Sunday, October 17, 2010

Addicted to Fluff

I recently created an army book to go along with my collection of renegade imperial guard.  The cover photo above was taken by my girlfriend with a basic digital camera, in our dining room.  No, not as professional as the high res shoot my friend did, but it made for a pretty cinematic cover.  Back to the book:  Tonight I thought I would post the fluff piece I wrote for the army book.  The more you know about the Siege of Vraks books, the more the details will make sense; but I would like to hear your opinions either way.  Please go easy on me, I don't write too frequently.

With that in mind, I am not sure if I will be keeping up the pace of posting every day.  I am fairly certain that I can maintain at least twice a week, but I think the "honeymoon" of my blog is going to wear off at some point.  If there are days without posts, do not despair!  I have more than enough projects in my studio to complain about, brag about, whine about, etc...   Enjoy the story!

            Gunnar nearly knocked the door from its hinges as he rushed into the bunk-room of his shared hab-flat, and grinned at his brother. Serge glanced up from the large power drill he had spent the last six months of the past term practicing on, with a skeptical glare in his eyes. The sparsely furnished dormitory swirled with reddish dust, and expectation.
             “Gunnar Holstek,” he read from the academ form, “Pneumatic boring drill proficiency scored at the ninetieth percentile. You may one day surpass your older brother, but not anytime soon!”
             Serge frowned as he looked down at his own forms, attempting to calculate the specific nature of his brother's four and a half percentile lead on his assessment. Was there something he had done wrong during the observed demonstration? He could not remember.
             The fraternal rivalry shared by Gunnar and Serge expressed itself in many ways. Serge had the edge in engineering diagnostics, regimental side-arm training and munitions identification, but Gunnar was beginning to show a distinct lead in all fields regarding resource acquisition. The four-year age difference between them had apparently not been enough to cast them in the roles of mentor and student, so Gunnar took every opportunity to stress the superiority he felt his age decreed. His advanced proficiency with the pneumatic bore was only the latest of these triumphs.
             “I suppose congratulations are in order,” scoffed Serge as he leaned back in his chair, trying his best to look unimpressed, “on securing a lifetime position in the sulphurite mines of the Van Meersland wastes. It has been a childhood dream of mine to one day achieve a position of lifelong servitude.”
             “Do I detect a hint of bitterness?”, Gunnar laughed, picking up his younger brother's pneumatic bore. “A son of Vraks could not hope for a more glorious duty than to plumb our home's very depths, in a show of conquest over the elements.” As Gunnar said this, he held the drive housing of Serge's drill to his groin, and pointed the bit towards the ceiling. “Perhaps your lack of dedication to our home is at the heart of your... shortcomings.” At this, Gunnar let the tool fall limp against the work table, with a mocking wink.
             Serge sneered, and grabbed the drill from his brother. “A son of Vraks knows that in our current situation, whatever conquests are to be gained in the plunder of our home are not ours to covet for very long.” Gunnar stuck out his tongue, smirking. Tossing the drill back onto the table, Serge continued, “Remember: nothing you manage to dig up with that precious tool of yours will ever gain you any glory. The very heart of our planet serves only the Imperium. I've never had any luck riding the Emperor's coattails, no matter their alleged length.”
             “I swear to you, brother. You need a more productive hobby.” Gunnar's ribbing took on a more serious tone. “Cardinal Xaphan's speeches are controversial enough; you certainly should not go around repeating his sentiment.” His smile faded, as he saw Serge tighten his lips at the mention of Cardinal's name.
             As Serge glanced from the academ form to the pneumatic bore resting on the table, Gunnar tried to direct the exchange to a more friendly path. “You should spend less time with your vox-receiver, and more time studying. I could use some competition!”
             Gunnar gave a parting smile, and ran back out of the hab-flat, to boast of his exam scores elsewhere. His laughter and footsteps faded together, leaving his brother in quiet contemplation.
             Perhaps Gunnar was right. Serge had spent little of the last few months focused on his studies, as the Cardinal's broadcasts had begun to take up more and more of his free time. Listening to Cardinal Xaphan praise the efforts and spirit of the Vraksian workers filled Serge with an almost martial pride, even if he could not often recall the content of the captivating speeches afterwards. What had the Cardinal said concerning the assured destruction destined for any and all who would seek to enslave their great home planet? He could not remember.
             Serge looked down, and his eyes traced the line of the filth-encrusted drill bit to the chuck, and tried, tried to remember.

*    *    *

             Serge looked down, and his eyes traced the line of the filth-encrusted drill bit to the chuck, and tried, tried to remember.
             The boring tool had once been housed in a dull, brass-colored drive housing. Now, the drill protruded from the stump of where Company Commander Serge's right forearm once began. When had the device replaced the hand Serge had once used to write? He could not remember.
             Eighteen years of brutal combat had become a blur, and Serge retained only brief images. At some point, Cardinal Xaphan had announced that a great enemy was assuredly coming to plunder their home world. There were riots in the streets, as the ecchlesiarchy stationed at the citadel refused to recognize the Cardinal's claims. Serge recalled his first command as one of the original militarized laborers, which involved breaching the gates of the Basilica of Saint Leonis the Blind. While the tortured screams of the dying sororitas were but an echo to him now, the smell of burning flesh was far more present.
             Commander Serge looked down at the pile of smoking enemy remains that lay in the crater before him. Who were these soldiers he had been leading his forces against? Were they invaders from a foreign planet? Xenos set on the extermination of his people? He could not remember.
             After the fall of the Basilica, there had been a split among the citizens at the capital. Those loyal to Cardinal Xaphan were organized into regiments, and supplied with equipment from the vast armory that lay beneath the planet's surface. All manner of heavy armor and specialized weaponry were available in virtually limitless quantities.
             Serge recalled seeing the Chimera transport he had been assigned to. As it rolled off of the grav-lift, Serge marveled at the efficiency and power of the Standard Template Construction vehicle. Looking over his shoulder at his Company Command transport, Serge could hardly believe it was the same hulk of metal. Surely the STC did not include such grotesque gargoyle faces. Where had all of the eight-pointed stars come from? When had the imperial eagles been removed? He could not remember.
             The segment of the populous that refused to prepare for the coming invasion were chased from the city, and into the wastelands beyond the bastion walls. Years later, there seemed to be evidence that those outcasts had joined with the forces of the enemy. Perhaps those traitors had been providing the invaders with information, which would explain the accuracy of their subterranean breaching charges.
             Serge had been stationed at the eastern segment of the defensive ring. When the invaders finally made planetfall, his regiment was responsible for an almost constant harassment of the flank. What followed were years of attack and withdrawal, bombardment and blitzkrieg. After a series of substantial victories against the invaders, Serge had been promoted to Platoon Commander, then eventually Company Commander. Who had promoted him, Serge could not say.
             Looking at his men, Serge could not distinguish one man from then next. It was easy to recognize his Logistics Officer, by the vox-reciever he always kept held to his ear, and his incessant repetition of coordinates. The gas-masks his militia had been issued had at some point become fused to the faces of his men, and now permanently wide-eyed protective lenses had replaced any sense of individuality or identity. When exactly had this happened? And was his skin always this pale shade of sickly green? He could not remember.
             Commander Serge's Logistic's Officer dropped his vox-receiver from his ear, and turned to him growling “Our orders are to move on, Commander.” Serge knew for a fact that the vox-receiver had not been supplied with a working power cell for at least six years. How could his Officer be communicating with anyone? Serge simply grunted in agreement, and began to return to his vehicle.
             As he kicked aside the torn enemy remains at his feet, a dog-tag caught his eye.
             It read “Gunnar Holstek – Engineering and Sapping - 98th Line of the Death Korps”
             Serge paused; had he ever heard that name before?
             He could not remember.


    (Moray; August, 1040)

    MacMurphy’s head hangs easily from my saddle horn. I’d snatched it in a moment when he couldn’t decide which way to parry.

    MacNulty’s ugly mug provides balance on the other side. He was just slow, or stupid, or tired of living.

    I guess we all get that way eventually;
    slow, or stupid, or tired of living, but that won’t keep me from trying to beat the odds.

    (Boeotia; July, 371 BCE)

    I intend to try something new; something revolutionary that confounds conventional tactics, yet is so subtle in its simplicity as to be easily carried out by nervous men in the face of mortal aggression.
    Tell Cleombrotus, bring on his Spartans.

    (Antioch; July, 1100)

    Damn the wind and curse the sand,
    sunburned face and calloused hand;
    stranger in a foreign land called Outremer.

    Fever tempered, battle scarred,
    cold as steel and twice as hard;
    humorlessly standing guard in Outremer.

    Dark encampment, picket line
    posted on the desert’s spine;
    nourished by the bread and wine of Outremer.

    Take up arms when duty calls.
    Prove to God you’ve got the balls.
    Grit your teeth and storm the walls of Outremer.

    Yet beneath your armored shell,
    can your conscience really tell
    who’s the truer infidel in Outremer?

  4. Thanks Michael. I have read a ton of your poetry, but it never ceases to amaze, or frighten, me.

  5. Comments on both the Picture and the write-up. First off, I thought the picture was awesome for the cover. Cinematic is a good way to describe it. I know nothing about the Siege of Vraks, but the write-up was compelling. My thing was that having no prior knowledge, I just wanted to know what happened?? :)

  6. You've inspired me directly with your army and fluff along with the Siege of Vraks books into making a Renegade army.

    I think I'm going to make a force of Vraksian Grenadiers, trained by the Alpha Legion in the citadel.

  7. That sounds like a very cool idea! I love how throughout the siege of Vraks, the Alpha Legion just sort of did their own thing. Somehow they didn't even have to join up with the Berserkers that overtook the citadel!

    I just finished reading "Legion", and I totally get the Alpha Legion vibe. Good luck, Varg!