He typed in the evaluation form’s block ‘Judgment, Item 8: Exhibited poise under duress when assuming lead navigation of a Red Flag strike package during Exercise Bright Sword when the mission package commander was ‘killed’ on ingress . . . all bombs on target.’ Making these promotion reports seem "alive" and "hard-hitting" took all his brainpower, and patience. There were bad words and good words and he strove to get the balance to send the right message about the quality of the troop.

"Need twenty more characters to fill the box, shit. Bullshit enough to impress the promotion board?” No, but the commander’s words almost filled the blank in the performance report with something, some meat but mostly potatoes. Shitty Dinty Moore beef stew in a can.

Sitting with his office chair swung around to the computer desk, back to the door, the screen of the government Dell went black.

"Fuck me. Really?"

The sinking sense of dread was the loss of over an hour’s worth of creative writing. He clenched his teeth.

A laugh at the door. "Sorry, sir. That was probably me."


"I just stepped in the doorway and I can see it just went blank."

A large guy, but not overweight by standards, he filled the doorway with flight suit and guilty grin. Five years ago Briffault had won the MacKay Trophy, upon which the most meritorious aviators’ names of each year since 1911 were engraved. It’s kept in the Smithsonian, when not out for ceremonies, and Briff’s name is on it.


- end of preview (click here to download full issue)