Bringing Down The Mountain - Part 1

in fiction •  6 months ago

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The mighty beast opened its fanged maw to roar, and the ground shook in response. The Raiju pilots could feel the reverberations in their bones even from inside the hangar, and covered their ears to block out the sound. Even from this distance the giant monster's voice was deafening, their ears ringing for minutes at a time after each of its howls. Klaxons sounded and they ran for their robots, knowing that they were the last line of defense for the mega-city Hell's Mouth. If that thing made it past the cordon it would be all over for the helpless civilians.

Jazz Tark, pilot of the Vance-Class Raiju called Mojo, climbed the ladder to the cockpit and strapped in. The lid hissed closed on its industrial hydraulics and he turned the key. A familiar rumble started up and he settled into it like an old chair. The console in front of him lit up, various screens, dials, switches, buttons, and the two joysticks thrumming to life as he took a comfortable grip. Mojo was an old mech, but she still had plenty of battles in her if Jazz had anything to say about it.

The squad indicators on his screen lit up one by one, and his team called in to let him know they were ready to go. Five in all, including Jazz, Squad 7 was a formidable force. They preferred the versatility mixed-unit tactics gave them, and their team makeup would make most other squads blanch at the uneven distribution of firepower. They'd proven their worth a number of times before, though, unorthodox tactics or no. His radio crackled as they called in, their voices slightly fuzzed.

"Paul here," a strong, quiet voice said. "Vance-Class Raiju Crusader powered up."

"Burkhard here. Howard-Class Raiju Zerstörer powered up." This voice was warm, friendly, with a heavy accent.

"Ricky here. Gibson-Class Raiju Wight powered up." Impetuous, higher pitched, this voice champed at the bit, ready to get out of the hangar and face what awaited them.

"Patton here. Burroughs-Class Raiju Cataclysm powered up." This voice was grizzled, rough, and had seen entirely too many late nights with the whiskey bottle and pipe.

Jazz smiled, his teeth shining through his dark beard. "Jazz here. Vance-Class Raiju Mojo powered up and ready to rock. Let's teach this monster a lesson, boys."

Warning lights flared as the bay doors opened and the giant machines stomped out, their weapons gleaming in the dim, flashing illumination. Now the ground truly shook, and technicians, engineers, and mechanics scrambled out of the way. Wight, being the smallest, took the lead, followed by Mojo and Crusader. Zerstörer came behind them with its heavier armor plating, and finally Cataclysm behind him, loaded up with its apocalyptic ordinance.

The huge bay doors ground open, and Squad 7 was given yet another look at their battleground. It was a blasted hellscape, with rocky crags jutting up from the ground at unnatural angles, lakes of glass from long ago detonated nukes, obsidian formations that could slice through Raiju armor like it was tissue, and always the storm clouds raging above. Lightning spat down from the angry sky, blowing the rocks to pieces and creating craters in the earth. Thunder rumbled without cease, although that was nothing compared to the steady, measured rumbling they had all heard for days now getting louder and louder.

In the distance, a mountain moved towards them.

Its head raised up, and the massive jaws opened to roar again. The sound blasted out over the stormy plains, dampened by their Raiju's external microphones, but they didn't need to hear it. They could feel it. The entire creature was the size of Hell's Mouth in its entirety, and there was no doubt in anyone's mind that if it got within striking distance of the city it would destroy it utterly. As it roared, it stretched out claws the size of skyscrapers attached to paws the size of several city blocks, and Squad 7 began to have misgivings about this particular mission.

Jazz's radio crackled and Ricky's voice piped in. "We might need some help with this one, boss. What class is that thing?"

"No worries, Wight. Command is sending out other squads. So far as class..." he paused to consider the abomination on his screen. "I'd guess at least Titan, if not Lucifer-Class. Squad 7, move out."

They began stomping towards the moving mountain. As they did more blips came up on their screens, some in front, some behind. Jazz's hands flew over his instruments and he saw that Squads 6, 8, 9, and 10 had left their hangars.

That's good, he thought. We're gonna need their heavy ordinance for this thing. Wait...

As he watched, more blips appeared behind them. Squads 1 through 5 this time.

Damn, they're sending everybody. This is much worse than I thought it was. This thing is a Spawner.

He heard booms through his microphone as the heavy guns on the side of Hell's Mouth opened up on the thing, and saw the explosions peppering the thing's head and neck. They didn't seem to do much other than make it angry, and it roared again with enough force to rattle the teeth in his head. The blips in front were getting closer.

"Wight," Jazz said, "Head out and see what those things are coming towards us. If this beast really is a Spawner, we need to know. Just don't go too far. We don't need you getting into trouble again."

"Gotcha boss," Ricky said, activating his runner jets. His Raiju lifted a few feet off the ground, thrusters along the backs of his legs flared up, and he sped off into the eternal night to scope out what was coming for them.

Jazz was apparently not the only Sergeant with this idea, as he saw several other Gibson-Class speed off to meet what could only be the encroaching enemy this thing spewed out. The entirety of Squads 1-5 ran out, giving Jazz a little hope that if Wight got caught with his pants down he wouldn't be completely without help.

As the hangar doors shut behind them, the energy shields went up over Hell's Mouth, and he grimaced.

We're out here now, he thought. No retreat, no surrender, nothing to do except kill this thing.

Lights shined brightly on the creature's throat and chest, some kind of bio-luminescence, and Jazz shouted, "Evasive maneuvers! It's powering up for something!" The Raiju scattered away from the city and the thing's line of fire.

It's head tilted back, green rays spilling out from its teeth, then lurched forward and launched a beam of energy at the city. It crackled and hissed, incinerating everything in its path until it reached the energy shields. They flared bright blue, and the beam glanced off them to hit a mountain behind the city, blowing it to smithereens. Looking back towards the creature, they saw that there was an immense trench dug by the thing's attack, glowing green with leftover energy.

"By God," Paul whispered with reverence. "Did you see that?"

"I saw it," Jazz confirmed, "and I'm not happy about it."

This trench swiftly began to fill with minor monsters. To Jazz most of them looked to be about Bugbear-Class, with a few Ogre and Goblin-Class creatures for good measure. Nothing they couldn't handle on a normal day, but this was anything but a normal day.

"Boss! We've got a problem here!" Ricky's voice cut in.

"Fill me in," Jazz responded, activating his weapons.

"Looks like you were right, it is a Spawner, along with being big as hell. There's no end to these things!"

Jazz saw explosions and gunfire blossoming on his screen as the forward units engaged the enemy. "Get back here, Wight. We can't afford to lose anybody just yet, and you're not equipped to take on an army by yourself. But," he smiled," if you happen to take a few out on your way back I won't be mad at you."

"Roger, boss, falling back."

"Crusader," Jazz said, "You and I'll move forward and cover Wight's retreat. Fire up that Gauss cannon and get your blade ready."

"As you command, Mojo," Paul responded, moving forward. This was his favorite part. Much like his Raiju's namesake, he relished close-quarters combat, and was skilled at it in a way that few pilots could match. The Gauss cannon on his left shoulder lit up, throwing off sparks as the electricity raced up and down the barrel. His Raiju's left arm reached towards its back and withdrew a great sword. The blade was made of a special alloy, making it nigh indestructible.

Jazz did likewise, relishing the feeling of wading into combat again. Together they stalked forward to protect their fleeing squad-mate. As Wight raced towards them, they engaged their targeting systems and began firing into the crowd of monsters chasing him.

--

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

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If you enjoyed this story, you can find many more like it here on my Steemit, or in the anthology Darkest of Dreams from DimensionBucket Media on Amazon. You can also find more of my work at my website, jimfear138.blogspot.com, including my weekly podcast and audiobooks I've produced. You can also throw me a tip if you like at Ko-fi.

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This...this is the good stuff right here. I can tell that you are honing your craft as a writer.

I am truly excited to see where this goes!

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I'm glad you're digging it! This was my most recently written story. I've got other stuff coming up after that I've written months or further back, but I was really happy with how this turned out, and I think I'm getting much better at this Lester Dent formula. I might not ever be able to finish a novel, but when I finally reach a high enough plateau I'll be the match of any man or woman at short fiction!

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I've been looking into the Lester Dent formula for my own short fiction. Any advice on how to best implement it?

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Well, I'm probably not the best at writing advice, but I've been trying to kind of unconsciously work it into my fiction while consciously working at it, if that makes any sense. Like I read it over two or three times, then started writing with that in mind, in particular swatting the hero with a fistful of trouble as soon as possible. In this story, for instance, we've got the giant monster moving in on the city, then introduce the heroes as quickly and neatly as possible. Details aren't that important, the reader can fill those in.

Then I get them out into the scrum, and swat them with more trouble in the army of monsters rushing up on them. By the end of this installment, the first 1500 words, the crew are directly in the shit with no way out but forward. I don't want to give the rest of it away, but Lester says that the shit has to get heavier with each consecutive 1500 word installment, so do that as much as possible. Even reading Howard, who doesn't stick to this formula for most of his stories, keeps shoveling grief onto Conan and the menace keeps getting blacker in each story, even if he does diverge into short history lessons of the place Conan's in or little divergences like Conan getting revenge on the girl who turned him into the cops in Rogues in the House.

The most important advice I can give, I suppose, and this is to be done actively while writing until the process is committed to muscle memory and instinct, is to not waste a single word. Everything put on the page needs to be moving the story forward somehow. Even in The Slithering Shadow/Xuthal of the Dusk, when Thalis is explaining what Xuthal is and how the people act and how great their science is, everything comes to a head eventually and effects the story in some way. She mentions the golden wine they have that invigorates and heals, and later Conan gets some and it gives him the strength to escape the city after getting beaten to a pulp by their god. Ask yourself while you're writing, "Does this advance the story, or am I just jacking off on the page?" If it's the latter, it needs to go. Maybe replace it, or rework it so that it moves the action forward, or cut it entirely, but there shouldn't be a single part of the story that feels boring or unnecessary. You don't keep your readers glued to the page with boring prose.

That's another piece of advice I'd give anyone. Read Howard and observe how he keeps his prose interesting, even while he's talking about something as mundane as the history of this mysterious city Conan's found himself in. The prose doesn't need to be purple, but it does need to be alive. If you can learn how to keep your prose interesting and evocative while keeping the story tight and the action moving forward at all times, while cutting out any dross that bogs the story down or sandbags the action, you'll be on the right track so far as I'm concerned.

Granted I'm still on this path myself, but the only way to get better is to take the lessons the greats like Dent and Howard left us, read their books and find out what was so great about the way they wrote, and then write like hell until you can roughly approximate it yourself. Then keep shaving away and getting tighter and tighter until the quality of the writing is undeniable and anyone who's picking at it is just picking nits.

Also I should mention that I'm purposely not trying to write novels, here. I'm purposely specializing in short fiction. Quick, punchy stories designed purely to entertain, any deeper meaning or philosophy in them is there either unintentionally or as a small easter egg that doesn't detract from the entertainment value of the story itself. Writing novels is something completely different, and if you're looking to get into that game go talk to like Brian Niemeier or Brometheus. They've done it, and they're much better at it than I am. But so far as short fiction goes, this is the best method I've found to get the most entertaining results, and I think I'm getting pretty damn good at it, not to sound too arrogant, here.

The Dent formula seems ridiculously simple, until you actually try to implement it. Then you realize that you can try to structure your stories like this, but some things just happen, and it takes a lot of practice to get it down. I don't even have it perfected yet. I can try and justify it by saying it's my take on the Dent formula, but that's just a way to excuse the fact that I don't have it perfected yet. Give me a few more stories and we'll see how it goes.