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Last Flight of the Admiral Stalkforth 1

An idle wind blew across the lake. A giant infernal sun gazed overhead through a gap in the tree canopy, tracing the roving swells in metallic red. On the banks sat a lone man watching the ebb and flow of all around him. The water, the wide leaves of the trees, the grass and the reeds all moved to the same unsteady meter. In the distance he thought he heard the musical plucking of strings, but he couldn’t be sure.

A piercing shriek ripped across the sky. A funnel of wind coalesced out of nothing and threw all out of synch. Leaves were ripped free from their limbs and the water pitched and kicked like a new-born animal. The man looked up and squinted at the patch of bright day. There, superimposed over the dripping globe of the sun, was the gleaming underbelly of a spacecraft. As the ship gradually descended, the cyclone caused by its monstrous engines increased ten-fold and displaced the entire lake. Huge spouts of water shot up and hung in mid-air, exposing the bed of wet black silt. Trees ringing the clearing groaned and shattered into countless fragments. Finally, the ship came to rest a little ways above the lake. Its underbelly swung open like a ribcage and a long stalk of metal unfurled from the black space within. It landed and sunk into the sandbank. The engines abruptly switched off and the jets of water crashed back down to their original form. The seated man, his jaw wired into a half formed smile, watched bemusedly as a column of gray uniformed figures emerged from the black opening and marched down the stalk in single file. The Officer at point, a tall dark skinned fellow, approached him.

“You there,” he said, staring intently at a display embedded on his inside-wrist, “Where is Lamptown?”

“Behind me,” the seated man replied.

“How far?”

“Depends on how fast you’re walking.”

The soldiers, all standing in tight formation with rifles strapped to their backs, glanced at each other uneasily.

The Officer flared his nostrils. “The council warned me about people like you.” Then he leaned forward and glared. “Just tell me where Admiral Stalkforth is.”

“Let me see,” the man said, scratching his chin, “three days ago he was in Malfan Glade, and tonight he’s at the Hymn of the Circling Hawks.”

“And where is he now?”

The man looked around. “Well, he’s not here.”

The Officer straightened and brushed some grass off his uniform. “Alright men, there’s no point in questioning this feeble-minded savage. Let’s head into town, I just downloaded the co-ordinates from the Jade Javelin.”

The set off in single file, their boots sinking into the soft earth with each step.
As they left the lake behind, one the of the soldiers leaned forward and whispered to his comrade, “I’d bet a month’s planet-leave that’s the ex-emperor of Jotas we just spoke to.”

“Granazzio the Butcher? You’re crazy,” said the other man.

“I swear it’s him, my mother and I lived under his rule when I was a kid.”

“Quiet!” said the Officer, and the second soldier shrugged noncommittally.

A short time later they broke through the undergrowth and came to large clearing. They had found Lamptown.

picking at one nit

I like the story so far, but the opening's got no hook. This is something I've heard many times at my writers' group meetings, especially from writers of SF and/or short stories. We all have the desire to start our stories with a vivid description of our lovely new world. But we've only a moment to draw the reader in and keep them interested.

I've had to rework a lot of openings. But like me, you have everything you really need in the first two paragraphs, and the material simply needs to be presented in a different order. Now that I'm concentrating on stories of 7k words or less, I'm beginning to understand how important it is that a story must move, and move quickly.

Just goes to show, no matter

Just goes to show, no matter how splashy you make your entrance, there's always going to be somebody around who won't be impressed by it!

I thought the details you picked to describe the landing (the leaves, the sprays of water, etc.) were well-chosen. They help to make the scene concrete and vivid.