended Cut]

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:27 pm

Then I shall read this to find out why.
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Re: Iocouno Station [40k] [Extended Cut]

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Mon Nov 12, 2012 12:36 pm

Some nice description in there - I liked your Shoggoth-like amalgamation, and the destruction of the station. Niggles: you mention him hearing the cutting torch hiss when he's in vacuum (if he's hearing it through his suit you should say so); the station suddenly becomes his dear home toward the end - there was no indication it meant so much to him before; almost trademark iffy phrasing like 'crawling claustrophobicly'; some repetition; underwhelming last words. Otherwise a nice little snippet of gruesome action.
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Re: Iocouno Station [40k] [Extended Cut]

Postby Mossy Toes » Sun Nov 25, 2012 9:20 am

Gahh, didn't reply. Well, I can always reply now and covertly self-bump the piece.

Anyways, thanks for reading it. Tweaked a few lines. I suppose "hiss" is a rather too-auditory word to use in a visual sense without being explicitly clear, and such explicit clarity is often better encompassed by a mere synonym. Yeah.

I'm glad you liked Shoggy.
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Re: Iocouno Station [40k] [Extended Cut]

Postby kurisawa » Mon Nov 26, 2012 3:45 am

Yuck! Aha, I mean that in a good way. Gloriously horrible description! I think you got the nurgly nastiness (it was Nurgle, right?) perfect. The story closed with a neat click, too. Thanks for sharing.

I guess if I had to be critical I'd look back at the start. For a very brief piece the opening infodump is ok, but as you made it an extended cut, I feel that you could have cut the first paragraph and started from, "The world turned by slow degrees, and within it, Lhyme fled for his life."

Then you can dump little bits of info about the station through Lhyme's eyes. Similarly, the paragraph beginning "Lhyme had never been a religious man..." was a bit telly-not-showy; fine for a very brief dump but perhaps could have been relayed more carefully in the extended cut.

Actually, as this is kind of the important character pivot point, I would definitely suggest a more careful rendering of his anti-religious viewpoint as the daemons come at him ("These things do not, can not, exist!" he shouted.) Then the ending where he believes in meeting the divine Emperor clicks even more nicely.

Overall nice job, though. ;)

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Re: Iocouno Station [40k] [Extended Cut]

Postby Mossy Toes » Mon Nov 26, 2012 5:10 am

Honestly, I didn't assign the daemons any particular god. Well, I passed off the word "horrors" near the beginning, had Lhyme hide from Nurglings once, and had Chalroes kill 6 daemonettes.

If I dropped the intro, which I'm not really inclined to do, honestly, to start there, I'd probably change the word "world" to "station." Still, you may have a point. You have another one about the somewhat sloppy foreshadowing of the ending; that's part of what Chun complained about with the weak ending as well, I assume. That's certainly something I'm considering going back in and jiggling until it meshes slightly better.
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