Monkey Wrench

Characters: Validenn, Tomás Darquin

Pushing one of his control sticks to one side, pulling up on the other, Darquin sent his Starfury Thunderbolt into a rolling flip onto its back as he sped away from Desell Squadron. “Still with me?”

“Roger that,” said his wingman. “Uh, there’s not enough of us to hold them all off, you know.”

He cycled through the incoming fighters on his computer. A full squadron of them, only a few of him. Still, Validenn and his people needed some cover. “No more direct engagement, then. Get in their way, mess up their firing solutions. Throw a monkey wrench into it.”

“It ain’t much.”

“It’s all we got! Go!”

Toggling his weapon systems to PPG cannons, the wall of enemy Starfuries began to stretch across his canopy, coming closer. Second thoughts rushed into his head. “Computer…hold position!”

His thrusters flared and brought him to a halt as he spun to dive below the incoming squadron. To his relief, the enemy fighters disappeared past him, scattering. Applying some braking thrust and turning to face the enemy again, he checked his targeting computer.

A pair of them were moving on toward Desell Squadron, into the duels between the elegant Minbari/Vorlon hybrids and vicious-looking things that resembled portable cannons framed by rods. The alien fighters flit about like maddened birds, apparently unaware of the approaching ships from Earth.

“Okay, Storm, close on my target. Two-thirds forward thrust. We’re doing it again.”

“They’re closing on Desell Four!”

Darquin maxed his thrust and fired on the Starfury pair above him. He didn’t care if he had a lock or not. “Enemy ‘furies, disengage now. We don’t want a fight, but if you force us, you will be destroyed! Do you copy?”

The enemy twins over him shifted in place to dodge the incoming fire. And stayed their course.

“Computer?” This was the price for sparing former comrades. “Ramming speed on my target. Now.”

He blasted away from his wingman who called out to him, asking whether he was insane. The Starfury directly ahead of him grew, threatening to fill his vision. His fingers were getting slippery against the insides of his flight suit gloves. He began mumbling lyrics to an old song. “Don’t wanna be a monkey wrench….”

The enemy’s wingman spun about to face him. The targeting computer announced that weapons were locking on him.

“Aw jeez–“

Twisting his control rods, he turned his fighter’s nose away from his target and fired blind. As a glimpse of the enemy’s cockpit sailed past him, a white flash filled his view, declaring destruction and unleashing a shockwave that rocked for what felt like minutes. When the void faded back in, he could see the remaining fighter pulling out of sight.

“Splash…splash one.”

Brief exchanges of plasma bolts punctuating the rest of combat, which was mostly a series of showdowns between fighters taking turns darting and spinning around each other to gain the upper hand. Darquin and his wingman were trying to kill their enemies’ effectiveness, but those enemies weren’t as gracious. By then, the Phoenix as well as Desell Squadron had engaged all the alien ships, lighting each other like campfires in the darkness with their weapons.

Tomas Darquin looked out at the debris sailing in space, hoping none of it had been anyone he knew. “Storm Three, report in.”

“Right with you, boss.”

“Let’s head on back to the barn. And hope our folks get a better reception elsewhere, or else we’re gonna be one tired crew.”