Damion Fitz Intro v.2

Joshua Jones

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392
#1
Thank you, once again, to all those who reviewed the earlier version of this introduction to Damion Fitz. I have taken much of the advice you gave to heart and made some significant changes.

This section is not the introduction to the novel as a whole, the Luyten/Tauron conflict, or the Tauron military, but it is the first section with Damion as a protagonist. He is an "Irregular", which is a penal division of the Tauron military, and "Irregulars are expendable" is something of an informal motto/catchphrase of the division, meaning somewhere between "embrace how horrible things are" and "We get more done with less". As for the Luytens, at this point, it is known that their armies are either entirely drone armors or entirely occupied by a human (technically transhuman, derisively called "mind links" and variations thereof) but not why.

Also, it should be noted that there are some edits for clarity to the present readers, such as using the term "powered armor", over "Minotaur".

Thanks in advance for reading!

Chapter 23: Desperation and Resignation.
YZ Ceti (c)
Disputed Luyten/Tauron space
25 April, 2556



Damion Fitz shuddered as the clamps locked in place, securing his powered armor into the launch vehicle. He hated this mode of insertion; he’d take a transport shuttle deployment or amphibious entry any day. Even an orbital drop was preferable to being placed inside a glorified cruise missile and fired at the objective.

“Clear launch bays Alpha through Epsilon,” the announcer voice said. “Strike team, prepare to launch.”

“5:06” appeared on his visor, denoting how long this particular ordeal would last. He would be out of it for at least the first minute, though; the g forces at launch were significant enough that, despite his g-suit and training, he would lose consciousness almost immediately and only recover fully when the acceleration stopped at roughly mach 5. Of course, they never gave Irregulars the decency of a countdown or…


Damion awoke to a massive headache and the visor numbers counting down from “3:57”. Damn these launch insertions!

The next couple minutes of maintaining speed, while not enjoyable, were at least not as openly hostile to his comfort as a forced G-LOC nap and the utter misery that is deceleration. This was its own problem, though. Damion knew when his mind wasn’t occupied with fighting g forces or Luytens, his nerves would creep in, or his mind would wander back to the life he had lost with his sentence. Before he was condemned to the Vela’s tidally locked training ground, before nearly half of his training company was executed by the instructors, before the brutality conditioned him into an Irregular. The faces of those he lost, first in training, then in combat over the last year, forced their way into his mind. Benson, Cruz, Almut, Yankee Company, ’36, ’53…

“Nope, not going there” he said, willing his mind toward the mission. He couldn’t face those ghosts right now. Instead, he reread the mission briefing, out loud, to himself.

“Let’s see, background: Having secured the continent YZ Ceti (c) 1…they need to come up with a better name… we are now seeking to establish blah, blah, blah, foothold on continent YZ Ceti (c) 2…take over Luyten supply base. Skip ahead, skip ahead sending the Irregulars. Launching them across the ocean rather than droping them off like normal people. Maybe they live, maybe they die, no one really cares. More bullsh** about the importance of this mission, sandwiched between drivel and clichés about serving your nation. Not that they gave me much of a choice in the matter.”

“Deployment vehicle separation immanent,” his suit’s OS announced. “Please prepare for deployment.”

The deployment vehicle broke apart around him, leaving him a hypersonic projectile over the ocean. Damion felt a momentary sense of panic, visualizing his body skipping across the open sea, before his glider wings and deceleration jets activated. The next minute and a half was spent with his body’s supply of blood being forced into his eyeballs as he slowed. Reason #2 he hated this sort of insertion.

When he’d decelerated enough that the pneumatics in his suit wouldn't explode and limbs tear off, Damion swung around to an upright, feet first landing position. The change made the g forces more tolerable, his vision returning to normal almost immediately. It also gave him a clear view the continental beach and the storage facility he would be infiltrating. An orbital strike destroyed several Anti-air guns and punched a hole in the facility’s dome shaped shield. In... 38 seconds, he would be at this newly created entry point. A good flight computer would take him right through the center. Irregulars didn't get good computers. Reason #3 he hated these insertions.

Damion’s muscles gradually tensed in fear and anticipation as he neared the hole in the dome. He had decelerated to less than 100 m/s, but he would still be converted to a fine paste and bone fragments if he hit the wall. He held his breath as the dome neared.

He breathed a sigh of relief as it became clear that his fate was not as a smear on the wall. However, after a year of hellish combat on this rock, he knew he was still far from safe. He still needed to get on the ground and survive long enough for the rest of his squad to land before he stood a chance. While he was not nearly optimistic enough to anticipate no resistance, he hoped that the Luytens had at least not regrouped enough to shoot him out of the air.

Projectiles flew as he entered the storage room, declaring as only bullets can that the Luytens had, in fact, regrouped. Steel crates littered the room, which provided cover for the opposing soldiers. He decided to forego the soft landing, ejected his wings, and rolled out of the impact as another counter began at 0:06. At 0:00, Lexx would be on his lap. The automatic fire was already zeroing on his position. Damion needed to move. Now.

He came to a stop as the computer counted “Five”. Bullets whizzed by, bouncing off the crates. He made a break to his right as he produced his sidearm; a three barreled shotgun with explosive pellets. He bounded over a crate...

“Four.”

...and practically into the arms of a Luyten soldier. They raised their weapons simultaneously, but Damion was faster with the trigger. A shotgun blast sent a spray of bloodless metal in all directions.

“Three.”

A second blast to the downed armor ensured the kill, but still no blood. “Drones,” Damion mouthed as he replaced his sidearm and drew his battle rifle.

“Two.”

Damion turned back toward the entry point and opened fire on the drones, dropping one and causing the rest to seek shelter. He used this opening to throw a jammer grenade toward them. He dove for cover as gunfire came from his side.

“One.”

The jammer clinked on the cement floor and activated, disabling the drones for a few seconds. That was all infiltration force needed.

Lexx half flew, half fell through the hole, landing in a less controlled roll; his feet touched first, followed by his head, then ass, feet again, and chest in rapid succession. He was back on his feet and to Damion's position by the time the next counter read “Two.”

“Drones?” Lexx asked as he jumped the crate, scoring a bloodless kill on the Luyten trying to maneuver behind Damion.

“So far. Just like the other continent.”

“Tin cans, mind links… only difference is the cleanup.” Garza chimed in as he descended, floating down while his automatic weapon roared to life. “Secure the ingress point while the rest of the platoon lands.”

“Rodger Garza.”

Damion and Lexx spread out as Givens’ countdown reached one. Instead of an anticipated grenadier, though, they heard a loud thump, were pelted by a shower of debris, and Givens’ armor skidded lifelessly across the floor.

“Givens!” Damion called instinctively, but he resisted his first impulse to go to Givens’ aid. There was no point; Givens had died before he hit the ground.

Sargent Kelsow arrived a few seconds later. “Form up, men… Where’s Givens?”

Lexx pointed toward Givens’ mangled armor. “Soup in a can, Sarge.”

“Damn. Hell of a way to start an op…” Kelsow trailed off, then shrugged. “Irregulars are expendable; his weapon isn’t. Lexx, Fitz, secure his weapon. It will be synched to Fitz’ biometrics by the time you get there. Garza, suppressing fire. Move!”
 
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Brian G Turner

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#2
I'm still hearing a mostly objective narrator, rather than a subjective character experience. This isn't a fatal criticism, especially in a genre such as science fiction which is more renown for the cerebral nature of the story ideas, rather than the emotional development of its characters.

However, I think you would still need to look to condense - some of those dialogue sections still come across as too long. Think in terms of what point of information you really need to get across, then state that with the least number of words necessary.

Also, watch out for those missing little details. For example, near the start you mention an "announcer voice" giving instructions, which is vague and doesn't suggest a chain of command as might be expected in military SF. Sometimes you seem too focused on the physics of the projectile to the exclusion of other useful details that could provide a vivid image or feeling in the reader.

However, I can see that you have tried to push on the character experience and made an effort with this rewrite, which is definitely good - I just feel you're missing something still - perhaps a mixture of being concise and using little details to fullest effect?

Normally I'd recommend writing books but I think I already mentioned those last time. What I'd do instead here is recommend that you make a point of reading the greats of military SF - and by that I mean read them and then read them again, not as a reader, but as a writer, looking to how different authors tell their story. Heinlein's Starship Troopers and Halderman's The Forever War should probably be high on such a list.

In the meantime, good luck. :)
 

Joshua Jones

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Messages
392
#3
I'm still hearing a mostly objective narrator, rather than a subjective character experience. This isn't a fatal criticism, especially in a genre such as science fiction which is more renown for the cerebral nature of the story ideas, rather than the emotional development of its characters.

However, I think you would still need to look to condense - some of those dialogue sections still come across as too long. Think in terms of what point of information you really need to get across, then state that with the least number of words necessary.

Also, watch out for those missing little details. For example, near the start you mention an "announcer voice" giving instructions, which is vague and doesn't suggest a chain of command as might be expected in military SF. Sometimes you seem too focused on the physics of the projectile to the exclusion of other useful details that could provide a vivid image or feeling in the reader.

However, I can see that you have tried to push on the character experience and made an effort with this rewrite, which is definitely good - I just feel you're missing something still - perhaps a mixture of being concise and using little details to fullest effect?

Normally I'd recommend writing books but I think I already mentioned those last time. What I'd do instead here is recommend that you make a point of reading the greats of military SF - and by that I mean read them and then read them again, not as a reader, but as a writer, looking to how different authors tell their story. Heinlein's Starship Troopers and Halderman's The Forever War should probably be high on such a list.

In the meantime, good luck. :)
Well, you can never go wrong with advice like "read great milsf"! Thanks for giving me an excuse to pick Starship Troopers back up.

Seriously though, thank you for taking the time to review this. I will take a good, hard look through the dialogue and see what can be cut without compromising characterization. It also sounds like I need to reassess my attempted balance between technical details and characterization. What I am attempting to do is create character driven, mostly hard SF (I am including FTL, but everything else is hard). My idea was to include enough detail that someone could go back through and run the details for themselves, but to present it through the eyes of the character based on their way of seeing the world. A housekeeper, for example, isn't likely to be talking about centerfugal forces and tensile strengths, but she may note that the space colony curves up, rather than down like the terrestrial colony she grew up in. It sounds like I need to work on this balance a bit more, though.

Thanks again for the review!
 
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Messages
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#4
Much stronger than the previous version. The part where he is talking to himself does run on a bit. Maybe alternate between aloud and thoughts:

"Maybe they live, maybe they die". Not like I had much choice in the matter.

On that note, "not that they gave me much choice..." is how you would talk to someone else, but "not that I had much choice" is more how someone would talk to themselves. When people are talking or thinking to themselves, do read those sections aloud to hear if they are genuine or not.


The best military powered suit combat book I've read is John Steakley's Armor. You might check that out.
 

Joshua Jones

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Messages
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#5
Thank you for the review and recommendations. I haven't heard of that book before, so I will have to see about tracking it down. I have quite a range of powered armors in this universe, and each has a slightly different role and doctrine in their respective militaries, so it will be interesting to see what Steakley did with it.

Interesting point about how one talks to oneself. I actually did voice that one and thought it sounded fine, but perhaps I am the odd one here... That said, I will certainly take a look at the monologue there and see what can be cut without loosing the character and his purpose of stalling/keeping his mind occupied until the decelerating starts.

Thanks again for the review, and I am glad you enjoyed this one!
 

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