Author Topic: Final Approach  (Read 1134 times)

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Final Approach
« on: December 04, 2017, 10:50:14 AM »
Good morning (or whatever it is where you are), everyone!

Due to the overwhelmingly positive response I received from my school's faculty about this piece (the Department Head basically said he wants to read my novel one day), I've decided to post it on here for your perusal. The following short story was created as part of my Senior project for my English 491 class. I waited until after I presented it to post, so as to avoid any plageurism checks that might wonder if the person who wrote "Final Approach" stole it from one "Fyn16" on the Gang of Five forums  :lol

The story takes place in a not-so-distant future, and provides a commentary on the advance of automated technologies, and, to put it bluntly, on their potential to suck the fun out of everything (not as eloquent as I'd hoped, but then I'm in a hurry to get to class), as well as painting a picture of futility, and how one man finds a way to cope with his overwhelming feelings of uselessness in a world that no longer needs him. And so, without further ado, I present "Final Approach!"

edit: I'd like to apologize for the mess that is this story's indentation inconsistency. I've been having trouble removing tabbed areas, so unfortunately what you see is what you get.

Final Approach

The crisp rasp of paper on mahogany was deafening as a tall, balding man in his late forties slid something over to his compatriot, breaking the uncomfortable silence that had settled over the room in the space of just a few short seconds. Both men, Air Force officers dressed in their finest blues, knew what was coming; neither wanted to acknowledge it. Opposite the first man, the second officer took the paper in hand, but did not look at it. Instead he kept his hand flat on the table, as if doing so might keep the paper from revealing its horrible statement.

That man was Robin Hart, a soft-spoken pilot whose demeanor served to hide his accomplishments. Few seemed to notice the shiny, four-bladed propeller on his uniform: the United States Air Force’s Distinguished Flying Cross. Fewer still knew the story behind it: Rob had been the first pilot to shoot down a satellite with a specially-designed missile, a feat that remained unmatched. His squadmates reported that he was unshakeable; a career of political tension for someone of his chosen occupation tended to have that effect, but finality of the sheet he was currently holding spooked him a great deal more than any unidentified blip on the radar ever could.

   He turned it over. “Honorable Discharge,” he read aloud, then stopped.Without even looking, he could already tell that the rest would be a well-crafted slew of patronizing bullshit.

   The officer opposite him cleared his throat awkwardly. Rob didn’t imagine this was easy for him. Colonel Travis Mahon was a friend of his. The two of them had gone through pilot training together. They’d been inseperable right up to the point at which Mahon chose to fly a desk, and Hart retired from the Air Force. Times were a’ changing, and each man had his own way of dealing with it.


   “So,” Hart echoed, and then added “that’s it, then?” half-questioningly.

“Yes it is.”

Hart turned the paper face-down, sliding it to the side. From here on out, he was a visitor in this office, not a functioning component of it. And while his apparent apathy might have conveyed otherwise, deep down he was relieved to finally remove himself from the machinery.

“I’ll never understand why you turned down the 5th Fighter Wing’s offer,” Mahon said. And there it wasó the single, prying statement Hart had anticipated. An answer was clearly expected here, even if Mahon hadn’t technically asked a question. Despite his long-running friendship with Mahon, Hart couldn’t help but feel miffed.

“I had my reasons,” he answered.

“Everyone does.” Mahon rocked back in his chair, clasped his hands behind his head, and nodded. It wasn’t the in-depth answer he’d been hoping to hear, but it would suffice. He knew exactly his friend’s reason for retiring from military service at forty-five, a relatively young age for someone with his kind of promotion potential. Most of his fellow pilot knew too. Drones.

   Hart was an old-fashioned sort of person, the kind who’d grown up pouring over books about dashing daredevils and flying aces ripping apart the skies over Europe and the Pacific Ocean. He felt intrinsically obligated to resist the growing automation in the armed forces, but his deep-rooted sentiment didn’t seem widely accepted in his circle. The Air Force had its reasons, and if Hart couldn’t play ball, there wouldn’t be a spot on the team for him in a few years, simple as that. It didn’t make the parting any easier for him, though.

   “Travis, how long do you figure before they replace you?” Hart said.

   Mahon straightened up in his seat. He hadn’t expected this.

   “Replace me? I don’t follow.”

   “Yeah, you do,” he said. ”You just don’t want to think about it. It’s planes today, but tomorrow it’ll be leaders, businesses, jobs, shit like that. Where’ll we fit in when that happens? What then?”

   Mahon laughed.. “Come on, man. This isn’t Terminator. They’re not taking the pilots out of flying, just out of the airplanes.”

   Hart rose slowly, then stood firmly at attention, fixing Mahon with his icy, blue eyes. They were the eyes of an aviator, capable of tracking a target across three dimensions or processing a multitude of incoming signals every second. Standing in front of him, as lifeless and rigid as a plank of wood, Hart may as well have been a stoic, grizzled tree standing in defiance of the storm to come. In a way, Mahon supposed, he was just that.

   “Take care of yourself here, Travis,” Hart said, bringing his hand up in a crisp salute.

   “Thanks. You too,” Mahon returned the salute, then the two men relaxed their arms and clasped their hands in a brisk handshake.

   “Dismissed, Rob. Good luck in the civvie world.”

   “Thanks, I’ll probably need it.”

   “Nah, you won’t. They could slap wings and a motor on a cardboard box and I’m sure you’d find a way to fly it.”

   Hart uttered a dry, humorless chuckle. “Somehow I doubt those skills are in demand these days.”

   Mahon saw it again, thenó a twinkle in Rob’s eye, buried underneath a brow creased by months of accrued stress. It worried him.

   “If you ever need a recommendation, give me a call,” he said. “Whatever skills they’re looking for these days, I’m sure I can vouch for you.”

   Hart nodded. The twinkle vanished and Mahon was momentarily relieved. For a second he’d beenó

   Scared? Worried? Not for Rob, surely.

   The return of casual normalcy he’d observed in his friend offered a sense of relief. This had to be a tough time for the seasoned pilot. People in his situation had a tendency to do stupid things. Stupid, reckless things.

   “Well, I do appreciate that,” Hart replied, smiling as he turned to leave while jauntily tipping his flight cap. Mahon grinned. There was a reason the pilot’s callsign was “Dork.” There weren’t a lot of folks that could get away with his old fashioned (mean-spirited younger folks called it “cringeworthy”) behavior, but Hart had it down pat, channeling the image of a swaggering aviator from the golden age of flight.

   But that image seemed to fade for a fleeting moment as Hart exited the office. Mahon looked down at his right hand, which still clutched the silver pen (from the SecDef himself, he liked to report) and saw that he was shaking.

   Hart settled into the seat of his staff car, Toyota’s latest self-driving hybrid, and left the door ajar, staring up at the tacky white trim above him. Even climbing into the car was a sore reminder of where the world was heading. Once people began to trust machines’ automation and so-called intelligence, it was inevitable that the military would follow suit.

   On his last sortie, a Red Flag mission (something he’d requested to stay on for), he’d flown top cover above the Air Force’s largest training area alongside a squadron of computers: drones. There, soaring through the cloudless blue desert, he’d had an epiphany, an almost divine revelation: humans in the pilot seat would soon be a thing of the past. Flesh and blood was fast becoming obsolete. It was both humbling and terrifying knowing that fewer than two hundred feet away on either side of him, he was flanked by unmanned hunks of metal, held aloft by electrical and aerodynamic witchcraft. He recalled back to when the Air Force had debuted its Raptor fighter jet in the early 1990s. It was becoming clear that development would eventually reach a plateau, a point where pilots would be pushed to their physical limits before reaching the point of self-destruction. Drones were the answer; fast, nimble, and devoid of human needs and functions, they could also carry a larger payload than any manned fighter. They would surpass these human limitations, providing the perfect solution to a specifically sentient problem. A problem he was a part of.  

   He shivered as the thought crossed his mind once again as he sat in his car.

   Getting into some dystopian-level bullshit, aren’t we, Rob?

. His hands relaxed at his sides as the wheel moved by itself. Hart had tried and failed long ago to avoid pondering the potential, the idea that one day the entire military might be automated, that there might no longer be a need for people like him. For people like anyone really. Anyone with a job, at least. What then? The question constantly nagged at him.

Hart relaxed as best he could, resting his arm on the windowsill and letting his mind wander as he transposed the metallic, half-skeletal face of Arnold Schwarzenegger on every pedestrian he saw. He chuckled to himself. He still had enough faith left in humanity that he doubted Skynet would ever become a reality. Then he allowed himself to consider whether this would even be a bad thing. At least a fictitious hostile robot takeover would affect everyone. At least existence as we knew it would end swiftly, a sharp bang rather than a long, whimpering cry that he saw imagined down his own road. As it seemed to him, few actually stood to lose anything from this transition. His personal disadvantage stemmed from the fact that he put himself in a position of potential eradication to begin with. The public loved the idea. No more soldiers in harm’s way, no human error leading to headline-causing disasters. Technically, he should have been right on board with them.

   But he wasn’t. As the car merged onto the highway, he saw a KC-46 “Pegasus,” one of the few large, manned aircraft left in the military, taking off outside his window. The pilots were probably just beginning to level off, running through all of their dated checklists just as their predecessors had done decades ago. Sure, he knew some of the processes on board were automated, but they were still flying the plane hands-on. He felt a pang of jealousy as he watched them depart, something he could do now that he no longer had to watch the road in front of him, and wondered why he hadn’t asked to become a tanker pilot.

   The Toyota pulled off the highway five miles later, following a two-lane strip of worn asphalt leading to the countryside, instinctively delivering him home like a trustworthy family dog. It was probably why he didn’t mind the car so much anymore. He’d been just as opposed to the idea of a self-driving car as he had been toward that of an automated Air Force, but the car had taken on a personality of its own. Sort of a weird, Furby-esque artificial personality, perhaps, but it was something. The car turned into a small community, surrounded by several mature trees, their leaves tinted orange at the first hints of fall in the air.

   His was the second house on the right, a small but nice two-bedroom with a two car garage and a yard that was almost green enough to be astroturf. As he pulled in, Hart realized that this was probably the last time he’d make that trip from the base to his house. Not that he couldn’t do it- he still had the proper ID after all, but he wasn’t sure he could bring himself to go back. As he pulled into the garage, the car parked itself, shutting off with barely a whisper as the electric motor died down. Hart got out, freeing the plug from a cleverly concealed socket in the car’s bumper, and plugged it in.

   His other car sat low, much lower than the Toyota, her tapering coupe roofline mimicking the shape of a predator perched on its haunches, ready to strike. His eye caught the sparkling metallic luster of her dark green paint from the light of the garage’s overhead light fixture. This was a daily ritual for him, a moment of worship he practiced daily upon his return home from work at the base. He ran a hand over the Mustang’s fender. The car was nearly eighty years old. If the Toyota seemed to possess a personality, then the Mustang offered it in spades. As he imagined driving full throttle, the whipping wind and the roaring of a hungry V8 in his ears, he noticed the sticker, a little white square in the upper left corner of the windshield reading HEV (High Emission Vehicle). Date of Registration: October 5, 2044. Expiration: October 31, 2045.

   It was 2036, and the reason his dark green beauty sat alone in the garage, the reason her old wings were clipped, was that registering the likes of such an old ride was becoming too costly. Gas guzzlers weren’t extinct yet, but they were definitely headed the way of the dinosaurs. He couldn’t disagree with the prediction. He wanted to leave a clean earth to someone else’s kids just as much as the next guy, but going out without his HEV registration, something he decided he was done paying for, would be financially disastrous, possibly thousands of dollars in fines. Hart let his hand drop limply to his side and turned away, pausing only to turn off the lights as he entered his house.

   The garage door opened into a small, marginally tidy kitchen with a small bar-height counter and all the basic necessities of a single man’s life: can and bottle openers, a few wrinkled dishcloths, a set of knives, anything to make cooking and eating alone a little more enjoyable. A tin sign hung above the kitchen sink: “See the world, fly Adler!” it advertised in blazing red letters just below the image of a sleek Lockheed Electra. He’d never heard of “Adler” before, aside from the fact that it mean “eagle” in German, a language he’d devoted less than a year to in high school, but he loved the image anyway. It was a relic dating back to a time when one didn’t need to carry a brick-sized regulation book, pages of checklists, and a bag of electronics aboard a plane. He felt wistful gazing at it, almost painfully so. He turned away after washing his hands, snatching a little black tablet off the bar top before collapsing into his couch on the other side. He powered it on and flicked through his emails, sifting the useful stuff from the junk. He paused suddenly, his finger hovering over one addressed to him from Horizon Aerospace, a firm that he’d submitted a “why the hell not” application to a few weeks back. Intrigued, he touched the email, opening it.

   Mr. Hart,
   We thank you for expressing interest in becoming a part of our team here at Horizon! We are proud to provide aeronautical services to firms looking for daring new pilots to test the boundaries of the new and exciting aircraft emerging from the production line every year. Based on your prior experience, we feel you make an excellent fit on our team. If you are interested in hearing more, please call the number below or email us to set up an interview.

   “So far, so good,” Hart thought aloud, scrolling down to check out the numbers. There was more to the email, but he ignored it for the moment and scribbled the attached telephone number on a yellow legal pad. He would call them, he decided. Calling was more professional than emailing, even if it was going out of style. Who knew? Maybe he’d hit the jackpot and find a group of like-minded individuals with enough wild and crazy pioneering ideas to keep him flying well into his sixties. Maybe.

   Then he scrolled back up and finished reading.

You’ll no doubt be excited to learn of the newest addition to our fleet, the SH-44 autonomous pilot! With “Ottoó”

   “Airplane” reference, Hart thought, glowering at the screen, how cute.

   ówe can test the boundaries of new aircraft in ways that we never could before. With the increasing popularity of drones in the military and civilian markets, we at Horizon find ourselves leading the market when it comes to stress-testing new airframes, ones that might have been laughed at only a few decades ago. Supermaneuverability, hypersonic flight, things that were previously believed to exist only in science fiction are possible now due to Otto and systems like it. Should you choose to pursue a career at Horizon, you too will learn to utilize this new technology as we march towards the future, pioneering new systems that better integrate automated functions with human ingenuity and creativity.

   Hart immediately closed the message and tossed the electronic tablet aside, disgusted. If that was Horizon’s vision, they could kiss his ass. He hadn’t left the military just to go do the same exact thing in the civilian market. There was still hope, he thought. He hadn’t heard anything back from the cropdusting business in North Dakota, or the aerial firefighting unit in Oregon, but he had his doubts about those, too. He suspected automation would be the “magic pill” for both of those jobs in the near future as well.

   The whole thing was a joke. There were no such things as pioneers anymore; every new advancement in flight technology was being methodically tested by detached scientists growing old in the artificial light of a lab, never having experienced the feeling of a well-trimmed elevator, or a smooth throttle response. It was all numbers now; even before the onset of drones, it had been numbers in the military, too. “Try flying an F-15 Eagle by the feel of it alone,” he remembered telling a journalist once, “you can’t. There’s too much going on, too many computers working to keep the plane in the air. It’s why workload is stressed so heavily in pilot training. We have to multitask all the time.”

   At the time, the quote had felt more than a little badass, possibly even a lure dropped in the hopes of attracting a prospective love interest, but now he saw it for what it really was: a confession, thinly veiled as praise for his fellow pilots. An admittance that it was the aircraft flying him, not the other way around.

   What had drones really changed? He pondered this as he sat back, his feet up on the arm of the couch. Something he’d always skirted around was the truth that most flights these days were already automated. Sure there was always a pilot’s hand on the stick, but the plane was basically flying itself, even in the civilian world.

   Especially in the civilian world.

   Would going automated change anything at all, or had mankind already lost that sense of wonderment with being able to do something that was biologically impossible for itó to defy the laws of nature by soaring among the birds? He knew he didn’t have an immediate answer, but he suspected this was because he already knew the answer. He was just too afraid to say it.

   He found his eyes returning to the tin sign, to the gleaming silver plane sketched and then painted with just enough artistic exaggeration to make it appear as if it were leaping headlong into the sky, eagerly throwing itself toward the clouds as it climbed onward to its next adventure. He thought of himself in that seat, leather jacket wrapped around his torso to fight off the cold, red scarf around his neck, maybe a cigar clamped between his teeth because who the hell cared? We all knew we were going to die one day, why not live a little?

   Why not live a little?

   Though he felt like an archaic monster for admitting it, safety was the norm now. It was inevitable, really. With flying as mainstream as it was these days, it could not be left to the hands of crazy daredevils and daring aces. It had to be chopped up, restructured, regulated, and then dispersed back to the public in a tamer, less intimidating form. He was reminded of a favorite book of his, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. There was a force in that story, a dark, formless thing lurking behind the scenes known only as the Combine. It swept across the land, chewing up America and sorting it out into little identical houses with cookiecutter families all working bland, similar jobs. If the last few years were anything to go by, then Kesey had been right: the Combine was real, and it had won. Unsatisfied, in his case, with just transforming, chewing up, and processing the life of the common man, it was now coming for his job, the primary reason for his personal existence. The harvest of his livelihood was inevitable.

   Hart stood slowly and made his way over to a drawer beneath the sign. He opened it, selecting a pair of shiny, brass-colored keys from inside. It was a simple keyring, no fancy remote starters or fobs, just two keys and a blue rubber oval hanging between them, a logo older than he was: Ford, written out in flowing, white cursive, the same logo that had bedecked the wings and fuselages of the Trimotors, some of the greatest planes of the “golden age of flight.” He smiled as he pocketed them. Then he selected a worn leather jacket from the coat hook by his door, looked one more time up at the tin sign, and re-entered the garage, where the Mustang sat waiting.

   The engine turned over on the third try with an almost prehistoric roar, the likes of which few heard anymore. He enjoyed that the neighbors knew what he was up to, just by the sound of things. He was in another world now. His steering wheel had become a stick, his dashboard: an array of gauges, switches, and dials. His shifter: a throttle, and the world beyond his garage, cheering crowds. He took all of this in from his vantage point of control, an eagle, roosted so its majesty might be experienced by all. He glimpsed into his audience, knowing that a simple wink or a smile could inspire a lifetime of achievement. The throaty bellow of the V-8 had become for him the cyclical purr of an enormous rotary engine. He stood now at the threshold of a time where there was a place for him. A golden age of manned flight called to him, beckoning for him to take the next step.

   No computers, no electronics, just me and the airplane.

   Hart shifted into reverse.

   He felt a tug from the back of the aircraft; two young, overall-wearing men were pulling him backwards, away from the crowd and out onto the flightline. The freshly-painted stripes below his wheels welcomed a new era of travel and adventure. He rolled his window down, acknowledged his spectactors, saluted, then returned to his minimal preflight tasks. In a crate like this, there wasn’t much to monitor. He ran through the checklists, most of which he knew by heart, mentally checking off every item in rapid succession.

   He paused for a moment when he noticed, once again, the sticker in the top left corner of his windshield. It once held some significance in another time or place, but here it meant nothing. He shrugged it off just as the boys finished tugging him into position.

   Hart put his foot down.

   He ran up the engine, its throaty roar sending a shiver down his spine before he let off the pressure. Everything was in order. He throttled up again, and released the brakes.

   The craft leapt forward eagerly, clawing at the asphalt as it lunged towards the sky.

   Hart shifted.

   With a bone-shaking lurch, he felt the wheels leave the ground, reluctantly at first, then eagerly as he built up speed. Now things were changing. He could see the gleam of silver outside his windows. The roar of the radials was still there, but it was muted, a little more comfortable. Two wings, much longer than the first, stretched out on either side of him, glistening in the light of the late afternoon sun. He heard murmurs behind him. Passengers, off to experience adventures of their own in exotic locales, spurred on by stories told in the newspapers and magazines, too fantastic to be true. Right now, he was their hero, their guide to adventure. He would not disappoint.

   The Mustang barreled through the neighborhood’s entrance, its old tires leaving strips of rubber coating the ground where it slid. As it merged onto the road,Hart opened the throttle wide. Then it was gone, leaving only the rapidly-fading sound of its victory roar in its wake.

   No more propellers. Now the sound came from behind Hart, a rumbling, bone-shaking sound like thunder in a can. Everything around him was shuddering, protesting against him as he edged his machine closer and closer to the threshold of its peak performance. He could hear radio chatter in his ears, but the words were garbled and nonsensical, unimportant compared to the mach meter in front of him, a simple dial that counted up to one. He pushed harder on the throttle. What would happen at one? Would his tiny craft shake itself to pieces, or would he open the gateway to a new era of aviation? Unsure, he pinned the throttle and hoped for the best. The needle edged closer to mach one, a simple fabrication of fluorescent plastic between him and the coveted sound barrier, the holy grail of all jet jockeys…

   Behind the Mustang, a white and black police interceptor accelerated, leaping towards the fleeing muscle car, a predatory cat on the hunt, but Hart paid it no heed as he now found himself back in the familiar cockpit of his F-15, cruising steadily at supersonic speeds above some nondescript, sandy location. This was familiar turf for him; he’d flown these skies many times in his life. Lights, red and blue, lit up the sky behind him. Missile warning tones blared in his ears, and he pushed harder on the throttle, coaxing his metal bird to go faster, to pour every ounce of its power into fleeing.

But he couldn’t do it. His pursuer was gaining. He rolled the aircraft to the right, hoping the abrupt maneuver might throw the aggressor off, but escape was impossible. No matter what maneuvers Hart flung his Eagle through, nothing would shake his pursuer. Alone and outmatched, he finally decelerated, the mighty jet engines behind him spooling down as he awaited the inevitable.

The officer pulled up alongside the stopped Mustang. Procedure dictated that he stop behind the car, but this was a lonely road; he doubted anyone was coming in the opposite direction, and he wanted a closer look at the driver.

“License and registration, please,” he said, bending down and leaning his elbow up against the car’s low roofline. The driver turned toward him slowly, fishing his wallet out of his back pocket and passing him the requested documentation. The officer marked down what he needed on the little notepad he carried around with him, then stopped.

“Robin Hart? Aren’t you the guy that shot down that satellite last year?”

The man behind the wheel nodded.

“Well, hey, I s’pose you’re human, too,” he remarked, handing back the documents and a speeding ticket. Hart didn’t say a word. It took only a moment for the officer to register why. The car was an HEV, and driving an unregistered one without the appropriate documentation was a serious crime. In his former profession, something like that could undoubtedly land the pilot in hot water.

Hart could see him thinking things over, his eyes darting between the windshield and the pilot. Hart tried to remain calm, but his fingers shook, tapping lilliputian drum-beats on the surface of his steering wheel. Both of them knew why.

But in that moment, the officer did something that only could have happened on a quiet dirt road between the rows of gently waving corn under an orange sky. He smiled, nodded to the pilot, and said, “might want to make sure all your papers are up to date if you plan on driving this thing,” before returning to his police cruiser.

As the officer pulled away, Hart sat silently behind the steering wheel, the warm afternoon light washing over him as he tried to comprehend what just happened. The cheers had vanished, as had the clouds, the wings, the images. Yet something remained. He comprehended then what he’d seen on his tail in that last dogfight, the thing that had overtaken him. It wasn’t the police car, or a fictional missile. It was a squadron of drones, his squadron. Progress. The future. It had caught up with him, stripped him of his wings, and set him back on the ground to make his living in a dull, adventure-free world. And yet it had not changed him; it hadn’t chewed him up and spat him back out as a carbon copy. His interaction with the officer hadn’t been artificial, it had been real, one human being to another. Perhaps, he thought as he twisted the key in its recess and started the car, there still existed room for the human spirit here, in a world that felt as cold and mechanical as the machines that drove it.

Hart shifted into reverse, pulling back onto the road in the direction he’d come from.


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Final Approach
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2017, 04:09:35 PM »
Well, this piece certainly proves you're capable of doing nice stories outside LBT even if I can see similarities between Hart and Squall. :smile The premise of this story is certainly a topical question for the modern times and Hart's character truly shows his frustration with the way things are developing. The layout and scenes were rather solid throughout the story the writing was as nice as ever. However, I must say I enjoy your LBT stories more as the situation, plot and descriptions here, despite their modern relevance, weren't as interesting as in your other fics. That isn't to say that this story is bad in any way but your other works simply resonate more strongly with me. Still, I'd second your Department Head's assessment about a potential novel from you. :)


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Final Approach
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2017, 09:11:06 PM »
Hooo boy. I don't feel like I can review this fairly, as the themes are just too familiar to me (I was in the military for six years, and wrote an undergrad research paper on the advance of AI in military operations.)

I will try to give a review on the more technical aspects of the writing/storytelling, though.

First, the climax of your story is incredibly strong. I've been at the controls of a personal plane once before(with a pilot supervising, of course :smile ), and I have to say you got the feeling dead on. There's so much life in your description, and the pacing of the prose is perfect.

Unfortunately, the opening half of your story really pales in comparison to it. I had trouble caring about Hart throughout the piece. He really seems more like a reactive stand-in for the things that are happening around him rather than a three dimensional character. I know it's incredibly hard to build sufficient sympathy over the course of a short story, but I just didn't buy his struggle. It felt kind of forced. It might have helped to add some descriptive imagery in his house to clue your readers in to who Hart is as a person. Perhaps some mementos from flight school, a picture of his childhood home, etc. etc. Right now all we really have to go on is he's single, has a muscle car, and has a tin sign hanging up that has no personal significance to him. As it stands, the first half of this, while it's very well-written, feels more like a social commentary train-of-thought piece with some characters thrown in as an afterthought.

A good rule in writing, which I'm sure you already know, is that if you tell your audience what to think, they won't trust you. You need to take them on a riveting journey with your character, and let them come to their conclusions on their own (if you're really good, it'll be the conclusions you intended all along). Incidentally, this is what ruined Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" for me. Absolutely loved it until the very last line.

And there was just one technical issue that bugged me and kind of broke up the flow. In these sentences:

 "His eye caught the sparkling metallic luster of her dark green paint from the light of the garage’s overhead light fixture. This was a daily ritual for him, a moment of worship he practiced daily upon his return home from work at the base."

You repeat the words "light" and "daily" in each one, respectively. Just makes it read a little clunky for me. I think "glow" or "glare" would work well in place of the first "light," and either one of the "daily" instances could probably be omitted entirely. That's more of a little nitpick, though :D

Despite the criticism, all in all I think it's a wonderful one-shot with a lot of potential :D
« Last Edit: December 05, 2017, 09:13:19 PM by DarkWolf91 »