Killing Rune – My Black Library Submission 2018

Fresh off the rejection train from Blacklibraryville, and here submitted for your approval, my pitch for the open door, and the 500 words of example writing.

First up, the opening pitch, comprising at most a couple of sentences that nevertheless fully encapsulate every element of the excitement, action and adventure that I’m trying to get across; outlining the situation, the protagonists, the goals and the consequences of failure. No pressure there.

KILLING RUNE is the Saint-Nazaire commando raid, in space. Chaos tainted interstellar pirates plot to unleash daemonic forces from within the wandering moon base they call Rune, and when these pirates emerge from hiding in a backwater, best forgotten system, only Kale von Balen, disgraced planetary defence officer, is there to stand in their way. With Imperial support still sectors distant, Kale leads an improvised assault group on a could-be-suicide collision course mission to avert disaster, repair a tattered reputation, and destroy the pirate moon.

As might be obvious from that, I got the idea from the Second World War combined operations mission against Saint-Nazaire, known as Operation Chariot. A bold as brass raid on the only dry dock capable of servicing the German warship Tirpitz, Operation Chariot involved ramming a boat full of explosives into the dock gates at Saint-Nazaire. And that was just the start of the operation. I thought it might be interesting to recreate this kind of daredevil exploit in terms of Warhammer 40K and the eternal struggle against Chaos. 

Along with the pitch, Black Library wanted some words to show that you could string a sentence together. I’m fairly happy with what I wrote for this part, although to be honest I endlessly tweak my writing so I’d probably go over this a few more times if it was going anywhere.

Anyway, here is the opening section, introducing the main character, and suggesting the operation ahead:

On the first morning, Kale had the non-coms bring their candidates out to the training camp at Kerrows’ Barracks. Put them through their paces and let Kale see what they had to work with sort of deal.

The camp had acres of assault courses, cross-country tracks, firing ranges and tunnel-trench systems for practicing attack-and-defence in field conditions. The whole place blanketed by cameras and sensors, monitored from a command centre in a grey-block building beyond the distant trees and far from the action. Kale ignored the high-tech trappings; better to see the dirt and smoke of the live fire lanes. You needed to breathe in the aggression and the fury.

Meeks, local boy, stood with Kale on the side-lines, holding a sheaf of flimsy papers in one gloved fist. Now and then, Kale heard Meeks reacting, trying to be quiet but not doing well. Intake of breath. Click of teeth. Unit Two, hammering down a narrow defile between two bunkers when a servitor gun-carriage popped from the mud and tagged them all. That drew a snort from Meeks.

“I asked for the best,” Kale said. “For the insertion group, I mean. For the tip of the spear. Didn’t I?”

Meeks directed his reply more at his boots than to his commanding officer. “I ain’t saying they’re not rusty, boss.”

“What are you saying, exactly?”

Kale looked out across the mock-battle ground. Unit Five now making a shameful fist of whatever it was they were meant to be doing…

The snap-snap-snap of heavy projectile weapons echoed off the high dirt berms surrounding countless separate attacks and counters. Here and there the crackle of lasgun blasts. Twists of pale smoke drifted over the confusion.

“The thing is,” Meeks explained. “Planetary Defence Forces, they tend to fight on planets, right. Strongholds. Surfaces.”

“I think I remember that from Basic, yes.”

“What I mean, boss, is,” Meeks carried on. “They don’t go looking for trouble.”

Now and then, however, trouble shows up at your door, Kale thought.

“Have they seen space combat. At all?”

Meeks may have been tutting at this point. A masterful selection of noises the man produced. Truly a marvel for the ages.

“Outside of vid. Very few,” Meeks said.

No surprises. “They’ve had the training? Simulators, virtuals, gone up the ladder and such?”

“Absolutely, boss.” Meeks rustled papers for a moment, shifted some things around. “Orffen, Chale and Hepping. All scored very high.”

If Kale was not mistaken, Orffen was the current play-dead leader of Unit Two. Perhaps near-zero grav would prove to be her natural habitat.

Kale took a last look. “It is what it is.”

“Boss?” said Meeks.

“It’ll have to do,” Kale said. “Get them sorting their equipment, light order, whilst I go talk to Hengel about the ship.”

“Hengel?” Meeks said. “You’ll be wanting Jantis, right enough. Best pilot this side of Saldani.”

Shake of the head from Kale. “I don’t expect Hengel to fly the Cathama. I want him to make it explode.”

So there you have it. My unsuccessful attempt at getting to write 40K fiction. I look forward to trying again the next time the door is open.

This is of course unofficial and not endorsed by GW or Black Library in any way and, looking at it now, it may in fact not mention anything 40K specific at any point. Perhaps that’s where I went wrong… 😀

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