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Sir Proofreader
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Re-worked version of the story for submission into the competition!

*

The Watchmen – Version 2

An artificial comet descended from the clear night sky, wreathed in flame and buffeting upon a rumbling, reverberating thunderclap.

Harnessed securely within, five marines in blue armour, members of the 3rd Tactical squad of the 5th company of the Ultramarines, awaited their release into the crucible of battle.

Their target lay atop a modest rise within an expansive clearing; a communications facility, operated by the Tau, targeted for destruction.

Aerial observations taken hours before the pod was launched revealed several small defensive emplacements surrounding the facility, and a handful of squads protecting it. A minor obstacle for the Emperor's chosen, for veterans of over one hundred battles across dozens of worlds. The Marines had faced foes both large and small, at range and in melee, and had triumphed each and every time. And though none had ever faced the Tau in combat, they were not unprepared. They knew how the aliens fought, favouring range and technology over strength and faith. When well prepared they were deadly, but taken by surprise they would be just as vulnerable as any other foe.

The pod descended, a roar of rockets checking the tremendous pace, bringing the landing to within tolerable levels of force for the marines that would still have crushed a human many times over. Explosive bolts lifted harnesses, catapulted armoured doors aside, and allowed the battle ready marines to charge from their confines.

They expected shouts of surprise, of alarm. They expected hurried salvoes of defensive fire.

They did not expect only the gentle night breeze, the otherwise complete silence that greeted their arrival.

Pausing in their charge, the Marines cautiously lowered their weapons by a fraction, helms scanning the building before them. The defensive emplacements were still there, yet inert and untroubled by their presence. There was no sign of any guards, any personnel, of anyone at all.

Yet that did not mean the facility was unprotected.

Far to the right of the marines, sheltered and camouflaged at the edges of the tree line, The Watchmen waited, ever patient, ever alert, seeking the perfect moment to strike.

Veteran Pathfinders amongst the Tau, they had gained their name from an engagement long since past. Harried by Orks for months on end, their unit had become legendary for their rapid detection and engagement of enemy patrols and raids. Others within the Cadre had begun calling them The Watchmen, and the name had rapidly stuck.

Their sharp eyes were now trained upon the Marines, sighting down the elaborate scopes of their rail-rifles.

Shas'ui Dal'yth Kovun La'shi peered through his spotter scope, checking his unit's targets. He knew what was at stake here; his commanders weren't so concerned about the facility, but were keen to assess the real-world performance of Tau weapons and technology.

Yes, they had tests and simulations, research data and countless trials, but battlefield contact with these Space Marines had been incredibly limited. Earth caste engineers had assured Ui'Kovun that the rail rifles his squad carried would be sufficient, but if they could not penetrate the armour of these marines...

Ui'Kovun had only a limited understanding of the capabilities of these warriors. He had fought and killed Orks for many years, but knew these marines were likely just as strong and fierce, yet far better armed and armoured. He knew his squad were highly capable with their rifles, but should even one shot miss or fail to deal a killing blow, the reprisals could be swift and deadly.

Yet delaying because of unfounded doubt would be equally as fatal.

A whispered command brought fingers to triggers, and a moment later five projectiles rocketed into motion, bleeding trails of flame as they crossed to their targets.

Each shot was carefully placed, each centred on the helm of a single marine, and each projectile struck true, punching a neat entry wound before disintegrating, the remnants tearing free from already lifeless bodies.

One after another the marines fell, some crumbling to the earth, some simply slumping in place as their armour lost its controlling signal.

Ui'Kovun breathed a sigh of relief. His Watchmen had once again earned their name.

Close to the Marines a stealth team shimmered from cover, confirming the kills. Only then did Ui'Kovun congratulate his marksmen and women. Swiftly the pathfinders rose from beneath their camouflage blankets and moved to their rapidly powering Devilfish, ready to redeploy to their next firing position.

Enemy reinforcements may be on the way, and The Watchmen needed to remain vigilant.


745 words.
 

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Sir Proofreader
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4,251 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
To be honest I don't read the other entries until it's time to vote - some weak rationale about not wanting to steal ideas or draw any influence from my fellow competitors! So at least when I do it I know it was accidental even if no-one else does.

I figured a lot of people were going to use the theme as the title for this round, and I couldn't think of anything better so just went with it!

I might actually break my self-imposed embargo and go and read the other stories now, though, especially seeing as you've ever so kindly provided a link :)
 

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Premium Member
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4,800 Posts
The story needs to be more personal, I think. The reader has no chance to identify with any of the characters before the ending. Maybe give some prologue, to develop both the characters and the conflict?
 
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Sir Proofreader
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yeah, definitely needs some fleshing out, I think, some more focus on the characters. I've been running a few ideas through my head but haven't quite got to putting them in yet. Thanks for the advice, much appreciated!
 

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Sir Proofreader
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4,251 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Re-posting the original version here - the second draft should shortly be edited into the first post.

*

The Watchmen (1st draft)

An artificial comet descended from the clear night sky, wreathed in flame and buffeting upon a rumbling, reverberating thunderclap.

Harnessed securely within, five marines in blue armour, members of the 3rd Tactical squad of the 5th company of the Ultramarines, awaited their release into the crucible of battle.

Their target lay atop a modest rise within an expansive clearing; a communications facility, operated by the Tau, targeted for destruction.

Aerial observations taken hours before the pod was launched revealed several small defensive emplacements surrounding the facility, and a handful of squads protecting it. A minor obstacle for the Emperor's chosen.

The pod descended, a roar of rockets checking the tremendous pace, bringing the landing to within tolerable levels of force for the marines that would still have crushed a human many times over. Explosive bolts lifted harnesses, catapulted armoured doors aside, and allowed the battle ready marines to charge from their confines.

They expected shouts of surprise, of alarm. They expected hurried salvoes of defensive fire.

They did not expect only the gentle night breeze, the otherwise complete silence that greeted their arrival.

Pausing in their charge, the Marines cautiously lowered their weapons fractionally, helms scanning the building before them. The defensive emplacements were still there, yet inert and untroubled by their presence. There was no sign of any guards, any personnel, of anyone at all.

Yet that did not mean the facility was unprotected.

Far to the right of the marines, sheltered and camouflaged at the edges of the tree line, The Watchmen waited, ever patient, ever alert, seeking the perfect moment to strike.

Veteran Pathfinders amongst the Tau, they had gained their name from an engagement long since past. Harried by Orks for months on end, their unit had become legendary for their rapid detection of enemy patrols and raids. Others within the Carde had begun calling them The Watchmen, and the name had rapidly stuck.

Their sharp eyes were now trained upon the Marines, sighting down the elaborate scopes of their rail-rifles.

A whispered command brought fingers to triggers, and a moment later five projectiles rocketed into motion, bleeding trails of flame as they crossed to their targets.

Each shot was carefully placed, each centred on the helm of a single marine, and each projectile struck true, punching a neat entry wound before disintegrating, the remnants tearing free from already lifeless bodies.

One after another the marines fell, some crumbling to the earth, some simply slumping in place as their armour lost its controlling signal.

The Watchmen waited. Close to the Marines a stealth team shimmered from cover, confirming the kills. Only then did the pathfinders rise, move to their rapidly powering Devilfish, and redeploy to their next firing position.

Reinforcements may be on the way, and The Watchmen needed to remain vigilant.


466 words.
 
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