BLACK SHIELDS INCOGNITUS (Part 1, complete)

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

Re: BLACK SHIELDS INCOGNITUS (complete failure)

Postby kurisawa » Fri Jun 08, 2012 12:42 am

= VII =
Talons



‘AND THAT IS why I believe we should take Zharn’s offer,’ said Markius, his voice echoing away into the background din of the hangar. He watched his men from his position standing on the hull of a Predator-class tank, realising he did not have the charisma or oratory skills of the inquisitor. He knew he could not make the offer as convincing.

‘So, we would no longer be Storm Eagles, eh?’ growled Rasmus. He had evidently triumphed in his drinking challenge for he now proudly lugged an ancient power-axe across one shoulder. The bulky weapon suited the massive man perfectly. Despite his prize, his face fell, as did those of all the space marines, Markius’s words sinking in.

‘What about the Father-Chaplain?’ said Olaf. ‘What about our honour, and the battle brothers that died for us?’

‘Our honour will be here,’ said Markius, punching his chest. ‘We will carry their memory with us as we continue the mission that we were born for.’

‘And you would be captain, I suppose?’ said a voice. It was Goran.

He stood leaning against the flank of the Predator, flexing the claws of his newly installed bionic arm. The Mechanicus had outdone themselves, for this arm incorporated a massive and intricately constructed power gauntlet. Having become used to Goran with only one arm, Markius felt the augmetic unbalanced the sergeant of Epsilon squad. But Goran was clearly pleased with it – as he should be: Such ancient and powerful devices could no longer be newly created, and were rare even among the commanders of their chapter.

‘That is correct. I would be captain,’ said Markius, looking at each of the men in turn. His gaze settled on Goran, meeting with the dangerous green eyes.

‘This must be clear and without question: We must maintain our command structure or we will never triumph on the battlefield. I require absolute loyalty from every man here,’ said Markius. He saw Goran’s lip curl and quickly continued. He had thought about this all the way back to the hangar from the bridge.

‘But also, this will be a new start, for all of us. We leave behind what happened on Ornisgard, and before. All records expunged,’ said Markius, glancing across to make sure Rasmus also understood what this proposal meant.

‘The alternative is to return to Ornisgard, and wait, perhaps forever, perhaps for nothing,’ said Markius.

‘But we are battle brothers of the Storm Eagles!’ said Olaf. ‘No-one can take that away from us!’

Markius nodded his understanding; had he not gone through this very same soul-destroying sequence of emotions?

‘The Father-Chaplain’s last orders were to survive, and to reclaim our honour,’ said Markius. ‘We can survive this way, and perhaps one day we can achieve the other, too. But I can give you no guarantee. All I know is this: We will be serving the Emperor, as we always pledged to do.’

‘Then what are we waiting for, eh?’ snarled Rasmus, stepping forward. ‘Let us take a vote on it. I for one am with you, Captain.’

‘Thank you, Brother Rasmus,’ Markius smiled, ‘but this is not a democracy. I will have no man in my company that does not step forward and swear their loyalty here and now.’

He turned to the gathered Astartes, ‘All of you must make his own decision now. Are you with me? Brother Tobias?’

There was a hush, the clanking background hubbub of the hangar throbbing all around the marines. Markius saw Tobias turning over different responses in his mind, the hawk-eyes beneath the sandy brush of hair working out angles. Come on, don’t fail me now, Markius thought. Finally, Tobias replied.

‘If every other man agrees, then I will join you.’

Markius silently cursed him. I needed you to be a leader, not just an advisor, he thought. But he controlled himself. He said, ‘Brother Sören?’

Sören ran a hand through his golden bristles of hair, then turned and looked to his squad, a ‘what do you think?’ look in his eyes. Emperor damn you! Markius fought to not let his anger rise, for he knew what they were all waiting for. He turned to Goran and forced himself to lock stares again with those green eyes. The moment of truth had come.

‘Well, Brother-Sergeant?’ he said. ‘Will you call me Captain, or will you desert the company and live as a renegade back on Ornisgard?’

Markius hoped he had not overstated the argument. It was a fine line between suggesting this abandonment of their chapter was not desertion itself. The challenge lingered in the oil-perfumed air between Markius and Goran. The meaning behind the words was clear: I would have you call me captain, but you must do it of your own free will. Markius knew he could never force Goran to respect him.

To his surprise, Goran clambered up onto the hull of the Predator. Markius took a step back, but did not stop him, for Goran offered no sign of fighting him. Instead the lupine sergeant addressed the men.

‘Yes, I would join Captain Markius,’ he said. Markius gave an inner sigh of relief.

‘But on one condition.’

Markius glared at Goran.

‘If we are to leave behind the Storm Eagles, let us choose a new name for ourselves: A new identity. Let this be a new day of founding, a new chapter, and every man here will be a member of this new first company. Let us write our own sagas and begin our own history – we cannot be a chapter without an identity!’

‘No, wait!’ said Markius, as murmurs of agreement rippled through the marines. The idea was brilliant, but as captain it should have been mine, Markius told himself. What better way to restore morale? He blasted himself viciously for not thinking of it. The scouts were looking at him, and he realised he had been about to object.

Markius took a deep breath. You object because it was Goran’s idea, not because it is the wrong thing to do, the serpent hissed in the back of his mind. And this time, at last, he accepted its verdict. He quelled the rise of emotion in his chest.

Looking at Goran, Markius said, ‘As long as we make no mention of our old chapter, it is a great idea.’

‘Then we can be the Eagles of Prism!’ rumbled Rasmus, brandishing his power-axe above his head. His words were immediately jeered by the others, but not unkindly. Rasmus’s face fell.

‘That would rather defeat the purpose of the exercise,’ Markius explained to him as animated discussion erupted through the ranks of marines.

‘How about the Wings of Doom?’ said Olaf.

‘Oho! Or the Wild Hunters?’ said Borias.

Markius smiled. Every man who made a suggestion had tacitly made the difficult choice to abandon Ornisgard and the Storm Eagles, and already their thoughts had moved on. His gambit with Goran had worked, and Goran’s suggestion to forge a new identity was inspired. Markius knew at that moment the company would stay intact.

‘How about the Sabretooths?’ said Sergeant Tobias, and a hush settled over the marines. Rasmus peered down at the fangs dangling around his chest. Olaf caressed the wounds in his leg.

Markius turned over the idea in his mind. It was a good name, and tied together with the experiences the company had been through together. However, something was not quite right about it. The Storm Eagle was a serene god-animal revered by the tribes of Prism, but the sabretooth, while respected and feared, had always been a constant threat. It was the animal the braves had to kill in single combat to be accepted as initiates.

‘That would be like we had become our own enemies,’ said Sören, and for once everyone agreed with him.

‘I have it,’ said Goran and all eyes turned to him. He flexed his bionic claws again.

‘If no-one may see the Eagles, let us be the Talons,’ said Goran, to a chorus of murmured agreement.

‘The meaning would be known only to us,’ said Tobias appreciatively.

‘And we could still use the Aquila as our symbol,’ said Rasmus, nodding.

For Goran to have the inspirational idea and to be the one with the honour of naming the new chapter was almost too much for Markius. Then an idea sparked in his mind. He took a step so that he was standing right next to Goran, and they exchanged a glance.

‘I have it,’ Markius said. Everyone waited. ‘We commemorate our renewed vow to serve Him on Terra. We will be the Emperor’s Talons.’

‘The Emperor’s Talons!’ said Rasmus, again brandishing his new prize. Cheers came from the marines as Goran nodded agreement and punched the air.

Rasmus roared at them, ‘Who are we, eh?’

In unison, the shout came back, ‘The Emperor’s Talons!’


* * *



‘ENTER,’ INQUISITOR WILLIAM Zharn replied to the muted warble of the guest-announcing servo-skull. The door to his luxurious apartment swished open and Zharn rotated his soft, Ohinian cow-leather recliner.

‘Good evening Aul,’ he said to the cowled figure silhouetted by the light of the doorway. The glare of the oblong was starkly bright compared to the dim pools of light cast by his mood-lamps. The great armourcrys fenestra that comprised one wall of the chamber was currently shielded from the warp by blast doors, but these now projected calming scenes of starfields and nebulae. Zharn stubbed out his lho stick and set down his glass bulb of vintage amasec when he saw that Aul had a dataslate in his hand.

‘It is the one you have been waiting for,’ Aul rasped as Zharn crossed the plush shag carpet to him.

‘Intercepted?’ said Zharn, holding out his hand.

‘No,’ said Aul, offering the dataslate, ‘A re-transmission gone, well… astray, with an acknowledgement. The censors on Holy Terra have already enacted filters. It seems your friend on Bracara…’

The skeletal man paused, but Zharn did not complete the thought for him so he continued, ‘Well, it seems he came through.’

‘A she, actually,’ said Zharn, allowing a smile to cross his face as he recalled a fond memory. If Aul was still waiting for him to divulge more, he was disappointed.

‘That will be all, thank you, Aul,’ said Zharn.

‘William,’ acknowledged Aul. He backed away across the threshold, but stopped just outside the portal. He said, ‘I was right about the marine, William: He is a child in a warrior’s body you know.’

‘But with such potential,’ said Zharn. ‘Wouldn’t you agree?’

‘We will soon see…’ Aul replied as the door hissed closed again.

Zharn spent several moments contemplating the dataslate before he pressed his inquisitorial signet ring to the receptor disc at its base. The arcane machine-spirits within the ring briefly conversed with those of the dataslate, and then the scrambled, coded runes resolved themselves into the true message.

Zharn took up his bulb of amasec again, gently swishing the golden liquor around the glass. A smirk tugged at the corner of his mouth as he read the thought for the day. Oh yes, she really had come through…


++++


Origin: Battle Barge Santa Catarina
Date: 2/387897.M41
Re-transmitted: Bracara Augusta
Ref: Inq/0iii23914311/BH
Received: IQ-OM CHQ
Destination: IQ-T01
Telepathic Duct: Astropath-terminus Erastus

Author: Inquisitor Kristatos Kielman, Ordo Hereticus

Thought for the day: Ignorance is Strength


My Lords,

It is with great relief but perhaps also a little regret that I can finally report that the [expunged] file is now officially closed. Having identified target sites on [expunged], [expunged] and the outpost at [expunged], the Adeptus Astartes of the Crimson Paladins performed their tasks with admirable and ferocious determination, as befits their reputation.

I lament that I was not made aware beforehand, however, that there existed some sort of ‘honour-feud’ between the two chapters, as the [expunged] fought to the last, and their fortress-monastery was completely and unnecessarily destroyed. This resulted in failure to arrest even one subject alive, and has thwarted follow-up interrogations. I did harbour a small suspicion that some agencies outside of the [expunged] were somehow involved in the experiments, as it seems to me such a project would not have been undertaken by the Adeptus Astartes alone, in particular such a young chapter, without outside prompting. But all such avenues of investigation are closed and I must accept Commander Do Largo’s conclusion that the heresy has been destroyed at its source.

While I have declared the moon [expunged] to be purgatus, I have convinced, with some difficulty, the Crimson Paladins to spare the world of [expunged]. No gain would be had from exterminating these innocent ferals, and indeed it may well prove a useful thrall-world to the Crimson Paladins, despite its vast distance from Fortress.

I must comment that in the course of my investigation I can confirm that planet [expunged] is indeed comprised of a 100% ‘blunt’, non-deviant population. And after examining all records, it seems to always have been the case since it was accepted back into the blessed fold of our most magnificent Imperium. Whether this is the result of some genetic peculiarity of the humans or a side-effect of some unknown environmental factor remains a mystery, which I am sure the Magi Biologis will be interested in investigating in the future.

With hindsight, the project [expunged] that was called to our attention, while clearly heretical, does fill me with a little curiosity as to how effective it may have been were it allowed to run to completion. The very idea of taking naturally non-psychic subjects, combined with the purest Astartes geneseed, and somehow artificially engineering a corps of [expunged] is as visionary as it is insane. Of course, the subjects discovered at [expunged] were costly examples of the consequences of failure, but if the [expunged] would have one day been successful, could not the Ordo Malleus’s very own chapter of [restricted – level magenta] not benefit from such warriors?

In completion of this report I must conclude that this is not to be, by the will of our most Holy God-Emperor on Terra, and may the galaxy be a safer place for it!

I therefore submit my final recommendation, to order for the chapter in question: Records Expunged.


++++
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Re: BLACK SHIELDS INCOGNITUS (complete failure)

Postby Rain Vox » Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:40 am

i ama great fan of the black templar chapter and i can see potential in this, just keep up the good work and youll be a novelist one day ^^
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Re: BLACK SHIELDS INCOGNITUS (Part 1, complete failure)

Postby kurisawa » Mon Jun 11, 2012 1:00 am

Here endeth Part One of this story.

Many thanks to all who have read and replied so far. For ease of bookmarking, Part Two of the novel is posted on this thread.


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Re: BLACK SHIELDS INCOGNITUS (Part 1, complete failure)

Postby Bod the inquisitor » Mon Jun 18, 2012 9:44 pm

Hi Kurisawa

Finally managed to fulfil my promise and provide some comments.

Now I could go through and annotate every little thing and show how I’d do it. But in my mind that is wrong as all that would do is make you write like me. Which is the wrong part, you have your own distinct writing style and voice and rightly so, it’s a good one too. Besides they are generally not things that detracted from the read, in my humble opinion.

I too like the way that you slip background history for the characters as others have already mentioned. The style jarred at first, but I beat myself around the head several times and all’s okay now. I’ve seen this approach several times in BL books and can say you handle it quite well.

Repetition:
This seems to be a particular thing you have. In several places you’ve used words right next to each other to say the same thing.

Example one:
You wrote: Markius flicked his left hand in the signal they had learned in training, and the six hunters froze still
The still is really not needed as it says the same thing as froze and in this case ‘froze’ is a better way of getting the point across.

Example two:
You wrote: 'The Emperor's gaze burn you for an eternity,' Markius whispered, the prey crumpling. As it collapsed
Here I’d get rid of “the prey was crumpling”, and collapse it into the following sentence replacing collapsed. Crumpled is much the better of the two in this bit, for me anyway.

Example three:
You wrote: The six scouts, neophytes
Scouts and neophytes in this case are one and can be used interchangeably but using them next to each other is perhaps best avoided.

My favourite how to write book gives a specific term for this kind of thing but I can’t for the life of me remember it. But it goes to show that if it has a term all of its own a lot of people, no doubt including me I hasten to add, are doing it.

I’ve also noticed that in several places things become fuzzy as to what is actually happening.

You wrote: The boltpistol poised in his grip was a precious relic, forged in a bygone age and reverently passed down through generation after generation, until now it had become Markius's ward.
It’s the “until now” bit this suggests things have changed that it is no longer being handed down reverently from generation to generation. I mean does Markius think he’s going to lose it or break it beyond repair?

Fuzziness:
You wrote: 'Damn fool!' hissed Goran, and he launched into an attack on Markius, his clenched fist closing in a blow towards his throat.
This is a little bit more, picky I grant you, but can read like Goran is trying to hit his own throat, I’m also jarring on the phrase “closing in a blow towards”. It’s just not scanning well for me. As to the confusion I think it’s the result of too many, his so close to each other, particularly combined with that phrase I highlighted. But like I said this could just be me being too nitpicky.

Now this kind of thing also appears in one of the pivotal scenes of the first section, the fight between Markius and Goran. One minute Markius is asking Goran to stop and how he will not back down and will see this through. Then he’s giving in to Goran with no hint that he has a plan of any kind. I know you’re trying to hide his idea from the reader but you have to give some hint, otherwise it’s a WTF moment for the reader. Something that all the advice books, articles and blogs recommend you don’t do. I think, in order to preserve some of the lovely tension that you’ve created, it is best to shift the slipping something out of Goran’s backpack to an earlier point probably just before he surrenders/backs down. This way the reader goes, oh I wonder what he’s taken, some observant people will suspect but not quite know, they will of course after reading on go that’s what he took and he had a plan all along, it’s better than a WTF moment.

This also brings me to another point which does need attention, following the fight you have Goran bashing Markius’s transponder “into onto” a rock. Um these are two different actions; you put something into a draw and put something onto a work top.

Now the last point is perhaps a killer or perhaps not depending upon your view of things. Plus I’d check this out with the likes of Xisor and Schafer but you don’t get neophyte sergeants. The sergeants in scout squads are full highly respected battle brothers with lots of experience who are there to impart that experience upon the scouts. It’s in the lexicum entry for space marine sergeants] plus several of the BL books were scouts appear.

Oh one other thing, please, please, remove the complete failure in the title. It’s not; yes work is needed, but it’s nothing but cosmetic in my opinion. You have a solid tale that has good pacing and such like, plus interesting character interactions. I mean for feth’s sack man you’ve written an entire novel, that’s cool and quite an achievement, not a failure.
Ordos: Lectorformator

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Enter and join the betrayed,
Enter and leave the light,
Enter and forever join the ranks of the damned.

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Re: BLACK SHIELDS INCOGNITUS (Part 1, complete failure)

Postby kurisawa » Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:39 am

Great, Bod! Your suggestions are very interesting. I believe the word you are looking for is "redundancy". :lol:

Rather like the entry in the 5th Ed SM codex about Telion directing 36 scouts in the Trenor uprising, Chaplain Habrok is acting as Master Sergeant in the opening sequence of this story - directing the scouts from orbit. Their instructor sergeants have passed them on as "ready" (which proves not to be case, perhaps).

(This is how the Storm Eagles do things, at least.)

Thanks very much again for your kindess.


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Re: BLACK SHIELDS INCOGNITUS (Part 1, complete)

Postby kurisawa » Sun Sep 02, 2012 2:46 am

This novel is now completely posted. The final part can be found here:

viewtopic.php?f=17&t=2001

Thanks for reading and replying!

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