The Flyboys were in the Waffle House on space station Gleam IX, putting down pancakes and links and pots of piping joe at a large table up front. They'd encountered a line out the door when they arrived, but Buzz, the most dashing Flyboy and a real schmoozer with the ladies, talked the female greeter into giving them the "next available" table ahead of some sore but silent losers. That's what the Flyboys were about: riding toward distant planets onboard experimental rockets, keeping the peace in the galaxy with the latest in armed spacecraft, and indulging their stomachs by cutting in line for pancakes.
The Flyboys were known throughout the cosmos for a cocky if lighthearted arrogance that surpassed that of any other group of pampered, prestigious elites, excepting only politicians. Peoples far beyond the Sun spoke in awe of run-ins with these haughty if impressive honchos, though not all reports were favorable. Some felt that, for all their brilliant achievements, the Flyboys were a pack of insufferable asses who should stow their attitude in tight lockers deep in their descending colons.
Still, not a soul at the Waffle House complained about the line cut; the other diners only cast timid glances at the Flyboys' busy table. Had someone had the nerve to approach them, likely he would have heard, "Buddy, we ain't just arrogant. We're astronaut and aviator arrogant. That's what it is. "
At the head of the table of course sat Chuck, the heroic, silver-haired, galaxy-class astronaut; and going around clockwise from him sat Buzz, Chad, Chip, Kip, Rip, Chick, Jocko, Uri, Zihao, Prixtl, Assultoc, then back again at Chuck's left hand, to Marie. In booming voices, they all bragged about their latest flights, and the BS was spreading faster than maple syrup.
"I zipped into my bag, climbed in the cockpit of my new Stealth Trapezoid with golden warriors and finger-on-glass gauges, and shot off hitting seven g's," boasted Assultoc, a newbie Flyboy from Quantos Four, a friendly neighborhood two light-days from Earth.
Hearing this, senior Flyboy Chuck winked at the others, and indicated by additional facial movements that junior Flyboy Asssultoc, this early in his career, didn't have a whole lot to be boasting about. "Wait till he feels his fuel slosh forward after dropping a 1,000 pound JDAM observation satellite in a barrel roll turn," Chuck managed to convey solely by means of eye-rolls, winces, and smirks.
"Fffft," scoffed Yuri, a Russian test pilot for the last twenty years as he poured sugar-free syrup over his hemp waffle. "Yesterday I bite the bear in new stealth attack craft, maximum mach, maximum g, maximum altitude. One touch of stick causes 4,000 psi hydraulic system to send control surface into deflection. In twenty minutes craft automatically configures itself for landing in hazardous area on moon of Quintil Nine. I crash-land, brush debris off my bag, and wait for them to hand me medal. But award I don't get."
Marie, smart and rangy and an honorary Flyboy despite a working set of ovaries, now chimed in, buck teeth eviscerating a pork link. "I was looking for a stacked separation with a 90-degree heading differential in a rolling scissors, chasing a bandit out of our quadrant. I did a nose-high and pulled for his six then held a horizontal reversal at the top of the roller. I locked on and was ready to zap him into neutrinos, but he bugged out." Her rapacious grin had the rest of them feeling sorry for that critter, as in, sorry she didn't nail you, butthole.
After breakfast they all went to a movie, a revival of one of their favorites, Tom Cruise in Top Gun." Need for speed," they intoned, "Randy for candy," "Cocked for popped." The cute twentysomething at the ticket window said the show was sold out, but Buzz went to work on her. "Well yaas, sure honey, uh huh my dear, now yaah sweetheart," so she let them in. "I was inverted," "If you think, you're dead," "Time to buzz the tower." About a dozen people weren't happy to give up their seats, but no one spoke out above a whisper.
Later they headed over to the Sirius station to watch Chuck, Buzz, Chip, Marie and Prixtyl appear on Monty Shintyl's talk show, forming a Flyboy panel all around Monty.
"So your job can get pretty dangerous, am I right?" Monty directed his question mainly at Prixtyl, since he and Prix were fellow countrymen from Ferdia, a vacation spot on the tranquil side of the demilitarized quadrant.
Monty didn't know it, but the Flyboys had it all worked out ahead of time to make him look like an ass.
"You should direct that question to Marie," said Prixtyl, winking at the lady pilot. "She had an encounter with the Helvetians recently your audience might be interested in."
"The Helvetians, seriously?" said Monty, falling for it. "Tell us about that, Marie."
Marie turned and gave the camera her buck-toothed grin. "I was fangs out in my new ZT-37 Flying Pole when I came across Dumnorix himself encroaching on our airspace," she said. "That's the commander of the Helvetians, you know. I recognized him at once by the long red falcon plumes sticking up from his chariot. He hurled a spear at me, and I got rudder shakers and a stall tone. But he missed my empennage area and I chased him clear in a wings-level bunt."
The other Flyboys doubled over in laughter, giving each other high-fives and shooting winks indiscriminately all over the studio. Monty, still clueless, looked bewildered.
"What am I missing here, Marie, can you tell me?" he pleaded. Then he got a message from a studio crewman. "Oh, right, Dumnorix and the Helvetians. That's Julius Caesar and the Gallic Wars or some shit from eons ago. I get it." He tried to shrug off his embarrassment at not knowing history, but never quite regained his composure.
After the show Monty ran into the Flyboys out drinking at the Starlight Lounge, but snubbed them completely. He never invited the Flyboys back on his show, either. Later the host told an interviewer that Marie was a gap-toothed imposter. Unempowering to women? Perhaps. A sore loser? Definitely.
Other examples of the Flyboys' notorious flippancy include:
John, asked by a CNN reporter if he was ever awed by the majesty of the universe and took time to ponder its incredible expanse: "No, I knew when I was five that I needed a vast arena for myself and my deeds, the roomier the better, like your grandma's silk undercrackers."
Jocko, to his squad of trainees at the US Space Force Academy: "I regret that I have only your lives to give for my country."
Kip, to US President Bob "Collusion" Wheeler, as Wheeler laced a Space Medal of Honor around his neck: "This doesn't mean I'll ever vote for you, dude, because I won't." Rip, waiting beside him for his own Space Medal, gave a thumbs-up to Kip, who returned a wink.
Buzz, asked by a female reporter from the Times if he had ever been truly afraid: "I once had a date with a knockout lady astrophysicist and I was afraid I wouldn't score, deathly afraid. But I did. That's about it."
Chuck, astronaut of lore, on being installed as the head of the Department of Aerodynamics and Aviation at his Midwestern alma mater: "My name's on the marquee, but don't expect me to do anything about it. I won't be in my office or in any classroom, like, ever."
Let's say that, as millions do, you admire the Flyboys, or your son or brother does, and he wants to know, what's the right stuff to become a Flyboy? Are there early signs he might make it in such an elite group?
Maybe there is one. On TV in his homeland of Unified China, Zihao, a professional stunt pilot in his Saucer XP-309, was asked if he had been a high school bully like all the other Flyboys confessed to being. "Oh yes," Zihao replied, grinning. "I used to grab underclassmen by the throat and streak their faces with my mom's red lipstick. Also, I would wipe the halls spotlessly clean with the hair of nerds and intellectuals." Zihao wasn't finished. "In gym class, I stretched our valedictorian by pulling his arms apart until they snapped."
Asked if he felt any remorse for his behavior, now that he was older and wiser, Zihao replied, "Nah."
That's why when you see them coming, you better give way. They're the Flyboys, and they've been itching to flash by you and kick you since they were kids.