Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Another opportunity has come up

​Something with potential came my way last night. Some of the authors who have books out from the publisher that accepted Chaser are putting together an anthology of sci-fi/paranormal romance stories, and invited me to contribute a story. Romance stuff isn't really my cup of tea, at least the kinds of books you see on shelves that have Fabio or whoever on the cover. So I'm not sure if the kind of stuff I write would fit in with the others, but I accepted the invitation. If my story doesn't fit in with the others, yet gets accepted anyway, that'll just make my work stand out.

Anyway, I gave it a few minutes of thought last night and things started clicking together in my head. I finally got a handle on the story I wanted to use Kolya Mason (the woman with the scarred-up face -- character profile here) in. Started writing last night and cranked out almost 3,000 words. Not that I wanted to start on yet another project while I still have four other ones going, but the word range they're looking for is between 15,000 and 25,000 words, so it's not like starting on a whole novel. But most of the major plot points have popped into my head so I have a good idea of where the story is going. And so far, it's a fun little story.

And here's an excerpt from the rough draft, part of a fight Kolya gets into around three pages into the story. On some of the terminology -- the shonari are one of the alien species in the setting, and the panther and minotaur are genetically-engineered "anthros" similar to the ones that have appeared in some of my other books.

The knife-wielding human lunged forward and clamped his hand onto Kolya's left arm. "We didn't say you could leave!"
Kolya rocketed her forehead into his nose. Bone snapped and he dropped the knife and collapsed with a howl, pressing his hands against his face and rolling on the floor. Kolya turned and whipped the edge of her hand into the baseball bat guy's throat. He gagged, dropped the bat, brought his hands up to his neck, and staggered backward.
The female shonari rolled her eyes and casually slammed his head into the wall, knocking him out cold.
Kolya grabbed the bat, swung it around, and swept the panther's legs out from under him. He landed flat on his back with a grunt, and Kolya whacked the bat across his midsection. The air rushed from his lungs and he curled into a fetal position.
The minotaur leaped at her, but the two shonari tackled him to the floor. Kolya grinned, turned to face the four remaining humans, rested the bat on her shoulder, and took another bite of her hotdog. One of the humans dropped his knife and ran down the corridor. The other three turned to gape at his receding backside.
More clopping footsteps caught Kolya's attention and she glanced over her shoulder to find the third shonari approaching. She handed her hotdog off to him and caught a glimpse of his bewildered expression as she gripped the bat with both hands and marched over to the nearest of her attackers.
"Uh …" The shonari glanced at the other two, who were still struggling with the minotaur.
"Hey," one of the other humans bellowed at his fleeing cohort. "Get back here!"
Kolya raised the bat into position, drew in a deep breath, and blurted, "Have you seen my baseball?"
"What?" The man spun toward her and she swung for the fences. The end of the bat connected with his jaw. The resultant sickening crunch was followed by a long, warbling shriek as he spun around and toppled over.
Back at the elevator, one of the watching humans burst out laughing.
Kolya risked a glance over her shoulder and found the female shonari clamping her arm around the minotaur's neck and bearing down until he turned limp. She released him and he flopped over.
Kolya turned back to the third shonari and took her hotdog back. "Thanks."
"Uh … sure. No problem."
She grinned and turned back to the last two thugs in time to catch one of them yanking a pistol from under his vest. She whipped her arm out, spinning the bat through the air to slam into his face. He stumbled backward and dropped the gun.
Kolya rushed forward, scooped up the knife from the floor, and whipped it out to the guy's belly. She jabbed him with the tip, not quite breaking his skin, and he froze. His breathing turned shallow and sweat beaded up on his forehead.
Kolya held his gaze, took another bite of her hotdog, and chewed slowly while the shonari planted themselves between her and the last goon.
"Walk away," she finally said to the guy she held at knifepoint. She pushed a little harder and the tip barely pierced his skin, prompting a whimper out of him. "Now. Or I'll turn your innards into outards."
So ... yeah. Probably not your average "romance" story. XD

Saturday, December 6, 2014

"Reactivated" Published

Came home from work this evening to a pleasant surprise in my email. Reactivated, the first book in GI Joe: Omega Section, has been published. Over the next few days I'll be putting up a sample chapter or two on the sites where I post my work. Action-packed, but with plenty of humor ... I think this one's a fun little story.

I need to get caught up on a few of my other books, but I've already got ideas for the next Omega Section book....

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Action Scene Breakdown: "Freelancers: A Personal War"

Here's something I've been wanting to do for quite a while. Now that the final draft of Reactivated is finished and submitted, it's time to get started on a new project. If I remember correctly, I've mentioned before that a friend asked me to teach her how to write action scenes, and I thought the "lessons" might be useful to other writers, so I'm posting what I come up with here.

I've probably also mentioned that I've never tried to teach anyone anything before, so I'm just trying out ideas as they pop into my head and hoping they work. And here's the latest.

What I'll be doing here is taking one of the things I've written recently and break it down scene by scene, adding in comments on the action in the story. I decided to use the Freelancers one-shot story, A Personal War, as it's one of the most action-packed things I've written, and also one of my favorite pieces.

Anyone who wants to read the story without all the breaks and notations and whatnot, click the link above or the one on the right. I'll post the whole story here, inserting remarks between each scene, and also adding some notes in the scenes themselves when needed. These notes will be in red text to make it clear they're not part of the story itself.

This story was written as a sneak peek at a plot thread I'm planning for Freelancers sometime in the near future. Various ideas kept clicking into place until I finally just had to start writing it while it was fresh in my mind. Its protagonist is Valeria Terakkis (profiled recently right here). The basic plot: her husband, her parents, and her younger siblings have been taken hostage by an old enemy who plans to use them to draw her out. The story begins after they've already been kidnapped, and this is one of the things I'm planning to flesh out when it's time to start working this into Freelancers.

The first two scenes are quiet, with Valeria and her friends arriving in orbit of the planet Bekenstein and boarding a shuttle to the surface. Valeria's old enemy, mercenary Lantim Akos, and his crew of two hundred-plus mercs, are keeping the hostages in a compound far outside one of the major cities. The first scene deals mostly with Valeria's plan to go into the compound, rescue the hostages herself, and make an example of the mercs in hopes of getting any other old enemies to think twice before trying to harm her family again. This scene is also where she talks about her fears of letting the monster inside her loose -- but she's unleashing anyway, to protect those she loves.

"Almost there." Chula [a quarian, for anyone who doesn't already know] kept her voice low as Valeria entered the Sulaco's cockpit. "Just a few more minutes."
"Thanks for the lift." Valeria [a turian] stared at the black windows and sank into the seat to Chula's left.
"Hey, you know we're all here for you." Chula dimmed the lights until only the faint glow of the control panels remained. The darkness faded from the windows and revealed the blue-and-green planet growing gradually larger as the Sulaco approached. Off to the left, a considerable distance away yet already well within visual range, was the dreadnaught-size hospital ship Angel on my Shoulder.
Chula whistled softly. "Look at the size of that ship."
Valeria nodded. "I've been keeping up on its development. Completed only a few months ago, so it's state of the art. Which is good, because we'll probably be needing it when the Reapers invade."
"Yeah." Chula glanced at her again. "Sounds like you're planning to still be alive after today. Glad to hear it."
"Oh, I intend to survive this, for my parents and my siblings and most of all for Irving. Knowing what the thought of losing him has already done to me, I could never put him through that." Valeria sighed and stared at the wedding ring on her talon. "I doubt I'll ever be the same after today, but I intend to be alive."
"I still want to help you with this. We all do."
"Thanks, but I'm going to get dirty on this mission." Val clenched her jaw and her mandibles quivered. "I'm going to hit those motherfuckers with everything I've got. When it's over, the hostages will be free, without a scratch, and I'll have the blood of more than two hundred mercs on my hands. I'd prefer not to let any of that be on yours."
Chula shrugged. "I've already killed more people than that. Several dozen batarian, vorcha, and krogan pirates on a single job on Virmire a month or so before we met, just for one example. I can handle a few dozen more today." She pushed her hat into a slight downward angle. "Besides, these mercs kidnapped a shuttle filled with innocent people, and it isn't the first time they've done that. Most of the people they've abducted in the past didn't survive. These guys need killin'."
"I think you're a stronger person than I am, then. I've always been a little bit afraid of myself. That's why I didn't want to go back into the Spectres. I'm afraid there's something monstrous inside me." She raised her head and met Chula's glowing eyes. "And in a few minutes, I'll be unleashing that monster, letting it take over completely, and after it's over, I'm worried that I'll never be able to bottle it up completely again."
"Do you really have to go that far?"
"Lantim Akos isn't the only enemy I made while I was a Spectre the first time around. Nor is he the only one who survived an encounter with me. And if I don't send a clear message, he won't be the only one who tries to get to me through the people I love." Valeria sighed and rubbed her hands over her face. "By wiping these bastards out with extreme prejudice, I'm hoping the others will hear about it and think twice about trying the same thing."
"Okay, I can understand that." Chula nodded slowly. "But please let us help, somehow. Even if it's just covering your back."
Val thought it over, took a deep breath, and released it slowly. "Alright. Keep an eye on things from a distance. Open fire only if you see one of them about to get the drop on me. I don't want any of you getting hurt, and would prefer you don't get any more blood on your hands than you absolutely have to."
"Deal." Chula turned back to her console and tapped a few glowing buttons. "We've entered orbit."
Valeria stood and headed for the door. "Okay. Let's gear up."
While you could make your action hero just a badass killing machine who mops the floor with the bad guys while firing off cute one-liners, I think it makes for a better story if there's more to him or her than that. As mentioned in Valeria's profile, she's extremely good at being a killer, but she doesn't want to be. However, in this case, the lives of her family and her husband are at stake, so she makes the decision without hesitation to go back into her one-woman-army mode. And hell will be following one step behind her.

The next scene is packed with the other characters who live on the Sulaco. Anyone who hasn't read Freelancers won't know who they are, but they only appear in this scene, and a few of them show up at the end. In the fully fleshed-out version of this storyline that'll appear in Freelancers later, their roles will be expanded considerably, but right here the focus is all on Valeria.

Valeria stepped into the shuttle and stopped in her tracks. The entire Sulaco crew sat in the passenger compartment, including General Kurakova [Amusing little note here. For some reason, I've always pictured Natalie Kurakova being voiced by Betty White. And while I'm talking about it, I've also thought Angela Bassett would be a great voice for Valeria.] and their recently-discovered stowaways, Garusha [a batarian] and Scott Bailey. All of them wore armor and carried a full weapons loadout except Scott, who'd put on a spare set of armor but hadn't taken any guns.
Valeria opened her mouth, but before she could speak, Kurakova crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head.
"We're going with you, and that's final. Irving's my grandson, so there's no way in hell I'm sitting this one out."
"Nana ...." Val sighed, let her shoulders slump, and walked over to put her arms around her grandmother-in-law. "Thank you."
"You're not arguing? Holy shit."
"Chula already convinced me to let you guys watch my back. If someone is sneaking up behind me, take them out, but leave the rest to me."
"Fair enough, I guess." Nana hugged her again and returned to her seat.
"The kid has to stay behind, though." Val aimed a stern look at Scott. "You're a civilian, and your dad will kill all of us if anything happens to you." She turned to Garusha and added, "The same goes for you."
"Relax, I'm just flying the shuttle," Scott said. "I won't set foot outside it, I promise."
"You know how to fly one of these, kid?"
"Yep. I've raced a few similar models. Well, really souped-up models, that is." His face took on a slight reddish tint and he cleared his throat. "The races were illegal, so I never told my dad about 'em."
"Uh-huh. And how many ships did you crash?"
"Hmm." Valeria sighed. "Well, as long as you drop us off and immediately move the shuttle to a safe distance." She glanced at Garusha. "Sixpack, you stay on the shuttle with Scott and keep him safe--and make sure he stays put."
"I'd be happy to." The batarian girl smiled.
Val nodded and turned back to Scott. "If things go pear-shaped on us, you lift off and run like hell. Don't even argue. If one of us tells you to go, you go. Contact the Angel on my Shoulder and request permission to dock. Tell them what happened, and they can take it from there." She turned to Chula and leaned over to whisper to her. "Take the copilot's seat. If it looks like he can't handle the controls, take over."
"On it." Chula clapped Val's shoulder and sat on Scott's right.
Garusha gave Scott a passionate kiss before scurrying over to one of the vacant seats.
Scott glanced over his shoulder and made eye contact with everyone. "Ready?"
"Let 'er rip," Dakka [krogan] said with a grin. She gave him a thumbs-up and then kept both hands on her giant rotary cannon, making sure the barrel was pointed away from everyone.
Beside her, Nana gave her M-98 Widow anti-material rifle one more quick inspection and propped the stock on the floor between her boots.
Everyone else simply nodded or gave Scott a thumbs-up. He nodded back and tapped the control panel. 
"Depressurizing the shuttle bay. Opening outer door."
"I wonder if we'll need tranquilizers," Quint said under his breath.
"I fucking heard that. Lifting off now. Hold on to your asses."
Magnum grinned. Quint closed his eyes and held his breath.
The shuttle raised off the deck, eased forward, cleared the doors, and entered a deorbit trajectory without the slightest jolt.
"Closing bay doors. Beginning descent." Scott glanced over his shoulder and arched an eyebrow. "You sure you're not gonna need a barf bag?"
"Uh." Quint sighed and stared at the floor. "Sorry, kid." His face turned red.
Scott merely nodded, but then he flicked a smirk at Garusha before facing forward. She snickered and winked both left eyes at him.
Valeria chuckled and gazed down at the helmet resting on her lap. After silence stretched out for a few more seconds, she looked up at Nana.
"Do Irving's mom and dad know about any of this yet?"
"I haven't told them. Figured there was no point in worrying them sick when they couldn't do anything about it anyway."
"Thank you. They already don't approve of our marriage, and they'll hate me if he doesn't make it through this. It's my fault this happened in the first place, and if I can't--"
"Hold on, there. You didn't do this. Akos and his crew are the ones responsible for all of it." Nana leaned over and patted Val's hand. "I'll make sure they understand, no matter how this turns out."
"Thank you." Valeria held Nana's hand for a moment before resting it on top of her helmet. She turned to stare out the front window.
Hold on, Irv. I'm coming for you.
Here's a little fun fact: When I first started coming up with ideas for this storyline, it was just Val's husband who was abducted. Later on I added her parents, brother, and sister, as well as several other civilian hostages, and then didn't think to alter that last line in the scene. I suppose one could read into it the idea that she was thinking about Irving more than her parents, for several reasons. Part of her backstory, which has come up in earlier chapters of Freelancers and will be fleshed out more in the future, is that she already didn't get along with most of her family, and when she married a human, her difficulties with them intensified exponentially. Still, they're her family, and she's in this for them as well as for her husband. But there it is, one of my little brainfarts that I kept forgetting to correct.

Now, on to the third scene, and that's where Valeria goes into action.
Showtime. Valeria crouched behind a shipping container and used her helmet's optics to zoom in on the compound in the distance. Scott had dropped her off a kilometer away and proceeded to deposit the rest of the crew at equidistant points around the base before finding a landing zone far off-site. The team had then approached the base and taken positions a safe distance away while Valeria continued on. Her armor's stealth system had rendered her invisible to eyes, cameras, and sensors, though she'd have to use it sparingly from here on to conserve the power cell. [Even if your character is a total badass, it's better for the story to put limits on their capabilities in one way or another. It adds a bit of tension, and things like batteries and power cells running out of power are reasonable things that make suspension of disbelief easier.]
Footsteps approached. She held still and waited until a turian trudged past. He turned his head, gave the area a half-assed sweep, and moved on with a bored sigh. Valeria remained still until he disappeared around the corner of the compound's outer wall. She crept through the gate and took a quick look around.
The closest building appeared to be a hangar, which was a good enough place to start. The first order of business was to remove the mercs' ability to escape or send gunships after her and her friends. [While stopping the action to describe or explain things in minute detail would bring the story to a grinding halt, it's good to add at least a line or two every now and then to show your character examining her surroundings and figuring out her next step. In the case of a professional agent like Val, it's important to show her working out her tactics for the engagement.]
The rest of the buildings were stubby cylinders, with a larger one in the center topped by a dome. Probably the command center. Might be where the hostages were being held, too. She knew from past encounters that Akos liked to stay safe in his command center while keeping hostages where he could see them.
She rushed over to the hangar, found a personnel door, and paused long enough to scan the interior with her Omni-Tool. It detected only two life forms, one human and one batarian, and no mech units. Their locations appeared as blips in her heads-up display, in the corner near this very door.
Fantastic. Even though I'm invisible, they'll see and hear the door open. An idea came to her and she cocked her head. Unless ... [One thing I've seen a lot of writers do -- and have done it myself now and then -- is to use straight narration to explain something like this. But for me, it seems to work better to have the character actually think that line rather than let the narration handle it. For me at least, it gives the scene more immediacy and helps keep the reader absorbed in the story, while the narration method might actually let them detach a little bit.]
She suppressed a chuckle, hacked the lock, and tapped the control on the panel beside the door. The door slid open and the two mercs spun around and raised their rifles.
The human muttered, "What the hell?"
Valeria waited three seconds and hit the button again. The door closed and she waited three more seconds before opening the door again. Three seconds, closed it again. Three more seconds, and she opened it. [You could just have your character storm in and gun the bad guys down, but it's good to show her using her brain as well. Also add bits of flavor where you can by having her use her environment. I think of it as the Jackie Chan method, especially for things around her that can be used as weapons: If it's not nailed down, it's a weapon -- and if she can pry it loose, it's not nailed down.]
The batarian shook his head. "Great. Another malfunction. Akos finds the best places to hole up, doesn't he?" [This clues the reader in on past jobs Akos and his crew have done, and bitching about his boss and his job changes this guy from a basic, one-dimensional thug to someone with an actual personality. Humanizes him a bit, for lack of a better term (the character being an alien, and all.)]
Valeria closed the door, waited three seconds, and opened it.
"Maybe the next job will be on Illium," the human said. "If we play our cards right, we can stay in the Azure Hotel."
Valeria closed the door and opened it again. Come on, get your ass over here to check the control panel, so I can fucking kill you.
"Imagine being surrounded by hot asari pussy," the human continued. Both of them turned their backs to the door, having apparently decided to ignore it.
"Yeah, I wouldn't mind getting me some of that."
Val closed the door again. [Another way to put obstacles in the hero's path and make the story a bit more interesting is to have things go wrong, forcing her to change her plans on the fly.] Okay, Plan B. She opened the door and fired a small overload blast from her Omni-Tool into the control panel. The door froze two-thirds open.
"Wonderful," the human grumbled. "A planet as gorgeous as Bekenstein, and we're stuck way outside the nearest city, with old equipment that's falling apart and every pleasure this planet has to offer out of our reach."
"Well, when this is over, maybe Akos will give us a night or two off. I heard about a synthetic brothel in town. I'm curious enough to try it out."
"Synthetic hookers? Eh." The human shrugged. "On second thought, it might be okay. And since they're synthetic, it doesn't matter if you smack 'em around a little." [Here's where these two guys take a turn for the creepy. When your hero is preparing to slaughter an enemy force, while it's good for the story to make the bad guys come across like real people, it's probably also a good idea to make at least a few of them so contemptible that the readers won't shed any tears when she takes them out of the gene pool. This also provides a bit of minor mood-whiplash, starting out with the two thugs appearing slightly likable, then veering sharply into "Holy shit, the galaxy will be a better place without these two pieces of crap!"]
Seriously? Valeria rolled her eyes and slipped through the open door.
The batarian laughed. "If that bitch would just show up already so we can kill her and be done with it."
"Yeah." The human snorted. "All this just for a porn star."
"Well, former Spectre turned porn star, and now she's a Spectre again."
"Uh-huh. I've seen a few of her vids. Y'know, turians aren't particularly attractive, but there's something about this one that really gets me all worked up. It's a shame Akos won't let us fuck her before he kills her. Like, we could all take turns with her."
Oh, you did not just say that. Valeria crept up behind him. Guess I won't feel as bad about this as I expected to.
He laughed. "Actually, she doesn't have to be alive for that. Just get in a quick bang while the body's still warm."
Oh, you piece of shit. This is one brutal murder I won't regret at all.
"Hah!" The batarian grinned. "Well, maybe we can have a few of the hostages before we get rid of 'em all. That little sister of hers is kind of cute." [And there it is. The chances of Valeria sparing this chucklefuck's life just dropped to zero.]
Valeria suppressed a snarl and pulled the knife from her belt.
"Hmm, yeah." The human took his helmet off and raked his fingers through his hair. "She looks pretty young. I bet she's got a really tight--" [And that comment flushed his chances of a quick, painless death.]
Valeria stepped up behind him, grabbed a handful of his hair, yanked his head back, and raked her blade across his throat--slowly. His arms flailed and his helmet hit the floor and bounced. Blood sprayed across the two meters between him and the batarian and splattered him.
"What--? Fuck!" The batarian stumbled backward and raised a hand to activate his comlink.
Valeria charged him, clamped her arms around his head, and spun, twisting at the waist and throwing her whole body into the motion. [It's one thing for a character to simply snap another character's neck. But Valeria does it with elan. Also, more seriously, the idea I had in mind here was that this might be a style of turian martial arts, possibly developed to break through a turian's tougher skin or carapace.] His neck snapped and she let his corpse tumble to the floor. She scanned them with her Tool to be sure they were dead, then she texted a single word to her friends: In.
She deactivated her stealth system, glanced around at the ships surrounding her, and plucked a grenade from her belt. Time to announce my presence. She stopped behind the nearest gunship, jerked an access panel open, set the grenade to remote-detonate, and dropped it into the fuel cell receptacle. She repeated the process with the other gunships until she had no grenades left. [Again, using whatever she finds in her immediate surroundings as weapons.]
Then she plucked the detonator from her belt and sprinted for the door.
Let the good times roll.
And here's where the fun really starts. A lot of what Valeria does from here on could be seen as Rule of Cool or over-the-top, but she takes certain actions for the specific purpose of intimidating and demoralizing the mercs. More on that when it comes up.

Before we go on with the story, here's a specific tip that applies both to explosions and punches/kicks/etc. The typical explosion you see in a movie or on a TV show, for example, is a slowly expanding fireball (often done using little more than gasoline and air cannons) that doesn't really carry the kind of shockwave that's implied by actors or stunt people throwing themselves through the air and falling to the ground. Real explosions tend to be much more sudden and violent, and in some cases there isn't much actual fire, like the ones you can see in the average Mythbusters episode. Here's my personal favorite to give you an idea of what I'm talking about.

So, when I describe an explosion in something I'm writing, I tend to use words that imply sudden, short, sharp pops or blasts. Same goes for hand-to-hand fights -- it's not the "hitting slabs of meat together" kind of sound I remember from so many TV shows and movies from my childhood in the '80s. Depending on where the impact is on the character's body, it's more of a thump or a whack or a snap, with additional sounds like the abrupt crunch of an arm breaking or a skull shattering. Again, use words that suggest something happening quickly, abruptly, and with incredible force. I'll get more into the hand-to-hand stuff later, but for now, on with the story.
An explosion hammered everything--floor, ceiling, walls, and everyone inside the command dome. The other hostages near Irving twitched and the armored mercs beyond them reached out for railings, consoles, or whatever else was nearby, bracing themselves and glancing around with wide eyes.
A second blast hit even harder, as if a giant had roundhouse-kicked the side of the tower. Smoke and shrapnel shot into the sky outside the observation dome. [Describing the structure as a tower tells the reader that it's really, really tall, and in this case, because the people here are in the dome on top, having the shrapnel from the blast rocketing up above them gives the reader a pretty clear idea of just how violent the explosion was.]
Smaller pops and snaps and booms followed like popcorn--ammo and ordnance in the gunships cooking off. Another muffled whump announced the loss of yet another ship. [One thing I sometimes do is italicize action/explosion words to give them a little more force or impact. Typing "bang" is one thing, but typing "bang" just gives it slightly more "oomph."]
Irving stood and stared out through the dome. The hangar continued shredding as more shuttles and gunships ripped apart, sending chunks of metal into the sky and arcing off to all sides.
A particularly large chunk, almost the size of an aircar, tumbled straight toward the dome.
Oh, shit. Irving backed away and almost tripped over someone. He glanced down and found Valeria's little sister, Actana, scooting out of his way without taking her gaping stare off the incoming debris.
Akos and several of the mercs gathered around a set of consoles off to the left stared slack-jawed at the chunk of metal and flinched as it smashed into the dome.
The dome cracked with a snap that left Irving's ears ringing, but didn't quite shatter.
Everyone gasped, cried out, or twitched as the debris bounced off and plummeted to the ground, landing with a thud that rocked the building yet again.
Several of the hostages behind Irving whimpered. So did a couple of the mercs. One of them took a few more steps back and covered her mouth with both hands.
Irving laughed softly. Across the room, Akos whipped around to scowl at him. Val's parents, brother, and sister also turned to stare at him, confused at his reaction. He gave Desentos, Lithia, Actana, and Galadin a reassuring smile before turning to smirk at Akos.
"She's here." [You can have the hero working entirely on her own and the hostages simply cowering in fear, or you can slip in a bit of development for her husband right here. He's not a fighter at all, but he knows his wife and he's seen her in action often enough by this point to know what she's capable of. And here, he starts trying to help her out as much as he can, by conducting his own little campaign of psychological warfare on the merc leader. From here on, he'll make several comments intended to shake Akos's confidence or even scare him to the point where he'll start making mistakes.]
Akos's scowl faded. His eyes widened and his mandibles quivered as he turned, pointed at the dome, and snapped, "Close the blast shields!" He pointed at the human woman. "Kerensky--scanners!"
She pulled her hands away from her mouth and tapped her control panel. "Just picked up a single female turian in full armor running from the general direction of the explosion. Not one of ours." She pointed at a monitor.
Irving shuffled to the left until he caught a glimpse of a turian woman in black armor with red trim, gripping an M-96 Mattock heavy rifle in her hands, sprinting across the ground and kicking open a door into one of the nearby cylindrical towers. 
"Send the nearest squads to that location," Akos ordered. "Have them converge on her from all sides." He turned to aim a smug look at Irving. "She made an impressive entrance, but my people will blow her away and lay her corpse at my feet so you can watch me spit on it before I slit your throat."
Irving snorted. "Nope. Your guys are already dead."
[The following bit of business is a way to have the protagonist take out a significant number of enemy troops "off-screen." Putting too much action in a story can become tedious and wear the readers out, so this approach implies much more action than readers actually see, and the speed with which it runs its course intensifies it further. Much like things in a horror movie that you don't see are far more frightening than the things you do see. Or, for another example, there's a kill that happens off-screen in Sin City, and even though you don't see it, there's a quick voice-over that tells you everything you need to know: "She didn't quite cut his head off. She turned him into a Pez dispenser."] On the bank of monitors, three teams approached the cylinder and entered through separate doors.
The screens blanked out and Kerensky gasped. "Cameras and sensors are down--all of them, all over the base."
All that was left in the holographic display was a bank of bioreadout stats--pulse, respiration, and brainwaves of each merc.
Distant gunfire erupted, and seven of the displays flatlined within a split-second of each other. The woman clamped a hand over her mouth again.
The shooting continued, and four more readouts flatlined, followed two seconds later by another six.
Most of the color drained from Kerensky's face.
Akos stared numbly at the monitors and shook his head slowly as they continued flatlining one after another, as if unable to comprehend what he was seeing.
Finally, Kerensky slumped forward, braced her hands on the edge of the console, and hung her head. "They're all gone." [Another way to intensify the action here is to show the bad guys being visibly shaken by what's just happened. That slowly dawning realization that they've bitten off more than they can chew is a good way of selling just how badass this character is without showing each and every kill.]
One of the cameras switched back on and both of them jerked their heads up to look at the screen. On it was one of the rooms in the tower, with more than a dozen bodies sprawled on the floor or slumped over a table or bench or control panel. Some of them had been chopped into burning pieces with an Omni-Blade. [And here's another look into Valeria's calculating nature -- one of the tactics she uses to rattle her enemies even more than they already were.]
"Christ," Kerensky grunted, turning away from the screen and covering her mouth again. "She ... she butchered them!"
The screen switched to a view of the corridor outside the room, with more dead bodies and body parts scattered from one end to the other.
"No," Akos moaned.
"What," Desentos whispered, and Irving glanced over his shoulder to find Valeria's father gaping at the screen as the view switched to another room filled with more fresh corpses.
Finally, the screen blanked out again.
"Lithia ... what has our daughter become?" Desentos mumbled. [Heh ... could be possible here that Val's dad is starting to wonder if she was better off when she was making porn vids with Irving.]
"It's his fault." Irving nodded at Akos, turned to stare into the merc leader's eyes, and shrugged. "That guy kinda pissed her off."
Akos stared back for several seconds, turned to his lieutenant, and spoke in a shaking voice. "Send everyone to Terakkis's last known location!"
The rest of the mercs filed out of the room except for Akos and his lieutenant. Several minutes ticked by. Irving kept watching both of them and hoped he could maintain his air of confidence. As terrified as he was that he would never see Valeria again, he couldn't let it show. The more he could rattle Akos, the more likely the bastard would be to screw up.
[And here comes another of Val's demoralizing tactics.] One of the screens flickered back to life, showing a view of Valeria from behind, with twenty mercs approaching her from the far end of the corridor. Kerensky raised her hand to her forehead.
"What the hell?"
Akos drew in a slow breath and let it out in a soft moan. "She wants us to see this."
And with the next scene, we go back into the detailed action from Val's point of view. One thing I've seen quite a few writers do -- even professionally published authors -- is gloss over action scenes and condense them into a paragraph or two. Which works well enough, though it comes across as more of an outline of the scene than the actual scene. For me, at least, it's much more effective if you let the action play out until it's finished. If you're aiming specifically for an exciting scene, then putting in the detail each action needs will bring the scene to life in a way that breezing through it wouldn't. You can just type something like, "She shot him and he fell" or "she punched him in the face and knocked him out" ... or you can type something like the stuff that happens in the following scene.

"It doesn't have to be this way." Valeria stared the squad leader down and hung her Mattock on her back--but not for the reasons her opponents probably assumed. There was nothing to take cover behind in this corridor. The enemy troops could simply keep firing until they wore her kinetic barriers down, and then blast away at her armor until a round punched through and either killed or disabled her. If she survived that, they'd either blow her brains out or drag her to Akos and let him finish her off.
She needed to get right into the middle of them, where they couldn't shoot at her without hitting their own people. [Another example of her tactical thinking -- analyzing her surroundings and figuring out the best way to proceed.]
"Walk away now and I'll let you live. Don't, and you'll be shipped home in boxes." [With this kind of story, it's easy for the protagonist to come across as a cold-blooded murderer. While Valeria certainly is a stone-cold killer when she needs to be, I felt it was important to show her at least giving the mercs a chance to stand down. This implies she's aware that she's probably made her point by now, and just needs to take care of Akos. She originally intended to wipe them all out, but maybe it's becoming too much for her and she's trying not to shed more blood than she absolutely has to. (That's something I'll probably flesh out more when I work this whole thing into Freelancers.) On the other hand, if one of the points of your story is to have your character cross that line and face consequences for it later, then have at it. :D ]
"You talk pretty big for someone who's outnumbered and outgunned." The leader continued his slow approach.
"The hundred-plus dead people behind me had me outnumbered and outgunned, too." Closer. Come closer, you prick. "I gave them the same offer I just gave you. They were ... uncooperative."
"Get on your knees, bitch. Surrender now and maybe the boss will go easy on you."
Uh-huh. Sure, he will. Valeria remained where she stood, and just waited.
Finally, he stopped in front of her and jammed the barrel of his M-15 Vindicator into her forehead.
"You sure this is how you want to play it?" She stared at him through her helmet visor.
"Get on your fuckin' knees!" He clamped a hand onto her shoulder and tried to force her down.
She grabbed his rifle, whipped it sideways, wrenched his trigger finger the wrong way back, and twisted the gun around until his finger snapped. He howled, but she shut him up by grabbing the sides of his head and breaking his neck with a casual twist. The body crumpled to the floor before the other mercs recovered from the shock. Valeria pulled the rifle from his limp hand as he fell, spun, and hurled it into another merc's face. The impact knocked him off balance and he stumbled into the wall.
Valeria deployed her Omni-Blade, sliced a third merc in half diagonally, spun and lopped the head off the second. As the rest took a step backward, she lunged at the next nearest merc and shoved the blade through his chest before letting it dissipate.
Four other mercs opened fire. A single hit flared her shields up before she dive-rolled out of the line of fire. The mercs sprayed incendiary and disruptor rounds into each other and several of their cohorts before they released the triggers.
Val pulled her Mattock in mid-roll and twitched the trigger before she hit the floor and rolled forward to come up in a crouch. The shot knocked one of the mercs back several steps and his already-weakened barriers collapsed. Valeria braced the gun against her shoulder, leaned into it, lined up another shot, and fired. The gun discharged with its familiar, bass thump and its kick rocked her back several centimeters. [Here's a quick way to give the readers an impression of how powerful the gun is--just a quick line about her needing to lean into it to avoid being knocked on her ass by the recoil. Also, sounds are important with something like this. For me, at least, it's hard to take a sci-fi gun seriously if it makes a high-pitched "pew-pew" sound. A powerful gun needs to have a solid, bass, meaty sound. And, of course, showing its recoil kicking Val back a couple of inches helps sell the overall idea.]
The incendiary round punched through his teeth, slammed into the back of his throat, and began burning his head up from the inside out. [I gotta admit, this was kind of inspired by a similar scene in Dredd, but there's another reason it's here. It's another example of Val being cold and calculating, as well as having some of her brutality show through. Let's face it, this is a fucked-up thing for her to do to this guy, no matter how big of a thug he is. However...]
The rest of the mercs paused to stare at him and recoil in horror as he collapsed, thrashed around, and screamed until his larynx could no longer produce sounds--and Val took advantage of their hesitation. [She did it not only to take out one of her opponents, but to do it in a way that shook the other mercs to the core. Now, they're horrified and likely on the verge of panicking.]
She pistoned the butt of her rifle into another merc's visor. The impact was slow enough not to trigger his kinetic barriers, but landed with enough force to crack the visor and knock him off his feet. She jammed the barrel of her gun against his left eyepiece and blew off most of his head before whipping around to drill a half-dozen more shots into the next nearest merc. His shields collapsed and two rounds slammed into his chest plate and ignited it. He screamed and pawed at the flames, which then spread to his gloves. [Another calculated choice on Val's part. Disruptor rounds would've chewed through his shields much faster, but using bullets that set their target on fire is another way to rattle her opponents.]
The fire burned through his armor and, in a panic, he popped the latches on his chest plate and yanked it off. [And now he's got no protection at all for his vital organs.]
Another guy stepped into Val's field of vision and lined up a shot. She whacked her gun into his chest and he teetered backward and flailed to regain his balance. She jerked the knife from his belt and winged it into the burning merc's chest. The blade punched in to the hilt and he staggered back into one of his buddies, who shoved him aside and pointed her gun at Val.
The other merc recovered his balance and tried to adjust his aim. Val shoved her rifle into his softer, flexible neckpiece and vaporized most of his throat.
The nearby woman squeezed off a quick burst that splattered against Valeria's shields and dropped their power to fifty percent. Valeria leaped forward to the man she'd knifed in the chest, grabbed the handle and gave it a vicious twist before yanking it out. The serrated blade finished what she'd started a few seconds ago.
Another burst drilled into her shields and she sprang at the woman. She slammed her gun down on the merc's arm, nearly knocking the rifle out of the woman's hands, and hilted the knife in her eyepiece.
Something slammed into the back of Val's helmet and everything spun around her. She staggered forward, shook her head, and turned to find an M-8 Avenger shoved into her face. She caught a glimpse of a man without a helmet, wearing only a HUD that covered his left eye. She whipped her gun up, but the man kicked it out of her hands and planted his rifle back on her forehead.
She grabbed his gun with her left hand, wrenched it sideways, and hit its eject button with her right hand. The red-hot thermal clip popped straight up into his face and struck his left cheek with a sharp sizzle. He screamed, staggered backward, and pressed his hand to his face.
Something on his belt caught her eye--a half-dozen incendiary grenades. [Once again, using things she finds around her, rather than simply shooting everyone.]
She leaped at him, slapped the detonators on all six, and bolted to the opposite end of the corridor.
Five seconds later, the grenades blew, spraying everyone nearby with their sticky, highly-flammable payload, and sending out a swarm of smaller explosives. The secondary blasts took out over a dozen others.
Of the surviving mercs, all but three were panicking, screaming, and stripping off burning pieces of their armor.
Val glanced around, found her rifle, scooped it up and hung it on her back. She marched up behind the nearest of the non-flaming mercs and snapped his neck. She whirled, drew her M-5 Phalanx pistol, pressed it against the side of another man's head, and ended him with a single shot.
The third glanced over his shoulder, spotted her, and whirled.
She fired a neural-shock charge from her Omni-Tool and his whole body clenched up before toppling over. She stepped over his body and casually shot him through the right eye as she strode up to the nearest of the still-burning mercs.
The woman had pulled off her chest plate and was struggling to remove her flaming gloves. She spotted Valeria approaching and fumbled for her sidearm. Val snapped her pistol up, blasted the merc's chest wide open, and moved on to the next, who managed to raise his gun in her direction.
She shifted her Phalanx to her left hand, drew her Mattock with her right, and popped two rounds into his face. At the same time, she aired out another merc with the Phalanx.
She strolled among the rest, pumping round after round into them, ejecting spent heat sinks and continuing to blast away the instant fresh ones slotted into place.
Only one, a turian, was left when the new thermal clips overheated. She popped them out, but the chambers remained empty.
Huh. Used 'em all up. Oh, well. She holstered the guns and marched over to the turian, who gasped and scrambled across the floor to a discarded Avenger.
Valeria kicked his legs out from under him and drew her Mattock before he sprawled on the floor. He rolled over and stared up at her with wide eyes.
She flipped her gun over and pile-drove its stock into his bare chest. He grunted, clenched his fist, and clubbed her in the side of her head. She snarled, raised her gun, and crashed it down with every ounce of strength she could muster, amplified by the servos in her armor. This time the impact cracked his carapace open. He screamed and blood oozed from the wound. [This is a detail that works for sci-fi stories. Humans have bones that can snap and crunch, and that works for a fight in any genre. But when you're writing aliens, you can have all sorts of details that set your story apart from others. In this case, because of Palaven's weak magnetic field, the turians evolved a partially metallic carapace to protect them from their sun's radiation. So you now have an exterior "shell" that can be cracked open with an appropriate sound effect, exposing the soft parts for what Val does next.]
Valeria hung the rifle on her back and whipped her knife out. She thrust it at the wound, but the guy managed to brace his forearms against her wrist and hold her back.
She drew her head back and smashed her helmet into his face. He cried out again and raised his hands to his face--and she plunged the knife in. He screamed and thrashed. She tilted the blade, angling it straight at his heart, and cocked her hand back.
"No!" He gaped at her, scrabbled weakly at the knife, sobbed and shook his head. Tears streamed from his eyes. "Please! No! No!"
She rammed her palm into the end of the handle and drove the knife all the way in. The tip of the blade pierced his back and struck the floor with a sharp clink. [It'd be enough just to have her drive the knife into his heart and leave it at that, but having it go through and hit the floor gives the whole thing a bit more punch.]
She plucked the thermal clips from his belt and slowly, methodically inserted them into her guns while the last of his life seeped away. She stood, took her helmet off, and aimed a cold stare directly into the camera.
"You shouldn't have fucked with my family." She quick-drew her Phalanx and blew the camera off the ceiling. [If it hasn't already sunk in for Akos that he's made a terrible mistake, this oughta drive it home for him.] Then she put the helmet back on, walked to the far end of the corridor, and opened the door.

Another thing I've noticed with a lot of action-adventure stories: the hero often doesn't wear any armor, or wears very little. Or, when he/she does wear full armor, it's sans helmet. Also, chicks in chainmail, and that sort of stuff. But nope, Valeria is wearing full armor and a helmet, plus the kinetic barriers. The barely-there armor trope is probably done to make the character appear "sexy," but anyone going into battle dressed like that won't live long. And, for me at least, a character doesn't have to have all her skin exposed to be sexy, anyway. A woman ripping a whole army to shreds to save her family? Absolutely sexy. Hell yeah.

"Holy shit," one of the hostages behind Irving whispered. He turned and found a dark-haired woman grinning at the screen that had just gone blank. She leaned over to the woman beside her and added, "I'm not normally attracted to aliens, but I'd make an exception in this case. I'd fuck that lady all night!"
Irving cleared his throat. "That's my wife you're talking about."
"Oh. Uh." She blushed and tugged on her shirt collar. "Sorry." She grinned. "You're a lucky guy."
"I know." He smiled.
"Shut up!" Akos snapped.
Irving smirked. Ah, there he goes. He's losing it.
Akos's lieutenant motioned at the bio-monitors with a shaking hand. "We've got forty-four left. They're all converging on her position." She glanced at another screen. "Volkov just texted in; they spotted her entering another tower and are pursuing." [How could that possibly seem like a good idea at this point? Well, if the bad guys all just surrendered right here, the story would be over already. And kind of anti-climactically, too. XD ]
"Good. Tell him to hit that bitch with everything they've got."
She nodded and typed a message into the console.
"Whoa," Actana said softly, and Irving turned to find her stared [Staring. Damn it. I fucked that up and never even noticed it while editing and rewriting the whole story nearly a dozen times.] wide-eyed at the screen. "I had no idea Val was such a badass." She glanced at her parents. "Why haven't you ever talked about her?"
Ouch. Irving winced. [Oh, yeah. Definitely some conflicts with the family in Val's backstory. More stuff to flesh out in the future.]
"It's because she's spent the last two years making porn vids," Galadin said with a snicker. "But yeah, what she just did was amazing."
"Yes," Lithia said softly, and shook her head. "But horrifying."
"Shut the fuck up!" Akos shrieked. He turned back to the console and jabbed a button. "Volkov, give me a sit-rep."
One of the outside cameras reactivated and an image of one of the cylindrical buildings popped up on the main monitor.
"Oh, no," Akos whispered.
"That one's right next door." Kerensky clenched her fists.
The base of the tower burst open like a rupturing pustule. [Again, use words that suggest sudden, brutal things happening. Also, finding ways to sum up the explosion quickly, like "rupturing pustule," is a good way to get the overall image across without stopping the action to describe the blast in exquisite detail.] Flames and shrapnel spewed from the long gash in its side. The shockwave slammed into the command center and everyone staggered. Debris peppered the side of the building.
Secondary explosions tore dozens of holes in the tower on the screen, and it began to topple over. It collapsed, smashed into the ground, and was engulfed in flames. Irving caught glimpses of mangled, burning bodies tumbling out of the wreckage.
Kerensky pointed at the bio-monitors and backed away. "There are only two left. Two out of over two hundred." [Another example of getting rid of multiple bad guys without writing full scenes describing each kill, and also without just glossing them over.]
The view shifted to a close-up of Valeria.
"Found your armory." She tapped her Omni-Tool and the screen blanked.
Kerensky stared at the two remaining bio-readouts and pressed a button. The entire bank faded out and she turned away, as if knowing there was no point in keeping track of the stats anymore.
Akos braced his hands on the console, slumped over, and trembled. "What have I done?" [Here's an interesting bit. You could write the villain as just a mustache-twirler, making him do evil things just because he's evil. But it makes for a better story (in most cases) if the villain has more going on than simply, "Bwahahaha, I'm evil!" Granted, here, Akos is more of an obstacle for Valeria than anything else, but when I work this into Freelancers, I'll add more information about why he's doing this, etc. But for now, I thought this would be an interesting moment to give him, where he kind of has a moment of clarity. This line implies that he cares at least somewhat for the people under his command, and he's just realized that he got them all killed. He underestimated his opponent, allowed his anger and overconfidence to cloud his judgment, and his men paid for it. So this adds a small layer to him, and humanizes him just a bit.]
"It's over." The woman turned to Akos and wiped her eyes. "Should we execute the hostages?"
Irving's heart twitched. Oh, shit!
Akos shook his head. "That'll only make things worse." He turned to face her. "Your only chance is to run or surrender. If we try to fight, she'll kill us. If we kill her husband and family, she'll kill us slowly." He turned and pointed at one of the exits. "Go." [A lot of stories would have the main villain go all scorched-Earth and kill the hostages out of spite, or as revenge for the deaths of his crew, or for no other reason than, "Fuck you!" But here, Akos is aware that not only would killing them be pointless now, it would -- as he said himself -- only make things worse.]
"Sir?" She stared at him and sniffed. "Lantim?"
"Just go. She can only chase one of us, and we both know it'll be me. Goodbye." He ran to the door, opened it, and vanished.
In the next scene, Valeria could just go on being a killing machine and mop up the remaining mercs. And if the point of the story were to send her into a downward spiral that she probably would never recover from, that's how this scene would play out. But instead, she encounters something that snaps her out of her cold blood-rage and makes her wonder if she's going too far. And it also gives the readers a look at an "enemy" merc who is more than just a thug, and finally makes a reasonable decision.

The soft gasping and grunting didn't escape Valeria's notice. She turned slowly and swept the burning wreckage from left to right until she found a batarian dragging himself out from under a twisted slab of metal. Nearly every centimeter of his armor was scratched up, but seemed intact otherwise. He pushed himself to his hands and knees, coughed, and tapped the side of his helmet. He shook his head, tapped it again, growled, and pulled his helmet off.
Valeria leveled her Mattock at him and centered his head in her sights.
He dropped the damaged helmet, glanced around, scooted toward an M-27 Scimitar shotgun, and clamped his hand around its grip.
Valeria cleared her throat and he froze. After pulling himself together over the next few seconds, he turned his head slowly and stared at her.
His expression shifted subtly, his jaw clenching, his face hardening ever so slightly.
"Reconsider," Val said.
He took a breath, spun, and whipped the shotgun toward her. [Yeah, that's a piss-poor choice. Just sayin'.]
She twitched the trigger and everything above his mouth ripped open like a half-rotten watermelon. [Again, rather than simply writing, "she shot him in the head," give the readers a powerful visual. Also, if you're writing action-adventure, the action should be entertaining, but I feel it's good to, every now and then, make a bit of the action horrific, to some degree. Just as a reminder that violence is, in reality, a terrible thing and not something to be looked at as "fun." So, every now and then, I add a bit of business that makes the action stuff either horrifying or just gross.]
Val glanced at her rifle and noted the spent heat sink as the body slumped over. She popped it out and a fresh one slotted in.
A scuffing sound came from behind her--someone crawling through the dirt. Valeria nudged a switch on the side of the Mattock, priming a concussive round, and concentrated on the sounds behind her.
Muffled grunting, raspy breathing, a stifled cough--and the click of a trigger being pulled.
She whirled and twisted to the right a split-second before the gun fired. She caught sight of a muzzle flash and the high-pitched discharge of an M-3 Predator heavy pistol as the shot pierced the space she'd just vacated.
Val fired the concussive round and the impact rocketed the merc backward, jolting a roaring scream out of her that cut off when she hit the ground, rolled, and plowed into a section of the tower wall with enough force to buckle it. She slid down the sloping chunk of metal, plopped onto the ground, and lay there, cradling her left arm and sobbing and whimpering.
Valeria marched over to her. The merc fumbled with her helmet with her right hand, pulled it off, and dropped it. She held her hand up and tried to scoot away from Val.
Val raised her gun and lined up the final shot.
"No," the merc moaned, waving her hand and bursting into tears. "Don't--please--don't kill me!"
"Oh, for fuck's sake. What the hell do you expect, at this point?" Val started to pull the trigger.
"No! I have a family!"
"You should've thought of that before you kidnapped my family and threatened to murder them."
"Please! I have a daughter! She's only three years old!" [And there it is. If Val killed her anyway, knowingly taking a young child's parent's life, it would make her a monster. And this will also make Valeria question her earlier actions and give her some issues to continue dealing with in the future.]
Val hesitated. Maybe the merc was telling the truth, and maybe she was just stalling until she could figure out a way to get the upper hand.
But if she was being honest ... [And here's the turning point. The choice she makes right here will shape not only her personal future, but also how other characters view her from now on, and could actually change the direction a large part of the story itself.]
"Look." Weeping, moving slowly, the merc activated her Omni-Tool and pushed one of its holographic buttons. A photo album appeared in the air above her arm and she touched one of the pictures. It enlarged and Valeria found herself staring at a photo of the merc wearing civilian clothing, cuddling with an asari in a T-shirt with the Eclipse logo on its front. [Being an Eclipse merc carries its own baggage due to the way new members are "hired," but this is something I'm planning to work with later on, both with this human merc's wife and also another asari character who will probably appear at the beginning of chapter 24 of Freelancers.] Both of them were tickling a laughing asari toddler.
In one of the other thumbnails, both women were making goofy faces into the camera. In a third, clearly older photo, the human held the diaper-clad baby out to the asari, who was pinching her nose closed and backing away with a grimace.
Oh, hell. Valeria glanced at the wreckage around her. How many of those people had families like ...? [Yeah, this is going to haunt her for a while, even though she dismisses it (for the moment, anyway) an instant later.]
No. Don't even go there. They were trying to kill me and my family. They brought it on themselves.
Still ...
"That's them." The merc sobbed again. "That's my wife and little girl. Don't do this to them, please!"
Shit. Valeria lowered her gun slowly, but kept it aimed in the woman's general direction, just in case. "Hell of a career choice you made, with a kid to take care of."
"I was already doing this years before Nela and I met." The woman wiped tears from her eyes, but continued weeping. "Nela's in Eclipse. It's ... it's just what we do."
Valeria sighed, put her rifle away, and held her left hand up. "Okay. This is the only chance I'll give you."
The merc let out a long sigh, which turned into an even harder burst of weeping. "Th ... thank you."
"Just don't ever forget how close your wife and daughter came to having to bury your remains. If you're smart, you'll consider finding a civilian job, because if I ever hear about you abducting innocent people and holding them hostage again, a DNA test will have to be done to identify what's left of you."
The merc nodded, sniffled, and sobbed again. "I--I'm done. I swear!" She fumbled with the latches on her armor and finally managed to release the chest plate. She removed it and let it fall, sending up a puff of dirt when it hit the ground. She removed the armor on her left arm, whimpering and grimacing with every motion. She tried to reach over to unlatch the armor on her right arm, but cried out and cradled her left arm again.
"I think you broke my fuckin' arm."
"Here, let me help you." Val released the latches and gently pulled the armor pieces off.
"Thanks." The woman began discarding the armor on her legs, finally taking everything off except her boots and her tight-fitting undersuit.
Valeria pointed at the utility belt. "You might want to dose up on some painkillers and medi-gel. And, uh, if you want to find some place to sit tight until this is over, I have some friends who can give you a lift into town so you can have that arm fixed."
"Thanks," the woman whispered. Her lips quivered. "I ... I owe you. A lot. Everything."
"The only repayment I want is for you to get out of this line of work so you can be there for your family."
"Don't worry about that. I'm out. I don't ever want to go through anything like this again." She glanced around, scooted back against a large enough chunk of metal, and leaned against it.
"Glad to hear that." Valeria glanced over her shoulder at the central tower. "This is almost over. I assume Akos is holed up in there?"
"Yeah. I think it's just him and his right hand, Kerensky. You've slaughtered everyone else."
"Okay. Whatever happens now, it'll probably happen in there. You should be safe out here, but be sure to stay under solid cover, just in case.
The woman nodded and fumbled with her med-kit.
Valeria patted the merc's shoulder, stood, and strode toward the main tower.
Time to finish this.
The back half of this scene provides both a bit of character development for Valeria and the wounded merc, and a quiet moment for the readers. If the action is relentless and isn't broken up periodically by brief calm moments and/or humor, it could become too much for readers to bear, and they'll stop reading because they need a break.

But once the quiet moment is over, it's time to get back to business.

Everyone shrieked when an Omni-Blade jabbed through the blast door at the far end of the room. The blade sliced down and to the left, melting through the alloy and reaching the floor in two seconds. It retracted, reappeared at the top, and arced down in the opposite direction, cutting out an A-shaped section of the door.
An armor-covered turian foot kicked the chunk of door into the room and Valeria appeared in the opening. [Hah. She does know how to make an entrance into a scene. XD ]
Irving grinned and waved at her.
An arm clamped around his throat and the barrel of a gun jammed into the side of his head. The hostages gasped and backpedaled. Valeria's parents stared at something over his shoulder and her siblings flicked their eyes back and forth from him to their older sister.
"Stay back!" Kerensky snarled, and dragged him several steps backward.
Valeria approached slowly and everyone in the room turned to stare at her.
"I said, stay back! Let me go or I'll blow his fucking head off!"
Valeria took her helmet off and placed it on a nearby console. She turned and flicked a worried glance at Irving.
He nodded and drew a thumb across his throat. Do what you have to do, babe. [Here's a way to take the "hostage at gunpoint" trope and play around with it a little. The way this kind of scene usually plays out is to have the hostage be absolutely terrified and the hero agree to put down his/her gun and surrender. But Irving knows Val is a good shot, and he knows she ain't having that shit -- so neither is he. He's probably also aware of what could happen to him if she lets the merc take off with him (he'd likely be killed as soon as Kerensky is far enough away), so he encourages Val to prevent that from happening.]
"What the fuck was that?" Kerensky shook him and ground her gun even harder into his temple.
"It doesn't have to end this way," Valeria said. "I'm here for Akos, not you."
"Don't even give me that shit! I watched you massacre two hundred and thirty-six people!"
"You can light candles for them later--if you're smart enough to put your guns down and let my husband go."
"Last chance. Let me walk out of here, or I'll kill--"
Valeria strode straight toward her. Kerensky sucked in a quick breath and stepped back. [Weren't expecting that, were you, Kerensky? Heh.]
"What--what the fuck are you doing?"
Valeria drew her Phalanx and jammed it into Kerensky's face, right between her eyes. [And that's it. At this point, there's nothing else Kerensky can do if she wants to live.]
"I'm willing to negotiate." Val pushed harder, forcing Kerensky's head farther back. "Are you?"
Several seconds passed. The only sound in the room was Kerensky's rapid, borderline-hyperventilation breathing. Irving caught himself holding his breath and squeezing his eyes shut. If his wife had to pull the trigger, he'd end up deaf until he could have the proper surgery done--but it was preferable to letting the merc go or letting her blow his brains out.
Finally, the grip on his neck eased off. In the corners of his eyes, Kerensky held her left hand up and pulled her gun away from Irving's head.
Valeria wrenched the gun from Kerensky's hand, and Irving lunged out of the merc's reach. He turned to watch them.
Valeria cocked her hand back and cracked the Phalanx's grip into Kerensky's forehead. Her head snapped backward and she toppled over, sprawled on the floor, and moaned.
"The local police can handle her." Val turned to Irving, stroked his cheek, and glanced over at her parents and siblings.
"We're alright," her mother said. "Are you?"
"Just fine, now." Val turned back to Irving and put her arms around him. He hugged her back, and they held each other for what felt like hours, but still wasn't long enough for him.
Finally, she moved back enough to gaze into his eyes. He kissed her, nuzzled her forehead, and kissed her again. He stepped back and pointed a thumb over his shoulder. "Akos ran off through that door. [Yay, now there's a missing quotation mark I never noticed before. Sigh.]
"Irv, I..."
"I'll be fine." He cupped her face in his hands and gave her one more, gentle kiss. "I love you. Now, go get that son of a bitch." [Here's another trope that I'm turning at an angle. Usually, when the hero rescues his/her love interest, the latter begs the former not to go any farther, or is terrified that he/she will be killed. Irv is definitely worried about Val, but he knows she may not be able to live with herself is she leaves this unfinished. So, he supports and encourages her.]
Her eyes seemed to take on a renewed gleam. She cupped his face in her hands, rested her forehead against his for a second, and whispered, "I love you."
She finally stepped back, returned to the console, and picked up her helmet. She turned to her parents, brother, and sister.
"I love you. See you soon." She put the helmet on, pulled her Mattock from her back, and charged through the door.
Irving's heart leaped as he watched her begin the final stage of the chase.
"You encouraged her to ...?" Desentos strode forward and grabbed Irving's shoulder. "Aren't you afraid she'll be hurt or--?"
"Of course I am. But she needs to finish this, and I know she can do it." Irving glanced at the open doorway. "Trust me, once she gets her hands on him, he's done."
So, now it's all down to a final confrontation with the Big Bad. All he can really do at this point is run, but how much collateral damage will he cause before Valeria catches up with him? That's the thing -- in a situation like this, there's really no way to avoid innocent people getting in the line of fire unless both of them stay away from populated areas. But Akos is the kind of guy who'd try to hide behind civilians if it gave him half a chance of slipping away, and that leads to the following chase ....

"Guys," Valeria said into her comlink as she stormed through the corridors, scanning the area for her prey. "The hostages are safe, and all the mercs are dead except Akos, his lieutenant, and a wounded woman near one of the destroyed towers. I promised her a ride into town for medical treatment, and the hostages will need a lift out of the compound."
"Acknowledged," Weyland [a gethreplied.
"We are on our way," Yutani added. ['nother geth]
"I'm bringing the shuttle in to pick them up," Scott said. "We'll be there in about five minutes."
"Thanks, guys. Akos is trying to escape. I'm in pursuit."
"Do you want assistance?" Chula said.
"Negative. He's mine."
"Okay. Good hunting."
"Thanks." Valeria reached an outer door, activated her stealth system, and slapped the hard-light button on the control panel. The door slid aside and she waited for Akos to take a shot at the sudden movement. When nothing happened, she launched through the door, crouched behind a nearby stack of crates, and switched off her cloak. 
She scanned the area again, and picked up a turian life sign a few dozen meters away, in a cube-shaped building she hadn't paid any attention to on the way in. She checked her Omni-Tool again to be sure the cameras were still offline, and approached the building slowly, keeping her gun aimed at the main doors.
The whir of an aircar engine started up inside the building and Valeria grumbled under her breath.
A garage. Wonderful. How did I miss that? [As much ass-kicking as Valeria has done, she still makes mistakes and still misses things on occasion.]
The doors parted and a scratched and dented rapid-transit car fired into the open. Val caught a glimpse of Akos in the driver's seat as she dived to the left. The aircar missed her by less than a meter. She tucked her shoulder, rolled, pivoted, and came up in a crouch. She pointed her Mattock at the car as Akos spun it around and accelerated straight at her.
Oh, shit! She leaped to her feet, sprang into the air, and began another forward roll as the car struck her. Its hood whacked her right shoulder and she bounced across it, glanced off the windshield, and flipped over the roof. The car slid out from under her and she waited until her uncontrolled spin to rotate her gun into position. [Argh, that's another thing I screwed up. Got to remember to remove the "to" and change "rotate" to past tense. Don't know how I kept missing that.]
When it was aimed at the rear window, she squeezed off a shot and caught the impact in the corner of her eye just before she hit the dirt. The round pierced the window and grazed Akos's right shoulder on the way through the windshield.
He let out a high-pitched shriek and the car swerved before he recovered from the sudden fright.
Val tumbled, swung her legs around, and stopped with her feet braced under her. She popped off another half-dozen shots as he sped off to the left, drilling all of them into side of the engine compartment as he zipped across the compound and then lifted off.
"I hope those gunshots were you blowing him away," Chula commented.
"Nope. He ran over me, but I'm still in pursuit." Valeria sprinted into the garage, hoping there was another aircar she could steal.
"I'll fill you in later." Val burst through the doorway and stopped.
Directly in front of her sat a Mako. She winced.
I can't drive those fucking things. [Hahah, neither can I. Trying to drive the Mako in the first game was a goddamn nightmare. XD ]
She dashed around the front of the Mako, hoping there was something she could actually use beyond it.
There sat three more aircars. Yes! She jumped into the nearest one, fired up the engine, and punched it. She glanced at the ladar screen as it rose into the air, and bared her sharp, pointed teeth at the single blip heading straight toward the nearest city.
She pushed the engines to maximum and glared out the window until she caught sight of Akos. The city was still some distance ahead of him, but his car appeared to be losing altitude. Maybe one of her shots had ripped up something vital to the vehicle's operation.
Crash and burn, you fucking waste of cum! Valeria snarled as her car closed in on his. Just do it before you have any innocent people under you.
The distance between them continued to close. Val increased her altitude and kept an eye on the ladar. Once she was close enough, she could try to force him down.
More blips appeared on her screen and she sighed. They were starting to encounter traffic entering and leaving the city. She would have to be careful from now on.
Finally, she'd gotten within a few meters of his aircar. Go ahead and land. I'll be right behind you.
Something flared inside Akos's car and it shuddered, tilted forward, and began a steep descent.
The driver-side door opened and he leaped out.
"What the hell?" Valeria flicked her eyes over the area around him and spotted another aircar a dozen meters below him. "Huh. Ballsy."
He crashed into the roof of the car, rolled toward the rear, and tumbled off. Val stared at him, part of her hoping he'd survive so she could finish him off herself.
His left hand clamped onto part of the rear end and he dangled there for a few seconds, over one hundred meters above the ground. He pulled himself up, got his feet under him, plucked his rifle from his back, and pointed it through the rear window. He shouted something and the car banked gently to the right.
Are you kidding me? You can't just shake him off? Val sighed, altered her course slightly, and steered herself into the right position.
Now. She set the autopilot to land safely, flung the door open, and jumped. [From here on, it's all on foot, with some Parkour-ish elements added. Parkour is a pretty good way to spice up a scene that has one character chasing another on foot.]
Wind whipped past her for a few seconds before she plowed into Akos's back and slammed him into the rear window. He turned over and tried to aim his gun at her, but she grabbed the barrel in her right hand, wrenched it to the left, braced her left hand on his forearm, and shoved. His talons bent backward and he howled and released his grip. She gave the gun one more twist to rip it from his hand, and flung it aside. In the corner of her eye, it spiraled out of sight.
Akos's eyes widened and he thrust his left fist at her. She swatted it aside, drove her fist into the side of his head, cocked her arm back, and rammed her palm into the spot right above his nostrils. His head whipped back and he slumped over and scrambled for a handhold.
Val pulled her left leg back, ready to jam it into his chest and knock him clean off the car--but suddenly he rolled off himself and dropped out of sight.
She peeked over the edge just as he plopped onto the roof of another car a few meters below. He bellowed at the driver and pointed at something ahead.
Val braced herself for another jump. As she did so, she glimpsed the passengers through the tinted windows of the car under her feet--a naked human teenager and an asari. She realized what she and Akos had interrupted, winced, and gave them an apologetic shrug.
"Uh, sorry!"
She hopped off and plunged through the air again toward Akos, directly below her. She goomba-stomped him, rolled backward, and managed to find a handhold before she could slide off. She tilted her head up in time to catch Akos slipping forward and across the windshield. He glanced around, his eyes locked on to something on the left, and he pushed off. She watched him plunge down the side of a skyscraper and reach out to grab on to its fire escape.
The edge of a rail bonked his chest plate and he flipped over backward. Somehow, he managed to catch the next platform by hooking his legs over the rail. [That's gotta hurt. When something like this happens to one of your characters, it's a good idea to give him some indication of injury.] He bent at the waist, grabbed the rail with both hands, and pulled himself over it. He glanced around, spotted her, and charged up the stairs.
He's limping. Good. The car had already passed the building, but luckily there was a slightly taller one beside it, and it looked just close enough for what she had in mind.
The aircar passed over the roof and she leaped, dropped two meters, and stumbled. Her right foot caught on a thin pipe running across the roof and she pitched forward. Without enough time to roll with it, she faceplanted and scraped forward another three meters before she could stop. [Again, the hero should make a mistake or miscalculate or simply have a bit of bad luck occasionally. As exceptional as Valeria's skills are, she's not superhuman. Or, "superalien," I guess.] She picked herself up and ran to the edge of the roof to double-check the distance to the building Akos had started to climb.
The gap between them was just wide enough for two aircars to pass side by side, and narrow enough for her to clear it easily.
She ran back across the roof, turned, and blasted into a full sprint. [Using specific words to intensify the visual again. Typing "she ran" or "she sprinted" gets the idea across, but using the phrase "blasted into a full sprint" does a much better job of giving the reader a visual of just how fast she's moving.] Her right foot pounded into the edge of the roof and launched her into the air. She angled down toward the lower roof, thrust her torso forward, and threw herself into a roll the instant her feet touched down. She came up in a crouch and whipped toward the side of the building Akos had landed on.
She waited.
Finally, his head popped up over the edge of the roof. He climbed over, leaned against it to catch his breath--and then he noticed her.
His eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped, and he screamed like a little kid.
"You're goddamn right," she growled.
He gasped for breath, glanced around, and grabbed the M-9 Tempest on his left hip.
Uh-oh. Valeria lunged to the right, but he hosed her down before she could move more than two steps. The hail of supersonic projectiles sprayed her shields and reduced them to almost nothing before she found cover behind a stairwell entrance.
Pounding footsteps came in her direction.
She yanked the Mattock from her back and held it ready.
Akos burst into view, sprinting past her toward the far edge of the roof. He sprayed her again, but this time she returned fire. Her gun thumped and its round smashed into the shields in front of his forehead. She fired again, and his barriers flared again, this time at the side of his head.
He continued blind-firing as he dashed away from her, and enough bullets found their mark to collapse her shields with a snap that made her wince.  She leaped over the stairwell, couched on the other side, and resumed firing, planting ten more rounds into his back.
His barriers failed on the seventh, and the last three slammed into his back and started burning through his armor. He staggered, screamed again, and fumbled with the latches. He kept running, finally managed to release the latches, and shrugged out of his chest and back plates. He dropped them and continued running until he hit the edge--then he launched himself into the air.
Valeria waited a few seconds for her shields to recharge and ran to the edge. She peeked over and found Akos skipping off a passing aircar and plunging to the roof of the next building over.
She eyed several approaching aircars, picked one out of the group, and braced herself for another leap. Once the car was in what she hoped was the right position, she hopped over the edge, planted her feet on the wall, and kicked off to boost herself out over the abyss.
The car intersected her path and she kicked off its roof. The next plunge took her toward a much smaller building. She hit the wall, clamped her arms around a pipe running down the side, and slid three more floors down before she managed to stop. [I probably should've had her spot the pipe earlier, while she was looking at the passing traffic and the building Akos had just landed on. It'd probably work better for the story if she worked catching hold of the pipe into her plan, rather than appearing to leap into the air with no idea of what she'd do after jumping off that car's roof.] She took a moment to catch her breath and take a quick look around. For a few seconds she thought she'd lost Akos, but then a quick motion caught her attention. She zoomed in with her helmet's optics and found him sliding down a cable running from the wall to a post on the sidewalk.
Valeria glanced straight down. This pipe runs almost all the way to the street. Perfect. She eased up on her grip just enough to slide down to the end of the pipe. She let go and dropped the last floor, hit the pavement, rolled forward, and came up running.
Across the intersection, Akos paused to glance over his shoulder. He caught sight of her immediately, let out a whimper, and bolted forward without taking his eyes off her. He ran straight into a wall and scrambled to get around it. [Hope he didn't need to take a dump. If he did, he probably doesn't anymore. :D ]
Valeria charged across the street even as ground vehicles sped through the intersection. A freight truck crossed in front of her, but she jumped, leapfrogged over its roof, and hit the ground running.
A car on the cross-street made a left turn straight into her. She bounded over its hood, dive-rolled over the roof, and continued her sprint without missing a beat.
Akos reached the next street corner, spun around, and opened fire even though dozens of pedestrians stood between them. A cacophony of screams exploded all around her and everyone scattered--except several people who'd been hit. Without shields or armor, their bodies had been chewed up by the hail of sand grain-size projectiles. [Collateral damage is something you have to keep in mind. If the character being pursued (or doing the pursuing, if the roles are flipped) is the type of person who will open fire in the middle of a crowd, some of those people will get in the way and be hit.]
No ...!
She glimpsed a child sprawled on the street and turned away before she could make out any more details.
Suddenly, her whole body turned cold inside.
She turned back to the street corner and found Akos staring back at her.
A fire ignited within her. She drew in a deep breath and, without taking her eyes off him, released a primal roar.
Everyone nearby lurched away from her and stared, their faces turning pale.
Akos stumbled backward, bumped into more pedestrians, and slumped over a parked car. The Tempest slipped from his hand, but he didn't seem to notice.  He let out a hissing squeal, turned, and bolted.
Valeria plucked the Mattock from her back and the Phalanx from her hip, and placed both of them on the sidewalk.
No more shooting. No more innocent people harmed.
She launched after Akos once more, pushing through the crowd and trying to catch site of him. After several seconds, she jumped into oncoming traffic, kicked off the hood of the nearest car, and began leaping from the top of one car to the next.
There. She found him running toward a monorail station two blocks ahead, zoomed in to confirm it was really him, and increased her speed, leaping and sprinting along the tops of every car in her path until she reached the station. She hit the sidewalk and shoved aside any pedestrian in front of her.
Akos tugged on the train doors, but found all those nearby locked. He raised his hands to his head, moaned, and turned around.
His eyes locked onto Valeria and he froze.
"Hhhhhhh ..."
Valeria sucked in another deep breath. "Akos!"
He glanced around frantically, and finally leaped and grabbed the edge of the train's roof. He pulled himself up and scooted across, clearly planning to drop down on the other side.
The monorail eased forward and he froze again. "Oh, fuck!"
Valeria climbed to the roof, crouched, and faced him.
Within seconds, the train was moving too fast to survive a jump to the ground. The wind whipped at both of them. Valeria leaned into it to maintain her balance. The city whipped [Oops, I should've found a different word here. Another one of my brainfarts. :( ] past at the periphery of her vision.
Akos stumbled forward, crouched, and stared wide-eyed at her. His mouth hung open, his mandibles trembled, and his breaths came in ragged gasps. [One good way to make action scenes more interesting is to have them take place in unusual locations. In this case, the top of a speeding train seemed like fun. It's been done before, but not often, as far as I'm aware. Another good example would be an episode of Leverage that had a fight taking place in a restroom on an airliner -- extremely tight space, barely any room to move, with two dudes beating the crap out of each other.]
Val marched toward him and he whipped [Damn it, I did it again. No idea why I never notice stuff like this even during multiple rewrites.] out his knife. She flicked her eyes over his body and found no other weapons. She'd left her own knife buried in that dead turian's chest back in the compound. She had nothing but her hands now.
She needed nothing more.
She continued her advance and his eyes widened even more. He thrust the knife at her. She deflected it by whipping [Again? Seriously? Fuck me.] her right arm into his wrist and shoving the blade to the right, and followed it with a roundhouse punch with her left fist. The blow landed on his jaw with a crack that was audible over the wind howling past both of them. The impact snapped his head to the right and he staggered.
At the same time, the deflection move brought her right fist into the proper position, and she rammed it straight into his chin. He almost flopped backward, but the wind kept him propped up--but then it toppled him forward and he plowed into her.
He swiped the knife at her again, but she grabbed his wrist, yanked, and twisted it. He let out another shriek and tried to pull out of her grip. She swept his legs out from under him and he collapsed--but he managed to grab the part of her helmet covering her horns and yank her down on top of him.
He rolled her onto her back and suddenly she found the knife centimeters from her neck. She clamped her hands around his wrist and held him back for the moment. The blade couldn't penetrate her armor, but the piece covering her neck was, by necessity, soft enough to be flexible. One good thrust and it would be over.
He shifted his weight and the blade inched closer.
No. Irving won't become a widower. And you won't get away with what you've done. [I probably should've shortened that. The thought itself would go through her mind in a split-second, but reading it here takes longer, and kind of interrupts the action.] She wrenched his arm sideways and the blade scraped across the roof beside her left shoulder.
She backhanded him and he whipped to the right, blinked, and shook his head to clear it. He raised the knife to plunge it into her--but she peppered [Looking back on it, I probably should've found a better word for that, too.] his chest and gut with a flurry of punches. He doubled over and she snapped her head forward, ramming her helmet into his face. He lurched backward, his arms flailed, and the knife slipped from his hand.
The wind knocked him over and he flopped onto his back.
Both of them picked themselves up at the same time and crouched, facing each other. Akos squinted against the wind. Valeria waited for him to make his next move.
In the corner of her right eye, another train appeared on an elevated rail she hadn't noticed before, zipping in the opposite direction. [This'll come in handy in a moment.]
Akos finally lunged at her, driving his shoulder into her chest and knocking her off balance. He continued pushing her back, then he managed to slip behind her, grasp her right wrist, and brace his hand on her shoulder. He shoved her forward, and suddenly she found the side of the other train centimeters from her face.
He pushed harder, and the top of her helmet scraped along the side of the train. Her helmet vibrated. [Another quick bit of business to avoid making the hero look like she's unstoppable. Her enemy should get the upper hand at least once to increase the scene's tension.]
She reached around with her other hand, flailed and scrabbled at his face, and finally wedged her talons under his left mandible. His eyes nearly popped out as he realized what was coming. [Here's something that should've been a melee move when fighting non-helmeted turians in the games. I haven't read any of the tie-in books or comics, so I don't know if this idea was used there, but in the games this never happened. I just figured those mandibles would be vulnerable to the exact move Val pulls off here, and again later in the fight.]
She clamped onto his mandible and gave it a good, hard yank. He screamed, let go of her, and stumbled away. He found just the wrong angle and the wind knocked him over again. He turned over and pushed himself up.
Valeria threw herself on top of him, grabbed one of his mandibles in each hand, and jammed her right knee against his back. He gasped. [Again, I'm surprised that this kind of anatomical disadvantage was never used in the games.]
She leaned back and pulled, spreading his mandibles apart.
He screamed and thrashed his arms around in a futile attempt to dislodge her.
She continued pulling, arching her back farther and farther. Finally, his mandibles snapped, crunched, and crackled--and she suddenly fell over backward.
Blood sprayed from his broken and torn mandibles. He screamed and screamed and screamed, nearly drowning out the roaring wind. He rolled around and clutched at his head, half-crazed with the sudden agony of his wounds.
Valeria dropped on top of him again and pile-drove her fist into his face. She cocked her arm back and punched him again, then again and again and again. She kept it up, letting her rage take complete control, and pounded him without letup. Finally, when his eyes started to roll back in his head, she raised her arm one more time and brought her forearm crashing down across his chest. His carapace crunched and cracked, and his eyes popped open again. He hunched forward, sucked in a wheezing gasp, and coughed up blood.
He groaned and grunted out something that sounded like, "Cuhhh ..."
Valeria stared at him, pondering him, giving serious thought to simply watching the last of his life drain away. [Potentially crossing the line into unnecessary cruelty...]
"Cuh ... cun ... cu ..."
She glanced at the other train and an idea popped into her mind. She picked Akos up, pivoted, and hurled him into the side of the oncoming train. [This serves two purposes. One, it's a spectacular way to end the scene. Two, it's a mercifully quick way to end Akos's life, rather than waiting for him to bleed out.] He hit, spun into a blur, and rocketed away like he'd been fired out of a railgun, angling down to the ground as he bounced back. Valeria leaned over the edge just in time to see him fall under the train.
His body ripped apart and blood fountained in almost every direction. His head, shoulders, and part of his chest tumbled out of sight. Valeria let out a long sigh, stretched out on the roof, and let her head rest on her arms for a few minutes. Suddenly, it was a relief not to move. [In some action stories, the hero delivers the killing blow, turns, and walks away calmly, or perhaps smirking. Or does the Unflinching Walk away from an explosion, just for the sake of being cool. Or, in Valeria's case, it could be more of a moment when the relief of it finally being over washes over her. And, possibly, what she's done begins to really sink in.]
She finally sighed again and activated her comlink. "Chula, it's over. Where are you guys? I'm coming back."
So, Valeria has done what she set out to do. And one possible advantage to letting that one female merc live is that she and her wife might spread the word about the turian Spectre who slaughtered over two hundred experienced mercenaries who threatened her family, thereby giving other old enemies of Valeria a pretty good reason not to try what Akos did.

What follows is something of a ramp-down, wrapping up the story and showing that it might take Valeria a while to recover from the things she had to do today.

Yutani touched Irving's shoulder and motioned at something behind him. He turned, found Valeria trudging through the hospital's main entrance with her helmet tucked under her left arm, and smiled. He glanced at the geth, patted "her" hand, and said, "Thanks."
"You are welcome." Yutani turned back to the rest of the Sulaco crew as Irving jogged over to Val and put his arms around her.
"You okay, honey?" he whispered.
"Physically, yeah. Mentally ... I don't know. Might take a while."
He nodded, cupped her face in his hands, and kissed her. She placed her hands over his and leaned forward to rest her forehead against his. They held each other for a long moment before she opened her eyes and looked at him.
"I was a little worried that you might not want to see me after the things I did today."
"What? Honey, there will never be a time when I don't want to see you."
"It's just, well, what I did--I'm afraid there's a monster inside me, and was worried that it might change how you feel about me."
"Babe. Nothing will change how I feel about you." Irving stroked her forehead and smiled. "Even if what you said is true, I love that part of you just as much as I love the rest." [The more "expected" development would probably be for Irving to be disturbed by the things he saw her do, and possibly be afraid of her from now on. But in this case, he understands why she did it, and is grateful for it ... and might possibly think having such a badass wife is actually fucking awesome. XD]
She let out a long, shaky breath and wrapped her arms around him. "I love you."
"Right back at ya, Val." He smiled and kept his arms around her.
After letting them hold each other for a few minutes, Chula walked over. "Here's something that might make you feel better. After you told us about the mess Akos caused during your chase, Weyland started checking into it and keeping track of the fallout. Especially that kid you mentioned."
Valeria nodded and squeezed her eyes shut.
"The child was not seriously wounded," Weyland said. "Two shots grazed his right leg, but with some minor surgery, he will recover."
Another relieved sigh rushed out of her. "Oh, thank you! I know a lot of other people were hurt and killed, but ... well, knowing this helps."
Weyland nodded, reached out to touch her shoulder for a few seconds, and walked back to Yutani.
Val took a few more breaths and turned to glance around at her friends, keeping her left arm around Irving's waist. "Is everyone alright?"
"The hostages are being checked out now, but we didn't see any visible injuries." Chula nodded at the merc with the broken arm, standing at a comm terminal. "She insisted on everyone going ahead of her." [Beginning of a possible path to redemption for this character. Something else that can be developed later on.]
"Aw." Valeria nuzzled Irving again and walked over to the front desk. She showed the man behind the counter her ID. "Valeria Terakkis, Special Tactics and Reconnaissance. I'll authorize my Spectre funds to cover the medical costs from the incident this afternoon. Including hers," she added with a nod at the merc.
"Okay, ma'am. Give me a moment and I'll set it up."
"Thank you." She turned to watch the merc.
An asari appeared on the screen--the same one in the photos the merc had shown Valeria.
"Hi!" The asari grinned--then she seemed to notice the look on her wife's face and the grin vanished. "Hey, Calista, what's wrong? Are you okay?"
"Not really. Our last job blew up in our faces. Everyone's dead except me and Kerensky, and she's been arrested. I've got a broken arm and probably some internal injuries."
"What the hell happened?"
"I'm not really up to talking about it just yet. I--" She sobbed and pressed her hand to her forehead. "The boss tried to take on a Spectre. He kidnapped her husband and family, and she damned near killed all of us."
"What? Who is she? I'll fucking destroy her!" [Uh, yeah, about that ...]
"No!" Calista shook her head frantically. "Nela, no, you won't! Listen to me--this Spectre ripped through us like we were amateurs. I know you've got centuries of combat experience, but it won't make any difference. This woman isn't a soldier, she's a goddamned army! If you even try to take her on, you'll just die." She burst into tears again. "Please, promise me you won't go after her. Don't do that to me and Ryla. Please!"
"Okay, okay! Alright." Nela held a hand up. "I won't try it, I promise. Goddess, it was really that bad?"
"Bad enough that I'm done with the whole mercenary thing. I can't take the chance that I'd ever end up pointing a gun at her again, because next time she won't let me live."
"You've invested nearly ten years into it, though."
"I don't care. I can't do it anymore. And ... and I hope I can talk you into doing the same. I can't bear to lose you." Calista sniffled and wiped tears from her eyes.
"We'll ... talk about it later."
Calista nodded and more tears trickled down her cheeks. Nela held her hand out toward the camera.
"Is there anything I can do?"
"I just ..." Calista sobbed again and reached out to touch Nela's image. "I want to go home!"
"So do I," Valeria whispered.
Nela nodded. "I'm on my way. Where are you?" [This is one of the things I'm planning to work into this subplot when I add it to the main Freelancers series. Nela will arrive before Val and the Sulaco crew depart, and there'll be a scene with her, Calista, and Val hashing things out.]
"Bekenstein. I'm in a hospital in one of the bigger cities. I don't remember its name."
"It's okay, I can find you. Will it be safe to bring Ryla?"
"Yeah. The fighting is over."
"Okay. We're leaving immediately. We should be there by morning."
"Thank you."
"I love you."
"I love you, too. See you soon."
Valeria turned away from Calista and sniffled. Irving put his arms around her again and nodded at a nearby elevator.
"They let us park the shuttle on the landing pad on the roof. We can wait there while the doctors finish checking everyone out. I think a little peace and quiet will do you a world of good."
"Yeah, I think I could do with some downtime."
Chula patted Valeria's shoulder. "Go on ahead. We'll catch up with you once everyone's finished with their exams, then we'll head straight back to the Sulaco."
"Thanks." Val and Irving walked slowly to the elevator.
"Come on, honey." Irving smiled and clasped her hand. "Let's go home."
And there you have it. When I work this into Freelancers, it will, of course, continue beyond this point, dealing with the life changes these events have brought about for Calista and Nela, as well as the emotional fallout for Valeria. Expect a few quiet but tense conversations between them, and some sweeter moments between Val and Irving.

So, again, I'm not sure how effective this was for teaching action-writing, but it was a fun project, and I hope it does help anyone looking to learn how to write this kind of stuff. And if it does, or if anyone has any comments or questions, feel free to post a reply, and I'll answer, clarify, and whatever else.

Thanks for slogging through this whole post. :D