Mechanical

I took deep breaths, trying to calm my racing heart.

You can do it. You have to do it.

One more breath, two, three…

It was early morning, but I still glanced around to make sure the street was empty. Not that many people lived in the area either way. I was surprised when I was informed I had to wait on that spot. In any case, the roof of an abandoned two-story building was the perfect hiding place.

The air was calm and cool, oblivious to my inner turmoil. I was glad no one would ever notice this moment of weakness. I wasn’t afraid of a technical failure, but of an emotional one. Failing though was something I never allowed to myself.

A man appeared in the corner of the street, starting me out of my thoughts. I studied him carefully. Around forty, tall and thin with a receding brown hairline. The description fitted. For the last hour, I had half wished he wouldn’t appear, almost hoped he would choose another street or time. But that was not my lucky day and definitely not his.

He looked around him once or twice, but other than that, he was probably certain no one was watching him.

No one but me. I tried to swallow my panic and resisted the urge to close my eyes.

Just do it already.

One more breath. And I pulled the trigger of my rifle.

Less than a second later, the man was lying motionless on the pavement.

I remained numb, squatted down behind the ledge of the roof, staring down at the body on the pavement. I blinked myself out of my stupor. Still holding my rifle, I ran down the stairs of the building, double checking if anyone would appear and see me. I stopped before the man’s body and watched him, engrossed with the scene in front of me.

So this was what killing looked like. All the preparations, all the years of mental and physical training paled in comparison to this moment of reality. One moment the target walks, the next they don’t. Simple, fast, irreversible.

I was still dazed, but part of me was relieved. One less enemy for my people, one step closer to freedom for my city. I shouldn’t spend a second of grief for a dead criminal.

I turned my back to the corpse and walked away without looking back.

—————-

“Landy Miles.”

“Yes, sir”, I replied immediately facing trainer Jett Reman. We were in one of the large training rooms of the Military Academy of Philia. Trainer Reman, one of our Academy instructors, was assigned to my eight-membered team.

“Report your target.”

“Mission complete, sir. Aldin Creys, enemy of our city, is dead.” Above our head, a plasma screen showed the face of the man who used to be alive some hours ago. I stared at the image for only a moment, before averting my eyes.

Trainer Reman gave me a short nod. “I expected nothing less from you, Miles.”

All of us had applied for joining the Crime Prevention Sector. Students enrolled in the Military Academy at the age of 12 had to undergo six years of hard training. Those in particular who wished to follow the Crime Prevention Sector had to achieve top scores in the last three years. Various fighting skills, physical power and stamina exercises, co-operation and strategy abilities were but a few of the challenges students wished they knew they would face before they had signed their application form. Hundreds of kids entered the Academy every year, but few graduated and even fewer were qualified for our sector.

Now it was almost the end of our Academy years. After endless tests and minor missions, each one of us was assigned a classified mission to exterminate a wanted criminal or an outlaw on the run. It was a ritual for everyone who wanted to be an elite sniper.

Trainer Reman moved on to the black girl standing next to me.

“Nyah Myne”.

“Yes, sir” came my best friend’s reply.

“Report your target.”

“Mission complete, sir. Jared Nedov, traitor of our leader and enemy of our city, is dead.” Her tone was stronger than mine, her smile glowed with immense pride over her success.

The screen showed a young man with blond hair and a confident smile. I vaguely wondered what his exact betrayal was.

“Well done, Myne Junior. Tell this to Myne Senior next time he says the engineers are cooler than snipers.” Trainer Reman must have been in a rare good mood for jests.

Nyah gave back an easy smile, never getting tired of such twin jokes. Chason was her twin brother, older by 10 minutes and one of the best students of the Engineering Sector. The Myne twins were the soul of our class with their constant fights over who was better in their chosen field.

One after another, we all reported our first missions. I had been waiting for this day so long. Simple tasks like witnessing trials of law breakers, training the new military students and capturing petty thieves were not enough for me. I was longing to help my city stand again on its feet by reducing the criminality rates. If this meant killing outlaws and criminals, I would do it without second thoughts.

Hearing the reports, I was proud of my team. We had all been prepared hard for this day. Such extreme operations didn’t happen very often, but when they did, only the best soldiers were chosen to handle them. We were exhilarated when we first heard our time for our first real mission had arrived. Or at least, this is the emotion we had showed to each other. If we all felt the same fear and hesitation that one second before pulling the trigger, we would never admit it. We had battled against our own selves, but our faith in a safe city had still won.

10 thoughts on “Mechanical

  1. Anonymous says:

    I like the set up of the beginning of your story. I felt like I was watching a murder scene in slow motion. I can see his play by play thoughts that lead up to the killing.

    The part that I read twice to understand was when the man appeared and looked around to see who saw him. Is he supposed to fearful of his surroundings? Why was he certain no one was watching him? It seems like there should be a bit more info on why he was there, why was he an enemy?

    I like, “I turned my back to the corpse and walked away without looking back “. A cold but necessary killing.

    I love movies about snipers, and would like to read more.

    • Wo Ai Ni says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words. 🙂

      You are right, I have to explain a bit more about the target, who he is and why he is there.

      Thank you again very much for your help. ^_^

  2. Rodrigo Saavedra Sotelo says:

    In my very humble opinion, you need to slow down. The scene you open with has a great potential to introduce both your main character, and hint at internal or even external conflicts that he may have. So take your time to set the scene and the mood. Describe him preparing the rifle, choosing the perfect spot for his watch, and make him struggle with himself or with something else as he prepares to do his assigned task. I would even say, make him almost fail. I honestly believe that first scene of yours has a lot of potential to be a great hook, but you need to really delve into it again, make it sensory. Make sure that before he pulls the trigger you’ve already made us care about him and have an opinion on his motives, even if you just hint at them vaguely.

    I would also say that you should take care of the first person POV. Landy is telling us his own story, so you have to make sure you tell it using his words. I, for example, wouldn’t refer to my best friend as ‘the black girl standing next to me’.

    Paragraph 6 of the second scene contains quite some info dumping. I’m sure there are ways that you can convey this information to the reader in bits and pieces throughout the chapter. I would suggest that you mix incorporating the information with some thoughts or quirks of your character, to make it more digestible and avoid pausing the telling of the story to explain background. Remember that the first few pages of your book should generally be fast-paced and enthralling.

    I’m really looking forward to read that perfected first scene!

    • Wo Ai Ni says:

      Thank you very much for all these helpful tips! 🙂

      It seems I have to write better the setting and the mood of that first scene.

      Indeed, there is also some info dumping that I have to divide better throughout the first chapter.

      Thank you again for your kind help. ^_^

  3. vanessafowler says:

    This story interested me because of the mystery behind what these soldiers are doing: who are they working for? It sounds like they have good intentions but that they are being used. I also liked the processing of the first time the character killed someone. That was intriguing.

    The beginning was interesting but confusing. (1) Definitely sounded like someone inexperienced, almost panicked, but then like they were assigned something important: so the disconnect between these took me out of the story. (2) Because we don’t know what the character is trying to accomplish, its difficult to empathize with him – maybe the mystery is not helpful here?

    “I was surprised when I was informed I had to wait on that spot.” – this sentence doesn’t make sense to me.
    “The air was calm and cool, oblivious to my inner turmoil.” – how can air be oblivious?

    “Failing though was something I never allowed to myself.” – this is hard to take seriously.

    “Those in particular who wished to follow the Crime Prevention Sector had to achieve top scores in the last three years. Various fighting skills, physical power and stamina exercises, co-operation and strategy abilities were but a few of the challenges students wished they knew they would face before they had signed their application form. Hundreds of kids entered the Academy every year, but few graduated and even fewer were qualified for our sector.” – Feels too predictable/cliche.

    “I vaguely wondered what his exact betrayal was.” – this sentenced sparked the most interest and curiosity for me. I would keep reading just to find out about this.

    I think there are some fascinating elements here, and I am curious about the story!

    If you have the chance and the interest, could you take a look at my entry, Mirror of Sparrows, in the YA Fantasy section? Thank you!

    • Wo Ai Ni says:

      Thank you so much for your helpful tips! I am very happy you caught the undertone that the characters “have good intentions but they are being used.” ^_^

      You are right about the lack of explaining why the heroine kills and why she panicked. I did try to maintain a sense of mystery, but perhaps I have to explain more and trade mystery for clarity. I see in the comments that some people even thought the narrator is a man, so I also have to clarify her gender early on. 😀

      She is supposed to be a highly trained soldier, but this is her first kill. Thus, she is supposed to be experienced and inexperienced at the same time. I guess I didn’t manage to convey this, so it sounded confusing.

      Thank you again for your kind advices and for pointing both the positive and negative points. ❤ I will definitely comment on your WIP. ^_^

  4. suzanna says:

    I really liked this. Here are some thoughts I had whilst reading. Feel free to disregard.

    Why was she ‘surprised when I was informed I had to wait on that spot’ when it was ‘the perfect hiding place’ ?

    Wondered why she was afraid of a ‘technical failure’? Did she think the rifle wouldn’t work? Seemed a bit odd because of all the training etc.

    “I stopped before the man’s body and watched him, engrossed with the scene in front of me.” Not sure a sniper who had been training for 6 years would risk this.

    Would you refer to your best friend as ‘the black girl’?

    You’ve set up some interesting characters and I’m intrigued to know what’s going to happen. The Academy reminds me of Robert Muchamore’s ‘Cherub’ series set in a more dystopian world. Would read more.

    • Wo Ai Ni says:

      Thank you very much for your kind comment. ^_^ I’m very happy to hear you would read more. 😀

      It seems I have to clarify more the setting of the killing. Also, I was struggling to describe her best friend and you are right, I should find a different way.

      I didn’t know the Cherub series, I will check it out. Thank you again for your helpful tips. 🙂

  5. Noelia says:

    First off, your choice of audience is spot on. I’m getting Divergent vibes and Enders Game vibes from it. Young adults love distopian stories, but that’s all the more reason to be careful. There are so many so yours will need to stand out from the rest. So far so good!

    I like how fast paced the story is going. It tells me that this first killing is just the beginning. There is more to come once they graduate. On that note, I would’ve liked just a bit more in the first killing. There’s tons of ways you can use that first kill, particularly to show the main characters mind set about the enemies and the city they live in. I want to read a description that shows how she sees the dude as a threat to her life and that of everyone and everything she’s ever known. I’m not sure how strong her mind set is against these enemies, but based on the description I would say she is actually way more worried about passing her test than actually protecting the city. Her motivation right now is to become an elite soldier (which is okay but I would like to know why). Why is she super motivated to be one of the top people defending the city? Answer this question and use the first kill as a tool to show it.

    On to my next point, the best friend. From what I can tell her motivations are to reach glory by being in the highest rank which is crime prevention sector and be considered better than her twin. I like this. She is referred to as the black girl which I understand because you want to show your readers that there is diversity in your story and that it’s not white washed. I recommend using descriptions like “Nyah showed and easy smile on her dark brown skin” (that’s actually not very good but I’m trying to say that it’s better to be subtle). But now I’m going to take what I just said back. African Americans are always put as the protagonists best friend but never the main characters. I strongly encourage you to show diversity by making your main character a the one with dark skin.

    Good luck! I really hope your revisions turn out well because I really like the story so far!

    • Wo Ai Ni says:

      Thank you very much for this kind comment! I’m glad to hear it sounds interesting and suitable for its genre. ^_^

      It seems I have to add more elements in this first killing scene to engage the reader better. I especially have to mention her motivations, thank you for pointing this out.

      I am happy you like the protagonist’s best friend. 😀 You are totally right, I have to describe her in a better way. There is quite some diversity in the story, so I hope every character gets the light they deserve.

      Thank you again for your helpful tips, I appreciate your kindness. 🙂

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