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This is the sample I did for one of the two stories I submitted for Fear The Alien. The book coming out soon reminded me about it I thought I'd post it up here.
Let me know what you think of the writing, and be honest, I'd like to be better for the next short story competition! If there is interested I may finish the story or at least post the synopsis so people can see how the story would pan out.
As Sedgedus watched, aspect warriors clad in suits of insectoid jade armour leapt from the trees, bursts of fire emanating from their bizarre helms, the answering barrage of bolter fire going wide of the mark as the sudden attack forced the defending Omega Marines onto the back foot.
The striking scorpion warriors laid about them with precisely placed attacks, wielding elegant chainswords. The Eldar blades looked frail, but as he Sedgedus watched he saw one cut clean through a Marine’s leg, the power armour shorn into two ruined halves as surely as the flesh beneath. The Marine fell, and the Eldar swept his blade around and plunged it into the fallen warrior’s helm, stabbing through his black and white helm and releasing a spray of bright red astartes blood and grey matter.
Sedgedus felt a cold rage in his chest as he saw another marine fall, succumbing to the blade attacks and a barrage of pistol attacks from three of the aliens.
The beset tactical squad’s leader, Sergeant Anfeer, swept his power sword in a brutal arc that would have beheaded one of the attackers if not for the preternatural speed common to the Eldar. The scorpion ducked under the blow, but Anfeer was an experienced warrior, and with an agility belying the bulk of the Astartes he changed the direction of his swing, the sword curving down and splitting his enemy from shoulder to groin, the armour of the Xenos no protection against the energy that crackled along the weapon’s razor edge. Eldar blood was splashed into the air, but the Marines were still out of cover, outmanoeuvred and outnumbered by a score or more of the alien hunters. Anfeer shoulder charged an enemy warrior from its feet before bellowing the order to fall back. His squad quickly began the retreat, bursts of bolter fire keeping the aliens back, though they left four of their number cooling in the dirt. The scorpion warriors followed them cautiously, hugging cover to avoid the defensive fire of their prey.
Sedgedus could feel the tension in his squad mates, and he knew it would take but a word from their Sergeant for them to take the fight to their enemies. He glanced up at their leader, and he knew that Pedrus would be as eager as the rest of them, though the Veteran Sergeant wasn’t showing it on his craggy features the way the scouts of his squad were. Sedgedus thought he saw him clench his jaw, but then he the Sergeant’s voice came over the vox and realised he was sub vocalising.
‘Hold. Anfeer will not let them through.’
The squad bristled, but their respect for Pedrus was absolute and none of them argued. Their orders were to act as recon and guards on the extreme flanks of the Omega Marines’ battle line, and duty would not allow them to abandon their posts for revenge on the Eldar. Still, Sedgedus yearned to bring the Xenos their end.
He checked his bolter for what seemed like the hundredth time, working the mechanism in an unconscious routine as he stared down the sights at the back of an Eldar. Though beyond the accurate range of his bolter, Sedgedus was a proficient marksman and knew he could bring the warrior down with his first shot. His finger hovered near the trigger, but he stayed his hand. Squad Anfeer would have to deal with them.
Minutes later, it was quiet again, the sounds of gunfire muffled and then silenced by the forest Squad Anfeer was retreating through. The scouts remained virtually inanimate amongst the trees, the stark black and white of their scout armour concealed by the camo-cloaks they wore, and their faces hidden by camouflage paint. Their gear was hidden beneath the cloaks or dulled by dirt from the forest floor. Pedrus had trained them well.
Still, the silence was broken by the odd muffled explosion, and all of them rankled at their inaction. They felt impotent knowing that the warriors of their Chapter were fighting and dying without them.
After a score of minutes that felt like hours, Sedgedus could take it no more, and began to speak.
‘Sergeant, we know our forces are sorely outnumbered, surely…’
Pedrus cut him off with a raised hand, the sudden motion almost making Sedgedus jump. He followed his sergeant’s eye line, and tensed up as he saw a shape appearing slowly from behind the bend of the trail through the trees the squad was guarding. It was revealed as an Eldar wave serpent transport, trailed by a squad of their guardian warriors and another, much more intimidating figure - towering above even the tank, one of the Eldar dreadnought-constructs known as a wraithlord strode into view. The ghost-machine clutched an enormous sword and a deadly scatter laser was mounted at its shoulder.
The scouts all gripped their weapons tightly. He heard a slight scraping sound and a clunk that he knew meant that Lanneas, the current bearer of the squad’s missile launcher, was loading a krak missile – the only ammunition they had with the power to damage the wraithlord, or the wave serpent.
Pedrus ordered the scouts to disperse with a series of quick hand gestures. They slipped from cover to cover in expert fashion, all the time keeping one eye on the approaching Eldar.
They all took ambush positions, Sedgedus crouched in the shadow of a gnarled tree, Lanneas behind another, ready to fire once a direct shot was certain, Rauros and Treleyan position nearby to provide cover. Pedrus had remained where he was, and as the Eldar crept slowly closer, he addressed them.
‘Lanneas, end the transport, and then fire anything you have left at that xenos abhorration. The rest of you, targets of opportunity, and cover Lanneas. We may not win this fight, but we cannot allow these Xenos scum to reach our lines unopposed. Bring them their end!’
The squad chorused the battle cry of the Omega Marines.
‘We will end them!’
Was this one of those Black Library 'Give us your story and if we like it we'll publish it' competitions? I don't think I'd have the guts to submit something to that, but enough about me! You wanted a critique of your story, no?
Well, first impressions, for me at least. It seemed a little dry (would lacking emotion be a better way of putting it?) although this could just be the fact I'm distracting myself with several things at once on this computer and not necessarily fully immersing myself in your writing.
Point two - One thing that I dislike in writing is too much repetition. You only seemed to do it once or twice but it was at the beginning of the story when I tend to be more on the lookout for stuff. In case I'm not being clear I mean things like this......which may not bother some people but... Well, it just seems we have so many words so it appears lazy or just a little sloppy to reuse the same one when something like 'faceplate', 'armour', or 'mask' would work equally as well.the fallen warrior’s helm, stabbing through his black and white helm
I like the structure of the story - starting with frenetic action, then a lull building the tension towards the next (implied) violence. It feels like it could have been a little stronger, though - perhaps you could have played up the tension between the scouts a little more for a greater effect. You seem to have a good handle on writing the marine side of things (I should have expected as much after seeing your avatar!) but perhaps you are not as well versed in the ways of those xenos scum? It just seems they could have done with a bit more description, a little more focus on their alien nature.
Perhaps that's enough from me for now? I think it may be, so... my inexpert critique, for now at least. Hope it helps!
It was indeed one of those! Unfortunately I didn't get picked, I just hope all the stuff in Fear The Alien is really good, otherwise I might feel a bit robbed!
Thanks for taking the time to read and feedback - it's much appreciated.
I can see your point about the emotion, though I think it feeds into the tension between the characters point as well - it's more down to them being Space Marines than anything else. I tend to write them quite dry as that's how I imagine them. But then lately they have become a lot more emotional beings in the fluff, so perhaps I should try to incorporate that a little more. I suppose for scouts it would be even more the case, I could treat them a bit more like teenage boys and get away with it
The repetition is just something I didn't pick up when proofreading. When I write I tend to write a paragraph and go back to it over and over and revise how I've written stuff and the wording I've used. I obviously just missed that one but it sticks out like a sore thumb now!
I don't know how much more I can go into the Xenos side of things - it is written from a marine point of view. If I recall I did actually put more in about the way them move and proportions and the in-bred hate the scouts get for them - but I ended up snipping it to meet the word count.
Again, thank you for the feedback. I will bear it in mind next time I'm writing