FROM TURKEY CITY: “BURLY DETECTIVE” SYNDROME

From issue 58 of Focus the third of my pieces of flash fiction “inspired” by the common writing errors and bad habits catalogued in The Turkey City Lexicon. This time I go toe-to-toe with a “burly detective”:

This useful term is taken from SF’s cousin-genre, the detective-pulp. The hack writers of the Mike Shayne series showed an odd reluctance to use Shayne’s proper name, preferring such euphemisms as “the burly detective” or “the red-headed sleuth.” This syndrome arises from a wrong-headed conviction that the same word should not be used twice in close succession. This is only true of particularly strong and visible words, such as “vertiginous.” Better to re-use a simple tag or phrase than to contrive cumbersome methods of avoiding it.

The Turkey City Lexicon

 

This could be trouble, thought Harvey Hampton, the space-toughened astronaut. He tapped the console screen, hoping, vainly, that there was some kind of error.

An alarm started to howl.

“Bridge?” The thickly-accented voice of McKay, the bluff Scots engineer, cut through the blaring siren. “Bridge! We have a situation – ”

“Really?” The hotshot space-jockey made no effort to hide his irritation with the engineer’s stating of the bloody obvious as he slipped lithely into his seat, pulling the harness tight across his body. He killed the siren’s banshee howl. The ship trembled. “Tell me something I don’t know, Chief.”

“We’ve lost the automatic stabilisers, we cannae hold her!” A sudden buffeting almost flipped the The Desperate Endeavour. “You’re gonna have to land her manually laddie.”

“Damn!” The broad-shouldered rocket-wrangler ejaculated as he began to work furiously at his console. The starship juddered violently, but the wilder oscillations were dampened, the ship was back under its pilot’s control. “Engineering? Engineering! Can you give us the power to get back to orbit?”

There was the sound of something heavy smashing into something hard, a soft moan and then silence.

“Chief?”

There was no reply.

“Damn and blast!

The slick-faced space-pilot dipped his head to his shoulder, scraping sweat from his brow with his uniform’s epaulets as he frantically tried to bring the nose of his ship up into a shallower angle of attack. He tried again to raise engineering.

“I need more power…”

The only sound on the comm channel was a low hiss.

The quick-thinking flyboy ran his fingers over the panel. He tried to reinitialise the automatic landing system but the console burped an error message.  Shaking his head Harvey swiped away the overlay of pilot aides, revealing the basic flight controls. Warning lights flickered, their descent vector was still too steep. They’d burn up.

“Well, it looks like we’re on our own,” muttered the strong-willed steersman. He patted the console. “Come on Dessie, let’s get us down on the ground.”

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