Okay, I'm not too happy with the opening chunk of the novel, so I re-did it. Not only do I think it flows a little better, but it now kicks off a couple of plot-threads that get more important later on, as well as starting the whole dream-sequence motiff that is used so extensively later on in the book. So, here's the new opening to chapter one. Bonus points if you can identify each of the characters featured herein! As always, please leave feedback. KTHNX, bai.
Goats stood in the light of the setting sun, grazing absently at small shrubs and tufts of grass, swatting flies with their tails, and looking up at the occasional loud sound. Sitting a few yards away from his herd, a young boy sat on a pile of rocks, staring absently over the scrubland around him. Nothing had happened all day, and he was bored.
Just as the boy was about to start carving a root he had found, he heard a low thrumming sound. It grew steadily louder, and all around him the goats looked up into the sky. Long moments passed, the boy staring out to the horizon, hoping to catch a glimpse of whatever was making that noise.
A few seconds later, a small swarm of helicopters, flying low and fast, came into view and passed over head. Expertly painted American flags were clearly visible on the sides of all of the vehicles, and the boy, abandoning his goats, turned and ran towards his village, hoping desperately to arrive in time to give warning.
Inside one the helicopters sat a group of fifteen American soldiers, all of them wearing bulky tan body armor. They were talking in groups of twos and threes, occasionally glancing up to the front of the aircraft where a pale, dark haired man sat, looking blankly at the far wall. Sitting to his left was a woman with Asian facial features, and to his right a bald man with glasses. Whenever a soldier would look at the pale man, the woman and the man would stare back at the offender, and soon the soldier would look away. After several minutes of this, a tall, muscular man in his early thirties stood up in the back of the helicopter. He cleared his throat noisily, and all eyes, except those of the pale man, turned towards him.
“All right, we have orders, straight from the general. This,” he said, tapping the folder clutched tightly in one hand, “will be your final exam. Do the right thing and we turn you loose to do your duty.”
“I don’t want your **** duty,” muttered an elderly black man with short dreadlocks.
“Tough,” the standing man replied. “You have to have it one way or another. Back to the subject; we will be landing at a village about twenty miles outside of Gaza. It’s become a final hold-out for the Palestinians and the Free Peoples of Islam, so be ready for some tough fighting. I want this place wiped off the map, no survivors.”
“There are children there,” the pale man said. A wave of muttering rippled out from around him, but he blinked and all sound ceased.
“I don’t care. More importantly, the general doesn’t care.”
“The General cares about what I tell him to care about.”
The other soldier ignored this comment. “Does anyone have questions?”
The Asian woman raised her hand. “What are the limits on this? Just regular ordnance, or…?” She left the question hanging. The other soldiers nodded at what she said.
“Keep to the laws of physics and plausible deniability. We don’t want some reporter stumbling upon anything that can’t be explained.” The soldier swept his eyes around the group once more. “Last chance for questions.”
The bald man with the glasses raised his hand.
“Yes, Mr. Donalson?”
“I won’t kill any children.”
The standing soldier smiled viciously. “You will do exactly what I say you will do.”
As he said this, the interior of the helicopter seemed to fade away, replaced by low buildings and men running, screaming…
The bald man was running, his rifle held ready, the trigger pulling back again, and again…
The boy, running back into the village, saw them standing their, the great behemoths moving through his world. The bald man saw all of this through the boy’s eyes as the boy ran and hid in the remains of a crumbling hovel. A shadow loomed over him, a struggle, a single, brilliant flash—