Fact or Fiction Stalemate

by Trulynd W. Hall

Fiction, Heard/Alexandria Detention Center writing contest, July 2022

 The fireworks display of explosions didn’t help ease my tension while I sat in my cockpit. A stealth attack. Of all the missions his had to be my first. Our enemy this time were the Neo Martian Alliance Corps, NMAC is what they call it. This skirmish took place near the martian moon. I stare out into the open space where the main fleets were battling. I glance around the cockpit of my fractal, recalling when I first got into it.

“Rick! Rick!” A woman in a space suit shouted at me.

“Ah! Sorry Major Carmen.” I replied but anyone would be awestruck upon your witnessing their first Fractal. As the Major chattered on my attention paced back over to the giant robot in the hanger. Fractals, a two story robot used for warfare but that wouldn’t seem likely if you saw it in person. They resemble a giant bean with stubby arms and legs.

“Ehehe.” I giggled to myself at the contrasting design and purpose of the machine.

“Something you want to share officer Rick?” Major darted at me. I stiffen up and shake my head in protest. She turned back around and restarted the briefing. Even with her back turned I could still feel her glaring eyes.

My recollection ended as my Squad Leader Flash flew up to me in in Fractal.

“Keep your chin up Rick! We won’t fail this mission!” he reassured me. Failing wasn’t much of a threat to be fair. It was almost foolproof.

Phase One, hide in an asteroid belt several kilometers away from the main skirmish. Phase Two, wait for a signal of a fake retreat. Phase Three, use our Claws, special tools used to grab large objects, to hurl asteroids into the NMAC fleet.

After that it’s easy pickings. It’s almost too easy if you ask me. I glance back over to see my Squad Leader flexing his Fractal’s arms. I couldn’t help but laugh seeing him attempt the pose with the stubby arms and one cartoonishly large claw. We got this, I thought to myself until a certain thought rolled into my mind. A thought that created a chain reaction of anxiety.

What if I miss?

What if the main fleet loses?

What if they have a secret squad also?

…What if I mess up?

A flood of anxiety drowned me in doubts. Before I could voice my fears I saw it. A glimmer weaving in and out of the asteroid belt. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief, it was too fast to be a Fractal.

“B22T” “Run” B22t” My radio went off with commands from Flash.

“Rick Run!” I heard him clearly this time.

“What’s going on?” I frantically radioed back.

“The mission “B22T failed…”. Flash murmured. Failed? Failed! Before I could process my feelings a volley of lasers rained upon the stealth team. My comrades Fractals were struck with pinpoint precision. I grab my controls and sloppily maneuver behind an asteroid.

“B22T” It’s Rosenthal. “B22T” Flash remarked in horror. A shiver hit my spine. Rosenthal….

“There’s one unit you must not engage with. Rosenthal, piloted by Jack Love, an Ace pilot with over 30 skirmishes under his belt. “Major Carmen said with uneasiness. “His Fractal is a special unit that can easily outpace any normal Fractal. I repeat. Do not Engage!”

The Major’s words echoed throughout my head to the point my lips were mimicking her words.

Do not engage.

My fingers mash my radio buttons as I try to get a reply from one of my comrades. Nothing but silence. I grit my teeth and swallow my grief. I contemplate what to do. I stand no chance against an Ace. Then something caught my eye, one of my allies silent Fractal floating in space like debris. I traced over the robotic cadaver and spotted my chance for at least a single blow on the Ace pilot.

“B22T”. Hello? Hello? Can you hear me? “B22T” an unfamiliar man’s voice hits my radio. The voice was deep yet comforting. I slowly reach for my radio. If I reply he’ll know my position. I contemplate on responding to his call. My eyes dart up to one of my monitors which showed the vitals of my squad. Red was dead and green was alive. All red but me. Witnessing the reality of war made my emotions swirl.

“I CAN HEAR YOU ACE!” I screamed over my radio. Now I have no choice but to confront him. I grab my controls in anger and prepare my attack.

“UUUUUOOOOGGHH” I shout in my cockpit. My Fractal glides out of it’s hiding spot with an asteroid in my claw. Once my vision sees past the asteroid, Rosenthal was already there.

“Found you kid!” The Ace smoothly replied.

Before I knew it my claw arm was blasted off.

“Fooled you Ace!” I exclaimed. A second claw grabs his Fractal, this claw was one I took from my allies Fractal. Now if he dares blast his laser we’ll both go out.

“Remarkable kid.” The Ace sounded shocked if he’s never been in a pinch.

The explosions in the open space continued as I remained stuck to my number 1 threat. It was excruciating sitting here waiting. As my mind drifted off I heard a familiar static.

“B22T”. “Hey kid…I give.” The Ace whispered.

Huh? Was he being serious? He was being serious. All of his weapons were released from his Fractals hands, left to float in space.

“Hopefully that’s proof enough kid.” He begins another broadcast. “This is Jack Love, Rosenthal is out of commission, operation failed.”

I slumped down in my seat, my body loosened and my mind cleared. Major Carmen called in to my praise my efforts. I released Rosenthal and after a moment of silence we turn away from each other and fly away.