Wednesday, May 5, 2010

One Hundred Posts and the Primal Scream Blogfest

On New Year’s Day I began this blog as part of a resolution. Today I am posting my one hundredth post. I’d like to thank all of you who have welcomed me and made this possible.

And what better way to celebrate the big one hundred than with a blogfest entry? This one is for Raquel Byrnes’ Primal Scream Blogfest.

They met no resistance as the swarm of black copters entered hostile air space. Following a tight vector, they moved fast and low over the breakers between a littered, white sand beach and the sunlit blue vista of ocean and sky.

Curled into his seat, long legs pulled up close against his chest, O’Neill felt the anxious anticipation that seemed to have become a part of him simmer just beneath his skin. Felt that edginess and tension spark between the others like an electrical current arcing within the confines of the ship.

The pilot’s voice sounded in his ear. “Two minutes.”

He pushed to his feet and watched the squad do their weapons check. Fifty pounds of gear and ammo. Grenades and grenade launchers. Shaped explosive charges. M-16s all around.

“Hang on.” The warning came harsh over the comms as the pilot wrestled with the controls and the helicopter bucked hard in the turbulence of a sky that was on fire.

O’Neill braced and watched Afram and Diallo go through their silent personal rituals of preparation and last minute mental checklists.

The ship slowed just as he finished his own brief final run through.

Hit the ground. Find the hatch. Blow the hatch. Cover their asses.

Pulling on his gloves, he flexed his fingers, triple checked his weapon, and rehearsed his choreographed moves.

Hit the ventilation ducts. Cover their asses.

“One minute.”

Find the elevator. Hit the down button. Cover their asses.

He stood and moved carefully with the rest of the team to stand next to the door as the ship moved down over the city and approached their target site.

Search the tiers. Cover their asses.

He braced again against the sudden change in pitch as the helicopter hovered over the brown storm of swirling dust kicked up by the rotating blades.

Find Zoë. Cover her ass.

Under his flack jacket, his heart pounded in his chest and over the sound of the rotor and engines, his pulse roared in his ears.

Out the way you came in.

“Fifty seconds.”

Don’t fuck this up.

Everything sharpened into vivid relief. Looking around, he saw Afram tap his helmet with two fingers. O’Neill reached up and lowered his faceplate as the copter hovered and silently began counting down.

Going to get Zoë. Gonna bring her home.

Then they were through the worst of it and pilot flared the ship, settled it gracefully, and screamed his final instructions over the comms as the hatch dropped open.

“Go. Go. Go.”

O’Neill followed Diallo out the door, in position, weapon ready. He barely registered the hazy heat shimmering like a wave, the trails of smoke that hung in the heavy air, or the plumes of ash rising in the burning orange distance as he scanned for targets and threats.

Afram took point, moving quickly toward the ventilation shaft. Reaching the hatch that led inside, he put a shaped charge in place before retreating a safe distance. When it blew, they followed the blast, diving inside.

Ninety seconds later, moving in formation, they had worked their way to a grille. Afram braced and kicked it out. Diallo tossed a high velocity shaped charge down the hole. The blast came almost immediately and then they were moving forward, dropping down through the hole and firing on guards as they landed in the main control center.

Weapons fire lit up the room as O’Neill rolled to cover under a console, counted, then came up to spray continuous fire in his target window.

“Elevator,” Diallo hissed over the comms when it was over.

Afram stood and pointed to the far wall. Stepping over bodies, the tall male commando led the way to the door and hit the call control as they flattened themselves against the wall and waited.

It was empty when the doors opened and the ride down wasn’t long.

Coming out, Afram was back on point and they were moving in formation down the tunnel, scanning for resistance in their target windows. Fifteen seconds later, an explosion and shots from a side tunnel indicated they had finally found it.

Gun fire jumped across the junction. As he hunkered down against the wall, a second explosion came from O’Neill’s left.


He rolled across the junction, popped up to lay down suppression fire as Afram and Diallo took up position and began firing at their targets. Two explosions in quick succession had his ears ringing, but even so he could still hear the sound of someone screaming instructions.

He looked across at Afram, who nodded and snugged his rifle to his shoulder and began laying down cover fire that lit its way down the tunnel as O’Neill pulled a grenade.

Squeeze. Throw. Dive.

The shock of the wave sent him into the wall and O’Neill heard more missiles go off as he rolled again and took out one guard in his target window. Shots to his right alerted him to a missed target. He popped up from cover and squeezed off five shots. In his peripheral vision he saw Diallo off to his right, taking out another guard while scanning for other threats.

The next explosion, when it came, deafened them all.


  1. Very exciting. I particularly liked the moments that interspersed the build up with character thoughts.

  2. SJS--As a helo pilot, you had me at: "They met no resistance as the swarm of black copters..." :)

    Wow! This was great. Loved the pace and action, and your terminology and characterizations were extremely genuine.

    Loved the build to the finish too.

    Nicely done. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Wow! nice. Great build up. Your pace and description of action is excellent.
    Nicely done!

  4. Congratulations on your 100th post Dearest. I remember thinking you were such an awesome Brit when I first met you with your fancy name and unbelievable writing. But then you and I became friends and I found out your were just another crazy American trying to make their way to being published...

    And tell me again, why do I read you first thing, first one in the morning when I know there's going to be murder or gunfire, or bar brawls, eegads, or sometimes even sex?

    This post is the best one I think you've ever done, you've got it all in here, murder, mayhem, helicopters, guys with guns with cool names. But you have to tell me, who is Zoe and why are they going to get her?

  5. Gripping, tense and so very cinematic: I've come to expect that from you - your words turn into such vivid images! - but this time you outdid yourself.

    Had to remind myself to breathe, now and then, because the tension was so tight I forgot.

    Happy 100th post, and well done!

    PS: I'll second PW's motion - what about Zoe?

  6. Wow, very nice build up! I loved it! What a perfect way to also complete your 100th blog post! That's brilliant!

  7. Great tension! I loved the inner dialog sprinkled throughout.

  8. Great job! I also loved the final prep and mental dialogue in the build up. Did they get to Zoe?

  9. wow great description - like something out of Black Hawk Down! congrats on the big 100!

  10. You have the most impeccable pacing in your writing. Always spot on.

    This is all around awesome :)

  11. Love it. Especially like the inner thoughts interspersed with the action--builds the pacing and tension very nicely.

  12. Great pacing on this. Like Summer I really enjoyed the inner thoughts. It really made it more captivating. Great job!

  13. Obvs, brilliant pacing ;~) And I loved the build up with the inner thoughts. This had my heart pumping for sure :~D

  14. I agree with what a few of the other said - I really like O'Neill's mental dialogue and the build-up of the tension.

    AND....HAPPY 100!

  15. Great pace, great action. Very nice!
    Congratulations on your one hundredth post. And what a gripping post!

  16. You don't write at all, you know -- you draw scenes from your vision.

    And what a great vision!

    Lean and mean. It's tough to do a military scene without sounding trite. They're overdone, you know, military scenes, but you handled it well, kept the action surging forward without a lot of higgeldy-piggeldy descriptions of someone's boots or the expression on their face or the stunned look or panicked glare or beaded sweat or panicked internalizations...

    Nope. That scene is nothing but bidness, and they ain't no busy in bidness.

    Good job.

    - Eric

    ps. Strike that. GREAT job.

  17. I truly liked your sparse character comments to himself. Like the beats of the heart of this intense action sequence. Well done. Bravo!

    And congrats on the 100th post -- and you did it with a BANG! Way to go, Roland

  18. Congrats on the 100 posts! I agree with everyone else - I love your pacing. You sure know how to build tension!

  19. That was a great scene...tight, stacatto, no extra words wasting the pace away. The interspersed thougths with the action...the mantra to cover their hineys...all heart-pumping and exciting.

    Loved your entry! Thanks so much for participating!

  20. Great pacing, dialog and action. As everyone else said, very cinematic. Congratulations on that and on your 100th post.

  21. Great scene! Tight and focused. It was a great idea to make this your 100th post!

  22. I really enjoyed immersing myself in this character. I liked the personal thoughts in italics. You know how to create tension and keep building it slowly until a big finish.
    Congratulaions on your 100th post!

  23. Congrats on your 100th post! I liked this scene, nicely written. I agree with others that the thoughts are what drew me in.

  24. I've been seeing your name around in the blogging world, but had never actually read your blog. This was a great first read! Loved the pacing and the description was easy to follow. Sometimes when someone is writing a scene with a lot of action, I get confused as to who is where and what they're doing, but not with yours. Great job!

  25. Riveting with full focus on action and circumstance. Congratulations on 100!

  26. Great action and description. I think you can get even deeper into the scene by adding smell and taste in addition to focusing on who shot what when. Intrusive thoughts, what the dead men looked like, etc. O'Neill is obvious a very focused character, but I'd still like more of the horror of things. 'Cause I can tell you would make it even awesomer. I wish I could describe military stuff this well.

  27. This is amazing. It's non-stop movement and tension. I used to read some Tom Clancy and a long time ago, I read Fields of Fire. This reminded me of those kinds of books. Excellent and very polished.

  28. Extraordinary. Description is exquisite, telling details, tightly woven. I can see the copters, the beach, the blue vista. Feel the tension in the rhythm of the of the words as much as in the words themselves. Interweaving the inner thoughts adds depth and counterpoint to the physical action. Simply brilliant.

    Congratulations on the 100 posts!

  29. This was great! Constant movement going on here even during your descriptions. Excellent job, very gripping! :)

  30. I loved the way this built and the sense of pace in the piece. Great stuff!

  31. Damn, SJS! I LOVED this piece. You have imagery and pacing down pat.