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Black Library, Warhammer 40k, Writing

Hope Restored – A Black Library Rejection

Last year I attended the Black Library Weekender as a Gold Ticket holder and was invited to submit a 1,000 word story to them. Unfortunately for me it got rejected, which means that I won’t be joining the hallowed ranks of the likes of Gav Thorpe, David Guymer, Josh Reynolds, Graham McNeil, and Dan Abnett. Fortunately (?) for you, I’ve decided to post up here for your entertainment and – if you’re hoping to write for them – as a good example of what not/how to write for them!

The brief was to write a 1000 word story for the weekend, and then work with the authors Gav Thorpe, and David Annandale, and editors such as Laurie Goulding, Graeme Lyon, Christian Dunn, and Lyndsey Priestley, on the Friday to get it to a decent standard. Whilst there, we were then told that we had a 5/6 day window to submit that would be exclusive to us. This was fun to write, and I tried to capture the nature of the combat in short, choppy sentences. For those that might not know, extreme stress tends to do that to people’s speech and creates tunnel vision, as well as what I’ll call ‘snapshot’ vision.

I hope you both enjoy and learn 🙂


“Epsilon three, break left man, break left! Dammit!” Flight-sergeant Holy Mass watched, hopeless, as yet another of his flight was blown into flinders by the ork fighta ace Purpal Lezion, shards of metal spiralling to the ground far below.

WARNING MISSILE LOCK, his ears rang at the volume of the system’s voice and he quickly twisted a dial to turn it down. Glancing down at his gradar he scanned for the missile, trying to work out where it was coming from.

By the Emperor it’s close! He pulled sharply back on his joystick whilst ramming the throttle as far as it would go. Gravity pressed him down into the seat momentarily before he found himself at the top of the loop, his harness the only thing holding him into his seat.

A twitch of the stick rolled the jet belly down. He could see the ork missile, less than a klom away, great plumes of smoke belching from its exhaust, Throne that’s big! He was still feeling the effects of the loop, fighting to control his breathing and heart rate, sucking hard behind his mask. Lining his Lightning up with the missile, he prayed he was shielding his engines from what should be basic heat sensors.

It was almost too late. He flicked a switch, firing a flock of flares. Kicking the rudder he jammed the stick to the right. He sighed in relief as the ork missile farted its way past him, the smoke from its engine obscuring his view. The crude missile detonated behind him, his fighter bucking like a rodeo Gorilliphant, adrenalin flooding through his veins in a subconscious reaction.

I’m coming for you, you xenos-grotgrubbler.

He looked at his gradar, searching for the fighta that had killed his wingman and nearly him. Navy and ork jets alike filled the sky in a deadly dogfight, missiles, tracers and las-fire flying from one to another whilst broken wrecks tumbled to the ground.

Finally, he spotted it, just as the tracer racing from its eight forward-mounted nose sluggas blew another of the Singeorge 5th Air Regiment out of the sky, rolling in victory.

Mass screamed in rage, the losses caused by the ork ace Purpal Lezion and his Flyin’ Sirkus had been catastrophic, the Waaagh! wiping out whole Regiments on the ground without warning. With the planetary airforce decimated, every pilot lost threatened the system’s very survival.

He switched from passive to active gradar, his fighter’s systems actively hunting for the target he had designated. The steady pulse of the searching missile lock turned into a solid tone. “Epsilon one, shark away.”

His own missile dropped from its pylon, its rocket kicking in when it was a couple of feet below and he watched as it raced towards his target. Teeth clenched he willed it to strike home and blow the ork out of the sky.

“NO!” he screamed in anger as another ork fighta flew blindly into its path and was blotted from existence.

Checking his head down display he saw he was out of rockets. Unable to believe the ork’s luck he switched to lascannon and the nose-mounted twin heavy bolters that the Singeorge Shield, an air superiority variant of the Lightning fighter, carried.

Purpal Lezion jinked his way through the sky, the ork pilot seeming to avoid any and all incoming fire whilst taking his tally to five. Mass marvelled at the way the pilot effortlessly took the ramshackle fighta through manoeuvres that should have pulled it apart.

“Epsilon one to all pilots, I have the Lezion in my sites, keep these green skinned fuggers off my tail.” Not waiting for acknowledgements he punched the afterburners, gritting his teeth so hard his jaw hurt.

Come on you slit, just a few seconds more. His lips muttered a holy catechism without thinking as he tried to lead the fighta.  His thumb pressed hard on the stick button whilst he snatched at the trigger. Streams of tracer and las-bolts burned through the sky,arcing to where the fighta would be in half a second. Only it wasn’t.

Huge airbrakes popped up and the fighta literally stopped mid-air before plunging down in a controlled stall. Cursing, Mass kicked his rudder and yanked on the stick, his eyeballs feeling as though they would pop from his head as gravity once more reminded him there were certain laws to follow.

Fighting to overcome the darkness that was gathering at the corner of his eyes and bearing down like his instructors had taught him, Mass struggled to remain conscious. Just as he thought he had lost the battle he realised he was lined up for another shot and quickly righted his jet.

Tracer reached out to him from a tail gunner he hadn’t previously noted, glow-worms turning into burning angry hornets as they punched holes in his left wing. Kicking his rudder he jinked left, sending a burst of his own.

“Yes!” he howled in delight as his rounds shattered the gunner’s position, the whole thing falling away from the fighta.

Purpal Lezion banked left, tracers racing in front of its nose forcing it to jink to the right. Every turn the ork made, Mass was ahead. He hit the tail again, blowing the rudder off and forcing the pilot to roll and climb in order to bank.

Determination filled Mass’ veins with ice. His breathing was shallow, his heart felt as if it had slowed to the point of stopping. With a feral grin he pulled the trigger.

Las-fire streaked towards his target, blowing bits and pieces of fuselage into the air, chunks of one engine spinning away as it caught fire. Another, longer burst stitched its way from tail to nose and he screamed in delight as the pilot’s cockpit exploded, rapidly followed by the rest of the plane.

“Epsilon one, the flonge’s dead. Let’s scratch these green-skinned scum from the air.” He smiled, hope restored.

About mattsylvester

Father of two beautiful daughters and married to the beautiful Karen, Matthew has been reading and writing fantasy and science fiction since he first read the Hobbit at the age of 7.


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