RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

The Bolthole's monthly 1,000 word story competition.

RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby J D Dunsany » Sun Apr 03, 2011 9:32 am

The April/May Read in a Rush competition is now open. Guidelines are as follows:

To enter the competition, you must write a short story of between 850 and 1150 words in length addressing in some way the prompt word or phrase announced at the start of the competition. In this case, it's Sacrifice. Entries set in any of BL's universes are perfectly acceptable (40K, Horus Heresy, WHF, Blood Bowl etc).

You should post your entries on or before the deadline of 2100GMT on Saturday 23rd April. There is no limit to the amount of entries you can post, but, in a break from the previous board's practice (and in acknowledgement of longsuffering readers who have been faced with a veritable mountain of stories to get through), only one may be submitted for voting. If you've only posted one entry in the two-week posting period, then you don't need to do anything. Your entry will be automatically submitted for voting. If you've written more than one entry, you will need to PM me with the title of your chosen entry. The full list of entries (and probably the entries themselves) will be posted at the start of the voting thread when it appears. You will be given a full week to make your decision about which story to put forward. If you do not manage to PM me before that time, then I will put your first story into the voting thread.

If you've got any further questions, feel free to PM me or, alternatively, post them on the RiaR suggestion thread here.

Now, get writing! :D

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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Squiggle » Mon Apr 11, 2011 10:29 pm

Look, here I am again, touting my new found love affair with space marines.

And I'm first, again!

Guilliman's Folly


Choice

‘Choice?’ Brother-Captain Alinor of the Pale Custodians 2nd Company had spat the word out like a curse, his lips curling into a snarl that had more to do with frustration than rage.

‘As if we have any choice in this. As if we have ever had any choice in this.’ His sudden anger bled away to dark laughter.

He shook his head. ‘You know what they call us, in their shining towers on distant Macragge? Do you know?’

I shook my head. I didn’t know; none of us knew. I was barely an initiate – I could hardly countenance looking at such a hero as Captain Alinor – yet alone deign to interrupt his flow.

‘On Ultramar, they call us Guilliman’s Folly. And they are not talking about that pointless half-size tower he had built in the garden of remembrance. They think we were a mistake; they think we are not worthy of their proud heritage. They think we are going to fail.’

‘We are the last of the Ultramarine’s successor chapters, the most distant from Ultramar. We are the first and most important watching post on the road that leads from the Eastern Fringe all the way to sacred Terra itself. We are the backbone of any defence, the vanguard in any assault. For six thousand years we have fought and died on this lonely border.’

He wiped the back of his mouth with his gauntlet. Beads of perspiration had formed on his bald pate under the harsh spotlights on the gantry above.

‘We are the Emperor’s chosen. Words like that are easy to say, are worthless. But let me explain to you what those words mean. It means that we do not get to pick our fights. We do not get to choose favourable ground, rely on prepared positions, or numerical superiority. We do not have vast reserves of ammunition to expend bombarding the enemy’s defences to so much molten rubble.

‘We do not surrender, we do not retreat. We are the first and last line of defence. We have been chosen for that role. That is our right, and that is our sacrifice. We are the Emperor’s chosen, and when we fight, we fight.

‘So stand up, Pale Custodians. Stand up and be counted. Stand up and offer up what words of praise you can to our Lord, our Emperor, for we have been chosen as his iron fist, his righteous sword, and we will never stop fighting.

I found myself on my feet with the others, my right hand clenched in a fist above my primary heart and my eyes squeezed shut. When I opened them, I could see Captain Alinor’s face was flushed and his eyes were wet with emotion.

At a curt nod, we sat down again.

‘It is a dark road upon which we tread, out here far from home, and you are all young in this war.’ He scanned us then, catching each gaze in turn. I thought – hoped maybe – that I saw something like understanding in his blue eyes. I sneaked a glance at my fellows, resplendent in slate-grey scout armour and mottled green fatigues and saw the pride radiating from each stern face.

‘I cannot offer you any aid for what tomorrow will bring – you are inexperienced – and there is no proving ground we can offer except for the terrible forge of war itself.’

He took a breath, both hands now gripping the lectern.

‘Some of you are not coming back. But as of this moment, you are all marines of the eight hundred and fiftieth chapter; the Pale Custodians and your deeds in this life will follow you into the next.’

We were on our feet again, our gauntlets ringing together in unsolicited and unplanned applause. Alinor gave another of his curt nods, and then left and podium. He marched – back ramrod straight – out of the briefing room. He didn’t look back.

#

There were ten of us in that briefing room. Ten faces I cannot wipe from my mind. I can still hear the applause; still see the elation on each face as we were welcomed into the fold of the Pale Custodians.

I have seen seven of them – of us – die in the three years that have followed. I still remember them in my prayers, still recite their names from the parchment scroll of fallen brothers I keep. It grows daily. It is our sacrifice, our offering to the Imperium. We hold the line.

The 2nd Company is my command now. Brother-Captain Alinor led the sally, our only hope to get support. It’s been seven days now. We’re certain he’s dead, certain they are all dead; swallowed like everything else by the green tide swarming across this once verdant land.

I’m down to my last boltpistol clip. The crude ork artillery bombardment rolls overhead and reminds me again of the applause that day.

Alinor was right. We have no choices. It is a dark road, but we have been chosen to walk it.

I’ve seen death. My comrades – brothers – have died in my arms on a host of worlds.

But we are the Emperor’s chosen, the Pale Custodians, and this is our path. I’m proud of it.

‘Sergeant?’

I turned away from the flickering readouts of the chart table. Scout-Sergeant Ignes was standing to attention, alongside four Initiates. They were back from their scouting mission, and their skin and armour bore the signs of recent battle.

I saluted, and stepped down from the dais surrounding the chart table.

‘Do you have fresh orders, Sergeant?’ Ignes asked.

I grinned fiercely in response. ‘Do you know what they call us, in their shining towers on distant Macragge?’

Ignes’s men looked blank. My smile broadened. There was, I decided, still hope of victory here.

We are the Pale Custodians. We hold the line.

This is our sacrifice.

This is our honour.

We’re nobody’s folly.
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Tyrant » Mon Apr 11, 2011 10:59 pm

Have you posted that story before in some form, Squiggle? It seems very very familiar.
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Squiggle » Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:06 pm

I may have done... *attempts to look mysterious*

*Fails*
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Stuart000X » Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:17 pm

Here's my entry for this competition, lets see if my meticulous proof reading has paid off.

###


Will You Have Beans With That?


The spectacle was quite awe-inspiring. Like watching the march of an ant colony from a bird’s eye view, the five thousand strong mass of people moved out onto the barren wastes.

Like a surge of dark water, the crowd trickled out from the canyon from which they come from, spreading and expanding in size. Accompanying them from the rear was a column of slow moving tanks, mostly Chimeras. At some point the tanks stopped, sitting immobile as the divide between them and the roaming people grew.

Some of the people at the back turned to look at the tanks, each sharing the same thoughts of confusion as to why their escorts weren’t accompanying them anymore, but as they went out, the reasons soon became apparent.

Here and there, explosions went off at random places, with people flying up into the air before raining back down in smaller pieces, onto the horrified heads of the survivors below. Panic stricken, the mob scattered, heading off in different directions. The ones that fled backwards were gunned down, the tank gunners showering them with bullets.

No where to escape they fled forward, their numbers thinning as they triggered more explosions.

From their vantage point at the top of the canyon, two men looked on, their eyes pressed firmly into the magnoculars they held.

‘This is just tragic,’

‘This is progress,’

‘You have a cruel mind Manolous.’

Releasing his grip and letting his magnoculars dangle from his neck, Manolous said ‘True, but it is also economical,’

Looking away from Manolous, the other man returned his eyes to his magnoculars and said ‘Prisoners are one thing, but civilians?’

‘A calculated cost I agree, but we must invest heavily if we want to reap a greater reward,’

‘Did you tell them that?’

‘Yes, Hethou, of course I told them. I went straight up to them and said we are the liberators of your world, but in order for us to do so, do you mind if we, on mass, coerce you to going towards that huge minefield out there in the wastes?”

‘Sarcasm isn’t your best quality,’ Hethous retorted.

‘It isn’t a good quality, but a superior one to your… well, I haven’t quite found that out yet, but I’ve made it a top priority for the Inquisition to discover it. Thus far, they’ve yet to find anything. Yet,’

‘Anyway, enough griping; it doesn’t do well to be seen to look like them,’ Manolous said, nodding his head in the direction of the Guardsmen and tank crews behind them, milling about as they set up camp. Parked to one side, a Chimera looked out towards the wastes, the crews using it as a means of support to help erect up a tent next to it.

‘Smells like they’re cooking again,’ Hethous said out.

‘Sausages and bloody tinned baked beans,’ Manolous replied back with a snarl ‘again for the hundred and fifty-fifth time since this campaign began,’

‘I don’t mind sausages and beans,’ Henthous said.

‘But not on a daily basis, and certainly not for two months straight either,’

Looking into his magnoculars again, Manolous said ‘this section of the rebel defence is more or less unguarded, especially when their attentions are focused on the attacks in the East by Colonel Savard and Borego. They won’t expect us,’

‘Sir,’ saluted a runner, standing just behind the two commanders ‘word has just reached us, the next batch are being herded as we speak,’

Waving him off, Manolous continued his observations of the wastes.

‘Does this really need to happen?’ Henthous asked.

‘There are no real concrete alternatives. They all have their shortfalls, wastes of artillery shells, manpower, time, and possibly, the element of surprise. No Henthous, herding those people into the mine fields is our only option.’

‘Their sacrifices will provide us not only with the means to pass through this treacherous area, but also save lives, for it is the soldier, not the civilian, that will win us this war. Would you me have send our boys out there first?’ Manolous pointed.

‘No,’

‘Good, then at least I know we’re on the same side then.’

‘What about children?’

‘They might not be heavy enough to set off landmines, but even small legs can detonate a tripwire or two,’

‘Terrible,’

‘They’ll be with the Emperor,’

‘What if they survive? You can’t guarantee they might all die,’

‘They won’t reach the rebels by the time we get there,’

‘I meant living on. There are reasons that rebellions start in the first place, and not just simply for being heretical. I’d rather you not talk to me like you were a preacher,’

‘Long lasting resentment you mean?’

‘Yes,’

‘Already thought of it, if you look, the crews, tanks, and their markings have all been changed,’

Turning, Henthous looked towards the column of tanks.

‘They’re bearing the enemy’s markings. The enemy did this, not us,’

‘So they sent them out into the minefield?’ Henthous said.

‘No. These poor fellows were merely trying to flee the tyrannical regime that were being imposed upon them, readily willing to brave the minefield instead of staying,’

‘And the homes they were taken from?’

His eyes straying off in a direction, Manolous thought for a few seconds ‘their homesteads and villages were deserted when we arrived, and before that, they were set ablaze. Don’t worry old boy,’

Walking up to Henthous, Manolous patted him on the shoulder ‘flamer units are already taking care of it, but only after we’ve moved out. The last thing I want is a column of smoke to act as a warning beacon to them.’

Silenced, and his questions answered, Henthous conceded and nodded ‘you really have thought of everything haven’t you?’

Taking a few steps towards the edge, Manolous looked down at the row of tanks ‘yes, yes I have. Come tomorrow we’ll be in the enemy’s backyard, and, quite possibly, be in the capital. I’ll get a medal for this, and if you stay in my good books,’

Turning round, Manolous smirked at Henthous ‘I might put in a good word for you,’

‘No thanks, I’m plenty sure there are others, who would happily be your servitor,’

‘Alas he does have a sense of humour!’ Manolous proclaimed aloud, walking over and placing his hands on Henthous shoulders, his outburst briefly attracting the attention of the Guardsmen.

‘No my friend, I was thinking something a little higher than that,’

‘Excuse me sir,’

Standing to attention, the runner was back ‘we’ve just rustled up some beans and sausages if you would like some?’

Looking back and forth between Henthous and the runner, Manolous said ‘splendid. Yes, we’ll have some, thank you.’

Saluting, the runner went off, the two commanders walking slowly behind.

‘When we get to the capital, the first thing I’m ordering is a plate of venison.’ Manolous announced.

‘Will you have beans with that?’
Last edited by Stuart000X on Fri Apr 22, 2011 7:43 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Stuart000X » Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:18 pm

Squiggle wrote:And I'm first, again!



And i'm second again :)
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Phalanx » Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:22 pm

With permission from JDD, I am submitting a heavily-revised version of my RiaR entry used on the older forums. It has been extensively changed, and so I approached JDD for permission to use it. He graciously allowed me.

A Human Moment


Brother Taramant opened his eyes. His targeting reticule flitted back and forth as he panned his surroundings, trying to get his bearings. He had smashed through three storeys before stopping. A layer of dust hung in the air from his final impact, giving everything in the room a hazy outline. Many of the walls were shattered, and the room was filled with rubble. In the distance he could hear the dull sound of gunfire and explosions as his brothers prosecuted their war against the enemy.

His retinal display told him that there was a severe fracture in his right femur. He felt his power armour compensating, injecting pain suppressants into his bloodstream. He would have a limp. That would slow him down.

Taramant looked to his bolter lying next to him. He hefted the weapon, checking it over for damage. Other than a few scratches, he found nothing. He made a mental note to say a Prayer of Appeasement once he was back aboard the cruiser in order to placate the machine-spirit for allowing it to fall in battle.

His armour was pitted and scratched. The quartered green and white armour was barely visible beneath the dirt and dust he had been covered in. His helmet was howling static at him; clearly the vox had not survived the fall. The artificers of the Dark Sons chapter would not be happy.

The planet of Baradium XII was in a heavy winter period; snow and ice were constant. Getting to his feet, Taramant moved to the doorway of the building, limping from his injured leg. Scanning the area quickly, he moved out.

Crossing a small plaza without incident, Taramant paused. He had heard something; the lightest of noises. He pressed against the side of a building and slid along until he reached the end. Hefting his bolter, he turned the corner to face the source of the noise. Stepping out into the alleyway, Taramant sighted along his weapon.

Crouched in the freezing snow in front of him, was his target. The little girl was sobbing, the tears on her face freezing almost instantly as they hit the frigid air. She looked up at him, fear appearing suddenly, falling onto her rear and scrabbling backwards along the desperately.

Taramant blink-clicked a rune on his display and activated the external vox.

‘There is no need to fear me,’ he boomed. ‘I am not your enemy. I am here to fight for your world.’

It didn’t have the effect Taramant wanted. She sped up, trying to get away from him. Taramant realised the problem and removed his helmet.

Modulating his voice, Taramant tried again. ‘I mean you no harm. My name is Brother Taramant. What is yours?’

‘L-Llianna,’ stuttered the child. She was dressed in a light-brown dress, dirty and ragged, and clearly hadn't eaten in a long while. ‘Are you an angel?’

‘Of sorts,’ replied Taramant, considering the question. ‘Are you alone? Where are your parents?’

‘I don’t know,’ Llianna said, her head dropping in despair. ‘I’ve lost my mummy. Lots of us were heading to the big refugee camp when we heard fighting. I lost her as we ran.’

Taramant considered the information for a moment. Stepping forwards, he lowered himself to one knee in front of her. ‘Perhaps I can help you? I can escort you to the nearest garrison and they will get you there safely.’

Llianna looked up into his face. ‘Mummy told me space marines don’t have family; that you don’t have feelings.’

Taramant furrowed his brow, considering this unexpected question for a moment. ‘Perhaps that is true, but that does not mean we do not care.’

Llianna got to her feet. Even standing, she barely reached Taramant’s head as he knelt. ‘Will you take me to my mummy?’

Holding out his open palm, Taramant signalled to the girl to sit on his lower arm. As she did so, he lifted her up and stood himself. ‘Let’s get going,’ he said calmly.

They had been walking for some time when a noise alerted Taramant. Patrolling along the main street across from him was his enemy, his real enemy; a necron.

Silently, Taramant knelt and placed Llianna down next to him. Raising his weapon, he aimed the bolter at the necron, flicking the selector switch to single shot. Calming his breathing for a better aim, he exhaled and squeezed the trigger.

The bolt flew true, smashing into the target’s left eye, obliterating the side of its head. The necron slumped to the floor, dropping its weapon in the process. Taramant waited a moment, wary of other necron.

Sprinting across the street, the Dark Son moved to make sure his target was dead.

Pulling up next to the dead warrior, the marine knelt to check the machine. A hand shot up and clouted his wrist, knocking his bolter away. Taramant responded by unsheathing his combat knife and stabbing upwards into the underside of the necron’s chest. The warrior went limp and fell back to the ground, inert.

Withdrawing his blade, Taramant moved to gather his bolter, making a mental note for a second Prayer of Appeasement.

He was spun around onto his back by a jolt on his left shoulder-blade. Dazed, he looked up as metallic foot planted itself on his chest. Taramant looked up into the glowing eyes of a second necron warrior, his weapon pointing directly at the marine’s head. His world went green.

The little girl watched in mute horror at the execution unfolding in front of her.

As she sat there in the snow, Llianna realised a shadow loomed over her; there was someone behind her. Looking over her shoulder, staring through tear-filled eyes, she screamed as a silhouetted figure stood there.

The necron warrior turned at the sound and raised his weapon to fire.

A burst of light and noise immolated the necron instantly. As Llianna looked around confused, a Land Speeder hovered behind the silhouette. The multi-melta on the front glowed softly, hissing as the gentle snow landed on it.

‘Come,’ the figure said, eyeing the dead space marine. ‘The Dark Sons are here to protect you. We are heading to safe harbour.’

Llianna turned to head towards what she realised now was an escort for a convoy.

Tears streaming, she walked away from the scene. Llianna looked back to see the corpse of Brother Taramant slowly disappearing under a fresh layer of snow and ice. She would not forget his sacrifice.
Last edited by Phalanx on Wed Apr 13, 2011 1:49 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Mossy Toes » Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:22 pm

And I can't be third again, thanks to Phalanx.
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Stuart000X » Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:46 pm

@ Squiggle

Guilliman’s Folly

Invoking, inspirational, and very emotive, just some of the things that sums up this story. There is a certain coming of age tenor to this tale, as we watch ten Space Marine aspirants rise to the rank of scout. Reflecting, this story is sort of like a Space Marine graduation ceremony, with the teacher parting a few words of wisdom about how tough life can be and how plentiful it can offer, though, this on a 40k intergalactic version of that.

The ending, short and sharp as it was, delivered a sour conclusion, the protagonists we come to warm to die. However, I felt that the end could have had as much a personal touch to it as the first stanza had, rounding it off in the same fashion, so we the reader can watch our hero come to his sacrificial ending.

But nevertheless a great story and a great starter for our competition, and, without the aid of Tzeentch’s farseeing powers, I feel that the stakes have risen, and, can expect more grades-A stories to come before the end of this competition.
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Raziel4707 » Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:09 am

Squig:

Really enjoyed the way you structured this, building the astartes up and filling them with all the zeal and pride in their chapter that they should have. I'd tentatively disagree with Stu about the ending, I like that we cannot be positive that he dies, even though we're pretty certain he's not long for this world. I think that even that glimmer of uncertaintly conveys the fact that yeah, he's proabably screwed and he knows it, but he's still fighting. You have a flair for the astartes.

Stu:

Dark stuff! That horrible pragmatism is very 40K; we know that it makes sense on paper, but the thought of actually driving the civillians over a minefield is still utterly repulsive. Almost reminds me of that scene in BAT-21 (old Gene Hackman movie) where the vc's force one of the americans to cross a flooded field littered with mines. Horrible evocative, though it did seem to wander off a little in the middle. That said, it serves to show the detachment of the commander that's overseeing all of this, so that's alright in my book. Nice work!

Phalanx: A great story which has benefitted hugely from the revisions and adjustments that you've made. The "human side" of the astartes is very much a bone of contention between those that approve and disapprove of it, but for me it shows that they haven't all forgotten what they are ultimately fighting to protect. That little moments like this can occur in war, however tragically it ended for Taramant, adds a level of human interest that straight up bolter pornography just cannot achieve. Quibbles, the astartes on the speeder could have shown some remorse for their fallen brother, but that's about it.
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Squiggle » Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:45 pm

Hi, just to let you all know, I have irritatingly edited my story. Only really the ending. I think it is a bit better, though I am not starting to think I might edit it again.

Anyway, thanks so far for your kind remarks. I'm enjoying getting back into this.
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Stuart000X » Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:58 pm

Just re-read the ending, Squiggle, and it is superb. I like how events are replaying again for a new batch of soldiers. Well done :)
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Tyrant » Tue Apr 12, 2011 9:38 pm

Squiggle (Guilliman's Folly): I've said it before and I'll say it again. I really like this! Only one error I could spot:

"We do not get to choose favourable ground, rely on prepared positions, or numerical superiority. We do not have vast reserves of ammunition to expend bombarding the enemy’s defensive to so much molten rubble."

Defensive should be defences.

Stuart000X (Will You Have Beans With That?): My only quibble with this is that it was skewed a little too much in favour of the dialogue, I thought the deaths of the civilians at the beginning could have been expanded on a bit so the piece was better-balanced. The dialogue itself though was excellent and the cynicism of Manolous really came across.

Phalanx (A Human Moment): I'm surprised the other Astartes didn't comment on their fallen brother, but apart from that a good piece, much improved from how I remember it originally.
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Phalanx » Tue Apr 12, 2011 10:16 pm

Raz/Tyrant: Thanks for the feedback. I didn't want to get the marine too attached to the corpse, but I should at least acknowledge the death. I have edited the final section to show this. I feel it is enough to show the sacrifice was noticed.
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Stuart000X » Wed Apr 13, 2011 3:29 pm

@ Phalanx

A Human Moment

I’ve read this story already once before and now I am reading it again. A good story well rounded with a beginning, middle and end. Before I wasn’t too keen on the ending, the deceased marine dismissed with casual ease by his brothers, but now with the new edited version, I like it.

A good amount of description has been given, the detail and layout of the scene well produced for me to understand perfectly. I like the slight awkwardness Taramant gets into when confronting the child, his enhanced training and physical change doing little in the way of preparing for this. It helps even the score a little between him, a Space Marine, and the mortal, which is the child, none able to react with finesse to each other’s reactions.

Upon reflection, the “Human Moment” isn’t just from the marine himself, but from the child, who is able to part to him on his death a moment of care, which for a Space Marine is unwanted and unneeded.

The ending, for the girl, leaves a nonessential but trivial question: what happens to her? It need not be explained or mentioned in the story, but that is the question by which is left for us the readers to interrupt for ourselves.

Overall, a good story that fails to bore me. Well done :)
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Atlantic » Wed Apr 13, 2011 8:10 pm

Blessed of the Omnissiah (934 words)

‘Bring forth the prisoner’ buzzed a deep static laden voice. ‘Deus Mechanica. In nomine Imperialis. In nomine Omnissiah.’

Graddock struggled in the grasp of his captors as he fought to break free. It was hopeless. The skitarii overpowered him and held him tightly with heavy black gauntlets. The chains pinning his arms behind his back were linked to a set of leg manacles and forced him to walk in a stooped almost penitent stumble.

He fought them anyway. Spitting like a feral rad scavenger from the underhive, he threw himself at the man on his right. Graddock sunk his teeth into the tech guard’s chest, but could not find purchase for his bite. The red bodysuit the skitarii wore was made from a thick rubberized substance and Graddock’s teeth slid free unable to penetrate.

Graddock screamed in agony as his other captor whipped him with an electro flail. Pulsating waves of pain surged along his nerves blasting across his synapses. Blood filled his mouth and pooled around his hands. He vomited in response and collapsed to the dark iron floor.

‘Bring forth the prisoner’ the voice buzzed again.

Graddock struggled to fight the skitarii off, but could not. Weak from the beating, his malnourished body could not resist their manhandling as they drug him toward the altar.

He felt himself lifted on to a steel table and shuddered at the coolness of the metal. Bright sodium illuminators cast a pool of white light around him. He flinched at the intensity of the glare. He felt cut off from the rest of the shrine cocooned in a bubble of illumination that prevented him from seeing his surroundings.

Manacles and restraints were fastened to his body and cinched tight. His body convulsed and heaved at their touch. The darkness, pain, and crushing grasp of the altar were all too much to bear. Lost in a haze of claustrophobic panic wordless animalistic growls erupted from him as he frothed at his confinement.

Then, the magos came. A red robed figure leaned over Graddock’s head. The Mechanicum priest’s face was hidden by his cowl, but artificial red light glowed in place of where his eyes should be. Small machine tentacles coiled around the magos and slithered across Graddock’s body.

Graddock flinched as the mechadendrites groped his body. Needles prodded and poked him while blades caressed his flesh.

‘I still live!’ he cried. ‘I am a man, a servant of the Imperium! Why do you do this?’

The magos paused. Graddock knew he was being examined, and felt himself grow smaller under the scrutiny.

‘Inquiry’ the magos began. ‘You are designated Heironymous Graddock. Correct?’

‘Yes, I am Graddock’ he answered.

‘Maintenance technician second class Heironymous Graddock, you were assigned to mining station Beta Prime. Correct?’

‘Yes. I performed holy maintenance for the ore haulers. Please lord magos, I have served faithfully! I sacrificed thirteen years in that pit.’

The mechadendrites across Graddock’s body stiffened. Though he knew the magos was more machine than man, it felt as though waves of anger pulsed from his red robes. It shocked him and he felt fear at the unnaturalness of the moment.

‘Holy duties to the Cult Mechanicus were not observed on the machines in your care. Maintenance rituals were not performed correctly. A holy machine in your care faltered. Eight Hundred man hours of production was lost. You and the menials in your supervision are responsible.’

Graddock wanted to scream at the injustice of the accusation. The ore haulers were hundreds of years old. He performed the rituals and maintained them to the best of his ability. He suppressed his denial. It would do no good. The Cult Mechanicus taught that men were fallible not machines. Resistance was futile.

‘What will happen to me?’ he asked.

‘Your consciousness will be obliviated’ the magos droned. ‘You will be programmed to serve the Cult Mechanicus. Your flesh will be augmented to perform the duties required by the Omnissiah.’

‘I am to be a servitor?’

‘You will be sacrificed to the will of the Omnissiah.’ The magos lifted his arms and intoned his response as he began the ritual. ‘Rejoice sinner. Your flesh will serve the will of the Mechanicus. The perfidy of your failure will be replaced with service. When no longer functional you will be rendered to your constituent parts and nourish those that come after.’

‘My crew?’

‘They will be sacrificed as well.’

Graddock closed his eyes as he saw the blades descend. Static noise poured from the magos as he supplanted his prayers in gothic with the holy binary of the Mechanicum. Powerful soporifics flooded his veins as the needles penetrated his flesh. He opened his eyes as he felt his conscience begin to leave him. He saw the skull and cog symbol of the Mechanicum and knew no more.

**********************************************************

Trant stretched his aching back muscles. He sighed at the cargo still to be loaded. Seven hours of work had barely made a dent in the pallets.

Quiet spread across the docks as other laborers stopped their work. Trant looked toward the portal and saw the red robed figure of one of the ships cog boys enter the cargo bay. He spat in disgust. The machine servants were no better than xenos, he thought.

The tech priest addressed the foreman. His voice scratched like it projected from a speaker and Trant felt his dislike of the creature swell. ‘I bring a servitor to increase the efficiency of this task’ it said and gestured to the hulking brute that followed him.

Trant took in the servitor’s heavy build and lifter augmetics for shifting cargo pallets. He considered the hours of work still waiting. Filthy cog boys he thought. He sighed in frustration. They may be no better than xenos, but at least they get the job done.
Last edited by Atlantic on Thu Apr 21, 2011 1:49 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Squiggle » Wed Apr 13, 2011 8:49 pm

Stuart000X wrote:Here's my entry for this competition, lets see if my meticulous proof reading has paid off.

Meticulous, eh? Let me see...

###


Will You Have Beans With That?


The spectacle was quite awe-inspiring. Like watching the march of an ant colony from a bird’s eye view, the five thousand strong mass of people moved out onto the barren wastes.

Quite awe inspiring? Is that like being slightly terrified, or a little bit dead? This is your opener - make it stronger!

The spectacle was awe-inspiring. With the absolute courage only attainable by those who are blessed with ignorance, the five thousand strong mass of unarmed civilians moved out of the safety of the valley and onto the featureless, barren wasteland.

Or something. I'm no writer..


At first they were just a bulge, but as the confined space of the valley gave way to the open, it began to spread. Accompanying them from the rear was a column of slow moving tanks, mostly Chimeras. At some point the tanks stopped, sitting immobile as the divide between them and the roaming people grew.

Word usage. I'm not sure bulge is the right word. Perhaps clump? Again, "as the confined space of the valley gave way to the open plains, the mass began to spread out" As it stands it doesnt really make sense.

I'd also be tempted to use a word like "herding" to define the behaviour of the tanks.


Some of the people at the back turned to look at the tanks, each sharing the same thoughts of confusion as to why their escorts weren’t accompanying them anymore, but as they went out, the reasons soon became apparent.

I'd be tempted to crank up some tension, here. "Some of the people turned to look back at the tanks, their faces marred with expressions of puzzlement as they wondered why the tanks were no longer following them. But it was already too late.

Here and there, explosions went off at random places, with people flying up into the air before raining back down in smaller pieces, onto the horrified heads of the survivors below. Panic stricken, the mob scattered, heading off in different directions. The ones that fled backwards were gunned down, the tank gunners showering them with bullets.

No where to escape they fled forward, their numbers thinning as they triggered more explosions.

Again, this is good but I think you can make more of it. This is a truly horrifying spectacle, Crank it up!!

Explosions ripped through the unsuspecting civilians. Men, women and children were blasted off their feet, showering their fellows with a ghastly rain of blood, viscera and crudely severed limbs. Panic rippled through the survivors and they began to scatter, fleeing in terror. But it was too late, and their blind flight only triggered more explosions. The lucky few who made it back towards the line of silent tanks were cut down in a hail of ruby-red laser fire.

Or something. Sorry, just giving you my take isnt really that helpful. What I'm trying to say is that your writing is effective and portraying what has actually happened, however I think you can make it more emotive, and descriptive if you stretch yourself a little more.


From their vantage point at the top of the canyon, two men looked on, their eyes pressed firmly into the magnoculars they held....

....‘Will you have beans with that?’


The rest is good. Overall it is an effective use of the theme and a story not without its emotional involvement - I like the idea that the idea of eating beans is of more concern to the Commander than the deaths of five thousand civilians.

You dont entirely explain why the civilians are the only option to deal with the minefield. From a logical point of view, I also dont know how effective they would be. I'd like more reasoning from Manulous as to why he has had to resort to this tactic.

You might consider showing the beginning from the POV of one of those in the crowd, perhaps thinking they are serving the Imperium. Perhaps with banners or placards. Then you could show the devastation and realisation first hand.

In fact, your mob could perhaps be a group of especially devout Emperor worshippers, who mistakenly think the Emperor is going to protect them. Manulous, callous as he is, simply uses their faith for his own purposes.

Otherwise, I enjoyed it, and I thought the recurring bean theme was well used, as was the cynical examination of the propaganda in use.

Hope my comments have helped. Nice job. :)
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby shadowhawk2008 » Wed Apr 13, 2011 9:16 pm

Squiggle / Guilliman's Folly

An excellent piece. I couldn't help but get caught up in Alinor's speech and was almost in that briefing room myself. I felt resentment when I was told that the chapter I was a part of was mocked by our distant forebears. I felt Alinor's frustration about having no choices. I was cheering the captain at the end of his speech. Your piece really made me feel a part of the narrative. Totally awesome.

Just the smallest of nitpicks. The Pale Custodians are the last of the Ultramarines' successors and our designated #850. And Guilliman built some tower in a garden I believe is located in their fortress-monastery or something? I am a little lost here in the implications.

Phalanx / Human Moment

Quite an interesting piece. I almost didn't realize that Taramant was dead :( I had a very Salamander-ish moment here. 99% of the stories about space marine stories are about getting the job done, no matter the cost. Civvies can take care of themselves. Taramant's sensitiveness to the child is refreshing and unique. He also appears to be a thinker of sorts. He considers Liana's questions and attempts to make her feel comfortable even though there is no need for him to. He knows he is in hostile territory but takes the time to look after a lost child and deliver her to safety. The space marines may be the Emperor's Angels of Death but they have the potential to be so much greater than just tools of war, they are also protectors of humanity and its inhuman guardians. The inhumanity is even briefly mentioned by the girl herself and it is something that forces Taramant to think. I like that undercurrent of thought here. Well done. The piece works great because it is not apparent at first glance that the sacrifice is a sacrifice at all.

Do you have any plans to develop this further? I would love to see how things played out before Taramant wakes up and after Taramant is dead.
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Squiggle » Wed Apr 13, 2011 9:45 pm

@ Shadowhawk - glad you enjoyed it. I was pretty angry whilst writing the speech!! Regarding the "folly" aspect, I have tweaked it so it perhaps makes more sense!!

Cheers though, always good to get some positive feedback!! :D
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Re: RiaR April/May: SACRIFICE

Postby Squiggle » Wed Apr 13, 2011 10:26 pm

Phalanx wrote:With permission from JDD, I am submitting a heavily-revised version of my RiaR entry used on the older forums. It has been extensively changed, and so I approached JDD for permission to use it. He graciously allowed me.

It seems slightly familar... I read on...

A Human Moment


Brother Taramant opened his eyes. His targeting reticule flitted back and forth as he panned his surroundings, trying to get his bearings. He had smashed through three storeys before stopping. A layer of dust hung in the air from his final impact, giving everything in the room a hazy outline. Many of the walls were shattered, and the room was filled with rubble. In the distance he could hear the dull sound of gunfire and explosions as his brothers prosecuted their war against the enemy.

Interesting. I dont like the use of "panned" here. I think scanned, or surveyed or examined would all work better, here. This might be personal preference, or a sub-concious feeling that panned needs to be supported by another word like "panned across his surroundings" or something. I might be talking rubbish, of course.

Additionally, is the three storeys important? And where had he come from? Finally, how does he know that the gunfire is his brothers? It could be anyone, surely?

I'd be tempted to be more atmospheric, and less specific.

Brother Taramant opened his eyes. His HUD display immediately told him what he had suspected - the colossal impact had rendered him unconscious for scant seconds. His targeting reticule flickered back and forth scanning the immediate environ for threats. But it found only dust and rubble. He had hit a building - he remembered that much - and it appeared that he had penetrated deep into the interior before the flimsy plascrete walls had halted his descent. Distantly, distorted, he could hear the characteristic crash of bolter fire as his brothers persecuted their war against the enemy.


His retinal display told him that there was a severe fracture in his right femur. He felt his power armour compensating, injecting pain suppressants into his bloodstream. He would have a limp. That would slow him down.

I like his. But would he feel the pain? Perhaps before seeing it on his HUD? Not sure. Either way "He would have a limp" is brilliant.

Taramant looked to his bolter lying next to him. He hefted the weapon, checking it over for damage. Other than a few scratches, he found nothing. He made a mental note to say a Prayer of Appeasement once he was back aboard the cruiser in order to placate the machine-spirit for allowing it to fall in battle.

Had he held onto it? Otherwise surely it wouldnt have made it through all the bits of wall etc? Might be better to have him "look down at the bolter still clenched in his armoured fist. Remarkably, the weapon had survived intact. he made a vow to....

His armour was pitted and scratched. The quartered green and white armour was barely visible beneath the dirt and dust he had been covered in. His helmet was howling static at him; clearly the vox had not survived the fall. The artificers of the Dark Sons chapter would not be happy.

The planet of Baradium XII was in a heavy winter period; snow and ice were constant. Getting to his feet, Taramant moved to the doorway of the building, limping from his injured leg. Scanning the area quickly, he moved out.

Glad you remember the limp. The snow comment seems to have been thrown in here - perhaps have the ground underfoot be treacherous - some reason to put this in there besides needless exposition, since the snow and ice dont feature in the rest of this story.

Crossing a small plaza without incident, Taramant paused. He had heard something; the lightest of noises. He pressed against the side of a building and slid along until he reached the end. Hefting his bolter, he turned the corner to face the source of the noise. Stepping out into the alleyway, Taramant sighted along his weapon.

Crouched in the freezing snow in front of him, was his target. The little girl was sobbing, the tears on her face freezing almost instantly as they hit the frigid air. She looked up at him, fear appearing suddenly, falling onto her rear and scrabbling backwards along the desperately.

I like this. It is completely not what I was expecting. However I would try and build up the tension. "taramant paused. he heard the slightest of noises; the telltale crunch of feet on snow. He froze, hefting in bolter. The noise continued, the rhythmic footsteps coming slowly towards him. When he judged that the enemy was mere metres away, Taramant swung into the alleyway, bolter levelled.... and so on. Either way, nice plot device!! :)

Taramant blink-clicked a rune on his display and activated the external vox.

‘There is no need to fear me,’ he boomed. ‘I am not your enemy. I am here to fight for your world.’

It didn’t have the effect Taramant wanted. She sped up, trying to get away from him. Taramant realised the problem and removed his helmet.

Thought his vox was broken? Eitherway, nice work with the slightly softer imagery of removing his helmet.

Modulating his voice, Taramant tried again. ‘I mean you no harm. My name is Brother Taramant. What is yours?’

‘L-Llianna,’ stuttered the child. She was dressed in a light-brown dress, dirty and ragged, and clearly hadn't eaten in a long while. ‘Are you an angel?’

I like this, and the implicit idea that the child would be less scared of the massive death-dealing Astartes than a human adult would be. Classic themes, here.

‘Of sorts,’ replied Taramant, considering the question. ‘Are you alone? Where are your parents?’

‘I don’t know,’ Llianna said, her head dropping in despair. ‘I’ve lost my mummy. Lots of us were heading to the big refugee camp when we heard fighting. I lost her as we ran.’

I'm torn between understanding your dialogue choices, and hating them. Would Space Marines understand the idea of parents? Do children of the 41st millennium cry for their mummys? I'm not sure, either way, this part of the dialogue could easily be a present day soldier talking to a present day child in a warzone. Beyond identifying the child as needing to be protected for human-survival reasons, does the Astartes even go further than that, or does he just grab the child and get back into cover? its a toughee, and I'm not completely sure you have got the balance right, here.

Taramant considered the information for a moment. Stepping forwards, he lowered himself to one knee in front of her. ‘Perhaps I can help you? I can escort you to the nearest garrison and they will get you there safely.’

Llianna looked up into his face. ‘Mummy told me space marines don’t have family; that you don’t have feelings.’

Taramant furrowed his brow, considering this unexpected question for a moment. ‘Perhaps that is true, but that does not mean we do not care.’

Llianna got to her feet. Even standing, she barely reached Taramant’s head as he knelt. ‘Will you take me to my mummy?’

See above. Mummy sounds very knowledgable. However with a wry smile I like the way children always ask the most awkward questions. "Mummy wouldnt tell me where babies come from." "Uh, child, I'm not sure..." ;)

Holding out his open palm, Taramant signalled to the girl to sit on his lower arm. As she did so, he lifted her up and stood himself. ‘Let’s get going,’ he said calmly.

They had been walking for some time when a noise alerted Taramant. Patrolling along the main street across from him was his enemy, his real enemy; a necron.

Silently, Taramant knelt and placed Llianna down next to him. Raising his weapon, he aimed the bolter at the necron, flicking the selector switch to single shot. Calming his breathing for a better aim, he exhaled and squeezed the trigger.

Silently? He is wearing power armour and has a child with him. Also, wouldnt he see the necron before he hears it?

The bolt flew true, smashing into the target’s left eye, obliterating the side of its head. The necron slumped to the floor, dropping its weapon in the process. Taramant waited a moment, wary of other necron.

Sprinting across the street, the Dark Son moved to make sure his target was dead.

Pulling up next to the dead warrior, the marine knelt to check the machine. A hand shot up and clouted his wrist, knocking his bolter away. Taramant responded by unsheathing his combat knife and stabbing upwards into the underside of the necron’s chest. The warrior went limp and fell back to the ground, inert.

Withdrawing his blade, Taramant moved to gather his bolter, making a mental note for a second Prayer of Appeasement.

He was spun around onto his back by a jolt on his left shoulder-blade. Dazed, he looked up as metallic foot planted itself on his chest. Taramant looked up into the glowing eyes of a second necron warrior, his weapon pointing directly at the marine’s head. His world went green.

I understand this, but surely, consumate warrior that he is, Taramant checks for other targets before getting distracted with Prayer's of Appeasement! I'd rather there were more necrons or a slightly more elegant reason for Taramant getting taken down.

The little girl watched in mute horror at the execution unfolding in front of her.

It has already unfolded, surely?

As she sat there in the snow, Llianna realised a shadow loomed over her; there was someone behind her. Looking over her shoulder, staring through tear-filled eyes, she screamed as a silhouetted figure stood there.

Slightly awkward. I think you can drop the "realised" here. I'd also tempted to use more emotive language. "Cowering in the snow, tears freezing to the chapped skin of her face, Lianna stared in horror at the ghastly, half-melted corpse of the dead space marine...."

The necron warrior turned at the sound and raised his weapon to fire.

A burst of light and noise immolated the necron instantly. As Llianna looked around confused, a Land Speeder hovered behind the silhouette. The multi-melta on the front glowed softly, hissing as the gentle snow landed on it.

‘Come,’ the figure said, eyeing the dead space marine. ‘The Dark Sons are here to protect you. We are heading to safe harbour.’

Llianna turned to head towards what she realised now was an escort for a convoy.

Tears streaming, she walked away from the scene. Llianna looked back to see the corpse of Brother Taramant slowly disappearing under a fresh layer of snow and ice. She would not forget his sacrifice.


Love the ending. Great line.

Sorry if I have been nit-picky. This is a great use of the theme - not what I was expecting, but I just think with a little effort it could be so much better!!

Good story though!! :D
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