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High Death
 
Old 15 Aug 2007, 10:39   #1 (permalink)
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Default High Death

Artaima V:
Above the city of Dracona, above the ruined buildings and rubble-choked streets, there is another world. Found in the towers and spires that sprout from the city, it is the realm of snipers, and only the most skillful can enter and live. All others are killed swiftly by the enemy snipers and die alone, either plunging from the towering spires or rotting away in solitude. It is called the High Death, both by those above who inhabit it and those below who fear it. The life of a sniper in this arena is very different from that of a guardsman fighting in the ruins but it is no less dangerous. It's a life of hunting and being hunted, a life of scavenging for food and water, and a life of constant, often oppressive, isolation. Even more so than in the streets, it is a life of ever-present danger and sudden death, and it takes a different kind of person to fight there.
While the regular forces of the Emperor fight in the streets and buildings below, the snipers try to ascend to the High Death to support their brothers below and hunt down the enemy's snipers. Most do not succeed, either suffering any number of fatal accidents or picked off by their well-established foes. Those that make it are the very best, and high above the ground, they stalk among the towers and walkways, dueling with the enemy snipers.
When the Imperial forces first came to Dracona, the cultists, fighting on their own turf, held the High Death in a throttlehold, effortlessly picking off the veterans and marksmen sent after them. After months of hostile fire from above, the Imperial High Command gathered a larger force to infiltrate the High Death. The men were culled from the most skilled veteran squads and given special equipment. Only the most adept survived the journey and their names and deeds have passed into the legends of their regiments.
Still the enemy continued to disrupt the forces of the Emperor, and it was then, with the war going badly in both the city and the High Death, that the 7th Vanderdecken was sent to Artaima V. They were sent for because of their skill in urban warfare, a skill that is born of their homeworld.
Vanderdecken is a deathworld whose entire landmass is covered in ruined city. This steel and rockcrete jungle is home to some of the most dangerous plants and animals found off of Catachan. It is this environment that has honed the skills of the men who make up the Vanderdecken regiments. Because few cityfights will ever approach the danger of their homeworld, the Vanderdeckens are exceptionally valuable to Imperial commanders who find themselves bogged down in a city.
When the 7th Vanderdecken arrived in Dracona, their snipers and best marksmen were told to take the fight to the enemy snipers. These Vanderdeckens were more successful in infiltrating the High Death and soon evened the odds in the fighting that took place there.
There is one Vanderdecken sniper who has been particularly commended for his part in the fighting thus far. He has provided unerring support fire for the troops on the ground, but he is best known for his legendary duel with the famed rebel sniper Lord Targon. His name is Deadeye.
* * *
Dusk was falling over Dracona and high in a tower, a figure sat at the base of a wall, his close-cropped black hair streaked with dust. Wearing gray fatigues and covered by a camouflage cloak, the man could easily have been mistaken for a piece of debris. Slowly two eyes opened and swept the room with their level dark blue gaze. Seeing that he was alone, the figure grabbed his rifle and stood up, unfolding his powerfully built frame. The name patch on his dust gray armor read "Wilkins", but his earned name was Deadeye.
Drawing a laspistol and pulling the camouflage cloak a little tighter to ward of the evening chill, Deadeye moved silently around the broken interior of the tower. Skirting fallen girders, he checked the structure for foes. Finding none, he holstered the pistol and descended what was left of the dimly lit stairway. Two levels down, Deadeye emerged onto a walkway that stretched out into the deepening night.
Moving quietly, Deadeye was careful to keep his head below what remained of the parapet. Upon reaching the next tower, he paused in the dim moonlight, listening for enemies. Once satisfied that the coast was clear, Deadeye moved into the structure.
The next stage of the journey, which Deadeye had planned with the help of his detailed map, was over the maintenance catwalk of an old elevated pipeline. He would wait until the moon, tiny sliver though it was, had set. A few hours later, before the moon had fully set, a rainstorm suddenly blew in from the mountains flanking the city. Deadeye stood by a window, listening to the drops hit the tower and breathing in the smell of the fresh rain. In the flashes of far off lightning, he could see the rebel’s fortifications on the mountainside. With the thunderstorm approaching rapidly on the tail of the rain, Deadeye slung his rifle on his shoulder and moved out.
Crouched low and grasping the handrail, he moved along towards the next tower. As the rain spattered on his cloak, Deadeye felt the wind blow gently past him, carrying away the mist from his breath. The sound of his steps on the old metal plates was lost in the dull peals of thunder and the distant explosions that rose above the sound of the falling rain.
Deadeye reached the other tower, Tower 63 on his map, just as the thunderstorm arrived. He moved deeper into the dark interior of the tower as a flash of lightening lit up the area. Climbing slowly and quietly up an access ladder inside the empty lift shaft, he scouted the top levels and chose one to pass the night on. Finding a stout board and a large piece of stone, Deadeye blocked the half-closed shaft doors. Even as he settled down to sleep for what remained of the night, the rain moved on as swiftly as it had come.
* * *
When dawn came, Deadeye was waiting. After eating some of his dried rations and drinking some of his precious water, Deadeye climbed slowly to his feet and gazed around the tower once more. It had been the home of a very wealthy noble, sacrificed to Chaos in the early stages of the rebellion. Looted early on, the tower’s furniture had been smashed and its flooring and walling ripped out, exposing the bare rockcrete underneath. That had been before the constant fighting rendered the casual ascent of the towers impossible. Now the tower was a bare shell, filled with the dust from countless bombings.
Suddenly Deadeye's communicator crackled to life and a tough voice said in his ear, "Sergeant Travis here, requesting sniper support at map grid 172 by 143."
Swiftly drawing his map, Deadeye located the grid and its bearing from his tower. Moving to the window he depressed the talk button on his com with his free hand and said, "This is Deadeye. I'm on it." Even as the acknowledgment came back, Deadeye had the scope up to his eye.
Peering through the wispy low-lying smoke, he scanned the area until he found the men. They were holed up in a small fortified building while a rebel mortar team rained shells down on them. Deadeye saw the sergeant rallying his squad and moving them into position in an attempt to pin down the spotters. Even as Deadeye watched, a shell landed in the midst of them, blowing two men, including one with a sergeant’s stripes, into a bloody mist.
Deadeye’s gaze hardened as he turned his aim on the laughing mortar team. Resting his rifle carefully on the windowsill, Deadeye laid his cheek against the chill material of his rifle stock. After making the necessary adjustments for his extreme height above his target, Deadeye gently squeezed the trigger as he had done so many times before. The silenced rifle gave only a small jump and a quiet crack as it fired. In the ruins far below, Deadeye's bullet smashed into a mortar shell, setting off the waiting munitions. Deadeye withdrew into the deep shadows but continued to watch until the smoke and dust blew aside, allowing him to confirm the destruction of the mortar and its crew. “The sergeant thanks you,” said a quiet voice in his ear as he watched the squad advance.
Deadeye moved to the other end of the small room and slowly began surveying the other towers, looking for signs of enemy snipers. Several hours later, having found nothing, Deadeye had almost finished when he spotted a small figure below climbing up an exterior ladder on one of the towers.
Looking closer, he saw that the figure was a rebel trying to ascend to the High Death. Shaking his head grimly, Deadeye took aim. With all the stories they tell about this place, he thought, you'd think people would be more careful when they make their ascensions. Peering through the scope, Deadeye sighted in on the climber's head and slowly squeezed of the shot. The figure jerked as the round hit it, and the body fell down out of sight.
As Deadeye withdrew once again into the shadows, he stood listening to the wind whistle around the tower and thought back to when he and his regiment had arrived. They had just moved up into the city when the Colonel took a bunch of them aside. He explained the situation to them, how the guardsmen were getting their heads handed to them by the snipers up top, in the High Death, as they called it. They had all smiled and laughed at the fact that the guardsmen hadn't been able to climb a few towers. That was before they had made their own ascensions.
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Old 15 Aug 2007, 10:41   #2 (permalink)
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Deadeye’s ascension, which had taken him almost two days because of the distance and difficulty, was just as dangerous as any journey that he had made back on Vanderdecken. The lower sections of the towers were unstable from being bombed so many times, and very often the stairs or shafts were choked with debris so that he had to scale the outside, either unaided or using rickety ladders, further exposed to unfriendly eyes.
The enemy snipers, many of whom had built up fearsome reputations, were, and continue to be, another ever-present threat. Nowhere is safe from them because in the High Death, there is no front. The snipers of both sides are constantly on the move, stopping wherever suits their needs. Only recently have some of the Imperial snipers taken up semi-permanent positions within the towers over-looking the Imperial territory in an attempt to secure the area.
However, in spite of the buildings and the enemy snipers, Deadeye made it to the High Death. Talking later with various men from his regiment, he learned that almost half of the Vanderdeckens, including some of the best in the regiment, had died on the way up. As the news spread and as the surviving Vanderdeckens thought about their own ascensions, they came to see the other Imperial snipers as true equals and soon gave them earned names.
A sound brought Deadeye abruptly back to the present. Somebody was coming along one of the walkways. Moving carefully to the window, he looked down and saw a man crawling slowly along the walkway from Tower 55, one leg crudely splinted and dragging uselessly behind him. Looking through his scope Deadeye recognized the figure as Shadow, one of the first guardsmen who had made it to the High Death. He had been shot through the shoulder by a high powered lasgun. Turning swiftly, Deadeye slung his rifle and unblocked the shaft doors. He leapt out into the darkness of the shaft and grabbed the ladder. The pitted metal burned his hands as he slid down, calling out to avoid fratricide.
* * *
At the far end of the walkway, a tall slim man was slowly climbing the stairs of Tower 55, smiling faintly. He walked with the confidence of a general in his own camp. As far as the man was concerned, that's exactly what he was. He was Lord Targon, the chief rebel sniper. He had tattooed the Mark of Chaos Undivided on his face to please the Dark Gods and they had granted him his extraordinary skills. Lord Targon moved to a half-broken window and surveyed the opposite tower, Tower 63 on the map he had pulled from the body of a dead Imperial, for any sign of his prey.
* * *
Back in Tower 63, Deadeye had made it to the level of the walkway and found that Shadow had pulled himself into the tower. The older sniper was sitting against the inner wall of the dim room. He slowly turned his head to look at Deadeye and wearily motioned him over. Avoiding the open doorway, Deadeye went over and squatted down in front of the wounded sniper. The faint smell of burnt flesh dimly registered as Deadeye leaned forward and asked, "What happened?" Shadow was one of the best Imperial snipers, and Deadeye didn't like to think who could've gotten him this bad.
Shadow swallowed slowly and said, "It was Targon. I saw him on the move and tried to take him out. He shot me right out of my position and down two flights of stairs. That's how I got this." Shadow indicated his broken leg.
That makes sense, Deadeye thought, the hair rising on the back of his neck. Targon, or Lord Targon as he calls himself, is the most feared rebel sniper in the High Death, but he normally stays near where the front is on the ground. Rumor has it that after he gave himself that blasphemous tattoo, the Chaos Gods granted him special gifts, gifts that help him track down his foes. Even if that isn’t true, Targon is still one sniper to stay clear of. Just look at what happened to those four snipers who swore to work together to bring Targon down. Two weeks later, their severed heads, each tattooed with the Star of Chaos as an indication of who killed them, had been thrown over the lines into Imperial territory.
Shadow grabbed Deadeye's shirt and pulled him close, Shadow's destroyed communicator hanging uselessly against his chest. The smell of burnt flesh was stronger now, and Deadeye noticed how pale Shadow was under his gray stubble and the dust on his face. "Targon is on the move, and he's got five really good snipers working with him," said Shadow, his voice now hoarse. He was also sweating a lot more than exertion should merit. Deadeye moved to feel the other sniper's forehead. Shadow slapped the arm away, but not before Deadeye felt the heat of fever. "Listen boy," Shadow growled and Deadeye subsided, sitting back on his heels. "He's moving closer to the area overlooking the rear Imperial territory. I think he means to shut down those towers we've been holding."
Deadeye had just opened his mouth to speak when Shadow looked over Deadeye’s shoulder and threw him down away from the door. As he went over sideways, Deadeye saw the guardsman swing his rifle up. Deadeye was still falling when the hotshot round came through a crack in the wall and burned a hole in Shadow's forehead. Landing hard on the rubble strewn floor, Deadeye recovered quickly and sprang to a crouch. The smell of burnt flesh was now fully present, but he ignored it and pulled a small mirror from his chest pocket. Using the mirror Deadeye scrutinized the tower opposite the crack, Tower 55. He caught a glimpse of an enemy sniper, a sniper with a large tattoo on his face.
Deadeye swore. Looking again at the tower he saw Targon suddenly raise his rifle to his shoulder. Deadeye jerked his hand out of the way as a second hotshot round came through the crack, cutting through the air where his hand had been.
He sat there for a moment, his breathing loud in the silent room. Then he pulled Shadow's body out of the line of fire, the blackness of the wound’s burnt flesh in stark contrast with the paleness of Shadow's face. Closing the eyes of the corpse, Deadeye laid out the body. Not wanting the enemy to have them, Deadeye took the dead sniper’s map and remaining supplies.
* * *
In the interior of Tower 55, Lord Targon spoke into his communicator, "Kazzult, there is another sniper still in the tower. Move in and take him out."
"Yes sir," replied the big sniper as he began moving from a different direction towards Tower 63.
* * *
In Tower 63, Deadeye had just finished replenishing his supplies from those of his fallen companion. He removed Shadow's dog tags and added them reverently to his own. Knowing Shadow wouldn't have wanted his weapon to fall into enemy hands, Deadeye took the dead sniper's rifle and dashed it against a wall corner, breaking it in two. Then he carefully laid out the pieces on Shadow's chest.
Sitting back, with his rifle readily at hand, Deadeye pulled out his map and contemplated his next move. If Targon was heading for the rear towers, then Deadeye was not directly in his path. In the meantime, he was the only one who knew that Targon was moving, and that he was working with other snipers.
Deadeye reached up to the small box hanging at his chest and adjusted the channel selector on the com. Pressing the talk button, he said, "Deadeye calling Mountain."
"This is Mountain."
"You still at the towers?"
"Yeah.”
"Targon's just finished off Shadow from Tower 55. He's moving towards the Imperium rear and working with five other snipers who, knowing Targon, are probably some of their best. I think they mean to take out those towers we've been holding."
"He got Shadow? I never thought anybody would get him." There was a short silence and Deadeye hung his head in silent commiseration. Then Mountain continued, "I'll spread the word and try to get as many people back here as I can. It looks like we're going to have our hands full in a few days." Another pause and then, "Where are you?"
“Tower 63."
"You're probably not going to be able to get back here in time, especially since they might've gotten around behind you already."
"Yeah, I know. I'll think of something. Deadeye out."
Deadeye had just released the talk button on his com when he heard footsteps approaching from the other side of the tower, the side closest to the Imperium held area. Grabbing his rifle he moved quietly around to the entrance of the walkway the footsteps were coming from. Standing beside the door, Deadeye set his rifle down carefully and slowly drew his knife. It was smaller than a normal Vanderdecken blade, only eight inches long and much narrower, but it was no less deadly. With the door on his left, he held the reversed knife in his right hand, leaving his left free to grab the man coming towards the tower. It was almost certainly a cultist; he made too much noise to be a Vanderdecken or one of the other Imperial snipers.
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Old 15 Aug 2007, 10:41   #3 (permalink)
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The man's rifle preceded him into the tower. Deadeye grabbed the barrel and levered it up to smash the large sniper in the face. The blood splattered onto the man's chest armor, armor adorned with the symbols of the enemy. The rebel punched Deadeye hard in the chest with his free hand. As Deadeye staggered back from the blow, the sniper dropped his rifle and reached for a knife. Deadeye grabbed the man’s arm and slammed him back against the wall. Landing a kick to the big sniper’s knee, Deadeye felt the rebel’s bones snap under the impact of his boot. Even as the sound of the breaking bones rent the air, the traitor latched onto Deadeye's throat with his free hand. Leaning away, Deadeye's knife hand smashed out, connecting solidly with his opponent’s face. As the grip on his throat slackened, Deadeye leaned back further out of the grip and slashed the rebel across the throat with the knife.
As the cultist’s lifeblood started to pour out of his neck, Deadeye released the man’s wrist and moved forward. He reached over his own knife arm to clamp his left hand over the traitor's mouth. Bodily pinning the rebel to the wall, the warm blood flowing onto his shoulder, Deadeye stabbed up into his foe's lungs. The sniper bled to death, unable to scream. Dumping the body unceremoniously on the ground, Deadeye sheathed his knife and pocketed the rebel's tags.
Breathing hard, he stood there for a few seconds, his chest still sore from the sniper’s blow. Looking over the corpse, Deadeye saw the rebel had a communicator in his ear. Deadeye pulled it off, grabbed his own rifle, and moved farther back into the tower. Examining the rebel's communicator more closely, Deadeye saw that it was simpler than his own, having only one channel. It also appeared to have less transmitting power than the specially crafted sets possessed by the Imperial snipers.
Deadeye decided to try to eavesdrop on the enemy. He had barely raised the vox assembly to his ear when a smooth, chill voice came out, "Greetings lackey of the Corpse God. I see you've killed my compatriot." Despite himself, Deadeye spun around, gun at the ready, his heart hammering in his chest. The voice continued, "I hope this means you'll provide better sport for me and my men than your late companion did."
Deadeye was already moving. He knew he had to get away from the tower; he had to find a place where he could lie hidden, where he could wait for them. Deadeye ran towards the walkway the rebel had come down. Before he left the tower, he switched his com to Mountain's channel, clicked the talk button, and said, "Mountain this is Deadeye."
"Go ahead."
"They're moving spread out but I managed to get one of the snipers who was supporting Targon. I'll keep doing what I can out here and am requesting com silence on my channel for now. Deadeye out." Then he ducked out onto the walkway and proceeded in a crouched run towards the next tower, still breathing hard.
* * *
A few minutes later, Lord Targon stood over Kazzult's corpse, looking down at it as if it were merely another piece of debris. He stood there in the slick blood, listening to the others talking behind him.
"No sign of the Imperial in the neighboring towers," said his short, stocky second-in-command, Rathgan.
"He has probably run away, too afraid to face us," said Halliday, smiling as he toyed with the patch over his missing eye. "Besides, what can he do against all of us?"
"He's already killed one of us," snarled Rathgan as he rounded on the other sniper, his scarred face twisted in anger, "and he probably had a working com."
"Yes, I fear we will find our job much harder when we reach our destination," said a quiet voice from the shadows, where the tall form of Resnick could faintly be discerned.
"We would still succeed even if every Imperial sniper were forewarned and waiting. It would only save us the trouble of hunting them down," boasted Walker as he racked the slide on his bolt pistol.
"Enough!" Lord Targon's voice cut off Rathgan's retort. He continued in that same smooth voice, "We proceed as planned." Then turning towards them he said, "Halliday take point."
Halliday proceed out the way Kazzult had entered and the other snipers silently split up.
* * *
Deadeye sat in the tower, crouched beside a large boulder. He had moved closer to the center of the city, where the towers were more numerous and offered more escape routes, but also more paths for the enemy to take. Having chosen a position that commanded a view of several potential routes, Deadeye waited in the quiet of the tower. For several hours he sat concealed among the pieces of rockcrete and steal beams left over from the earlier bombing of the tower. He had heard some conversation over the captured com, but it was all in code.
Scanning the paths below through his scope, Deadeye saw a camouflaged figure moving up a walkway, hiding in the shadows cast by the setting sun. His heart beating faster, Deadeye studied the figure more closely. It wasn't an Imperial, and it wasn't Targon. The sniper was missing an eye and moved well, keeping below the parapet and swinging his head in wide arcs to compensate for his lack of vision.
Deadeye wiped his palms on his pant leg and adjusted the position of his rifle, gently resting it on the boulder and hiding the barrel with a fold of his cloak. He sighted in on the rebel's chest and forced himself to take a slow breath. Letting it halfway out, Deadeye took up the slack on the trigger. He squeezed off the shot just as the rebel tripped.
The bullet grazed the sniper's neck as he went down on his knees. The traitor swung his gun up with one hand and snapped off a shot that impacted the boulder beside Deadeye, sending fragments of stone whipping past his head. The sniper’s other hand was halfway to his com when he dropped his rifle and clutched at his neck with both hands.
In the tower, Deadeye watched his enemy as the toxins of Vanderdecken solidified the rebel's blood. By the time the sniper collapsed to the ground, Deadeye was gone from the window. Vaulting over boulders and ducking under beams, he leapt down the stairs and out onto a walkway. Moving still closer to the heart of the city, Deadeye looked for a new position.
* * *
By the time Lord Targon arrived, the sun had set and the others had pulled Halliday's corpse back into the tower. The dead sniper's hands were still latched around his neck and his face was almost as dark as his eye patch.
Targon gazed out of the tower, careful not to frame himself in the window. The other snipers stood silently arrayed around the room, awaiting his orders. Targon's lips twitched upwards in a smile as he tasted their awe, even fear, of him. Targon thrived on that fear. Combined with his skills, it gave him power over them. They were among the best of the snipers and all were his to command. He knew that he could complete the mission on his own, but there was no sense in not utilizing such useful tools.
Still looking out at the other towers, Targon spoke to the room, “The Imperial dog will pay.” Rathgan and Resnick nodded grimly and Walker gave a growl of agreement mixed with anticipation. Then Targon turned his head and spoke over his shoulder, “Secure the tower. We will rest here tonight and proceed in a tighter formation in the morning.”
* * *
When the sun rose over Dracona, Deadeye was in the heart of the city. He had continued on during the night to position himself to one side of his enemy's probable course. High up in a tower that offered a good field of fire, he watched for any sign of the enemy snipers. In his hide, Deadeye waited for several hours, completely still as he scrutinized the towers through which his enemies would most likely pass.
Shortly after midday, Deadeye caught a flicker of movement in the closest tower, a shadow on a small area of sunlight. Shifting his aim, he studied the tower through his scope, looking for some sign of his foe. Through a hole in the other tower, Deadeye saw the fatigues of the enemy. He fired and through his scope, he saw a figure fall.
* * *
Lord Targon and his men had been moving through the dim, dirty interior of the tower, spread out in single file, when Resnick was shot. The tall sniper crumpled to the ground, blood dripping from the hole in his head. Guided by his extensive memory of the map and his immense skills, Targon knew instinctively that there was only one tower that the shot could have come from. He's close, thought Targon as he turned to his remaining men and said, "He's in Tower 82! Walker, go on and get in behind him! Rathgan, get up top!"
Slinging his rifle and drawing his bolt pistol and knife, Walker leapt forward into the bright sunlight and ran along the walkway. As Rathgan climbed the stairs two at a time, Targon moved along the wall to a window and swung his rifle around the edge. After a quick survey through his scope, Targon confirmed his suspicions. He had been up high, and he's probably taking the walkway on the far side of the tower from us, the walkway towards Tower 85.
Lord Targon pressed the talk button on his com and said, in code, "Walker, the Imperial has a long trip. He's probably not even on the walkway to Tower 85 yet."
A crisp, eager confirmation came back and Targon frowned slightly. Walker was the best man to send to flank an enemy, especially one as skilled in close action as this Imperial, but he was possibly a little too eager. Targon didn't mind using, even breaking tools, but he didn't like tools to break themselves.
* * *
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Old 15 Aug 2007, 10:42   #4 (permalink)
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Deadeye slung his rifle on his shoulder and sped down the damaged stairs. The enemy had been closer than he had expected and he was a long way from his escape route. He knew he was safe from anyone in the other tower, but his enemies were close enough that enough they might be able to cut him off.
Deadeye could feel the adrenaline pumping through his body as he emerged onto the walkway and sprinted towards Tower 85. The blasphemous war cry was his only warning as the traitor sniper rounded the corner at the far end. Even as Deadeye saw the tremendous muzzle flashes of the enemy's bolt pistol, he pulled his laspistol from its holster and threw himself into a forward roll. The first bolt rounds roared over his head as Deadeye sprang from the roll to land prone on the walkway. The traitor adjusted his aim and the bolt rounds chewed up the walkway around Deadeye with deafening impacts. One round glanced off his left shoulder guard and exploded, peppering his face with hot fragments of armor. Blood pounding in his ringing ears, Deadeye rolled to the side and fired off a dozen shots with his laspistol. The rebel staggered but kept firing as the lasrounds slammed into his body.
When the rebel finally dropped, Deadeye rose to one knee and hammered off four rounds into the sniper's head. Slowly getting to his feet, Deadeye probed his sore shoulder and reloaded his laspistol. Running doggedly to the body, Deadeye pulled off the dog tags, blasted the com with a quick shot, and spat on the corpse. Then he climbed a flight of stairs and headed off away from the direction the rebel must have come.
* * *
Walker's body was still warm when Lord Targon and Rathgan arrived at Tower 85. It was a grim sight. The body itself had half a dozen wounds in the chest, as well as several in the face. Spent bolter casings littered the floor and the doorway was heavily scarred from where Walker’s aim had gone wild after he had been shot.
Targon glanced at the body and headed on through the tower. This Imperial sniper has skill, but he is beginning to anger me, thought Targon as he emerged out a walkway, with Rathgan right behind him. Using his Chaos-enhanced skills, Lord Targon began to track the Imperial.
* * *
It was fully dark when Deadeye stumbled into his destination, Tower 127. He didn't know how, but Targon and his companion had stayed on his trail until, using every bit of knowledge and skill he possessed, he finally managed to lose them shortly after dusk. He had only been pursued this hard once before, and that had been back home, when he was being stalked by a shadow tiger. That had been a truly harrowing experience, one that he recalled with nervousness even now.
Though Deadeye was fatigued and sore, he still checked the dark and broken interior of the tower to make sure it was secure. Then he dropped into a halfway comfortable corner with his camouflage cloak draped over himself and went to sleep.
* * *
Lord Targon leaned against the wall, studying his map by the moonlight. In the center of the room, Rathgan paced.
"I can't believe we lost him," fumed the shorter sniper.
Lord Targon himself was surprised that the Imperial had evaded them, but he continued to study the map. After several minutes, his wandering eyes fell on Tower 127. Frowning in concentration, Lord Targon considered the tower, evaluating it as the Imperial would. It was a fairly secure place to rest, only being connected, via a short corridor, to the long enclosed walkway between Towers 114 and 136. Rising, Lord Targon stowed the map and strode out of the room. Rathgan turned from his pacing and followed wordlessly.
Half an hour later in Tower 114, Lord Targon crouched at the entrance of the dark walkway connecting Towers 114 and 136. The Imperial passed by here not long after dark, Targon thought to himself. He would have stopped soon after that, and the only place past this point that makes sense as a destination is Tower 127.
Turning to Rathgan he said, "I have a plan to kill this Imperial dog, but if it should fail I, and I alone, will kill him. Understand?"
"Yes sir."
Lord Targon nodded and turned his attention to his com. His was one of a few precious sets that had a longer range. Figuring that the Imperial was asleep, Targon spoke softly into the vox assembly. "This is Lord Targon, calling Colonel Kadoth."
"Yes, Lord Targon," replied the colonel.
"I hope your men have plenty of explosives Colonel because I've got a job for them."
When Lord Targon had finished quietly giving his instructions to the colonel, Rathgan asked, "Why not just kill him now, while he sleeps?"
Targon gave a half-smile and said, "Even if he is sleeping, would you like to try to sneak up on him in the dark?"
* * *
Habit woke Deadeye just as the sun was rising. He checked the tower again for foes and ate some of his provisions. By the time the sun had dispelled the early morning mist, Deadeye was on the level with the walkway preparing to track down Targon and his companion. As Deadeye checked his weapons once more, he heard Targon say over the com, "Now."
That was when it happened. Even at the top of the tower, the sound of the blast was loud. The level of noise at the tower’s base, where the explosion originated, was deafening. The tower began to shift under Deadeye’s feet and dust suddenly filled the air.
That dirty traitor was all Deadeye had time to think as he lunged out of the tower into the covered walkway. He turned right and ran through the swirling dust towards Tower 136, the groan of shifting masonry echoing in the walkway. When he was only thirty feet from the end of the walkway, Deadeye was thrown to the floor as he heard the sickening crunch of Tower 127 falling against the walkway.
I am not going to die trapped in some hole like an animal, thought Deadeye as the walkway continued to shudder beneath him. With a roar of defiance Deadeye hauled himself to his feet, hitched his rifle more securely on his shoulder, and hurtled down the walkway. As it began to break away from Tower 136 with the shriek of tortured steel and a fresh shower of dust, Deadeye took a flying leap through the doorway. Pivoting to his left as he came through the entrance, Deadeye landed with his back against the wall. Breathing heavily with his muscles shaking from exertion, Deadeye watched the walkway follow the remains of Tower 127 down out of sight.
* * *
Across the gap in Tower 114, Lord Targon watched as the walkway crumbled, trying to see Rathgan’s tower through the dust and smoke. Finally he sat back and waited for Rathgan’s confirmation that the Imperial hadn’t escaped.
* * *
A harsh laugh snapped Deadeye’s attention back to the interior of the tower. Silently cursing himself for his inattention, Deadeye glared at the enemy sniper standing in the shadows to the left of the door. As his eyes quickly adjusted, Deadeye saw that this was not Targon. The sniper was a short, stocky traitor with a scarred face and a longlas leveled at Deadeye’s heart.
Watching Deadeye carefully, the rebel raised his free left hand and pressed the talk button of his com. “Lord Targon, this is Rathgan.”
“Yes,” came back Targon’s smooth voice, colored with just a hint of anticipation.
Taking advantage of his enemy’s preoccupation, Deadeye struck. With reflexes born of Vanderdecken, Deadeye’s left hand leapt out and knocked the barrel of the rifle away as the sniper fired. The shot sizzled through the air and grazed Deadeye’s left arm. As Deadeye’s hand latched onto the barrel of the gun, his right foot rose to deliver a brutal kick to the sniper’s groin. Rathgan’s half-formed words transformed into a shriek of agony as his hand clenched the talk button on his com. Stepping towards his foe, Deadeye drew his knife with an upwards motion and plunged it into Rathgan’s heart, the well tempered steel entering smoothly between the traitor’s ribs. The shriek turned into a full-throated scream as Deadeye drove his knife deeper into the freely bleeding wound.
As the traitor’s screams died in a gurgle, Deadeye knelt down beside the body. Ignoring the stench of fresh blood, he wiped his knife on the rebel’s fatigues and pulled the vox assembly from the traitor’s head. After sheathing his knife, Deadeye spoke into the com, its talk button still depressed by the dead sniper’s rigid fingers, “And that, Targon, is the sound of the Emperor’s justice.” Rising, Deadeye smashed the com link against the wall.
There was probably one at each end of the walkway, thought Deadeye, so Targon must be in Tower 114. Unslinging his rifle, Deadeye ran up a flight of steps and out onto a walkway to head off Targon.
* * *
In Tower 114, Lord Targon checked the contacts on his lasrifle’s hotshot pack and adjusted his scope as he walked through the tower. This Imperial is amusing, if nothing else. Now it is down to us. Smiling, he ran along a walkway towards another tower.
* * *
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Old 15 Aug 2007, 10:42   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: High Death

Deadeye jogged along several walkways, heading towards a tower that commanded a good view. Once there he’d locate Targon and take him out.
He was still jogging when he saw a flash of reflected sunlight up in the tower he was approaching. Dropping and sliding forward on his knees, Deadeye swung his rifle up and fired at the reflection. The crack of his own rifle was matched with the sharp report of a longlas. Even as he felt the heat of the hotshot round streaking past his head, he saw the spot of light explode in a sprinkle of glass.
As he ran to the end of the walkway, Deadeye slung his rifle and drew his knife and laspistol. Straining his ears for any sign of his foe, Deadeye moved cautiously into the broken tower. He advanced up the stairway slowly, using the pieces of fallen masonry for cover. When he emerged onto the level of the enemy sniper, Deadeye began to search it. He walked quickly through the silent rooms with their smashed furnishings, his steps making no noise on what remained of the once pristine carpet.
Reaching the room from which the shot had come, he found Lord Targon sprawled across the floor with a hole through his left eye, a hole that matched the one through the scope of the dead sniper’s rifle. Leaning against the door jamb, Deadeye silently studied the body for a moment. Then he raised his laspistol and fired three shots into Targon’s chest. Satisfied that the Chaos sniper was dead, Deadeye crossed to the body and pulled off the traitor’s dog tags.
Holstering his laspistol, Deadeye activated his com with his free hand. “Mountain, this is Deadeye.”
“Mountain here,” the other sniper replied.
“You all don’t have to worry about Targon and his companions anymore.”
“You got them?” asked Mountain with a hint of relief and awe.
“All six,” confirmed Deadeye. After a short silence he smiled and continued, “I’ll be back there in a few days to resupply, but there are some things I have to see to first. Deadeye out.”
He stood there for a few minutes, gazing out the window and listening to the wind whistle around the tower. Then he searched until he found a sack and several long sections of rope. Taking his knife, Deadeye bent over Targon’s corpse. Later, a sack was lowered to the ground from a tower overlooking the rebel territory. A patrol found the sack and the news spread all over the city: Lord Targon’s head had been handed to the enemy. Soon everyone knew who had done it.

* * *
At sunset a few days later, a man arrived at the Imperial held area in the High Death. The figure advanced silently along the walkway as several Imperial snipers studied him through their scopes with awe. He moved with an air of quiet confidence, his camouflage cloak flapping gently in the evening wind. Six softly clinking sets of dog tags hung from his belt, shining in the last rays of the setting sun. The name patch on his dust gray armor read “Wilkins”, but his earned name was Deadeye.
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Old 16 Aug 2007, 03:45   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: High Death

40k Enemy at the Gates!

Pros
+Excellent setting descriptions, the terrain depiction provoked a Cities of Death feel like no other story I've encountered
+Great final paragraph, the quote looping made for a statisfying conclusion
+The tower naming and other marksmen terminology made great mood-setters

Cons
-Unnecessary characters built around stereotyped physical features (Targon's sniper retinue)
-A few cheesy 80's action movie scenes included that really shouldn't have been there

Overall, High Death was a fun, unique contribution to the competition that merits applause.
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Old 17 Aug 2007, 17:40   #7 (permalink)
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A great story overall, especially the descriptive writing on the settings and the naming of towers and enemies gave it a very Abnettian feel. I did feel that there was a marked lack of Pronouns, it seemed to me that Deadeye did this, then Deadeye did that and then Deadeye descided to this again. I exaggerate somewhat but I think my point still stands. Otherwise in terms of literary skill this was superb.

I did feel however that an opportunity was somewhat lost for emotional advancement. The loneliness and pressure put on snipers is a topic that can be exploited for a lot of emotional insight and this story lacked much of that which was a shame. It appeared to me that Deadeye was simply "going through the motions" despite facing a host of the enemies most accomplished snipers.

A great story overall and one that certainly merits a vast amount of priase. Whether or not it is worthy of winning this competition I'm not sure about.
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Old 19 Aug 2007, 09:57   #8 (permalink)
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Yes, a great story indeed. It had a great use of suspence, but agreeing with Tom, not enough emotion. It would have been good to see he was human, not an unstoppable sniper.
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Old 16 Sep 2007, 19:42   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: High Death

Sorry to drag this back from the dead, but I’ve been meaning to reply to these comments for a while.

I want to start by saying that I had an awesome time writing the story and was really happy to do as well as I did. It was also really cool just being a part of the competition and I intend to enter as often as we do this. I’d also like to thank you all for your comments on my story. They were insightful and will be useful in developing my future writing. Now onto specifics:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frogger
40k Enemy at the Gates!
That’s really funny . I had never seen anything from that movie until I was almost done with the story. I had planned everything out and was looking for just a bit more inspiration for some description, so I looked at some clips.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frogger
+Excellent setting descriptions, the terrain depiction provoked a Cities of Death feel like no other story I've encountered
+Great final paragraph, the quote looping made for a statisfying conclusion
+The tower naming and other marksmen terminology made great mood-setters
Again, thank you for these comments, I enjoy describing things and I consider it to be one of the things I do well in writing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frogger
Cons
-Unnecessary characters built around stereotyped physical features (Targon's sniper retinue)
-A few cheesy 80's action movie scenes included that really shouldn't have been there
Ah yes, characters. Characters and character development are definitely not my strong points, and if I had to do it over again, the scene where Targon’s companions are introduced would be a scene I’d do differently. Nonetheless, I tried to make the characters easily distinguishable, not the least for my own benefit as a writer . As for the characters being unnecessary, how can you have a high body count without expendable enemies ;D. In all seriousness, they were meant to aid the (attempted) character development of Deadeye. I tried to show, through a description of his reactions throughout the story and the change in his tactics, a growing confidence in his own abilities.
As for the action scenes, I assume you’re comparing them to actions scenes from 80’s shows like the A-Team (Go A-Team!). It’s true that the fight scenes are a little more, I’ll say Rambo-ish, than one normally finds in Guard stories, it was deliberate (I guess I was trying to emulate the feel of all the good Catachan fluff.). It was to show that these men truly were insanely good. A city is a big spot, and there would be a lot of snipers in something like the High Death, and the six best rebel snipers would be quite good indeed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim
A great story overall, especially the descriptive writing on the settings and the naming of towers and enemies gave it a very Abnettian feel. I did feel that there was a marked lack of Pronouns, it seemed to me that Deadeye did this, then Deadeye did that and then Deadeye descided to this again. I exaggerate somewhat but I think my point still stands. Otherwise in terms of literary skill this was superb.
Thank you for the compliments, and I think you do have a very valid point, one which I glad you picked up on (as I hadn’t caught it). In the fight scenes, it was partly unavoidable (as the action moves back and forth a lot, and pronouns aren’t specific enough). In the rest of the story though, you’re absolutely right. That is the second thing I would change if I redid the story (There were a few parts with too many pronouns and I unintentionally swung back to the other extreme).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim
I did feel however that an opportunity was somewhat lost for emotional advancement. The loneliness and pressure put on snipers is a topic that can be exploited for a lot of emotional insight and this story lacked much of that which was a shame. It appeared to me that Deadeye was simply "going through the motions" despite facing a host of the enemies most accomplished snipers.
I think that the time for discussing the loneliness of snipers would have been at the beginning, before he started fighting Targon, but then again compared to the snipers of WWII, Deadeye is not isolated as he talks with the people on the ground relatively often. Either way, that is something I would explore if I redid this.
As for Deadeye simply “going through the motions,” I tried to show that fear (or nervousness, Deathworlders don’t fear anything ) was focusing his thoughts. As I said above, I tried to show that we was scared at the beginning (his reaction to hearing Targon and the sweat on his palms), but gradually became more confident and more aggressive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Youngy
Yes, a great story indeed. It had a great use of suspence, but agreeing with Tom, not enough emotion. It would have been good to see he was human, not an unstoppable sniper.
Thanks for the compliment on the suspense, that’s always gratifying. As for the lack of emotion, I can only repeat that I tried (tried being the key word here ) to show the change of his character, but as I said, character development has never been my strong point. Though, for my first major attempt at character development I was very happy with how it did.

I was fortunate to come across a pair of good stories while writing this entry (but after I had planned it). These were Shooter by Jack Coughlin, Casey Kuhlman, and Donald A. Davis and the short story “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell. Shooter gave me insight into many aspect of modern sniper warfare (in which the snipers are not as isolated as in WWII). “The Most Dangerous Game” was purposefully doing what I was unconsciously trying to do, to show a change in a character by his change in tactics. I recommend reading both if you can.


Again, thank you all for your comments and congratulations to you all on your stories.
TB
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