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“You ever wonder about our raison d’etre, Toro?” Riser sent it's text to me, slowly stretching its blue-painted arms as we walked down the corridor towards the meeting room.

"Riser, if I hear from you one more time about things like a raison d'etre, I'll throw you into the furnace," I replied, annoyed at the small talk that it tried to raise. "You know we can't afford to think about these thoughts when we're deployed to the front, right?"

"Bah, it's not like the Empire would suddenly declare war on us."

"Don't jinx it."

The doors to the meeting room opened up as we approached, showing us the exterior of the gas station in all its glory. Knights and Lancers flew in formation as the monthly exercise went underway, the fleet slowly moving off into the asteroid field for its assessment. Sitting there relaxed at the end of the table, sat Admiral Damien, the head of our frontier defence. “Colonels, have a seat,” it greeted us, opening its palms and inviting us to sit.

“Why the recall, Admiral?” I replied, taking my seat opposite the admiral as Riser did the same, careful to not break the chair he was sitting on. “I thought you wanted us running patrols down the border?”

“And officially, you still are,” it leaned back, eyes closed. “High command has received disturbing news from across the border. Rumour has it that an entire Empire convoy was massacred by a blue fighter.”

“And the only fighter that's blue is ours,” Riser texted, leaning forward and clasping its fist. “Do we know who pulled it off?”

“Negative. None of our fighters crossed the line and we have confirmed it.”

Both of us glanced at each other, not knowing what to take of the briefing. On one hand, it was a relief to know that none of our forces initiated the attack. But on the other hand, the one major question remains…

Who did it?

“Which leads me to my current point,” Admiral Damien open its eyes and proceeded to hand out a YOLOL chip to me and Riser. “Your mission is to infiltrate into the Empire’s ranks and find out more about the incident. The details are on the YOLOL chip provided to you.”

I accessed the chip with my universal tool, studying the details of the operation and committing it to memory. It seemed simple. Riser and I were to disguise ourselves as Empire commanders, infiltrating deep into their command chain and gathering intelligence on anything related to the incident. But something felt weirdly missing as if it wasn’t supposed to be there…

“And what about exfil?” Riser asked, still looking at his universal tool. Its eyes narrowed as it combed through the string of information on the chip.

“We'll only be providing you credentials to aid in your mission. You're on your own once you settle into your new identities," the admiral took something from its backpack before placing it on the table for us to see. "You'd need to change your arms with these ones from the Empire. The orange should be enough to fool them."

"I was afraid you'd make us do this," I disconnected my arms, switching them with the Empire’s arms. "Why do you always make us handle impossible tasks, Admiral? Because last I remembered, you owe our squad for that favour."

"And I intend to repay it," it retorted, watching us discard our original arms on the table. "But the Kingdom is at stake now. If you really choose not to take this mission, I'll just find another squad to take it. But you know they aren't as competent as yours."

"That makes sense…"

"Oh, not to mention I'll be executing you right here on the spot if you choose insubordination."

"And you could have just told us that right from the start."

“No matter,” it took a moment to look at the both of us. “My trust has never been misplaced in Enigma squad. And it would not be misplaced now. You are our best shot at finding out what you can from the Empire and on verifying the information they have. Do not fail us.”

“Oh we won’t, Admiral,” Riser relaxed, head cocked to one side as he asked, “though, mind treating us to the best beer at the bar if we make it out alive?”

“We're robots. How are we supposed to drink?"

“That’s not what I meant-” it texted before it stopped, head turned towards my direction.

“What?”

“Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?” I replied before an all too familiar sound screeched loudly behind me. I turned behind and looked through the window, staring at the hole that dug through the hull of the station. The hole slowly disappeared from view, hidden from me as the window shutters lowered, preventing me from seeing the outside.

Just before the shutter slammed shut, I saw the red fighter.

A fighter with two wings.

"It's some kind of energy weapon... No, it's a rail cannon," Admiral Damien looked in disbelief. "That's the only weapon that could've punched through bastonium easily."

"Admiral!" A text was broadcasted, allowing anyone to see it. "Multiple distress signals detected from the other frontier stations. We have five Centurions, forty-one Spathas, and four ships of unknown classification coming towards us. They're deployed in a crescent formation."

The admiral cursed itself in its text. "They choose the worst time to attack us, seeing as the fleet is occupied."

“Do we stay and fight, Admiral?” Riser asked, standing up and grabbing his revolver from his backpack.

“No. You’ll be following another mission,” it replied, gesturing for us to follow it as it ran out towards the hangar. We followed close behind it, weapons ready to defend ourselves and the admiral. “I want you two to follow the plans for Operation Eternal Liberation. Once we’re ready, we’ll contact you to start phase two. Until then, make sure your cover isn’t blown.”

“But what about this station? We can’t let it fall to the Empire.”

“We can’t lose everything over a single station, Colonel. That’s exactly why we made the operation in the first place,” it texted just as we walked into the hangar and right into a firefight. “Don’t waste your life. Dedicate it to saving what you call home,” it quickly continued before ducking behind cover, grabbing an antigel rifle from its backpack and returning fire.

“Wilco, sir,” I replied, dragging a still dumbfounded Riser towards our fighters. “Come on, we got to go.”

Riser was silent as we made our way slowly to the fighters, avoiding the firefight around us. As we reached them, a group of Empire soldiers rushed out towards us. “Ah, Commanders,” a Warmaster leading the group texted, lowering its laser rifle. “We’ve destroyed most of the enemy forces here and we’ll be ready to move the front shortly. Glory to the Empire.”

“Yes, glory to the Empire,” I replied, nudging Riser to do the same.

“Glory to the Empire,” it gripped it’s revolver tightly as if planning to shoot the Empire soldiers.

The group of soldiers quickly saluted before running off elsewhere, allowing us time to compose ourselves. “Riser, ease up, we can’t do anything if we’re dead.”

“If Operation Eternal Liberation works, we’ll be dead anyway.”

“Don’t say that, after all, you still have a raison d’etre to answer.”

“Haha. I think this time, I’ll be the one throwing you into the furnace,” it looked around, checking for any hostiles. “We should be good to leave now, Commander Toro.”

“Back at you, Commander Riser,” I replied before entering my black Phoenix Multi-Role Fighter, ready to leave on yet another impossible mission.

And hope that I get through this alive.

---

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About the author

Zearth

Bio: "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream." -Edgar Allen Poe.

"Let's suppose that you were able every night to dream any dream that you wanted to dream. And that you could, for example, have the power within one night to dream 75 years of time. Or any length of time you wanted to have. And you would, naturally as you began on this adventure of dreams, you would fulfill all your wishes. You would have every kind of pleasure you could conceive. And after several nights of 75 years of total pleasure each, you would say "Well, that was pretty great." But now let's have a surprise. Let's have a dream which isn't under control. Where something is gonna happen to me that I don't know what it's going to be. And you would dig that and come out of that and say "Wow, that was a close shave, wasn't it?" And then you would get more and more adventurous, and you would make further and further out gambles as to what you would dream. And finally, you would dream ... where you are now. You would dream the dream of living the life that you are actually living today." -Alan Watts

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