I freaking loved this fic. You all can watch as I flounder around foolishly and my inclination to assume the worst of the author’s ability gets the best of me– enjoy (boyfriend sure did).
The other thing I didn’t mention but that was really important and well-done here was the lack of handholding. DON’T TALK DOWN TO THE READER DAMMIT.
(edit: meanwhile, the author for this one was kind of ungrateful… people are so wildly unpredictable.)
Nobody ever saw the green flames of jealous fire within Adrian. He hid it expertly behind a cool posture, intense eyes, and a usually cheery face.
When you use multi-word adjectives, the words that make up the adjective should be hyphenated. So, it would be “usually-cheery face.” Other examples include “down-on-his-luck salesman” or “stay-at-home mom.” It’s a visual organizer that tells the reader which words belong grouped together, and it helps avoid ambiguous syntax.He did his job well and was rewarded for it. His coworkers didn’t mind him, and often praised him for his performance and professionalism in mandatory weekly reports. As chief astro-engineer, Adrian had a fair share of responsibility and duties riding on his shoulders at all times. Not once did he crack under the pressure of a tight deadline, or blow up at a subordinate’s mistake, that, if gone unnoticed, would have compromised the entire mission and put people’s lives in danger. He spoke with a quiet yet authoritative voice that made one want to listen to him, nod at very slight pause, and carry out his orders. Adrian was a natural leader.The hissing of pneumatic valves and the banging of the hyper-hammers combined to create an impromptu symphony of harsh, metallic sounds.This is an issue that I see way more than I should, and it’s a misuse of the definite article “the.” “The” implies familiarity with an object; it is a specific thing that we have met before and are seeing again. In this case, my response was, “What hyper-hammers?” There’s never one mentioned before, but it’s being discussed as if it’s familiar. This is poor form. It’s especially odd because it doesn’t jive with the syntax you’ve set up– “pneumatic valves” doesn’t have any article at all, and then in the next sentence you’re using “a.”
A long, sleek, and extremely shiny spaceship lay sideways in the repair hanger. The bright white xenon lights of the hangar reflected heavily off of the ship’s specialized hafnium carbide exterior.
I don’t think “heavily” is an appropriate word to use there. It could reflect “strongly” or “brightly,” but the connotations that come with “heavily” can’t really apply to a reflection.
Workers were unraveling black drapes to be thrown over the ship to prevent blindness.
Or, alternatively, they could just turn down the lights. If the light is to bright, turn it off, don’t coat the room in black construction paper. This doesn’t really make sense.
Also, your syntax here is really odd. To prevent whose blindness? It’s extremely unclear from the way it’s written.
This was the Pilgrim, and it would be carrying astronauts to the newly discovered exoplanet that was nicknamed “The Island.”
Again, some very questionable use of “the.”
Adrian climbed a ten foot tall ladder in beat to the hammers and faced the panel that opened to the central commutator of the main engines.
“ten-foot-tall ladder” Also, “climbed in beat to the hammers” is a really odd phrase. Part of that is that you’ve used the wrong preposition– it’s in beat with not to– but it also doesn’t really describe what he’d doing very clearly. I figured it out, but I think something like, “Adrian climbed up a ten-foot-tall ladder, his steps in rhythm with the beating of the hammers, and pulled himself up to face…” Also of note is that he never finishes climbing– as he’s still climbing, you have him face the panel. “Climed up” inplies completion and fixes that issue.
Also, why are all the hammers hitting at the exact same time? That seems unlikely.
Also, wait, didn’t they just cover the ship with a cloth? How are they still working on it?
Taking out one of the multidrivers, he started to take out the five screws that held the panel in place.
Your syntax here makes it sound like he started to unscrew the screws as he was taking the screwdriver out, which obviously isn’t what happened. Be careful of trending toward the passive voice. In fiction writing, it’s generally better and more effective to communicate actions linearly. “He took out one of the multidrivers and began to unscrew one of the five knobs…” is a more direct and digestible way to describe an action than using gerunds (-ing words).
Also, watch out for word repetition.
His hands worked quickly in symbiosis with the tools. In only a few seconds, the panel was off and set down on the floating work bench.Adrian drew in a deep breath throw his long, narrow nose and blew it out through his mouth. He was working on arguably the most important part of the engine. His actions had to be perfectly precise; all components must be aligned to the micrometer. One loose component would be catastrophic. The Pilgrim’s atomic drive was based on fusion principles; it took two disasters, the Starseeker of 2180 and the Lion’s Mane of 2193 to “perfect” this horribly demanding though extremely efficient technology.For clarity, I would set off “though extremely efficient” in some way. Maybe:horribly demanding– though extremely efficient– technology
horribly demanding (though extremely efficient) technology
Just make it clear it all belongs a certain way.
It was all too easy to rush the repair process and take the wrong measurements or to forget to put in one of hundreds of fingernail-sized nuts.
I’d put a comma after “or.”
Adrian looked closely at the multitude of parts that were crammed together in tiny compartment,
There’s a word missing here.
akin to organs in a human body. He noted the position of the off-center exhaust pump, the rusted washer of the fuel catalyzer, and the cracked inlet pipe that led to the atomic drive.
Shaking his head tiredly, Adrian knew that this would be a long day.
Just a quick point: this works because he is shaking his head as he’s thinking about this. One action doesn’t need to be completed before the other starts, so there’s no issue of clarity.
The launch was scheduled for five days from now, and there was a lot of work still needed to be done.
Another missing word.
Adrian looked over to the floating bench and searched for a washer thirty centimeters in diameter and four millimeters in thickness, with an inner hole that measured sixteen centimeters in diameter.
I would omit this comma.
He found it and set it close to himself. He began to disassemble the fuel catalyzer.
All of his life, Adrian had been good at solving problems. His ingenuity and creativity allowed him to exploit loopholes rarely seen by others. His God-given intuition of machinery and electronics let him fix broken radios (which were sold at vintage markets and kept around for sentimental value), rewire his home’s walls, and upgrade his friends’ HPCs without consulting the manual or reading pages of pages of reference
Pages and pages, not of.
material on his reader. It was only with sick irony that he discovered how hollow it had made him feel. Adrian knew something was off from his first day as a rookie astro-engineer when a wave of disgust crashed over him as he was given his first assignment.
From that day, nothing was the same. Adrian worked only because the pay was good, and, honestly, the work wasn’t that hard for him. Any passion or love in his craft was completely gone, obliterated into nothingness. Adrian tried to think his problem through; how can a man hate what he does best? Where is the logic in that? He would ask himself at night, staring at the ceiling.
I’m not sure about that semicolon. I think it would be better as a colon or simply a period. Secondly, thoughts are written the same as dialogue, so that “he” shouldn’t be capitalized.
Lastly, I’m a bit confused. What was it about the first assignment that crushed his soul? You don’t really tell us, and whatever the implication is I’m missing. Did he find that doing something he enjoyed as work made it unenjoyable? Did he just feel he was above the work? I don’t really have any idea.
If this is not my calling, then what is?
He found it during his third year as an engineer. It was a simple, low-key note posted on the board. It was only through pure coincidence that Adrian looked at it. It read: “Accepting astronauts. Download applications here.” The idea, the fantasy, the chance of a voyage that one will never forget… That is what grabbed a hold of Adrian’s tortured mind. He lost countless nights of sleep thinking up every possible aspect of the life of an astronaut.
I would un-capitalize “that” since it’s the continuation of a sentence, not the start of a new one. Also, I’m switching to bold now because it’s easier.
There was a certain romantic, yet realistic, naivety to his thoughts.
Considering this has been kind of a look into Adrian’s thoughts, I think this sentence is a little odd. It’s like we step back for a short sentence to straight third-person and then plunge back in to his head. The result is that I’m not sure if he’s calling his own thoughts romantic and naive or if it’s the objective narrator calling them that. It’s a subtle but important difference.
Adrian longed to experience true null G, eat instantly prepared food and slurp fluids through nearly indestructible packets that even medical needles could not pierce.
He wanted to lose his sense of direction and learn to orient himself in a space without an up or a down. He longed to climb up the ladder to the observation deck, strap himself into the observing chair, and open his eyes, allowing light of all ages enter his eyes and dazzle his brain, his thoughts, and his mind with bands and pinpoints and flashes of color.
a) watch repetition
b) that last sentence is really a run-on
Had he the chance, he would have given away his money, left his wife and daughter, and left his comfortable
job as astro-engineer just to go up into the heavens.
as an astro-engineer
Adrian would not have minded staying up there forever; he would find a way to pass the time. In fact, he wouldn’t have minded going alone, a technical suicide mission. It was hopeless for him to consider anything else with his life.
The first letter he received from where? did not do anything to his morale. He could tell from the words it was automated: a formal template that the department copied over and over again to send to those who had to be turned away. They gave no reason for refusing his application. Adrian tried to call them once and received an incredibly side-stepping answer that he had forgotten by now. It was the third letter that started to chip away at his confidence. It was the fourth that almost destroyed him. Adrian was almost hopeful by that time, and his life became one dull routine after another. He almost stopped living, but that one spark of will within him gave him the push to try again.
It was the same exact letter as the other four; none of the words were changed. It was as if a machine had chosen him as a sort of nemesis, and through the convoluted bureaucratic system, decided to torture and destroy him through these almost-mocking letters of rejection. He flew into a rage and nearly destroyed his entire room when he read the first few words, because he knew exactly what came after. “Dear Adrian Tendriot, it is with great displeasure that I must inform you…”
It had been four years since he’d received that fifth letter. Adrian gave up on the pursuit of astronaut-ship, but the hate still burned brightly under his cool facade. He settled into the routine of the astro-engineer, and was promoted to chief only a few months before.
before what? If it’s before now, you want to say “had been,” not “was.”
As much as he hated his job, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to feed his family, buy the necessities, and invest the rest for his daughter’s medical school costs.
The whistle blew. A fifteen minute break was allotted to the engineers on deck.
Adrian climbed down from the ladder and went into the break room, swiping a booster and chewing on it angrily in the corner.
I’m not sure if you meant he was chewing on the corner of the booster or that he went to the corner of the room to chew it, so watch your syntax.
While the other engineers gathered in their long-determined cliques and clusters, Adrian sat alone in the corner of the break room, leaning back in his chair. He heard Thomas Henderson’s high-pitched laughter, listened but didn’t pay attention to Reed Woznick’s daily rant on the state of the cafeteria food, and watched as his second in command, Harrison Regal, bounce his eyes back and forth between the talkers while sipping his infamous concoction of coffee and orange juice. Out of them all, the only one who didn’t seem to go out of their way to annoy him was Harrison. He’s a good kid, thought Adrian. He’ll be okay.
Any reason in particular all the engineers are men?
Adrian turned away from his coworkers. His eyes focused on something very far away, something hidden behind the walls of the room, the hanger, the atmosphere, the solar system itself. His mind was twisting itself into unpleasant knots as he mulled over the imminent launch of this never-before-seen technology.
He thought of how, if this was all a success, the astronauts would come as heroes, forever immortalized by the first ever manned rendezvous with another planet outside of the solar system.
His thoughts began to turn over faster, clashing with one another, grinding their sharp, biting edges down into dull, blunt nubs. Suddenly, all of the clashing and machine squeals in his head halted and a glorious new idea began to sprout, like a plant under accelerated growth lamps. It surprised him, made his heart race, and tickled every deep desire that his id buried deep from his ego and even deeper from his superego. Soon though, horror and disgust replaced his rapture. How could he think of such a thing?! What kind of person would even consider that? Adrian felt the shame steaming from every pore in his body. He hoped his colleagues didn’t notice his sudden change in demeanor.
Adrian closed his eyes and tried to silence the idea forever. He managed to push it back into the filthy cave where it had come from, but then lost his willpower and let it burst out. It took over his mind completely, stronger than before. Adrian couldn’t repress the idea now. It was going to nag and bite at the folds of his brain, from the deep recesses of his subconscious to the highest peaks of his superego. There was no escaping it.
Adrian wanted to destroy the Pilgrim.
I thought he was going to stow away on the ship. xP
The whistle blew once more, signaling the end of the break. It was time to get back to work. Adrian rose cautiously out of his seat, watching his coworkers’ faces closely for any sign of suspicion. He was relieved when no one offered him more than a natural, passing glance.
Adrian went back to his usual post on top of the ladder. He stared at the miniscule components that cost millions, and whose fate lay in his hands.
Minuscule. Spellcheck. No excuse for not running it.
(edit: Further research shows that “miniscule” is a recently accepted variant borne of people’s misspellings. M-W.com says most people are still resistant to the new form, so I’d avoid it, but my statement here was based on OpenOffice’s spellcheck and dictionary.com , the latter of which doesn’t have a page for “miniscule.”)
A thrill went through his body when he realized that all he had to do was to leave one single part untightened. Yes, then the rocket’s vibrations would knock it out of place during launch, and the whole thing would be doomed. And, better yet, Adrian would be saved; his nearly flawless reputation as chief engineer would help overlook this disaster.
Missing word: would help *who* overlook?
He could spin it whichever way he wanted, since there would be nothing left of the site for miles.
A smile started to appear on Adrian’s face, first as a slight curl of the lips, then the separation of the top and bottom lips, and finally the tightening of the cheeks. It was completely unconscious and involuntary, but Adrian let the smile take his face hostage, even if for a second. His fingers trembled ever so slightly, holding the multidriver above the catalyzer. Taking a deep, gasping breath, Adrian dove inside the belly of the beast.
The world gathered around their walls. Children sat cross-legged on the floors, their eyes transfixed by the crystal clear picture coming live from the launch site.
Though it would still be an hour and change until the launch, families were switching to the channel if only to hear the chatter of the newscasters and the space-port officials.
The “if only” is unnecessary.
The cameras panned and swiveled around the immensity of the spaceship. Its shiny hull was still covered by the special-light absorbing cloth so that the workers, who swarmed all over the ship, could check every square inch of the hull for imperfections.
“special, light-absorbing” What you’ve written here says that the cloth was for absorbing special light, not that the cloth was special because it absorbed light.
The cloth would be released at the moment of launch and recycled for further projects.
Why so much attention to the cloth? It’s really a silly detail you’ve only included because of one weird sentence where the internal lights were too bright, and it’s getting a disproportionate amount of facetime from the narration. Just get rid of it.
The astronauts began their traditional path along the walkway to the ship. Every few steps, they would turn, smile, and wave for the flashing cameras that surrounded them. Inside, they were cold, clammy, and nervous almost to the point of breakdown, but their body language and smiles hid their fears well. The astronauts soothed their overactive imaginations with the simple thought of Adrian Tendriot and his team’s pristine record.
As the door shut, sealing the astronauts into their shining space missile, the timer struck thirty minutes until launch. The weather was perfect: no wind, clear night sky, around twenty degrees Celsius.
Why would the launch be at night? That seems like it would just make it impossible to do anything should something go wrong. There’s a reason we don’t schedule launches for 3 AM.
The support towers clumped around the blackened spacecraft, their wires and pipes connecting to the ship like spider’s legs. At the moment of launch, the towers would disconnect and fall away from the ship to prevent collision.
There was confusion in the control room; the chief engineer has unexpectedly resigned right after completing work on the Pilgrim.
That seems really, really stupid. When something goes wrong and no one knows why, he’s suddenly going to be a suspect. “It’s always the quiet ones” and all that. It would make the most sense for him to go through all the motions and then resign after another month or something.
The tradition of writing a short message, a blessing for the mission, on the hull of the ship before launch had to be filled by someone qualified and willing to take responsibility. The engineers, operators, and controllers in the room grumbled to one another about Adrian Tendriot’s disappearance. They swapped versions of the story, some extravagant, some downright slanderous, about how he walked up to the Director, shoved a resignation letter into his hand, and walked away, never to be seen again.
See? It’s already backfiring.
They thought it very suspicious that the chief engineer would resign before the world’s most history launch, and, more so, not even come to witness it.
Alright, so maybe you’re doing it on purpose. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you are.
As the countdown neared zero, the occupants of the control room shrugged their shoulders and put away Tendriot from their mind; there was work to be done.
Harrison Regal, being second in command under Tendriot, took his spot as the message writer. He had worked tirelessly and diligently alongside his mentor for years but today he cursed him in his mind, over and over again, for leaving him at the worst possible moment. Though he thought him brilliant, Harrison, like the other engineers, had his own reservations about Tendriot.
The camera focused in on Harrison’s sweating face, his nervous gait, and the black marker clasped firmly in his clammy palms. He approached the doors the astronauts had gone through only half an hour before.
Sidestepping to the right of the doors, he knelt down and took out a piece of paper that he crumpled into his pocket. Lips moving, repeating the message he had only spent a frantic fifteen minutes writing, Harrison finally uncapped the marker and began to write. After several words though, he stopped and the cameras zoomed into his furrowed brow. He seemed to be concentrating on something on the hull, though his body blocked the view. Finally, he shook his head and finished his message with steady hands. Thunderous applause rocked the control room as he began to make his way back to headquarters. The Pilgrim was ready.
Harrison Regal’s mind raced. Through the excitement of the launch, the nervousness of going up on live, international television to scribble something probably indecipherable and melodramatic onto the hull of the world’s most advanced spaceship, and the discovery he made while writing, he had no space to think straight. No matter where his mind was trying to go, it always led back to the hull. It didn’t disturb him, per se, but something about the words already written before his unnerved him greatly. It was obviously written by Tendriot’s hand, but the message was so vague and apologetic that it chilled Harrison to the bone. Compounded with his premature resignation, there was little else to be inferred from the message. He wouldn’t do it though, would he? thought Harrison. Through an immense internal battle, he finally resolved to keep the matter to himself.No, not Adrian, he thought. It’s impossible.
While the countdown stayed the same hue in the control room, news organizations all over the world changed the numbers from blue to flashing red. There were thirty seconds left until launch. The operators, engineers, and controllers stared at their screens: double, triple, quadruple checking all of the numbers, signs, stats, their fingers hovering over the cancel button if anything turned up unsatisfactory.
As the clock hit zero, everyone held their breath. The fingers floated hesitantly away from the cancel button, as they had no use anymore. The site was silent, except for a small hum that grew steadily louder and bassier.
“Baser.” When in doubt, dictionary.com.
The atomic drive in the Pilgrim kicked in, and light blue plasma erupted from its base, heating the gel pads to an unfathomable temperature. The walls in people’s homes switched to a camera located inside of the cockpit, showing the astronauts sitting back in chairs reclined ninety degrees with everything shaking.
The tarp fell away, and through the lion’s roar of the drive, one could make out the sharp hisses that the pipes made as they shot out of the Pilgrim and fell to the ground alongside the support towers. The spaceship became a dazzling supernova in the dark night, its underside illuminated blindingly by its cyan plasma jets. It rose steadily from the launch pad, gaining speed but standing perfectly straight.
Finally, the Pilgrim broke through the atmosphere and the world began to breathe again, gulping air hungrily after the crucial, nerve-wracking seconds after the launch where so many of mankind’s previous vessels have been obliterated. So far, the program had been a tightly resounding success. The control room erupted in cheers as the Pilgrim cleared the exosphere, and contact was maintained by the astronauts. To the nearby observers of the launch site, the Pilgrim was now just a small sun moving across the sky.
Harrison smiled at the screens and finally realized what Tendriot meant. Ira est furor brevis, wrote Adrian. “Anger is a brief madness.”
That was completely and totally awesome, and I don’t say that very often. You had me completely duped, and that basically never happens.
This excelled as a character study and as a thriller.
Grammatically, you need to watch your syntax, because in a few spots it got a bit confusing. Otherwise, you didn’t have any really pervasive errors. Obviously, now you know the rule about hyphenating adjectives. You may want to ask for a beta, because there were some smaller errors here that you wouldn’t catch proofing yourself but would be obvious to someone else. Watch your use of the.
I’m very impressed, and this was a nice break from a lot of the stuff I read during the day. I’ll find an excuse to feature this soon, I promise. ;)