Sample Synopsis – Annihilation Squad



By Gav Thorpe


The story begins about a year after Kill Team ended – well, a perceived year that is. Kage and another Last Chancers squad have been in a non-stop warp jump for much of this time. They are being raced to Armageddon to hunt down and kill the renegade Imperial Commander of that world, Overlord von Strab. Risking all, they have traversed nearly 40,000 light years of the galaxy without dropping out of the warp once. The end of this journey is fraught with danger as the second of the three navigators die, the geller fields begin to fail and they are assaulted by all manner of warp entities. Surviving this, they are dropped onto Armageddon itself and must make their way across the battle-ravaged world, through the various warzones, until reaching the destination – the ork infested, rebel hive of Acheron. Entering via a bombed-out supply pipe into the bowels of the hive, they must fight their way past the dread creatures within, and there infiltrate the bizarre, sadistic court of the insane Overlord. However, the mission goes awry, with Kage separated from the others, and he ends up as one of the governor’s bodyguards. He has the perfect opportunity to act, though if he does, the renegade’s Ork ‘minderz’ will surely kill him immediately after. Will Kage do the right thing?

Mission Statement

More blood n guts glory! We see Kage driven to insanity and beyond by the continual nightmarish surrounds of the warp, the Armageddon battlefield and the twisted life inside Hive Acheron, to the point where he makes his moment of decision. He has one chance to act, one chance only, and his future, one way or the other, relies upon what he does next.


As Kill Team – first person with third person start and chapter breaks, near-continuous narrative.

The Characters

Kage: Kage is as he was at the end of Kill team – a cold-blooded, spiteful killer. As his madness increases, his psychic potential also expands, to the point where his visions and prescience are driving him to the point of self-destruction. The re-appearance of Lorii calms him to start with – his guilt about being the only Last Chancer to survive Coritantorum somewhat allayed. However, the respite is brief as her motives for joining the Last Chancers are made clear, and her hatred of Kage reaches conflict point.

Schaeffer: The Colonel isn’t much changed– still a bastard, still determined to achieve his mission over and above any other consideration, and still using Kage to do his dirty work.

Lorii: Having been rescued by him from the conflagration of Coritanorum, Lorii had been fighting alongside Inquisitor Oriel until her path crosses that of the Last Chancers again after the assassination of the Tau commander at the end of Kill Team. She has requested that she join the Last Chancers again– supposedly driven to near-suicidal despair by her twin brother’s death, she has become next to useless for oriel to be with. In truth, she blames Kage for the death of her brother, and seeks to avenge Loron’s death by killing Kage.

Erasmus Spooge: The most unlikely Last Chancer ever to fight for the Colonel, Erasmus used to be a quartermaster’s clerk for the Departmento Munitorum. However, after his incompetence redirected a vital convoy to the war against the Tyranids into the teeth of a hive fleet, and a planet fell to the aliens due to lack of ammunition, he was handed over to the Colonel. The Colonel didn’t want him, but even Schaeffer has his superiors and cannot cross the Departmento if he wants to get hold of lasguns and grenades. A bit slow, but well-meaning, it’s almost a miracle that he even survives the first day with Kage.

Brin ‘Brownie’ Dunmore: A heavy weapons specialist drafted from the prisoners kept ‘on ice’ by schaeffer, Dunmore was responsible for downing an Imperial thunderbolt to prove he could hit an aircraft with an anti-tank missile. Such skill obviously brought him immediately to mind for the Colonel when assembling this squad.

Festal Kin-Drugg: An ex-gravchute trooper, Kin-Drugg is an expert at close quarters fighting and shock assault. Sentenced to death for an unauthorised drop to loot a deserted imperial settlement in the wake of an ork advance.

Kelth: The surviving navigator. He has little choice but to accompany the Last Chancers when their ship is forced to crash land. Aloof, voluntarily mute, his third eye proves to be a deadly but uncontrollable weapon.

Gideon Oahebs: Another member of Oriel’s warband ‘gifted’ to the Last Chancers for unknown reasons. He is in fact a Soulshield, and is there to keep an eye on Kage and terminate him should his psychic powers become too dangerous to the others. He has supposedly betrayed Oriel during his last investigation, although Lorii has her suspicions. We’ve had a couple of Pariah’s (anti-psykers) lately, and there supposed to be about one in ten billion of the population, so he’s not going to be a full-fledged Null, but rather a low level psyker trained to suppress the powers of others.

Derflan Kierk: Kierk is a native of the Acheron underhive, pressed into service to be the squad’s guide through the depths of the rebel hive city. A scabrous, half-mutant with a tendency to refer to himself in the third person, Kierk is stealthy, untrustworthy and absolutely essential to the team’s success if they wish to navigate the labyrinthine depths…

Golder Fenn: One of the brutal Ork-hunters of the Armageddon jungle, Fenn survived the ork attack on Cerberus base by being late back from patrol with his squad – a mixed blessing, as thisa landed him in immediate trouble with the commissariat, who suspect that he could have arrived in time to contribute to the camp’s defence. The Last Chancers pick him up on their way through. He is a huge man, with the cunning of a cat, and a no-nonsense attitude to survival. He is also agoraphobic outside of the jungle canopy he grew up with.


Open on 3rd person description of the ship in the warp, creatures writhing across its Geller field. One finds an opening for a split second and seeps through. Floating through the ship, it sees a bright mind to infest and does so. We don’t know who is possessed…

Note: In subsequent interludes, we will get the daemon’s view of other team members, slowly eliminating those who could be possessed.

Part One – Warp-dreams

Kage awakes from nightmare induced by his latent powers. He sees himself tumbling through an abyss of fire, his body writhing uncontrollably, and sprouting wings before soaring away. We get to meet the other team members (including many ones not listed above that will die later when the ship comes under attack). The ship is a small escort, obviously Inquisition-controlled, apparently very fast although who can tell in warpspace? They’ve been in continuous warp transit for the whole voyage. Lay on thick how this is very dangerous, and they’ve already burned out two Nvbigators, dreams are driving them all crazy, infighting between the Chancers, a couple of deaths. We find out that Lorri was rescued by Oriel from Coritanorum, and was acting as his liason with the Imperial troops who invade at the end of Kill Team. Along with Gideon Oahebs (whom she doesn’t know fully about), she’s there to represent Oriel’s interests. Kage is suspicious about no sign of Oriel – in fact, he is ‘seconding’ the Last Chancers to another Xenos Inquisitor to deal with the threat posed by von Strab and his Ork bully boys. No definite mission as yet – just know that they’re on the way to Armageddon to help out the war effort. Kage has always been uneasy about Oahebs, but now finds the man’s presence physically distasteful.

3rd person interlude – Daemon’s eye view of Lorii.

Part Two – Unhappy Arrival

Jump out of warpspace in the outer Armageddon system. Dock briefly at the orbital station of Mannheim, to get latest intelligence on the war – give us a chance to overview the situation on the planet . Leaving Mannheim on an intra-system ship, they come under attack from Ork ships hiding in the shadow of the fifth planet, Chosin. Their small convoy runs for it and luckily reach an Imperial battlefleet returning to St. Jowen’s docks from Armageddon. The good guys turn up and the Orks are destroyed.

Entering the outer orbit of Armageddon, they come across an uncharted asteroid field. Tin telligence suggest an Ork hulk in the area so the Colonel decies they should go through. Whoops! The asteroids, of course, turn out to be Ork roks. The Chancers’ ship is crippled by missiles and blasters, and descends into planet’s upper atmosphere. There’s a scramble for the saviour pods, during which all-out fighting breaks out and Kage has to kill to get on board one of the pods. The saviour shuttles drop down, some getting blasted by the roks, others malfunctioning and burning up. The survivors crash land in the jungle.

3rd person interlude: Daemon’s eye view of Schaeffer.

Part Three – Junglefight

Tfinding themselves in the inhospitable jungle, the air polluted and difficult to breath the team must fight their way to Cerberus base. After a day, they run into Inquisitorial forces in one of the purgatus area, and are briefly press-ganged into an assault on a Ork fortification in the jungle’s heart. This duty seen through, they are sent on their way to Cerberus base – memories of the God-plant occur to Kage and he gets very jumpy. They arrive as the Colonel of the Ork Hunters is presiding over the court martial of Lieutenant Golder Fenn. After discussions with Schaeffer, Fenn is seconded to the last Chancers to escort them out of the jungle to the Chaeron river, and onwards to wherever there goal may lie.

3rd person: Daemon’s eye view of Dunmore.

Part Four – Across the Wastes

The team travel down the Chaeron river as far as Infernus quay, joining a huge transport from the Krynnan canal. Infernus quay is under attack when they disembark (think Enemy at the Gates). They join the fighting, during which the Last Chancers board an Ork battlefortress and destroy it from inside. Kin-drugg is seriously wounded in the leg during the attack. but refuses to be left behind – he wants his redemption and is afraid to be left with the defenders of the quay – no-one thinks it will hold out for much longer. Schaeffer reveals that they are heading for Acheron hive to assassinate/ rescue Overlord von Strab (delete as they find appropriate).

3rd person – Daemon’s eye view of Kelth

Part Five – Through the mountains

They take an armoured train up into the Diablo mountains, a massive steam-powered behemoth with shuttle pads on the roof, gun turrets and such. At one stage. The rail is sabotaged and they must all disembark and protect the engineers from feral ork attacks as they repair the rail. The later come under attack from Ork bommas and fightas. Kage crews one of the turrets, Dunmore does likewise. They manage to stave off the attack, though Dunmore is shot in the shoulder in the process. Up in the mountains, they disembark at a minehead and forge their way eastwards and down on to the plains. Here they come across the broken pipeline that they’ll be following into Acheron.

3rd person – daemon’s eye view of Gideon

Part six – Into the depths

They traverse the hundreds of kilometres-long pipeline, which is mostly demolished, massive lakes of burning oil fill the sky with smoke, a battle against the elements of the hive world as much as the inhabitants. They must fight off (and eat) mutant rats and have a run in with a band of ash wastes nomads – with the war going on, these bandits have increased in strength. Eventually they follow the pipeline down into the Acheron Underhive itself.

3rd person – daemon’s eye view of Fenn

Part seven – Underhive

Through the underhive, they encounter ,Derflan Kierk’s gang. The defeat them, and take Kierk as an unwilling guide to lead them to the hive city. He tries to escape,  and ironically Kage tracks him down and brings him back. They must cross the territory of several gangs, and as they approach the hive city, Ork mobs start to appear, harassing the natives and drafting them into the ‘Army of Acheron’s Liberation.’ This needs a distinctly different feel to the Necromundan underhive, though I haven’t figured that one out in detail yet…

3rd person – Daemon view of Kierk

Part eight – Traitor City

The team break into the hive city proper. Here’s where it all goes wrong. Lorii and Kage are split off and sent on a sweep ahead, during which Lorii tries to kill Kage at an opportune moment. He gets her first, and goes awol. Kage comes forwards to join sides with von Strab’s forces, helping him capture the Last Chancers to prove his loyalty. Kage is getting increasingly plagued by headaches, tremblings and flashes of visions, and starts to turn downright evil – he wasn’t exactly a good guy before, but the daemons influence on him is turning him seriously deranged and nasty.

3rd person – daemon growing stronger now that away from Oaheb’s influence, trying to break out.

Part nine – The Court of the Mad

As one of von Strab’s henchman, Kage is part of his obscene court – ritual sacrifice, orgies. All a bit wowzo bonkers really, and Kage has to survive this, as well as the growing possession of the daemon. Kage has a moment of clarity and realise the predicament they are in, and engineers the escape of the others. He lets them go, but decides to stay a henchman of von Strab, buying them time to escape. Schaeffer initially refuses, but circumstances intervene as the guards return and they have to hightail it out of von Strab’s clutches.

3rd person – daemon breaks free while Kage is asleep

Part ten – freedom

The denouement… Kage’s split personality as the daemon wrests for control is seriously endangering him, and he must fight to retain his sanity. He finally becomes aware of the daemon’s presence, and struggles to control it. Facing his ultimate death or possession, and fearing for his soul, he steps up to the mark and acts like the goddamn hero he’s always been. Von Strab is indulging in a bit of fanciful execution, watching his prisoners be thrown off a chasm-like drop in the upper hive. Kage sees his chance, lunges forward and the pair of them topple over the edge. Presumably to their deaths.



Published on April 17, 2008 at 3:21 pm  Comments (10)  

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] As I promised at the start, I have now uploaded a synopsis of one of my published novels, Annihilation Squad. Lots of first-time writers ask what goes into a synopsis, so here’s something to look at. […]


  2. The Last Chancers novels really hooked me, took me a while to finnish Annihilation Squad due to various reasons but i still found myself reading nonstop once i got some spare time. Loved every part of it, though… the ending got me a little bit disapointed, i knew it was going to be the last of The Last Chancers but still, reading about Kage going “heroicly” tossing himself off into the “vally” was a little vague wasnt it? Love the books, love this one, but him dieing from a kamikaze action doesnt feel right for him, a survivor to the end.


  3. Hello Durlek,

    I’m glad you like the Last Chancers. Kage’s final act is deliberately at the opposite end of his usual behaviour. Throughout the series, the theme is that of redemption and what someone is required to do to earn it (in fact, the working title for 13th Legion was Deadly Redemption…). By focussing on his survival rather than his redemption, Kage can never free himself from the endless war and suffering he must endure as punishment for his behaviour. At the end he realises that his only release is his death, and so embraces his fate not only with equanimity but with a sense of achievement.

    “It is a test I have always failed. I have lied and cheated and killed my fellow men for my own reasons. I have squandered the opportunities for glory that I was given. Time and again I have stood upon the precipice of true sacrifice and turned away.”



  4. Hey Gav, it’s great to see this, very useful. You might want to do a sweep for typos, though.

    I think I may just re-read the Last Chancers books. I really liked the ending of the third one–cheesy but ultimately awesome!

    Anyways, I hope this will come in useful for writing any sort of synopsises in the future. Here’s hoping for another BL comp in the next few months!


  5. I deliberately left in the typos so as to give unadulterated text, though it is very poor, you are right. It’s worth reading the intro notes here:




  6. Hi,
    Well, good luck…I suppose…However, I have to tell you that plenty of members were completely disgusted @ the new High Elf armybook… Particularly as not all of them play Druchii and you gave the Asur the ASF rule?! Why was this anyway?!


  7. Your Last Chancers reeled me in for Warhammer 40K. It was very entertaining ride, though, in Annihilation Squad, I suspected Kage of being possessed. You might wonder, however, if you reeled me in, who finally caught me. Answer: Graham McNeil and his Ultramarine Omnibus. Couldn’t stay away from the Marines too long. Thanks.


  8. Along with The Eye of Terror, 13th Legion was the book that really reeled me into Black Library, to the point where I’ve not touched a model in five years, but I’m still buying the fiction on a monthly basis.

    As a videogames journalist I’m slowly building up a lot of published work, and beginning to poise myself to move over into sci-fi much later in life. I’d love to write for Black Library, but we’ll see how that goes.

    As I speak I’m actually re-reading this part of the Kage saga, so I didn’t want to remind myself of too much of the plot, and scrolled to the bottom.

    Keep up the blog, it’s fantastic to see someone update so often that holds a position of much envy by myself and others, I’m sure. I still remember Games Day 2001 and going to a seminar on a game-type I didn’t even play to hear you speak, after being so impressed with the current Orks Codex for 40k.

    Best of luck.



  9. This was of great help to me! Well done, extremely well done. I have a memoir out. checkout -plug in rene de la varre and you will see. Currently working on a fiction based on nonfiction called THE MELLOW GEEZERS.

    Working on query and synopsis. Taking lessons from you! If you have any thoughts on writing a kick ass query, I would love to hear from you. Your story would make a great film! Thats what I am trying to do. Best wishes,
    Rene Paul de la Varre


  10. Hi there,

    I plan to write a quite lengthy review of my last Black Library readings, which happen to be the Last Chancers trilogy. As those books were first published almost fifteen years ago, I am trying to gather extra information about how they were written, and to see what their impact was on the 40K background. There are also some points on which I would gladly hear your say, if you have the time to do so. It goes like this:

    1) Who came first with the character of Colonel Schaeffer? It’s a kind of “chicken-or-egg” question that came to me after I found out that you could field Last Chancers in your regular Imperial Guard Army (something about two or three codices ago). I am an avid fluff reader (especially old fluff) and I have always supposed that good old Schaeffer was your brainchild, but I’d like to have a confirmation about that.

    2) Snippets of information about Schaeffer’s past are unveiled in Annihilation Squad, but one big question remains: what did he do to end up in Penal Legions? I mean, the man is unquestionably real hero’s stuff. According to the Peter Principle, he should have been promoted long ago, and yet he is fighting alongside the worst scum of the Imperial Guard. My educated guess about this mystery is that Schaeffer is trying to atone for past sins, but it is only a supposition.

    3) Do you know why Last Chancers’ miniatures are not quite related to the characters you created in the books (except Schaeffer, whose miniature smokes a big cigar, something I don’t remind him doing in the stories)? Hero, Brains and Demolition Man were present in Kill Team, but I have no memories about the others. Surely they could have made appropriate miniatures for Stradinsk and Strelli too? By the way, why was Kage left behind?

    4) Kage suffers from grievous post-traumatic headaches. They seem to be induced by someone (Oriel, as a retaliation for being left behind on Coritanorum?) and lead him to be nearly lobotomized in Kill Team. Have these headaches something to do with his possession in Annihilation Squad?

    5) Lorii and Loron are clearly Afriel Strain troopers. Again, did you come with the Afriel idea first, or did you take it from some obscure piece of old fluff?

    6) I find that the “team building” process is quite similar in book #1 and book #3 (take a lot of guys and let war and various misfortunes kill all but the toughest ones: here is your team), while in book #2, Kage handpicks his favourites. In hindsight, what was your favourite method to come up with your “core squad”?

    7) I’ve read the synopsis of Annihilation Squad that you posted here, and discovered that the last part of the story is quite different from what you had originally planned (with Kage setting his buddies free from Von Strab’s jails instead of watching half of them being tossed from a cliff before teaching Von Strab basic base jumping). To tell the truth, I’ve found the conclusion of Annihilation Squad to be hastily narrated, a characteristic shared by numerous BL books overall. I am convinced that a few more pages would have done a significant difference, by giving you the space needed to organize Kage’s selfless sacrifice without rushing the things (it is just my impression though). Have you been effectively forced to make a long story short for the last part of Annihilation Squad, or is it just my imagination?

    8) Finally, if you had the opportunity to rewrite these books now, would you change something or keep them as they are?

    Thanks in advance for your feedback, and please excuse my rusted English.



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