So, today was a bad day for me. Lots of stuff went wrong. Working retail on Black Friday, in a toy store, is lame. Very lame. So, I have a few random bits of story I’ve been working on today. They are both write ups of some outlines I made months and months ago now for stories I never actually wrote. Just wanted to get some stuff on paper to see how it panned out. Tomorrow is the last day of my challenge, and I think I already have a story in mind, so we’ll see how that turns out.
Writing Challenge Day 29 (Untitled Works)
By E. W. Morrow
Word Count: 2082
Through the swirling fog and sporadic jungle vegetation, Shas’ui Sa’cea Soo’Mont sighted and centered the imperial walker on his visor’s view screen. The image pixelated and shifted for a moment as additional sensors collected, collated and overlayed new information. Distance, current velocity, structural analysis, movement prediction algorithms, enhanced outline projection, temperature; all of this and more was calculated, displayed and recalculated moment by moment.
Soo’Mont made a minor adjustment to his aim. Overhead the two tons of railgun swiveled less than two degrees and froze. The constant mechanical drone inside the hammerhead’s chassis rose in pitch a little as magnetic servos kicked in, auto-correcting the railgun’s position against the slight sway of the skimmer. Soo’Mont raised the safety catch and hovered a finger over the firing mechanism. It gently grazed the switch and he took a deep breath as the tingle of contact spread throughout his body, fueling the sweet thrill of the hunt.
The walker, apparently sensing it had been spotted, stopped and backpedaled suddenly. Soo’Mont’s line of sight was temporarily blocked by a particularly broad tree trunk. He mentally chided himself for placing personal gratification above duty towards the Greater Good. Using the new calculations flickering across the inside of his visor he adjusted his sight. A dense bank of fog swirled on the other side of the tree, baffling his sensors and further hampering his view.
“Target retreating. Position unknown. Full weapons lock not guaranteed.” he said over the crew’s comm channel.
“Acknowledged,” came the reply from Shas’ui Sa’cea Vesa, the crew’s communications operator. “Requesting markerlight support. Stand by.” Soo’Mont heard the short, telltale beep as Vesa switched comm channels.
A few seconds later the outline of the Imperial walker reappeared on Soo’Mont’s visor. This time secondary information was relayed and displayed. Shas’ui Sa’cea Yr’Tash, the main pilot, activated the tank’s lateral thrusters, strafing left and opening up a clear line of sight once more. With the aid of the targeting computer and markerlight information streaming to his visor’s view screen, Soo’Mont realigned the skimmer’s turret literally on the fly.
“Target reacquired,” he said, once more flipping the safety switches. “Thank the scouts for their service to the Greater Good.”
The walker’s torso twisted as it’s pilot hastily tried to line up his own shot. A faint point of light appeared in the muzzle of the long barreled weapon mounted on its side. It grew in brightness slightly before disgorging its energy charge. A white hot beam scythed through the jungle, vaporizing the nearby mist in an instant. The panicked shot flew wide and continued past the hammerhead for several hundred feet before it impacted a tree. The trunk exploded several feet above the jungle floor and the rest of the tree, now supported only by ionized air, crashed noisily, yet harmlessly, to the ground.
Soo’Mont calmly made an adjustment to his aim.
With a hydraulic hiss the walker ejected a smoking power cell. Auto-loaders kicked in as the pilot desperately tried to reload his weapon in time.
Soo’Mont took a deep breath and fingered the firing mechanism once more. In a level voice he said over the comm “Opening fir-”
The tank gave a sudden lurch as though a weight had been dropped on it. Something had landed on the tank at great speed. The front end of the tank dipped momentarily before the anti-grav thrusters could compensate for the additional load. Soo’Mont removed his finger from the trigger, his careful aim ruined. He caught a glimpse of something blue-gray and metallic as it flashed across one of the view finders on the tank’s exterior. Whatever it was shimmered slightly as it moved and was gone in an instant.
The weight suddenly lifted and the tank lurched again, this time because half of the thrusters were firing with excessive force. A moment later Soo’Mont’s visor flashed and went dark. He heard Vesa cry out in alarm as his console exploded. The engines gave an almighty scream followed by a loud bang. Yr’Trash screamed something about losing partial thruster power. Soo’Mont was shaken in his seat as half of the tank dropped out of the air. His visor flickered to a static filled approximation life just in time to see the ground rise up to meet him.
The hammerhead drove into the dark jungle soil nose first. The impact slammed Soo’Mont’s face into the fire control console. Without his helmet his skull would have been caved in by impact. As it was he was merely dazed, and his world began to spin even before the tank flipped, tail over nose. He blacked out on the second impact, and was spared the bone shattering experience of being thrashed about the cabin like a doll.
Sentinel pilot Malaki Griss of the Polovan 74th visibly sagged with relief as the winged, hawklike figures of the Eldar warriors lept from atop the tan bulk of the Tau skimmer with undeniable grace. A moment later blue flashes peppered the side of the tank, followed by brilliant electrical discharges. Whatever strange payload the Eldar had left had certainly done its job. Malaki grinned as Tau vehicle took a nose dive and rolled several times before crunching to a halt.
Not for the first time Malaki questioned the sanity of his commanding officers in accepting the Eldar’s help. Eldar and Tau, Tau and Eldar. One alien was just as bad as another, as far as Malakai was concerned. Maybe worse, he thought as the tuned set his radio to scan the various comm channels being used by the beleaguered remnants of the 74th. They’d sided with the devil they didn’t know against the devil they did.
On one hand you had the Tau, upstart colonists and enthusiastic empire builders that they were, who had pushed across the entire sub sector in a slow, methodical fashion Malakai had come to expect from the race of blue skinned xenos, reaping conquest after bloody conquest every step of the way. Loathe as he was to admit it, the Tau possessed technologies and firepower far more advanced than the Imperium of Man. They had skimmers, the floating anti-grav engine tanks that could fly above the treetops or zip in between the trunks just above the tangled green floor of the jungle, and graceful armored battle suits, twice the size of any man but still smaller than the bulky walkers of the Imperium. Their vehicles were armed with a staggering array of weapons, from rotating, mutli-barreled plasma cannons and pod mounted missile launchers to the huge, squat rail guns that could send a chunk of depleted uranium across miles of battlefield with pinpoint accuracy. Their foot troops were no less dangerously armed. Long range pulse rifles and shifting camouflage suits that only seemed to wink into view before the squad unloaded a round of superheated energy into a cluster of men and faded again before the dust had settled. Every single aspect of the Tau army was a picture of brutal, mechanized efficiency of the highest order.
And on the other hand you had the enigmatic Eldar, the devil in disguise. Theirs was an ancient and immortal race, long fallen from power before mankind had taken its first steps to the distant stars. Their technology was no less advanced than the Tau, but it where the Tau were brutal, hard and efficient, the Eldar were subtle, majestic and devious. To them battle was an art, a discipline to be mastered, to be embodied and even enjoyed. Unlike the Tau, the Eldar race was incredibly gifted psychically, so much so that the strange energies the bound to their will bordered on sorcerous, even divine, in nature. If the Tau’s military might was a piston, relentlessly pounding away, then the Eldar were a grandfather clock.
Malakai picked up some chatter on the comm that sounded important and tuned the radio in to listen to that channel exclusively. Sgt. Eller’s squad was pinned down by long range fire and close quarters squads were bearing down on their position. That was another thing about the Tau. They weren’t so much a race as a collective. While there was indeed a singular race of xenos known as the Tau, the Tau Empire was actually a collection of many species that had opted for integration rather than destruction. The bulk of the army was Tau, but specialist forces were drawn from every race under the Tau’s umbrella.
“I thought you said most deserts weren’t covered in dunes.”
A few feet away, Marina shook her head and sighed. This was the fourth time Leo had broached the subject of desert composition since they’d left the small port town of (town name). That had been three days ago. At first it sounded like an innocent question, but now Marina secretly believed that Leo had either begun to suspect the desert of deliberate subterfuge, or was being intentionally annoying. With Leo, she couldn’t be sure of either.
From two camels ahead her uncle, Alberto, who was usually very patient with his son gave an exasperated reply.
“Leopold, I do wish you would listen. I never said that most deserts were devoid of sand dunes. I merely stated that the common conception a desert being a vast sea of dunes was an incomplete one.”
“What’s the difference?” Leo asked after a few moments of silence.
“Some deserts are flat and covered with hard, cracked soil. Others are covered in rocky mountains and barren valleys. I have even heard stories of far off deserts that are desperately cold, where snow persists through the year and biting winds scour all but the heartiest of life from the face of the earth.”
There was another moment of silence.
“So,” Leo began, “what you’re saying is that most deserts aren’t covered in dunes.”
“For the sake of simplicity: yes,” her uncle conceded. “Though I believe that the existence of dunes is not as rare as you seem to believe. And for the last time, your camel’s face away from me.”
Marina looked up. Leo rode just in front of her in the caravan, who in turn rode just behind Alberto. Or at least, he should have been. Right now he rode just behind and to the right of Alberto. He was leaning forward slightly, trying to catch as much shade from the large umbrella that Alberto had mounted to the back of his saddle. It was big, and black, and around the brim gold colored tassels bobbed up and down as the camel plodded along. Even so, to get any shade at all Leo had ridden his camel nearly side by side with Alberto’s, and his camel’s head was just about even with Alberto’s saddle. And Leo’s camel was a spitter.
There had been a short but heated argument about the umbrella. There had been only one at the little merchant stall they’d stopped at just before they left (merchant town), and Alberto had purchased it almost immediately upon spying it amongst the various rugs and vibrantly dyed cloth on display. Leo had been quick to complain. He’d said that since he had inherited his mother’s fair skin, the umbrella should be his.
And it was true. Leopold, who had sandy blonde hair and was a head taller than Marina, did indeed have pale skin while his father and Marina both had dark hair, almost black, and a deep tan to their skin. Her uncle was chief diplomat for the island nation of (name) and had met Leopold’s mother while on a mission to some country in the north. He had stayed too long and had been forced to winter in the foreign land. When the snows lifted the next spring, he returned home with his new bride.
Alberto had won the argument and kept the umbrella. He had put forth three main points. First, He was the king’s emissary, and therefore the most important person in the caravan. Second, young people should respect their elders. And third, sons should respect their fathers. Leo had relented, but now it seemed like he was determined to take the umbrella back one bit at a time.
Not content with his minor victory, Leo pressed on.
“Well, since we picked the one of the few deserts covered in tall, hot hills that tend to give way beneath you without warning…”
“You don’t even like boats.” Alberto snapped.
Even though Marina could only see the back of his head, she knew Leo had an affronted look on his face.