Pynewood

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

Pynewood

Postby Rusk » Tue Jan 17, 2012 8:39 pm

This was intended to be entered for the HH Xmas competition that he2etic was running, but I think that I was only 500 words in or so when the deadline passed. Whoops. Well, I thought that I should finish it and chuck it out there. Not all that much about Imperial holidays, but what the hell. 2.25k.

Pynewood

The governor, in all his wisdom, had decided that thanks to the upcoming Imperial holiday of Candlemas, the hive needed a bit of festive spirit in the upper spire to get its citizens in the mood. He had thought back to the home of his ancestors, who had relocated to Hive Kananur millenia ago, and how Candlemas had been a fortnight-long celebration in which the inhabitants of the cities had ceased work and trade and retired to their homes to celebrate the Emperor, their family and their continued survival in this damned galaxy.

So the governor, in all his wisdom, had shut the manufactories for Candlemas. Not only that, but he had also shut down government for the Candlemas break, so no-one could point out to him what a colossal asshat he was being. It became evident after a few days to the citizens that the governor had shut down the entire hive on what was essentially a whim, but he was far too busy reclining in his mansion growing pynewood trees and showering his family with gifts to give the slightest bit of a damn.

He had also fiddled with the upper spire's cooling towers, which supplied fresh water in a steady cycle to rain down and rinse the stinking streets of their filth. Instead, there was an incessant stream of an icy substance that the governor had called “snow”. It never stopped. Maybe the cooling towers had broken, maybe the governor just thought it looked good outside his window and decided to leave it pelting down upon the upper spire. It fell to the ground, where it was churned up underfoot and melted by the skimmers and automobiles that rocketed up and down the spire streets.

Sweet Emperor, Chastener Claringbold thought, hurrying his steps through the slushy brown mess at his feet. Whatever hellhole the governor originates from must be pretty bloody cold.

There was a deep chuckle from the darkness behind the chastener. “Is it a bit chilly for the poor likkle chastener?” the voice asked him in a mocking tone. “Want to go home and have a nice bubble-bath to warm up your poor toes?”

“Shut up, Flint,” Claringbold snarled. The man behind him laughed again. “I can't believe that that imbecile has decided to coat the entire damn spire in snow. Even the sodding underhive doesn't have to put up with this nonsense.”

Flint stepped up his pace, emerging from the gloom of the spire's night-cycle to march alongside the chastener. Flint was a huge man, typical arbitrator, all bunched muscle and scarred skin squeezed into the dull brown armour of the arbites. He towered over the smaller chastener, swinging his shotgun lazily from side to side as his squad marched down the wide boulevard at his heels. Flint grinned at Claringbold.

“You want to get assigned to one of the underhive patrols then?” he smiled. “Make a nice change, seeing you mucking in downstairs rather than strutting about in the governor's backyard.”

Claringbold shuddered. “I don't think so. I worked hard for my badge just so I don't have to go hunting scummers with the likes of you. Let's just hurry up and get this over with. I want this bubble-bath you've been telling me about.”

The silkhouse loomed out the plummeting snow before them. The Markus Vdenki Silken Goods and Other Proper Supplies Manufactorum, to give it's full name, was one of the few large scale factories in the upper spire, and since the enforced Candlemas closure, had been a site of mass demonstrations and protests against the celebrations. It wasn't that they were given two weeks off – Claringbold was certain the hivers were delighted about that – it was that they were given no warning and lost two weeks pay because of the governor's edict. Claringbold wrinkled his nose; the workers of the Vdenki Silkhouse were some of the most well-paid and pampered civilians in the whole damn hive, and were influenced by the holidays far less than the mid- and lower-hive employees, who would have been left to starve during the break. They had no right to get touchy about the loss of pay. Bloody liberals.

Claringbold's second, a slim, tanned Investigator called Bajere, was waiting for him on the street outside the silkhouse, accompanied by his own five-man squad of arbitrators. Bajere was a young man by Imperial standards, nearly thirty years old, just graduated from the arbites academy, his work on the silkhouse being his first assignment. Bajere was very by the book, as far as Claringbold could tell, very attuned to the harsh protocols and principles of the Adeptus Arbites, and in his short career so far had followed these edicts to the letter. The boy could have a prosperous future ahead of him, if the noble houses didn't shoot him down.

“What've we got then, Bajjy?” Claringbold greeted his subordinate. The man was fully clothed in the thick brown flak armour of the arbites, and held a shortened power maul in his gauntleted fists. He was watching the shadowed windows of the gothic, four story manufactory beyond the iron bar fence, muttering in a low voice into his vox-recorder.

“Hernando is inside,” Bajere told him. “And don't call me Bajjy.”

Claringbold nodded. Victor Hernando, aka the Commander of Freedom, the figurehead of the bloody liberal protests and a thorn in the side of two dozen of Kananur's noble houses. A nuisance, but he'd never technically done anything wrong. Until the arbites precinct in the spire was handed evidence of Hernando consorting with some of the underhive scummers to bring down the royal court. All faked, of course, a man like Hernando would never dare associate himself with the vermin on the lower levels, but the arbites followed the word of the houses. No matter how corrupt their word may be.

“Plan of action?” Flint growled. “The protesters have been in there for weeks. Who knows what nasties they've got hidden away in there?”

“Exactly,” Bajere replied. “We already know they've been importing pynewood trees during their occupation, what else has been smuggled in? The arbites go in hard and fast. Claringbold, you're going in the front with Flint's squad. Beta has circled round the side of the factory, and Gamma squad has been concealed in the rafters of Hernando's hideout. There might be some light resistance – in fact, do all you can to provoke some return fire, it'll make the Hernando case more solid should it ever come to tribunal – but it'll be nothing we can't handle. For the hive, for the Emperor.”

“For the Emperor,” Claringbold and Flint echoed.

“And Flint?” Bajere asked, as Claringbold's squad made ready to assault the factory. “Wipe that stupid grin off your face because I said 'hard and fast'.”

Flint and Claringbold scuttled through the darkness towards the manufactory's main doors. They were massive steel shutters that had slammed down on the first day of the occupation, and remained locked ever since. To the under-equipped, it would be impassable. Flint and Claringbold had prepared for the situation, however.

Flint waved up one of his men. “Make it count, Thomson,” he told the trooper. Thomson grinned and hefted his meltagun.

The armoured form of Captain Flint barrelled through the molten metal that had been reduced to a slagging paste by Thomson's weapon. Flint swung his shotgun from side to side as the rest of his squad thundered in behind him, using the thermal tracker locked on to the side of the weapon's stock to scan for hostiles through the mass of towering, dark, potted pynewoods that dominated the silkhouse's main workplace. Claringbold sidled up beside him as he gave his troopers directions through the indoor forest.

The captain glanced round at the chastener. “Huh. Forgot about you,” he rumbled. “Go with Thomson.” And then, to his squad-mate, “Watch his back, arbitrator.”

Thomson nodded and slung his meltagun over his back, drawing two hellpistols from his hip. He gestured for Claringbold to follow him. Claringbold took a tighter grip on his own carbine and dived into the jungle behind the trooper.

The lights had been taken out by Gamma squad as Flint had burst into the manufactory. The arbites worked better in the dark. A shadowy figure dashed between two pynewoods ahead of them, barely visible in the gloom. Thomson whipped his two pistols up and fired a tight burst, winging the man but failing to bring him down. The target hissed out a curse and disappeared behind a clump of trees. Seconds later the booming retort of a shotgun echoed as Flint brought down his foe.

That was the signal for all hell to break loose. There was the roar of detonation as Beta team breached the eastern wall with det-packs, allowing more arbitrators to pour into the facility. Bolts of fizzling white light speared down from the rafters above the chastener, as Gamma squad began picking off targets scrambling through the forest. Somewhere to the north of Claringbold a heavy stubber clanked into life, its slugs tearing through the thin trunks of the holiday flora.

Ah, Claringbold thought, some resistance. The Judges will be pleased.

Claringbold and Thomson came across the stubber crew from the side. A pair of scrawny, bedraggled protesters dressed in dirty grey worker overalls and yellow hard hats, had squatted beside the corner of one of the massive industrial silk weavers, a chunky metallic cube a dozen feet high, lined with dials and levers on either side. One of the workers was desperately feeding a belt of slugs into the side of the stubber, which his partner was using to sneak blurts of fire round the side of the weaver, pummelling into the pynewoods surrounding them. They were completely unaware of the two arbites creeping up on them.

Claringbold lined up on the gunner and fired. His high power las-bolt caught the shuddering silkman in the side of the head. The man grunted and slumped forward over his weapon, which spat eight or nine shots into the rockcrete floor before petering out. The feeder turned in shock and began to rise, pulling out a hefty stub pistol which had been tucked into his belt. Thomson dropped down onto one knee and pummelled him with half a dozen superheated rounds. The second protester tumbled onto his back, his chest blackened and cauterised. Claringbold nodded Thomson forward to check the corpses whilst he voxed Flint on his com-link.

“Captain? Any sign of our dear commander?” he asked.

“We've got him cornered in the rear offices,” Flint crackled back. “Bajere has taken a team in to flush him out.”

“Good work,” Claringbold responded. “Continue to hunt down the rest of these criminals. No respite. For the hive.”

“Affirmative, sir,” Flint cut the link.

A third worker burst out of the pynewoods to Claringbold's left. He had the drop on them, preoccupied as they were voxing and checking the bodies of the dead. Claringbold got a glimpse of was a pair of heavily-rimmed spectacles, a neon yellow jacket and a cut down autorifle.

The worker didn't fire. He stood staring at Claringbold and Thomson, eyes wide, his aimed weapon wobbling in shaky hands. Claringbold watched him intently, careful not to make any sudden movements. Thomson, at his side, rose slowly and walked towards the worker, keeping his hellpistols trained on the man's chest. In the distance, Claringbold heard a faint whoosh as a flamer ignited.

When he was within arms reach, Thomson holstered one of his weapons and snatched the man's autorifle, who gave it up without a fight. Thomson turned and casually fired a couple of rounds into the side of the silk weaver.

“That's how you fire your weapon,” Thomson told him, tossing the weapon back to the protester, who caught it neatly.

The worker looked up at the form of Thomson, confusion written across his features. The arbitrator brought his pistol up and shot him in the face. The worker was flung backwards, disappearing back into the pynewoods he had emerged from.

Thomson looked back round at Claringbold and shrugged. “What? Bajere said he wanted some return fire.”

Claringbold blinked and looked away. “Good... good work, trooper,” he said eventually. Thomson chuckled and prowled away into the woods.

Claringbold's vox-link burst into life. “Chastener?” it was Flint. “Get over here, quick. We've got Hernando.”

Hernando was a small man, Claringbold considered. Certainly much smaller than he appeared on the vids. More insignificant, too. He cowered on the burgundy carpet of the silkhouse manager's office, nursing a las-wound in his forearm and a mangled nose, bent almost ninety degrees and severely buckled. Bajere sat nearby, breathing heavily. The investigator looked worse for wear as well. His armour had been scorched black and the skin on his cheek turned red-raw since the last time Claringbold had seen him.

“Got the... bastard,” Bajere huffed. “He was waiting back here with two men and a flamer. Was not pretty.”

“Want me to do him, sir?” Flint asked, raising his shotgun up an inch. Hernando whimpered and flinched away from the big arbite.

“No, the nobles want him alive,” Claringbold said, hefting Hernando to his feet. “They want to make an example of him. Nobody messes with the houses.”

Claringbold clicked a pair of heavy duty handcuffs onto the Commander of Freedom's wrists as the arbites began to manhandle him out of the silkhouse. The chastener leant in close to the man, his mouth inches away from the protester's ear.

“Merry Candlemas, Commander,” he hissed.

#


Claringbold and Flint may be popping up in some other work of mine if I ever get around to finishing it. Don't hold your breath.

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Re: Pynewood

Postby Colonel Mustard » Tue Jan 17, 2012 10:36 pm

That was good, very good, especially the attitude of the Arbites here; the idea that they were provoking a firefight to get an arrest was very 40K indeed, and was brilliant.

All in all, a great read.
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Re: Pynewood

Postby Midgard » Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:14 am

A good read indeed. While I did not read the Shira Calpurnia or Cal Jericho novels (which might cover this aspect), the "crooked cop" feel of the Arbites is almost a bit unique in the universe. Especially when it is the POV.
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Re: Pynewood

Postby Bloodsage » Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:55 am

I thought your use of the past perfect in the opening paragraphs made tedious what could've been nicely atmospheric description. Past perfect is used to describe something that happened before something else in the past, and while that's technically true, here, we don't get to the something else until after the description of what happened before it...so there's no real need for the past perfect. As a rule, past perfect slows the action right down, and tends to sound more than a bit pedantic when used in large chunks.

The good news is, your story wouldn't lose anything to rewrite the opening in simple past tense; it would just become an opening scene rather than an info dump.
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Re: Pynewood

Postby Rusk » Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:09 pm

Thanks for the response, guys, much appreciated.

Mustard: I was thinking along those lines, yes. Not actually a very christmassy story at all, but then again, most of 40k isn't very christmassy, so hopefully I got away with it.

Midgard: I haven't read either of those either, so I don't know how many dodgy arbites are lurking around in those, but the police of the universe don't strike me as being particularly squeaky-clean.

Bloodsage: Thanks for the advice, I ...did not realise I was doing that. :P I'll give it a look over soon and see if I can tidy it up and make it a bit less dump-heavy. Many thanks, I'll take it into consideration in future work as well. :D
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