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My first in ages. Thought I'd have a decent bash at first person. Critique, sivouplait.
The rain poured down over Onich's industrial district, eroding as it did so small piles of congealed pollutants, liberating them from their prisons on a rainbow river that wended its way along gutters on well-worn streets. Far off on the horizon, the morning sun spread fingers of gold under the dark blanket of cloud that smothered the city.
Dehler Kohl coughed and raised his head, sucking huge lungfuls of air out of the humid atmosphere that hung about him. His legs felt useless, and now that his assailant had been dealt with, he could think about breakfast. Well, after he'd reported, of course. Something of this magnitude couldn't wait.
He rolled his head to view his assailant, trying to draw a breath that couldn't possibly come. Life seeped between the fingers of her hand as she held it to her throat. Kohl, gasping, let the knife slip from his fingers into a puddle on the road, hauled himself to his feet; pains flaring like supernovae across his ribs. A short distance away lay the autopistol that had nearly ended his life. Fortunately, for him at least, the armour he wore had taken the impact. Unlucky for the girl now lying in the gutter, though. She had opened fire at such short range that shards of the ceramic composite had impaled her face, temporarily blinding her in a moment that had cost her her life.
Dehler looked both ways up and down the alley, before turning back to the corpse. An observer would have noticed the way his shoulders swung, indicating he had given a savage kick to some portion of the dead womans anatomy. A hollow crack echoed faintly down the dirty concrete walls, before vanishing into the sky. The same observer would notice Dehler bend down to pick up his knife before walking briskly down the alley, emerging into the street beyond as an upstanding citizen-soldier of the Imperial Guard. They might not have noticed, however, that as he reached the middle of the street, the early morning crowd flowing like snakes of flesh, the way he vanished into thin air in a street heaving with bodies.
The cast iron grating slid slightly back into its housing.
I'm not sure why I bother owning a bed, sometimes. I'm the closest thing that resembles a surgeon at this time of night, and living near the majority of the PDF sector of Onich city it means I'm regularly roused to fix up bar brawlers. A few minutes ago, I walked in the door of my local boozer, and nearly applauded. The owners I've known for years, since I was first drafted into the Onich PDF and done my first campaign, which ended last year. Everything was in this bar of theirs, and now almost everything is smashed. Tables, chairs, even the carpet is ripped to ****, detritus of a war fought in a room thirty feet square. I have to cross a liberal minefield of broken glass - its so near I just throw on a pair of shorts and a jacket - before I reach the purpose of my visit. Two guys, who are obviously brawlers, sat on what remains of the bar, their friends' forming a none-too-subtle barrier between them. One has a huge splinter half the size of my finger protruding, albeit at a very shallow angle, from his otherwise bald scalp. The other is a real prize.
Blood drips from his hand, which is closed tightly. Someone has had the presence of mind to tie a tourniquet around his wrist.
"Trainee bottle fighter?" I ask, setting my small medkit down on the bar, fishing around for a pair of tweezers. "Get out of the light, and if you're lucky he might keep the use of his hand," I turn to the other, "He's safe enough to move. It's only a flesh wound. Get him to the base."
It's not a particularly difficult job, just annoying, picking the shards of glass out of the fleshy ruin that masquerades as a palm. Every couple of seconds, there's a small tinkling noise as I drop another piece of glass into a handy ashtray. The men around me are mumbling in low voices amongst themselves. It's at times like this that talk turns to revenge. It's not out of an altruistic motive that I want to stop this from happening: it means that I might only get half an hours sleep before I get called to the other guy.
"What caused this?" I ask, nodding as much as I can toward the mangled hand, without losing sight of a sliver of glass that's stubbornly refusing to be gripped by my forceps. The larger of the two soldiers responds, pausing only to scratch the campaign studs in his eyebrow before answering. Its unusual, to say the least, for someone with three campaigns under his belt to be allied to a trainee bar fighter. The other guy, short, slim and wiry, walks quickly out of the door.
"Jurgen here was playing cards with the other guy. The other guy got three aces," he rumbles.
"That's good, though, right?" I ask. He grins. More than half the teeth in his jaw are either missing or gold-capped.
"Not really. Jurgen didn't deal them to him, and had a pair of them himself. He can get really intense about that sort of thing," he says, clapping Jurgen where he lays on the shoulder. Jurgen moans softly, the hand is massive.
"Whats your name, soldier?"
"Lucas Talbot, Sergeant, 13th Grenadiers. Combat medic, or so I'm told," I grin by way of response. "You?"
"Ox, lance-corporal, 3rd Armoured. Heavy weapons specialist."
I believe him. There's nothing else this mountain of muscle could be. I finish dragging the last shard out, and start on the stitching, thinking that if I work quickly I can be back in bed in a quarter hour. "Yeah? Whats your boomstick?" Its stupid macho lingo, but it's the norm in the Guard.
I smile grimly. I hate dealing with grenade injuries. My campaign was pacifying a rebellion, and since we were all in carapace armour, the grenade launcher was the most feared weapon of our opponents, as it was the only one that could punch through. The lucky ones got hit by kraks, the armour piercing ones, in the chest, neck or head, and it was all over. The unlucky ones got hit by krak and frags in the limbs, peppered with shrapnel and dying frequently of blood loss since I couldn't find the arteries in the mangled mess of stumps to shut off. It got so bad that in the end I used to administer mercy on the ones I couldn't save in time with my sidearm so I could have time to save the ones who weren't literally ripped a new one. In the book they went down as DOS - Dead on scene, to the bureaucrats. To the rest of us, it meant Dead out of sympathy.
"You alright buddy? You just stopped there for a while."
I look down at the hand and find I've been twiddling a suture so intense its left a groove in my fingertips. Quickly, I finish off the line of stitches and stand up.
"Yeah. No problem. You on duty tomorrow at the base?" I say, making for the door.
"Yeah. Thanks for this," he says, shoving his friends arm around his neck, "I'll never let him hear the last of it."
"Next time he breaks a bottle, make sure its made of plastic, yeah?" I wink, and hurry out of the bar. If I get home quickly enough maybe the memories will stop.
I leave the water running for the next soldier to come along; who passes me in the corridor wrapped in a threadbare towel that has seen better days. I pad over to the door of my room, leaving wet footprints on a carpet that has seen more than its fair share of vomit and other depravity-associated liquids. The entire street is owned by the Guard to put up soldiers who are off campaign. The residents pay all the relevant bills, so its cheaper than putting them up at the barracks. In return all they have to do is report at least three times a week to the Guard base to take turns at training the teenage planetary defence force recruits. They don't care what they do with their own time, so long as its not criminal. Many just drink all day and all night every day for months on end, with the occasional one night stand, and then wonder why their kidneys and liver just shrivel up and die.
I quickly throw the uniform on, dark grey carapace armour on the torso and thighs over a dark red undersuit. The helmet is one of the full-face buggers with the gas mask that forms a hermetic seal with the helmet. I leave the mask attached to the webbing across my chest; it gets in the way otherwise. I step out into the corridor, hearing the door click behind me, before I walk out into the early morning sunshine.
This early in the morning, barely anyone is around, which is just how I like it. Once I get into a regular pace, I prefer to keep it that way than chopping and changing speeds to move around people. Its only a short walk to the base, if you know where to look. Onich city has been here for hundreds of years, primarily built on Onich city. The entire place is on a flood plain, so when the city gets flooded, all that the people do is brick up all the downstairs windows and build upward. Theres something like twenty to thirty feet of city underground, most of it abandoned, and for the bits that aren't I know I'm safe. As a guardsman, I know where my strength lies, and that's being as heavily armed as possible.
As it starts to rain, I duck into a side street behind a butchers, and lift up the drain-cover I find there by rotating it through ninety degrees. They're all interrupted-thread covers, just turn them enough and they lift right out. A few seconds and my feet are on a couple of metal rungs, my back braced against the opposing wall, and I'm dragging the cover back over my head. Another five, and my helmet is on, visor's down and the darkens comes to life in shades of grey as I turn the infra-red imaging on. Although I take this route virtually every day, I'm not foolish enough to say its totally safe. I haven't stayed alive by making assumptions. The air is always clammy down here, and streams of moisture run down the walls to primitive gutters, trenches that straddle the walls of the tunnel.
I love this route, since its basically just me and my thoughts in the underworld of Onich, although others do use it. Basically its just my circle of friends, aside from those who actually live down here, and anyone with a somewhat clandestine agenda. That and the occasional horny young couple. The funniest I've seen is a straightforward girl I'd taken as the ultimate in frigidity dragging her shocked boyfriend toward the abandoned church under the corner of Meyer and Fifth. The fear in his eyes radiated.
I emerge from the ground about three hundred meters down the road from the base, in an area called Little Hoya. Its one of the many places around that have a lack of feng shui - they are named in relation to places that don't exist. Little Hoya with no Great Hoya, Leyton Street West without its eastern brother, Ashfield Heights with no Ashfield Valley. All out of balance. It's an annoying little thing that kinda grates with me, but what can I do? Maybe one of these days I'll be a hero (ha!) and then I'll get some road or area named after me.
The guard on the gate barely takes a glance at the name tape or the dogtags that I fish out from around my neck for him to check. It's a short walk from there to the sergeants mess, where I grab a dirty cup from the side and pour piping dark hot recaf from the battered urn that resides there. The recaf here has been specially brewed. Its multi-use; drink, paint stripper or rocket fuel, and it lives up to those uses as it burns its way down my throat. I've just put the mug down, in fact, when Dehler staggers in, fixes his eyes on me, takes a confident step only to fall to the floor, bleeding from any one of a dozen wounds that make his skin resemble a pepper shaker. Recaf forgotten, I'm already vaulting over the table to get to him before the first hazy-minded sergeant starts shouting.
"It fits like clothes made out of wasps!"
I've been wanting to comment on this story for some time now, so here goes.
First of all, an excellent story. *Applauds.* I really liked it; the pace was good, and the atmosphere just as grim and gloomy as Iâ€™ve come to expect the 40k universe to be. You also know how to use adjectives, which I am sad to report that many other Warhammer fan writers do not; your use of descriptions really add to the feel of the story, as does the first-person narrator. Some readers might complain about the relative lack of action; however, since the main characterâ€™s introspection is so well written and styled, I see no problem with this. I also relate very well to the main character, perhaps because itâ€™s so refreshing to have someone in the 40k universe whoâ€™s not a hero and doesnâ€™t want to be; it seems that all he really wants is a night of uninterrupted sleep. Perhaps I also like him so much because heâ€™s a medic and I can relate to the ungratefulness of his job.
Iâ€™m not sure what kind of critique you would like on this story of yours, and itâ€™s really quite impressive as it is, but I do have a comment or two that I hope you wonâ€™t mind me mentioning here. Perhaps it might help you improve your story somehow; I know I always appreciate constructive comments on my works of art to evolve and improve. In any case, you can always yell at me afterwards if youâ€™re displeased with my opinion. ^_^
There was one part of the story I found a bit confusing, namely the beginning. At first I wasnâ€™t sure if Dehler Kohl was also the main character and the point of view just shifted between the first and second part of the story. It took a few paragraphs for me to realise that the two parts were at first unrelated. I also found it a bit odd at the end that Dehler Kohl was described as being so badly wounded; he seemed not too worse for wear in the first part, being able to give his opponent a kick or two before disappearing unnoticed from a busy street down into a sewer. If he was really so heavily wounded, I would be surprised if no one noticed it when he appeared on â€˜the street beyond as an upstanding citizen-soldier of the Imperial Guard.â€™ Perhaps both issues might be solved quite simply, though, by changing the description of Dehler Kohl a bit in the beginning, to make him sound more wounded than he does now; that would make it impossible to mistake him for the main character, and would make the connection between the first part and the end obvious to even the dim-witted, such as myself.
Also, I am not quite sure if the girl Dehler Kohl kills in the beginning is a rebel or just some poor girl being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The former would justify Kohlâ€™s actions and reactions, whereas the latter would make him a rather unsympathetic character in my opinion. Not that unsympathetic characters donâ€™t have their place in stories; in fact it seems that most 40k characters have at least a few unsympathetic personality traits, but if this was not how you intended Kohl to be perceived, you might want to clarify this somehow.To be really nitpicky (and true to my occupation) I have to add that tourniquets are not usually tied around the wrist. The dual bones of the lower arm would protect the arteries from compression and thus cancel the effect of the tourniquet. It is usually placed on the upper arm or, if a leg wound, upper leg, where blood vessels can be compressed against a single bone structure (the humerus or femur). However, tying a compression around the wound itself would also stop the bleeding, although seeing as there are shards of glass embedded in the flesh this mightnâ€™t be a great idea in this case.Originally Posted by PhobosThis, now, is perfectly realistic. I donâ€™t know if youâ€™ve ever tried hospital coffee, but it seems you have a very clear idea of what it tastes like in any case. All doctors (and medical students, I might add from personal experience) live off of coffee like this for up to 24 hours on a shift, using it equally for refreshment and as an antiseptic agent. In fact, I believe drinking coffee like this is one of the defining aspects of medical personnel. Great addition to your story!Originally Posted by Phobos
Other than that the story was, as Iâ€™ve already said above, a great read and definitely worth the time it took to read it and write this rather lengthy reply. I must admit I didnâ€™t even know you had this kind of authoring skills, and I am very impressed! Very good job! Please write more about this medic character of yours if you get the inspiration to do so, I would definitely love to read more stories from you. ^_^
"Girls are nice and cuddly on the outside, and freaky on the inside." ~ Lost Nemesis.
Soo... any other reviewers?
"It fits like clothes made out of wasps!"