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  1. #1
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    Unforeseen Enemy (Rev 2) - first chapter

    *Italicised*

    ONE


    The instructions played like a looped audio track in Jack's head. *It's imperative, Jack, wait for the green light. The target's a big guy, can't run. His companion escapes, got it? She'll run straight into our arms.*

    The target would never get the chance to negotiate. To plead for life.*

    Jack had removed the sniper rifle from its case before going up a back stairwell to the roof. The smell of damp tar filled his nostrils as he lowered his head. The bi-pod nestling in the gutter, Jack did a double take of his right knee. It was at a perfect, ninety degree angle. Ordinarily, he would not have found himself checking details like the position of his leg, but given what had happened, nothing could be checked too many times. As he fixed the M40 bolt action sniper rifle firmly in the pocket of his shoulder through the gentle pull of his middle through little fingers, he closed his eyes to meditate on the sound of the leaves rustling and scattering around him and the din of traffic below - the final engagement with the world before he shut the door on all distractions.*

    Gripping the small of the stock behind the trigger, Jack felt his skin tingle as it pressed against the cold cheek piece. His brain was resisting the usual coaxing, coming up with words of discouragement instead of quietly obeying and focusing. He was still paying attention to the impatient honks from the bustling traffic. It was a long time since he had considered what he would look like to his target. There was still a vestige of evening light in the sky and from across the street his sniper rifle and head would resemble an odd ornament resting on top of the concrete parapet. From the target's position, he was an imperceptible dot. Only a novice entertained thoughts of being spotted, of aborting. He rubbed the ice cold metal with his cheek. Pearls of sweat trickled down his brow, despite the crisp, raw air.*

    He lowered his eye to the scope.

    He observed his breathing, paid attention to the moment of natural respiratory pause just before the next breathe. Tunnel vision – so familiar to him - refused to extinguish his rogue thoughts.*

    One block away, on the fourth floor, the light came on in the corner room of the hotel. Two-hundred and twenty-four metres away to be precise. Jack adjusted the cross-hairs. The obese man in his sights fit the description. The target shuffled his feet behind a walker. He dragged his weight to the other end of the room and allowed himself to fall onto a sofa. He spread his arms on the backrest and wiggled to shift his bulging torso. His flabby jowls shook as his head turned towards the window. The look suggested that he would have preferred the curtains to be drawn, not open.*

    A short rush of static followed by a sharp crackle killed the last hopes of Jack's latent focusing abilities returning to him there and then.*

    “Bravo, Beta's companion has arrived. Moving into position. Ten twelve.”*

    10-12. Standby. The earpiece was an itch that Jack could not scratch. He had reached the stage when the quick-set plaster was poured. He had to lie stiff and motionless, the cast only to be removed safely once the job was done.*

    The target rocked forward, his flabby arms reaching down to lift a metal briefcase. The rotund man set the briefcase down on his lap. His sausage fingers flicked the latches and he inspected the contents, lifted a brochure in his swollen hands. It looked to be the size of an A4, possibly A3. Inside the briefcase, bundles of cash were visible now that the brochure had been picked up. There was a large graphic on the cover. As the brochure was opened, Jack saw that the graphic on the cover was a large DNA double-helix. A pharmaceutical fraud? His chest tightened.

    The target dropped the brochure and clutched the handles of his walker, looking in the direction of the door – stage left, Jack's right. Jack panned to the door where a slender figure stood. The target's company? The woman's dress swept past a small table next to the door. The cross-hairs returned to the target. The obese man appraised the woman's figure with a salacious grin, beckoning her with his flapping hand to join him on the sofa. The woman's radiant red hair shimmered under the spotlights. Her complexion was as white as milk and looked almost wax-like. Her full lips formed a meek smile and she drew wisps of hair behind her ears with delicate fingers. The contrast between youthful beauty and shameless old age was made increasingly apparent with each step she took towards the point where the cross-hairs converged.*

    Still no green light for the kill shot.

    Had mics been set up in the room? Maybe the team had expected the woman to extract information from the target. Wait for the woman to enter the room, collect information, order the killing, then capture the woman? Was that the end goal?

    Half way to the sofa, the red head stopped and rolled the spaghetti straps of her silver silk dress off her shoulders, allowing the garment to fall to her ankles. Her naked hips swayed as she padded over to the man and her breasts bounced freely. Jack found himself simply observing, as though he had lost all attraction for the opposite sex. When she reached the briefcase at the target's feet, the woman sank to her knees and placed her hands flat on the man's tree trunk thighs. That could explain the cash. The cross-hairs converged on the target's forehead. A lecherous grin caused the doughy face to open. The woman lowered her head. The man tilted his head back and stroked the top of her head. As she thrust her head rhythmically, the man grabbed a fistful of her hair and swept it away from her shoulder, revealing a tattoo the size of the man's hand. The swirling black ink in her pale skin stood out – a DNA double-helix tattoo.*

    The target pushed the woman's face away from his groin and she lost her balance and fell onto her hip. She shook her hair back and placed her hands back on the man's thighs with deft, mechanical motions. The man gripped her wrists and motioned to the door, her right wrist still clutched in the hand he used to point. The woman's expression grew grave. Jack felt his brow strain. Should he keep the cross-hairs focused on the target or see what had interrupted the private rendezvous? Room service? He bit his lip. He removed his finger from the trigger and panned to the door – a distance of roughly ten to fifteen metres from the sofa.*

    There was no table on wheels, no covered silver platter on top. A man wearing jeans and a knit sweater stood in the doorway, his legs wide apart.*

    *A third wheel? What the hell does this guy want?*

    What was this? Multiple parties. Vested interests? Jack's mind leapt to conclusion upon conclusion. An illegal mission? Pan left or stay on the newcomer? Jack stroked the trigger tentatively. The situation was tainted with plausible deniability. He could sense the weapon in the newcomer's hand, even if he could not see it. Should he pan back to check?*

    “Bravo,” came the familiar, clipped voice. “Crash. Beta is now the man who just entered. Kill the newcomer.”

    Jack eyed the newcomer.*

    “Bravo, do you copy?”

    Jack managed a hasty “copy that” before another gust of wind slapped his face and lifted his fringe. His waist was soaked, like a wet towel was pressed against his skin. Had his words been picked up by his mic? The new instruction had been desperate, overt. He redirected the cross-hairs, back to the newcomer. The newcomer *was* armed.*

    The woman jumped up on the sofa, shielding the obese man's face with her torso, her breasts rippling like bowls of jelly as she secured her footing on the plush cushions. Jack ground his teeth. Left, right, which would it be? He had to decide.*

    The newcomer circled the man and woman on the sofa, moving to the window and partially blocking the view of the naked woman and the man sitting beneath her. Even if Jack opened his mouth to raise the red flag, he doubted that he could articulate what he was seeing. Compared to the static environment that his brain had grown accustomed to, everything was fast-forwarded. Was the newcomer going to do Jack's bidding for him?*

    The cross-hairs converged on the back of the newcomer's head. He just needed to follow orders: ignore the fat man, ignore the woman, kill the new target. Jack inhaled the icy air through his flaring nostrils. *His companion escapes, got it?. She'll run straight into our arms.* Millimetre precision was called for.*

    The newcomer moved out of the way. The duo on the sofa were back in sight, a vase on a table next to the sofa covering up the obese man's groin. The three people in the hotel room appeared to be frozen. Time stood still again. An exchange of words stalling the trigger happy newcomer?*

    The woman stepped down from the sofa. The newcomer nodded in agreement as she picked up the briefcase that lay at the obese man's feet. Jack tried to swallow but his tongue refused to move without sufficient moisture. The newcomer circled the obese man and the woman once more, the woman pivoting on the ball of her foot to keep shielding the obese man's chest and head with her body. She held the briefcase out in her bent arm, the DNA double-helix tattoo behind her shoulder just visible. Jack felt a bead of sweat roll along the ridge of his nose. The newcomer stood perfectly still. This was it. Time to pull the trigger.*

    The woman flung the briefcase and it struck the newcomer square on the jaw.

    Jack squeezed the trigger. Blinked.*

    The round was expelled from the chamber. *Clink-clink*.*

    *Missed*. Shards of ceramic covered the floor next to the sofa. Red tulips lay scattered.*

    Next round.

    The target scrambled to his feet and jolted towards the door, weapon raised. Jack adjusted his aim, the quick movements taunting him. The target knocked the woman over and picked the briefcase up deftly. Out of sight.



  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt
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    There is an italics function on the site. italics Even if you don't see the big I button on the composition toolbar you can do them manually by typing [ i ] and [ /i ] (just delete the spaces)

  3. #3
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    Jack had removed the sniper rifle from its case before going up a back stairwell to the roof.
    Think about it. Why does a reader care when he removed it from the case. Would the situation be differe3t had he done it in the car? Had there been nop case? If you're in the character's POV be in it, in the moment he calls now. And in his POV, unless he has need to think about when he did that, any mention of it is a break in POV and kills any sense of realism.
    The smell of damp tar filled his nostrils as he lowered his head.
    This is closer to being in his POV, but since he doesn't react to it, and we don't know where he is, and why, it means no more than if you told us the wall was painted green. It's true, but so what?
    The bi-pod nestling in the gutter, Jack did a double take of his right knee.
    a philosophical question: Why would you expect someone you've not met, and know nothing about to know the parts of a sniper's rifle? You're still thinking cinematically, and telling rhe reader what you see in your mind. But:

    How does he feel about shooting this person? I don't know. But if you want me to be him, and live the story as a shadow of him, don't I have to know how he feels, moment by moment? Don't I have to know what has his attention, and how/why he reacts to it?

    Story lives in the heart and mind of the protagonist, not in the details of what's happening, or a list of his feelings. Were this a horror story the goal wouldn't be to make the reader know how frightened the protagonist is. It's to make the reader afraid to turn out the lights. And how to do that is a subject not even mentioned in all the time we were learning how to write. After all, that's a skill-set that only a fiction writer needs, and we learn our profession(s) after high school graduation, as part of preparing ourselves to practice the profession.

  4. #4
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    we don't know where he is
    Surely Jack had removed the sniper rifle from its case before going up a back stairwell to the roof explains it?

    How does he feel about shooting this person?
    Sure, can be expounded perhaps.

    we learn our profession(s) after high school graduation, as part of preparing ourselves to practice the profession.
    How many times do you need to make this point? I don't think you mean to be condescending, but mentioning this every time is... well, repetitive

    Appreciate it.

  5. #5
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    ?a philosophical question: Why would you expect someone you've not met, and know nothing about to know the parts of a sniper's rifle?
    We all use tripods in school at some point during science lessons (bunsen burners) and art class (photography), so most people can probably imagine what a bipod is (I'm assuming). Tri = three. Bi = two. Not the end of the world if the reader can't figure it out.

  6. #6
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    Surely Jack had removed the sniper rifle from its case before going up a back stairwell to the roof explains it?
    The roof of what. He could be anywhere in space or time. We don't know why he would want to go up there, or the smallest thing about him, which means we know about him in the way we would from a report. But we don't know how he feels. And you, someone not in the story or on the scene is telling me about it. Why do we give a dam that he used the back stairwell? Why do we care if he had it in a case or wrapped in a towel? In short, if you leave the line in it's boring and unneeded detail that would bring a rejection at-that-point, with not one word more read.

    Simply put: if it doesn't matter to the protagonist in the moment he calls now, the reader probably sees it as clutter.
    How many times do you need to make this point?
    Till two things happen. First is for you to understand why explaining things to the reader that aren't important to the protagonist in the scene, and in his moment of "now," is an immediate rejection point. Second, is till you, as you edit, say, "Whoops...here's where I'm killing POV by interjecting myself, and Jay's gonna mention it," and fix it. yourself.
    but mentioning this every time is... well, repetitive
    I have a fault. Unlike the editor/agent who will reject you without telling you why, I do. But since it annoys you, I'll stop responding.
    so most people can probably imagine what a bipod is
    You're thinking visually, and telling the reader what you see. If a reader has to stop and think about what you mean it kills all sense of realism. Who cares if it's a bipod, a tripod, or resting in his hand?

    Knowing what's there doesn't generate the picture. You spent lots of words telling the reader how he got ready, chronicling a series of events. He looks at his leg and sees how it's lying, something he knows without looking because it's his leg. So you, the external observer are telling the reader what you see him do. And again, you're not there. So the moment you talk as yourself you kill all sense of reality you may have built up. You talk about the kind of rifle and how he holds it, and moves it into position. But he's not thinking about that. He's focused on what matters to him, not you. And that's POV. That's what a reader cares about, not the visual details of a scene they can't see no matter how detailed your description. Most of that description could be replaced by something like, "He settled himself to the roof, put his eye to the rifle's scope, and readied himself to take a life."

    As a minor detail, in general, buildings don't have gutters, they have roof drains.

  7. #7
    Rogue Mutt
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    Jack had removed the sniper rifle from its case before going up a back stairwell to the roof. The smell of damp tar filled his nostrils as he lowered his head.
    I don't like agreeing with JayG so I won't exactly. Details like these are meaningless unless you give them a meaning. Why did he take the sniper rifle from its case? Is the smell of damp tar giving him a headache? Making his eyes water? Or anything else that might affect his ability to hit the target?

    Jay loves talking about sources so here's something from one of my favorite authors: John Irving. In his novel A Widow for One Year (also the movie The Door in the Floor): A children's writer named Ted Kohl is telling his intern Eddie about how his two teenage sons died in a car accident. He mentions that his wife finds a severed leg from one of the boys in the road. And then he specifies the type of shoe it was. Why? Because that little detail lets you see the image more clearly. I mean a couple of sentences ago I mentioned the severed leg. How does it look in your mind? Now I say that at the end of that severed leg was a bloodstained Air Jordan sneaker (that's the movie version anyway) and you can more clearly see it in your mind.

    So yes details can be irrelevant but they can also be important. It's how you use them that matters.

  8. #8
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    Appreciate the feedback. I guess we can't agree on everything but I'll take the comments into account in the re-write.

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