Heyo, folks! Time for some more flash fiction! Been a tough holiday season and I’ve missed a few posts, but I’m committed to pushing forward. Hope you like today’s piece. Enjoy!
Bey Behrin was the best pilot I had ever flown with. All the things people said about him were one of the few times that the scuttlebutt proved to be more than hot air. Bey Behrin was also a twelve-year-old boy.
I still remember when the CAG called me into his office. He had the shit eating grin of someone who delighted in giving people news they really didn’t want to hear. He was signing some paper work and leaving me hanging while I waited for him to offer me a seat. The man was an ass, but a jovial sort of ass. The kind that liked to tease just a bit too much. I stood at attention for several minutes while he finished his paperwork. Not once in that time did he look up at me, but I could tell that he was smiling so hard his face must have hurt.
He scratched his signature on the last document and slapped the folder closed.
“Sit down! Why the hell you still standing?” his voice boomed followed by several guffaws. He was awful at being funny and he clearly thought he had just pulled the greatest joke ever. I fought down the urge to roll my eyes and took a seat across the desk from him.
“You wanted to see me, sir?” I asked.
“Yup! Good news. You’re being transferred.” his grin grew even larger and his face deepened its red complexion. I was actually quite relieved at this news. Meant I might be flying under someone who didn’t act like a damn kid all the time. He slid a small stack of papers over to me and tossed a pen into my lap.
“And this is…?” I asked, a bit confused. The stack was thicker than the usual transfer paperwork.
“That’s an NDA. You got yourself a new partner they don’t want you talkin’ about! One Bey Behrin. Secret weapon of the Frontier Fleet!” he was practically giggling as he said it. No doubt he took full credit for one of his men getting a chance to fly with the “Golden Behrin”.
I didn’t know what to say and signed the paperwork without even looking it over. Of course I would keep my mouth shut if it meant flying with him! Of course I would sign anything they asked me to–I would crawl around on all fours and bark like a dog if it meant a chance to fly with the greatest ace in history.
“What about all my gear and personal items?” I asked. Not really caring, but not wanting to seem to eager.
“Already ahead of you. They’re loaded on the shuttle and everyone’s waiting on you.”
I stood and saluted, he returned the salute and began laughing. I wasn’t sure what to think of it, but I didn’t care. I was out of there.
In spite of the excitement, I slept for the entire trip.
After landing, I gathered my duffel and reported immediately to my new CAG. As soon as I saw her, I felt relief. She actually looked like she could be taken seriously. I dropped my gear to the floor and saluted.
“At ease. I trust you’ve read the briefing we sent along with the NDA,” she said. I swallowed hard not wanting to lie, but nodding anyway. “I know you didn’t. No one does. Everyone acts like an idiot when they find out they’re flying with Lieutenant Behrin. Doesn’t matter. You’re mostly just there for emotional support anyway. I hope you can last longer than the last guy. Behrin asked for you by name. Said he was friends with your little brother.”
“Emotional support? My brother? Who is this guy?! My brother’s barely thirteen!” I wrinkled my nose in confusion. She chuckled.
“Look, you’ll see what I mean when you’re up there. If you had bothered to read the briefing, you would know that I really don’t have any info to give you. It all comes from above my pay-grade. This next mission’s completely black to every one but Behrin and the flight computer. You’ll get more info as you need it. Only thing I can do is give you a warning. You’re co-piloting a VO-42 that’s already spooled for launch. You’ll also have full control of navigation, comms and countermeasures. Only you will be able to speak to or hear your pilot in real-time. It’s better that way. Good luck.”
She shoved me out the door and pointed to the locker room. The VO-42 Twister. “Puke Party” as it was affectionately known. I didn’t know there were any still in operation. I wanted to puke already. My excitement was beginning to wane.
I stashed my bag in my locker and suited up. I figured I would save some time by getting my helmet on now. Sure that everything was ready, I dashed out to the flight deck. The layout of the hangar was identical to the last and I found it easy.
The Twister was the only ship being readied. The crew chief was red faced and yelling at someone I couldn’t see. I jogged over to the ship to see what was happening. What I saw next did not inspire confidence. The pilot in front of him wore a flight suit identical to my own, but his helmet was gold. It seemed obvious that this was the “Gold Behrin” himself, except for the fact that he was barely over four feet tall. How could this be the legendary pilot everyone was talking about?
I always felt things were run pretty loose lately, but lowering the height requirement this much meant they were desperate. Guess things weren’t going as well as we thought. As I got near the two, the chief stopped yelling and turned his maddened eyes on me. He sized me up and down before shouting a few obscenities and storming off. Behrin’s face was obscured by the helmet. I wanted so bad to get a look at this person. He stuck a hand out and I shook it. Then he spun on one heel and vaulted into the ship. He did not offer a single word. This was going to be trying.
As I climbed up over the wing toward my seat behind him, I glanced into his section of the cockpit. He had a booster seat. Was I taking crazy pills? I kept thinking about all the stories I had heard about this guy. There was no way they could be true. I watched the deck crew scramble around and ready themselves for launch. I wanted to beg one of them for help, but before I could entertain the thought anymore, I heard the voice of a child over my headset.
There was shouting over comms about not being ready yet and begging me to tell him to quit doing this. Before I could key the mic to respond, the catapult engaged and I was pinned to my seat. My headset flooded with shrieks of delight and terror. I was co-pilot for a child!
The started with inane chatter and boredom before later escalating into a blur of confusion and terror. I had no idea what possessed them to let a child pilot a multi-million credit spacecraft, but here we were.
“Ready, sir?” his young caught me off guard even after listening to it this entire time.
“Ready for what? How do you even know how to fly this thing?!”
“Just tell me where to go and what to shoot.”
My jaw dropped thinking about all of this again. It took a moment for me to remember that we were still flying an actual mission. Giving him the info he needed was the only way we would get out of this alive. I shook my head and and began feeding him info as it came up on the screen. Things had been uneventful for those first couple hours, but early on in third hour, we must have hit enemy space. Seemed like every fighter in their fleet was there to greet us. My heart was ready to jump out of my throat.
“Uh…sh-shoot those guys?” I managed to stammer out. Was this really all he needed me here for? What happened next was so stupid, I would have never believed it were I not in the middle of it.
“We’re all gonna diiieeeee!” Behrin wailed at the top of his lungs. He was sobbing so loud I had to turn my headset volume near zero. As he shrieked and sobbed, his body took over and he performed the the single most stunning display of space combat I had ever witnessed. The Twister was living up to its name, and getting close to living up to its nickname. All I could do was brace myself and attempt to control my breakfast as he tossed the ship around like it was nothing. Ship after ship exploded in a glittering fireball as we danced around in the blackness of space.
Behrin did not stop shrieking and crying the entire time, yet none of the other ships got anywhere close to him. When they were nearly gone, one was able to put off a lucky barrage of missiles. Behrin paused his terrified shrieking long enough to ask me to deploy flares through choking sobs before immediately returning to his fit. With the last few ships destroyed, he became silent and began our flight back home.
I was stunned. I was soaked with my own piss. I was done with this shit. The courage to talk to him again on the trip home never came. We sat in silence the entire time as he casually piloted the ship back. A voice from the base broke the silence after nearly an hour.
“Believe it or not, they say the crying has gotten better.”