Opening Chapter

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Opening Chapter

Postby Archaic Lobster » September 17th, 2007, 2:13 pm

I'm writing something and I just want to know what people think. Also nobodies posted in this forum for a while.

An Evening Dark wrote:Chapter 1
The evening was turning into night. The sun, declining slowly into the hillside, threw out gold into the greying sky as though to bribe against oblivion, while dull clouds advanced further into the paling blue.
Ellis looked up at the scene with furrowed brows. He imagined the clouds to be conquering the stars like an invading force capturing towns. Alone in a patch of fading blue sky stood the moon, like the capital city, awaiting the enemy with hopeless bravado.
“John?” She asked, tentatively. He turned his head from the moon. “You’ll write, won’t you?”
“You know the mail,” He scoffed. He changed his tone, however, when he saw Laura’s downcast eyes. “Of course I will.”

After he’d gone she wondered in the garden alone. The moon, still resisting the throws of the clouds, had outlasted the sun and thus provided the only light for the night, a full and silvery light that gave the garden an ethereal tone. Boughs and leaves on sycamore trees swayed calmly to the slight wind as though deep underwater, following a current. Laura followed the wind up the garden to the very northernmost extremity, and let her eyes fall on the gentle hills that had taken in the sun before lifting them up to the turbulent heavens.
Of war she saw nothing of the kind above, but stared at the magnificence of the broken constellations –of which she knew many- and admired the swirling, swooping clouds rather than feared them. For Laura did not have the knowledge or desire of war that would have given her the imagination for it, but had the intelligence and sincerity of spirit to appreciate such a fine a thing as this one night, and what it meant for both Ellis and herself.

Does it read well enough? This is the first draft, so I haven't really looked over it yet. Obviously it needs panning out a little, but I can do that later...
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Postby biscuit » October 22nd, 2007, 12:13 pm

I like it, I think it reads pretty well for a first draft. Must be pretty good as I'm already wondering what war Ellis is going to fight in, and how long Laura can last before being drawn into it.

More please!
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Postby Archaic Lobster » October 22nd, 2007, 10:11 pm

Thanks for replying!

Ok, the rest of the chapter goes like this:

An Evening Dark wrote:Captain Taylor, slightly irritated, checked all his equipment and surveyed the crew in the hallway one last time before embarking the Equinox. There wasn’t much time to talk because they had to set off soon, and in any case there was too much noise here to make himself properly heard. Crews, engineers and personnel of all kind scurried through the hallway all the time because this was the only way from the city to the Hanger, which was constantly busy. Although they talked little their boots made an industrial clanking on the iron floor below, which was magnified to an infuriating degree as perhaps a hundred people or so were passing through at any given moment. Hardly a place to assemble a squad, Taylor thought.
He looked at them in turn. There, closest to him, stood insolent tower known as Simon Redwood -the pilot. He was young (an increasingly common sight in the armed forces), blond-haired and extremely worn. His face was laced with a thin coating of oil, and his hair was dulled with grease. He hadn’t even shown up in uniform.
The glare of the old Captain drifted on to the new girl. It had to drift quite a bit to the right of Redwood because she had inched away from the pilot with commendable subtlety. In terms of apparel she was notably dissimilar to, if not the mirror opposite of him; dressed immaculately in the standard uniform of a political captain. The boots were well polished and untarnished by dirt (this met with Taylor’s disapproval- he was a firm believer in common dirt and honest toil), as were her baggy grey-green leggings that disappeared under a rather large coat of the same colour. Above that, with bright blonde hair glowing like snow at the summit of a particularly fetching mountain, rested Julia Forde’s angelic face. Even Taylor, in his cavernous, hermetical disdain for other people, allowed his eyes to recuperate benignly for a few moments, managing to glance away to the third party before the action lingered on the rude.
The glance took in the apprentice pilot in one go. There was no recuperation or lingering, benignly or otherwise, on the part of Taylor when it came to the figure on the left of Redwood. Mark Durham was no superlative of either beauty or ugliness since he was in the presence of two people who embodied them best, but made up for this lack of external quality by having an oversupply of attitude. Most of the time it was controlled and docile, resting below the surface like water in a tank. When shaken it would spill over into fairly recognisable emotions, but the tank was heavy and rested on a solid foundation of morals, careful thought and a natural talent for reservation. Physically he was nothing particularly special; a boring black shirt covered lamely by the standard-issue jacket, and the usual watertight grey-green leggings everyone wore. His almost steely looking blond hair, as uninspiring as anything else about his person, always looked on the verge of submitting to greyness. Somehow it never took the plunge.
The eyes of Taylor flitted greedily back to Forde, and he cleared his throat.
“Glad to have you on board, Forde.” He began, regretting the rhyme immediately, “as soon as we get out there, we’ll head to dock D17”.
“D18,” Interjected Redwood. “I moved it last night because the Cartographer Ship in the tier above was leaking oil onto the cockpit roof.”
“Oh. D18, then. Just follow us and you won’t get lost. Have you ever been into the Hanger before?”
“No. Never.” The newcomer replied.
“Well, you’re in for a bit of a shock.”
Taylor led them down the iron-floored hall in one orchestral cacophony until they reached a huge, ornate doorway through which thousands of people passed each day. He checked to make sure Forde was right behind him…
…and they launched into the Hanger.

Technically it was all one, gigantic room. Words alone could not give it justice; one look at any area would bring to the eye first a vast space perhaps two miles –perhaps more- long, culminating in rows upon rows of landing pads, service stations, engineer’s buildings, fuel dumps, ships, cargo loaders and so much, much more. In any spot there were people clambering over metal objects, or clinging to chains arcing wide across expanses, handling oil pipes or handling tools and machinery. Above all there was a very prominent sense of purpose that the combined smell of metal, fumes and oil bring, added to the unending sounds of the high-pitched buzzing of mosquito-like crafts propelling themselves across the Hanger, the roar of engines being tested for failure, the ear-splitting torment of cargo being scraped from one place to another.
This was Vitavale’s crowning achievement. It was the commercial hub of the whole of the former Amalgamated Provinces, snapping up ships from the skies like a Venus Fly Trap, gutting them of their contents and spitting them back out. Simultaneously it housed a magnificent array of state-owned craft, including (but not limited to) Vitavalian fighter jets, the best military aircraft in the known world. In addition there were auxiliary craft such as the cartographers, the freighters and bombers. Vitavale’s own enterprising compliment of traders were private, and added a tidy sum to the national economy by paying mooring fees. Nonetheless there was a great amount of wealth to be made from trading, and a healthy and expanding middle class were well on the rise. It was a growth not seen in nearly twenty years, and it was not under appreciated.

Forde stood there for a few moments, fascinated. She had never seen anything quite so vast, quite so industrious, as this one place. She couldn’t believe that she’d never been here before, despite it being the most important asset of the City.
Taylor grabbed her attention. “Come on,” He shouted, above the noise of a nearby pneumatic drill, “Let’s see the ship.” She followed the crew over to a lift, which was one of many wide cages around the complex that lifted people and cargo from the bottom floor all the way up to the Ceiling. As they rose she could see between the squares of steel wire more of the dazzling panorama. In the distance there was a faint letterbox of light through which all ships passed in and out. In the comparative gloom of the Hanger it appeared to be a radiant rectangle of brilliant white light.
The lift clanked to a shattering halt as they levelled with Tier D, roughly a quarter of the total war up. Now she had a clearer view of the fabled Ceiling, a massive blanket of metal that covered most of the City, certainly the better parts of it like the Hanger, the Administration sector, the industrial sectors, and so on. Most of the time it was invisible; there were so many things in the space between the Ceiling and the floor that it couldn’t be seen, like the gigantic cargo hold above the western residential sector (which was, she reflected, quite close by), towering buildings in Administration, or a canopy of cabling in various other parts. It was supposed to be a spectacular sight from the air, like an old and worn blanket draped across the body of Vitavale. It was made of various metals and newer in some parts than others, as though the blanket had been repaired with a newer, different fabric to the original. From here, below, she could see that there were teams of engineers flitting about the iron bars and walkways that netted the underside, occasionally disappearing though manholes in order to get to the surface. There were tales of squads of chained prisoners working up there night and day, constantly repairing the ancient metallic landscape. Sometimes, they said, a prisoner would fall through cracks or thin sections, causing his chained fellows to go with him. The fall could be shallow, or the fall could be very, very far…
They jumped over wires, dodged the wings of other crafts and climbed over boxes to reach D18. It was a tarmac pad, roughly an acre in proportions, and had a worryingly sharp striation running diagonally from corner to corner. No one seemed to mind this –indeed, Simon Redwood, the pilot, seemed to prefer it to D17, which, as he pointed out for the second time that day, was in the direct line of fire from a jet oozing oil on E17.
The Equinox was placed, rather delicately, on D18. It was a truly enormous jet, almost eagle-like in that it had impressive, broad strong wings and talon-like undercarriage. There was a shapely barrel of a body with culminated at the nose in a rather sharp beak, and at the aft in a smaller barrel, like a pipe, which carried a third engine to accompany the ones on the wings. All this was coated in dull lead-coloured paint, except for the black lettering on the side of the barrel of the hold that read, ‘EQUINOX’ in a stylish old font. The whole thing looked as big a house, and Forde was privately sceptical about the whole thing being able to get in the air, let alone stay there for any prolonged period.
“There she is!” Shouted Taylor, unabashedly pleased. He stood before it with his hands on his hips, like a painter standing back to admire a masterpiece.
“It looks very old.” The newcomer said, receiving in return mild glances of dislike from the captain and the pilot.
“It was converted,” Taylor went on, “From a cartographic ship about a decade ago. It was a trader for a time, but now it’s government owned.” He drew, from his pocket, a small remote control, and pressed a button. A section of wall popped from the side of the hold like a jack-in-the-box, and thundered with a murderous clanking noise onto the floor, revealing a set of steel stairs. They groaned woefully as Taylor mounted them and boarded the ship. With a great amount of caution the others followed.

The Equinox, inside, was less luxurious than the exterior let on. The predominating smell upon entry was a musty smell of old paper usually confined to libraries, and nowhere was this more apparent than in the cargo hold, which had been increased twice in size following the ship’s transformation into a trader, and now lay relatively empty due to lack of use. There were various items to be found in here: stacks of cookery books, tangled heaps of orange-green wire that panged sharply of copper, vast swathes of black CDs and an inexplicably immense amount of plastic tubing that occupied one whole quarter of the room. Taylor assured the new arrival that there was nothing of use there, and that anything that could be gleaned had been gleaned many years ago. They moved on to the hold where all the bunks were, and then the short corridor leading to the cockpit.
The cockpit was the most important part of the ship, as Taylor explained, and looked suitably grand. There was a colossal window that gave the pilot a broad view of the outside world, and an equally dominating dashboard, covered in buttons, levers and wheels. Most seemed to crowd around the main steer, lit up against the dark panel like water droplets on a spider’s web. Forde recognised the lever for the throttle, the steer and a handful of symbols that indicated various actions, but only Simon Redwood knew the rest, and he wasn’t telling. He maintained his position as pilot and the small amount of respect from the captain through his tight-fisted unwillingness to divulge trade secrets.
Behind the dashboard to the left was the Navigation Area, which was in truth merely a desk with laminated maps pinned to it (at this point of the tour Mark Durham, who was the navigator, attached a new ruler to the desk with cellotape. It was his only tool). On the opposite side there was simply a worn-looking chair next to the starboard window, where idle members could relax.

“Anyway, initiate the engine.” Ordered Taylor, finally. Simon did so, while the others strapped into whatever seat was available. After leaving the Hanger they were free to do as they pleased, but until then the stability of the craft was not guaranteed. There were accidents in the Hanger every single day.
“Redwood likes to start up the engine in his own manner. He calls it his ‘initiation ceremony’.” Said Durham, sardonically, and turned back to the starboard window.

The floor dropped away from them quite suddenly as the plane shot up vertically. It passed two tiers in a matter of seconds, and then jolted forward before moving much slower.
“All traffic must move around the Hangar clockwise at reduced speed.” Said Taylor, as the jet moved into a stream of other crafts. They picked up a little bit of speed, certainly fast enough for Julia to feel quite dizzy while she looked out of the huge windshield, but Redwood still put the throttle well below fifty percent.
They were heading for the letterbox at an increasing rate. Julia could feel her heart pounding fiercely as the craft moved closer and closer towards the rectangle of light –now a massive opening bearing up on them- as though she were a moth, naively flying towards a candle. They picked up more speed, and she began to feel her heart beat like a drum, a gigantic drum being hammered senselessly as the light began to engulf the gloom of the room. It stabbed at the senses, invaded the four corners, rushed and cut at the passenger mercilessly until she almost screamed with fear, but her voice failed and her throat choked, leaving her a lifeless body glued to a chair, helpless and feebly falling towards oblivion. At the last collected remnants of her wits she imagined herself at the dawn of time itself, the universe being born out of nothing; the intense white light, the immensity of energy, the rush of life.

Then, quite, quite suddenly they were through. The whiteness diminished into recognisable clouds while the gaps were plugged with a brilliant bright blue. Before she had the chance to register the shock the jet pulled down hard, and the panoramic landscape leapt to meet her. She could see it all in one moment: the sweeping grassy downs, the endless twisted forests, the buildings, the aircraft, the rivers, the hedgerows –they crowded her vision until she felt she could go blind with the detail. And then the craft pulled back, Redwood throttled down, and a wave of morphine-like calm swept over her. She noticed her hands gripping the sides of her chair, and released them at once, letting one clasp her chest to keep in her pounding heart as her brain sought for the most superlative of descriptions. She felt born again.
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