Flash Fiction Challenge: Plan B

Flash Fiction Writing Prompt Badlands SD 1995
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

The ground below might not be considered enemy territory, but it certainly couldn’t be considered anything but hostile.

Colonel Martin had gotten separated from his squadron and had lost his bearings over the North African desert.

With his instrument panel shot to hell and the engine sputtering, Martin knew he didn’t have long to find a place to set his fighter down.

As he dropped lower, he passed over a caravan of nomadic tribesmen. Out here, the locals could be friend or foe. Martin decided on his course of action…


Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture and the written prompt above. Do not include the prompt in your entry. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until Tuesday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time. No political or religious entries, please. Need help getting started? Read this article on how to write flash fiction.

On Wednesday afternoon, we will open voting to the public with an online poll so they may choose the winner. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday. On Saturday morning, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature.

Once a month, the admins will announce the Editors’ Choice winners. Those stories will be featured in an anthology like this one. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

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9 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Plan B”

  1. Colonel Martin awoke several meters from the wreckage. The twisted steel of his Seversky P-35 lay dormant and still. Nothing moved. Only the sounds of sand blowing against the fuselage broke the absolute silence.
    He tried to sit up, but pain shot through his right side. His arm and several ribs were shattered. No compound fractures, no uncontrolled bleeding. Neither leg seemed broken, so he was mobile. One side of his face was burned by the sun, the other seared by scalding sand. His swollen lips showed signs of a nearing heat stroke.
    He ran his left hand down his side. His gear seemed intact. He had one half-full canteen, his service bayonet, and his .45 pistol.
    He looked out across the shimmering desert.
    There was nothing but an endless sea of rolling sands and shifting dunes. He saw no way to survive. No one knew where he was. After the skirmish, the storm had pushed him miles off course. He wasn’t even certain of his location.
    A noise brought his thoughts back.
    Life, he thought.
    The first spear entered the sand at his feet; the second almost pierced his side.
    Berbers! The North African aboriginals!
    Martin scrambled for his pistol, but had trouble unholstering from his right side. He knew he would never hit a moving target using his left hand. The spears stopped, as the tribe surrounded him.
    He knew his only option. He raised his weapon.
    Plan B echoed through the desert.

  2. With the instrument panel shot Colonel Martin didn’t know if the cloaking mechanism of his ship was working. His options were limited but he needed time to get his fighter back in the air. Unbuckling his belts he opened the hatch.

    With spears overhead the caravan of tribesman ran across the desert sands in his direction, hollering what Martin presumed was a war call.

    “Shit!” Climbing back into his fighter he slammed his fists on the cloaking button. “Come on, you son of a bitch, work.” With a spark and a fizzle the mechanism whined to life. “There’s my girl.”

    From the cockpit he watched as the tribesmen breached the top of the dune and came to a sudden halt. They stood in amazement as the large aircraft vanished. The tribesman retreated and disappeared beyond the horizon.

    “What? You’ve never seen a ship cloak and disappear before?” Martin chuckled, always enjoying the affects of cloaking.

    To save on the ship’s energy cell, cloaking had to be disabled. With his tool pouch in hand Martin opened the hatch and began work on the engine. An hour later the fighter was ready to fly.

    Martin wiped sweat from his brow, relieved he was able to put his tools away. Hearing commotion, Martin turned to find himself surrounded by the same caravan of tribesmen.

    “What the…?” Martin rose his hands in the air.

    “Wat, Jy het nog nooit gesien onsigbare sigbaar?” The tribesmen laughed.

    Okay, what is Plan B? Martin wondered.

  3. Colonel Martin and his Spitfire had been shot up by the German Tobruk anti-aircraft fire. Lost and alone, he had no choice, except to come in low over the caravan. Then his engine died and he crashed directly in front of the caravan. The tribesmen quickly approached the burning wreckage.

    He tried climbing out of the cockpit, but couldn’t. He passed out just as the armed tribesmen reached him. They roughly dragged him out or the burning wreckage and tore his flaming flight suit off of him.

    Martin was now in a feverish delirium with no idea where he was or who he was. Whenever he came to, he only knew he was blindfolded, bound and tied to something while being rocked continuously by the tribesmen. He continued in a delirium, mostly unconscious, not knowing how much time had passed, or what was going on. In his delirium he imagined that he was being bathed, then dressed and laid on a cot.

    When Martin opened his eyes, he saw a white ceiling and what sounded like a hospital. Someone came over to Martin and whispered something in his ear, then pinned something to his chest. Martin still confused did not understand what was said.

    The Reichsmarschall finished pinning the Iron Cross to the unknown German pilot, and told the doctor, “Such Bravery! I wish we had more pilots like him in the Reich, we could easily drive the British from North Africa.”

  4. Two things were clear to Colonel Martin. He knew his plane would be impossible to safely land, and he knew he had mere seconds to eject. Martin jettisoned his survival pack, then after crossing himself, pressed the button no pilot ever wants to press. The button jokingly dubbed “Plan B.”

    His parachute had barely opened before his body slammed hard into the sun-baked dirt. A quarter mile away his desert survival pack sent up the first in a series of flares, and its GPS beacon began sending out its signal.

    Above the desert floor Martin’s plane righted itself. The engine’s sputtering stopped and the lights on the cockpit panel blinked and resumed their respective duties. The aircraft gained speed and altitude and turned twenty degrees North, heading back to the aircraft carrier off the coast of Morocco.

    Colonel Martin had not yet opened his eyes before he felt the cool shade surround him – then mammoth shifting silhouettes and stomping hooves. He was pulled to his feet and handed a canteen of water. The hot winds picked up and loose sand swirled in spirals as the camels spat and snorted.

    After an hour’s trek the caravan reached a large flapping tent. Inside Martin was met by a field doctor who began to check his vital signs. He noticed his C.O. and recognized the Deputy Director of the CIA. They smiled at him and handed him a dossier. Colonel Martin’s Plan B was their Plan A.

  5. His vision was blurry as his eyelids slowly opened. The scent of high octane jet fuel and smoke burned his nostrils and urged him into panic. Who had shot him down? Was it the caravan? Martin struggled to his feet and surveyed his surroundings with the eyes of a hawk. To his left there was the sight of billowing smoke, his downed fighter, about a mile away. To his right there was a path out of the canyon he had fell into and walking that direction was the only logical course of action. Had an hour passed or was it two? Martin couldn’t tell, dehydration was taking its toll in the searing desert heat and he was coming to terms with his own imminent death when he heard something. It was a voice, that of a man, in the distance. He could scarcely see a figure a waving it’s arms a half mile or so put but for all he knew it was just a hallucination, a mirage.
    “Who are you?” A stern middle eastern voice asked him.
    “Water, I need something to drink.” He replied weakly.
    “Who are you? Then water.”
    “Martin, colonel Martine. U.S. airforce.” The stern voice must have been satisfied because as soon as he finished his sentence a splash of relatively cool water summoned Martin back to conciousness. He was in a tent made of white cloth surrounded by who he presumed to be the caravan members who may have shot him down. Although the water had raised his spirits he was in no shape to escape simply rested his head back down in the sand and shut his eyes.
    “Why are you here?” The voice asked him.
    “I was to bomb a group of separatists.” Martin replied dryly. “I was shot down, I thought or think you responsible.”
    “We are not killers.” The voice responded.
    A quiet whistling noise filled the air, it grew louder by the second.
    “What is that noise?” The voice asked in a panic.
    “You see,” Martin sat back up as he spoke. “I was plan A, you know, I was to drop the bomb. But my people think I am dead and there is always a plan B.” The whistle was now a screech. “Plan B is a drone strike. They must think you fellas shot me down too. What a shame, what a shame.”

  6. Even this forced landing wasn’t difficult in his Spitfire, but Martin hadn’t put much distance between himself and the tribesmen. He had managed, however, to swing the nose back toward the advancing nomads.

    His engine was failing but he still had plenty of ammunition for eight Browning .303 machine guns. He whispered that famous command of indeterminate origin, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.”

    Martin didn’t want to fire at all, but he had to outlive this bloody war. He had to preserve freedom for his children and their children. Martin would have to stop this advancing hoard, then ration his food tablets until he found a way out or help found him.

    But these nomads weren’t rival aces. Some looked younger than his twelve-year-old son. Yet they carried spears. Thoughts of unrealized games, dates, graduations, weddings, careers, and conceptions blurred into a throbbing headache he quelled by telling himself these were savages possibly incapable of deeply appreciating such events and certainly not able to influence history.

    Martin took a deep breath and exhaled. “Forgive me for the future of freedom and family.” He glimpsed the whites of their eyes but eyed no aggressive movements.

    Two dogs ambled ahead of a tall man holding up an animal pelt. Those blurred images of unrealized events precluded by untimely death began unfolding themselves into an impromptu Plan B when Martin heard the words explaining the man’s hiking boots and wristwatch. “I am Akpofure. What you trade today?”

  7. Maggie’s voice replayed in his head over and over again. Her last words to him, as he packed his bags, were so relevant as he circled a dune field, looking for a reason not to land.

    “Just go with your gut John,” she began. “Your gut instinct has always been the better choice over your head or your heart when you’re up against a wall.”

    Maggie said the same thing to him every time he left for a mission, and she was right. Martin’s gut instinct saved his life and that of his crew many times before. Often deemed unconventional or down-right lunacy, Martin’s instincts could be defined as nothing short of calculative desperation. Desperation to live, to save his crew. When his head and his heart complicated his decision-making, Plan B has always been to go with his gut.

    He felt it deep down in his conscience; this stretch of land was his best chance. He would crash-land his weary jet and face whatever consequence was on the other side. Martin clenched his jaw, squared his shoulders and tried to steady the jet for one of his toughest landings. He was counting on the clearing to slow him down enough to soften the impact of the rocky hamada ahead. In the distance, he saw the tribesmen already in formation on both sides of the field, as if to guide him into the safest part of the brutal, unforgiving landscape.

  8. Plan B? Plan B? The hell with Plan B. Ain’t gonna work in this situation! Gotta make my own damn plan, he thought as he swung back towards the caravan.

    He realized what he must do.

    Buzzing low, he blitzed rounds of bullets into the huge ant hills. The screech of the engine, as it passed overhead, sent the hostile caravaners scrambling for escape through the whirling sands.

    Hundreds of giant red and black ants, each ten times bigger than one nomad, poured out of their mounds, their feelers twitching, hungrily racing towards their prey.

    Circling over the madhouse he opened fire with the flame throwers.

    Their twisted blackened bodies punctuated the desert sands like modernistic tombstones in a war-torn cemetery. Got ’em all, men AND ants, he observed.

    No more gas left for a safe landing. He pointed the plane upwards, soared to 30,000 feet, then began his final nose-dive aiming at the center of the hideosity below.

    The engine coughed, gasping for gas. His vision began to blur. He squeezed shut his eyes and screamed “Off we go, into the wild blue yonder,…” Down. Down. Was it going to be Heaven or Hell? “OOF!” “Daddy! Daddy! Wake up! You fell off the couch!”

  9. “Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is NA-seven-eight-nine.’
    The instrument panel sparked like a July fourth celebration. Colonel Martin was losing altitude over an unidentifiable landscape. The rest of his squadron had vanished. All he could see through the smoke clouded windows were rocky outcroppings and sand, not what he expected to find in Northern Africa.

    The plane’s controls felt sluggish as he steered toward a semi-flat area, startling a caravan. Colonel Martin climbed out of the damaged craft. Arab nomads, judging by their head to toe coverings, had gathered nearby. He approached cautiously, uncertain of their intent. There was no way to tell. Their eyes were hidden behind mesh veils.

    “Hello,” he said, forcing a smile. “Sorry to drop in. Engine trouble. Anyone speak English?”

    Several heads leaned together. All he could hear of their hushed conversation were guttural grumbles, and something that sounded like an engine.

    “Can I borrow a cell phone?” he said, miming holding a phone to his ear.

    One of the nomads looked at him. “I’m afraid you are out of range of any cellular towers,” said a female voice with a British accent.

    She pulled the veil from her face as she spoke. Colonel Martin backed into the wing of his plane, heart pounding. The woman had golden brown fur with dark spots, and distinctive feline features. Her luminescent gold eyes regarded him.

    “I’m terribly sorry, but it seems you were accidently pulled through the teleport. My name is Catherine. Welcome to planet Mau.”

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