This story was rooted in a lot of sci-fi world-building I did in my college days. It was once a very high-tech world with all the trappings: nanotechnology, AI, intersystem space travel, energy weapons, cybernet, the works.
This time around, I decided two things. First, I decided I would sit down and write out the story in stages, beginning with a synopsis that described the whole of the story in a short paragraph. I then expanded that synopsis in several passes until I had a page-long brief exposition of what happened step-by-step. I filled out one of those stages in the middle and just started writing, just to see how it would come out. The second thing I decided was that I would uproot the story from its world and recast it, making it sound more antique. I drastically recast the technology and world for a different feel. I wanted a sort of looking-back nostalgia, seeing the high tech world from even farther in the future for a historic, past-glory kind of feel to the story.
Here's the first draft:
Sky galleons carrying heavy equipment boxes soared somewhere high above the lithe, agile wooden gliders which carried six Halcyon agents to their destination, racing the approaching Chicago dawn. The huge, noisy sky galleons hid their propeller wash in the distant night sky, while the gliders approached silently on the breath of the wind. The dancing motes of barrel fires flickered below as the gliders whispered past.
Master Cortes watched the landscape crawl under her silently, watching through the flickering images of a helm glass. She chose her destination: a wide expanse of sundered paving stone and ruins, a few miles from the Chicago waterfront.
Master Cortes fell like an arrow shaft from the belly of her glider, her jump harness catching the wind at a steep angle. As the glider banked sharply toward the north, Cortes fell feet-first, five lines of guide feathers tightly controlled by the stick in her left hand. Above her, the other agents followed her lead at once, slicing the night air arrayed across the sky like a volley of shafts.
They found their mark. Master Cortes was first, falling like a hawk toward the broken ground. Instead of old-fashioned parachutes, they employed groundors, apocryphal devices that would swallow the speed of falling objects, allowing the heaviest of loads to fall to earth unscathed. Cortes, arrow-like in her jump harness, slammed into the ground, all her speed dissipated by the groundor’s brief flash of purple energy.
De la Fuente was the next to land, followed by Morales and Benitez, then Cardoza, each an ephemeral flower of violet, blooming then fading, amidst the ruins of steel and stone. Jara was last, missing his mark by a hundred yards and cutting into a mass of thorny scrub which was constantly invading the urban landscape. After disposing of his jump harness, each agent wound his way through the ruins to Cortes, guided by the map-image in his helm.
The agents knelt together in the coming light of dawn, gave thanks for a safe landing, and set about the first of their duties. De la Fuente chose a flat gravelly area a few hundred yards of the others. She fired her signal gun toward the dark sky above, calling upon the sky galleon bombardiers to drop their equipment there. She quickly returned to the others, not wanting to be too close when the heavy groundors brought the work wagon and servitor crates safely to earth.
Cardoza climbed an iron ladder to the top of a brick structure and began looking for anyone who might have been close enough to see them drop. He peered through his field glasses, which could pick out a rat scratching for food at a thousand yards, and saw no one.
The others checked their weapons, lightweight half-pound throwers with two hundred balls per man, each with enough firepower to knock down a house. Sometimes the groundors would wreck the machinery of the guns when they landed, but all of the weapons seemed workable. They each holstered their weapons at mid-thigh and began to strap up their specialized gear: Cardoza a soft leather case of light tools, De la Fuente a case of small electrics tools and a chemics kit, and Morales a series of pouches filled with medical instruments, healing kits, and dressings. Aguilar had only his message kit to strap up.
Jara spent the better part of ten minutes assembling a double-barrel two-pounder and his ammunition carrier. By the time he finished, De la Fuente was watching the two heavy crates and work wagon slam into the earth just north of them, each violet flower much larger and brighter than anything their jump harnesses had produced. Master Cortes looked at each agent in turn, then said to them, “Prepare the wagon. We move north within the hour.”
After spending a little over an hour writing this, I've already decided I don't like the recast technology. I'm going to re-write this section with the original world trappings in place and see if I like it better. So much for getting it right the first time...