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Usher X

 Post subject: Usher X
PostPosted: Sat Mar 01, 2008 9:16 pm 
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Hi,

In my earlier post 'Vitrian Glass' I mention a planet of my own creation called Usher X. Well, I wrote up a vingette featuring this planet, more to flesh it out than anything. I'd like to know what you think. It features an original character of mine, an albino bounty hunter by the name of Cole Clay.

Here it is. Any suggestions? Comments? I know the dialog isn't the greatest and it kind of fizzles out at the end, but it's a work in progress. Either way, enjoy.

...........................................................................................................

“It’s good to be back” thought bounty hunter Cole Clay as he guided his flyer into the air-lane and started on down the street, “Definitely good to be back”

Clay had been working on a contract from the local Arbites to re-capture a Darkgrovian money-launderer who had escaped from law enforcement custody after a shuttle crash on the way to Usher X’s infamous supermax prison. The man had been able to evade capture for several days through the use of an enviro-suit, but had cornered himself after breaking into a communications relay station on the planetoid’s cratered surface. After that, it had been the relatively simple task of extracting him from the airlocked relay hut, where he had been recharging his air-cells using the station’s recycled air supply.

The man was now situated in the back of Clay’s flier, secured and sedated in a space roughly the size of a small closet. A rather different end than the one the criminal had been envisioning, Clay thought.

The flier continued on down the street. Well, ‘tunnel’ would be a more precise term. Usher X was composed of many large cities hewn out of a mineral-rich planetoid. It had evolved, over it’s four-thousand-year history of habitation, from a small group of prefab mining structures into the massive and mind boggling honeycomb of artificial caverns and winding tunnels that was Usher X today, most hewn from solid rock by the colony’s famous and iconic laser-drills. The street that Heywood was currently guiding his hover-transport down was roughly fifteen stories tall from floor to ceiling, and shaped like a cathedral arch, a flat floor with walls rising up to meet a vaulted ceiling. It sported a conventional two-lane road along the tunnel floor and several levels of sidewalks rising up along the gray-stone walls to the arched tunnel roof above. Sunlight shafted in from the end of the tunnel, through an immense airtight plastisteel window, which allowed a glimpse of the herd of ship-traffic that swarmed around the planetoid like bees circling a hive, ready to defend it to the last. But these ships, on the other hand, were here to trade; to buy and sell goods, rather than to fight to the death.

Needless to say, because of this view and the sunlight it offered, space along the routes leading to and from docking stations was at a premium. Most of Usher X was situated relatively deep in the rock, and sunlight was unable to penetrate into these areas. (That’s not to say that Usher X was a gloomy place. Most of the city was well-lit and comfortably airy, but floodlights and streetlamps cannot always compare to natural sunlight.)

As such, these lots were expensive and, as Clay could see as he continued down the tunnel, only the swankiest and most offworlder-friendly shops were set up here. There were the usual fast-food chain restaurants, selling burgers and rolls to hungry offworlders and natives alike in cheap foam and paper containers, as well as dine-in restaurants, giving a taste of Usherian cuisine to the new arrivals. There were gift shops too, selling Usher-themed paraphernalia of all kinds, from hats and shirts with the Usherian flag printed on them to miniature laser pointers made to look like the drills that had carved the colony out from solid rock. “Take home a small piece of what made Usher great!” the signs read. They neglected to mention that the only things that the lasers would be able to cut might be the use of one’s eye if one was careless enough to shine the beam into it.

Clay came to the end of the street and hung a right, heading down an equally wide tunnel that ran an angle to the one he had just left. It was lit with ceiling-mounted glow-globes and sheet-white floodlights, as well as the occasional neon sign or hololithic advertisement, proclaiming the virtues of the latest clothing line, liquer brand, or aircar model. ‘Valini, The Only Choice for Class’, ‘Ironmark Industrial Manufacturing, Beyond Good Enough.’ This last slogan Clay personally knew. Ironmark Industrial manufacturing was a Solarikan company owned by the parents of a Shadow Front detective named Liam Ironmark, an Inquisition trained psyker who had, for a time, served as Interrogator to an Inquisitor Obscura, but had returned to the Shadow Front in the end. Ironmark and Clay had worked together on the planet Tiberia, during Operation Darkness Falls, the details of which were, and still are, Inquisition classified.

Clay continued on for several more minutes, zigzagging through air traffic destined for places unknown to all but their rude drivers, and passing familiar landmarks along the way. There was the small library where he had first found that copy of The Spheres of Longing by Inquisitor Ravenor, and above which was the ‘Lectum Dei’ fraternity lodge, the secret society in which Clay was ranked a ‘Fellow Lantern-bearer’. There was the ‘Club Imperial’ pound club, one of several of the venerable club-chain servicing this particular city, and to which Clay was a regular patron. There was the “Music Hole” music shop wherein he had purchased his first Bloodshot album, Bloodshot being a local Deathpound group and one of Clay’s favorite bands.

There was the Olive Tree restaurant.

The site of the famous and much publicized shootout between Usherian Police and the ‘Usher Citizens’ Parliament’ terrorist group. Clay had been central in the takedown, clearing the restaurant of around twenty terrorists before backup arrived. The local media and news agencies often portrayed it as a heroic battle of tactical skill over numbers and, to a certain extent, it was. But Clay also knew that it had been chaos and sheer dumb luck that had gotten him through alive, rather than the tactical brilliance so often attributed to his victory. Little did the public know that Special Tactics estimated there to be only five terrorists inside the restaurant, rather than the twenty men that it had ended up being. He had expected five, not twenty, going in. He had also expected that the officers on scene would back him up, which they did, but had retreated after taking extensive fire and losing several men, unwittingly leaving Clay to fight his way to safety alone. In the end, it had been sheer luck that he had gotten out again, despite what the news-picts told you.

Clay passed the restaurant and continued on. After a while, he exited the tunnel and entered a massive cavern, large enough to hold five thousand cathedrals comfortably. Buildings sat along the cavern’s surface, many of them sunk into the ground itself, creating kind of a pit in the center of the massive space, with buildings extending out of it like the teeth of some great beast, hungry for steel, iron, and neon. Buildings peppered the sides of the cavern wall, too. Wealthy Usherians’ homes, sitting in alcoves hewn out of the rock itself, like small, square cupboards in a massive kitchen wall, although mismatched, some smaller than others, some bigger, some just containing a small dwelling and flyer landing pad, others containing lawns covered in culture-grown grass, as well as personal tennis courts and private hot-tubs or pools. Clay owned a property like this one, tucked away in a small alcove halfway up the wall. He couldn’t spot it from where he was, but he knew it was there, a decent-sized house tucked into a man-made alcove in the rock. This was his eventual destination, but first he needed to drop off his captive.

Clay turned the wheel of the small flier and banked the craft toward an adjacent tunnel. Steering the craft into the space, small and cramped after the mind-numbing vastness of the previous chamber, he continued for the police precinct. He drove for several minutes, and finally, after turning a corner onto a street lined with pharmacies and clothing shops, he spotted it, tucked into an alcove at ground level, its barred windows and the void-shielded landing pad on its roof, reserved for rapid-response vehicles, making it look like a great undersea beast, lying in wait to seek out and devour the next meal that floated its way.

Clay guided the flier instead into the civilian parking lot, settling it on a pad and letting the engine idle. He reached over and opened the glove box. From within it Clay pulled a digi-key and a solid-round handgun, specifically a Marletto 5000C. The sleek 9 mil was an excellent, reliable weapon with smooth, wave-ish contours and a twelve shot magazine. He half rose from his seat and slipped the weapon into a concealed carry holster situated at five o clock on his belt. He had taken the gun off upon entering his vehicle because it would have been very hard, not to mention potentially dangerous, to be sitting on it all the way to the station.

Clay got out of the car and went around to the rear. He inserted the digi-key into the lock and opened the containment trunk. It was a small compartment with a bare metal chair to which a man in orange overalls was handcuffed. He was stirring.

Clay drew his weapon. The pistol felt solid in his grip, his trigger finger indexed out along the frame, resting slightly curved along the outer front of the trigger guard.

Clay advanced on the man and unshackled him from the chair. He then hauled the prisoner to his feet, still covering him with the compact handgun. Clay then turned on his heel and marched him toward the police precinct. Surprisingly, the man put up little resistance, probably because of the drugs that were just now wearing off.

Clay marched the man across the white-lined parking lot and through the glass front doors of the Police precinct. It was a long room, bathed in blue-white light emanating from grated lamps suspended from the ceiling by chords. The walls were lined with reception desks staffed by clerks in blue0black cotton shirts and leather police caps. Holstering his weapon, Clay sat the man down on one of the hard plastic chairs running along the outer part of the atrium, and secured him with the heavy brass shackles securely attached to the chair’s metal armrests. After making sure he wasn’t going to get loose, Clay went over to one of the blue-clad receptionists. Before he could speak, however, several figures advanced up the hall toward him.

They were tall and imposing, clad in blue-black leather stormcoats under which they wore black body armor and tactical vests. They were wearing helmets with dark, imposing full-face visors. However, Clay got the distinct impression that he could somehow sense their gaze, their stares bleeding out from under the dark shock-plastic of the helmets. These were members of the famous USHERTAC77 Tactical Response Unit, the ‘Leather Gestapo’. They approached Clay and one of the officers removed his helmet. He was a gaunt man in his late thirties, his already pale skin being drained even further of color by the harsh lamps illuminating the hall.

“Mr. Clay,” he said confidently, “Looks like you have our prisoner. We’ll take it from here. The money’s been transferred to your account and someone will be in touch shortly to give you all the details. You do realize, of coarse, that you may need to be called upon later to give testimony or evidence in court. This man will need to be re-charged. He killed several Supermax prison guards. This isn’t something we just…wave away,”

“I understand,” Clay acknowledged.

“Good. Just head on through those doors right there and wait a moment. The precinct chief wishes to speak with you. Thank you for your help, Mr. Clay, and we hope you’ll work with us again,”

“I hope so too,” Clay replied.

With a nod, the figures advanced on Clay’s prisoner, unslinging Usher Defense VT4 ‘Medusa’ autorifles from their shoulders. These boxy weapons, mostly made from high-strength ceramics and polymers, were standard issue for the Supermax prison guards, and very common in police armories across the planetoid. The man who had spoken to Clay, and who was apparently an officer, lacked a rifle, and instead drew his sidearm, a heavy, bulky Torlan 6 autopistol. This heavy .50 caliber slug-chucker, with its rubberized grip, squareish lines, and extended eighteen round magazine, was also a common police weapon, although, measuring almost twelve inches from the front of the trigger guard to the muzzle, was used more commonly as a PDW than a sidearm.

The men unshackled and dragged off the felon, shoving him down a side corridor. When he had disappeared, Clay proceeded through the door that the officer had indicated, which turned out to lead to a small conference room. The chief was waiting inside, a large, beefy man with graying hair and an equally gray stubble-beard, he wore a tightly checkered shirt and creased, tan suit pants, not to mention a shoulder holster in which a six-shot Cobretti C10 ‘Hammerhead’ automatic pistol reclined.

The man motioned for Clay to sit and he did. They spent the next twenty minutes going over the specifics of the takedown, as well as what would happen afterward. Clay knew, however, what the procedure was, having gone through it countless times in his one-hundred-and-five-year bounty-hunting career.

After finishing his debriefing he was allowed to leave. He exited the precinct and headed for his flier. Two minutes later Clay was in the air, and heading for his home. He keyed the radio and turned to an ‘offworld music’ station. Being a trading center, Usher X saw its fair share of music from across the Imperium. This particular track, an upbeat pound piece from Throne knew where, was relaxing, just the thing to chill to after a hunt. Another day, another job. And it was great to be home.


…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………


Well, what did you think. I wanted it to be a “cross section” of this particular planet, as well as a look at the drudgery that must accompany a bounty hunter’s work. You always see the firefights and the chases, but rarely the drudgery and legal procedure behind it. That’s what I like about the Eisenhorn and Ravenor trilogies. They show the boring side of Inquisitorial work as well. And you gotta admit, it makes the firefights all the more tense.

Your comments are much appreciated and will help further refine this story.

Thanks.

Peace out and God bless.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 4:02 pm 
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Since this has evolved beyond questions concerning fluff to a work of fiction, I have moved this post to the Story Telling forum.

The main thing that strikes me about this planet is how clean and pleasant it all seems to be, and the overall lack of 40K-specific references. It seems a bit too generic in my opinion. The stereotypical citizen of the Imperium of Man lives a short, miserable existence on a planet that has been rendered barely habitable by centuries of war and/or uncontrolled industrial development. His life is characterized by ignorance (which he is taught to believe is a blessing), unrelenting racist and fascist propaganda, religious fundamentalism, superstition (especially concerning topics like technology and psykers), endless layers of arcane bureaucracy and the hopeless belief that dying in the name of the Emperor is about the best future they can hope for. All of these things seem to be lacking in this story. Of course, some planets and some parts of planets are better than others. Even so, I don't think Usher X is dysfunctional enough to really fit the setting.

Unless you really want the planet to be atypically pleasant, you might add in some references to the miserable wretches who toil away in the lower tunnels and sumps to make this life of leisure possible. Mention the endless labors of the Techpriests who insure the ancient air recirculating machines continue operating, and how the entire population would die horribly without them. Give the scribe at the precinct some needlessly bulky and archaic cybernetics. Give the people some sign of their superstitious devotion to Him on Earth.

I would also change the numbering of "Usher X". I assume that you are really using it as the roman numeral for 10, but sticking an "X" on the front or back of a word has all sorts of other connotations. I generally associate it with cheap attempts to make something cooler, more edgy or "Xtreme". I would just try to avoid any possible confusion by using another number (like VIII or IX) or using arabic numerals (10) instead.

Cyber 14 wrote:
The street that Heywood was currently guiding his hover-transport down
Heywood?

Cyber 14 wrote:
‘Leather Gestapo’
I would avoid any sort of 20th century cultural references. Warhammer 40K takes place so extremely far in the future, that references like this would not have survived.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 5:00 pm 
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Hey Venator,

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I really appreciate your comments.

First off, about the 'Heywood' typo. Just that, a typo. I was searching through my self-written fluff folders on my computer for scraps of information and, being tired, I must have typed the wrong name.

Next up, 'Leather Gestapo' the word 'gestapo' is simply a contraction of the German term 'Geheime Staatspolizei' or 'secret state police'. It doesn't necessarily represent the Nazi Gestapo. Seeing as the German race still exists in the form of the Kriegians (and, in my fluff, the Darkgrovians, from the harsh planet of Darkgrove), the language survives as well (even in GW approved fluff), and seeing that Usher X is culturally diverse, being a trading center, it would naturally see a plethora of cultural references from all corners of the Imperium.

In fact, some traces of twentieth century cultural references survived, according to the Black Library, including the 'thousand monkeys working at a thousand typewriters' joke, from the Ravenor books.

I agree that what is shown of the planet is clean and pleasant. What is shown is the glamorous, ritzy sections of town, where rich traders and shipmasters would congregate. But I agree, I should at least make reference to the poorer side of life, the factories and mines and works quarters, of which there are plenty. I didn't even touch on some areas' gang problems, the hunting of which gave Clay his start, hunting down outlaws and gang leaders for the Arbites or rival gangs.

So thanks for your comments. They will definitely go toward making Usher X (sorry, but the name appears in too many of my published stories to change now) a, well maybe not a better place, but a more 40k-ish one.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 7:28 pm 
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Cyber 14 wrote:
In fact, some traces of twentieth century cultural references survived, according to the Black Library, including the 'thousand monkeys working at a thousand typewriters' joke, from the Ravenor books.


I'm in the middle of reading the new Sandy Mitchell novel Scourge the Heretic (aka the "Dark Heresy" novel, and also my first 40K novel ever), and this kinda thing happens a LOT. It may just be the writer's limitation or desire to communicate ideas using modern analogies, I dunno. I just roll with it and imagine that they're actually saying some less 20th century, and that the author has merely "translated" it for us. ::shrugs::

The only time I get thrown off when reading when I encounter typos. Black Library, Black Industries, and Games Workshop have the worst editors when it comes to basic language skills. Seriously. I guess I just expect things to be well proofread at LEAST a dozen times (especially for the final version) before sending it to the printers.

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