Nothing to Lose

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Captain Sarabhai looked from the large windows of the Viraat’s bridge into the vast expanse of space, reflecting on the destruction that was soon to begin in a matter of minutes. According to the analysis from High Command, the Zarktonian fleet was bound to enter the system in 3 minutes, and would proceed to steam towards the planet of Kahhaj, which they planned to assault with the full front of one of their entire armadas. Fortunately, Command had gathered this intelligence in time to prepare a defense for this important allied planet. Sarabhai thought it was more like a delay tactic than anything. The fleet that compromised the defense force consisted of his people, the Sikkimese, and only his people. Everyone knew that the Allied Systems usually disregarded the Sikkimese, but this had crossed a new line. This suicidal defense only cemented the fact that the Allies believed the Sikkimese to be nothing but expendable soldiers, meat to take fire for more important races. All of this sickened Sarabhai, but he would not speak of it to his fellow officers. That would be even more suicidal than the mission they had been given.

“Namgyal, is our squadron in order?” the Captain said sternly as he turned from the windows to the navigation sergeant.

“Yes sir. The Avatar and Rajput are on both our flanks are ready for action.” The sergeant replied sharply as he continued to plot the advance of the Zarktonian fleet from his station.

“Excellent.” Sarabhai said, turning on his comm. link and speaking into it. “Frigate Viraat to Corvette Avatar. Do you copy?”

“Here you loud and clear. What’s the situation?”

“I want you and Rajput to stay close to us for the mission. We’ve been given assignment to take out a very fearsome looking destroyer, so we’ll need all our firepower concentrated.”

The Captain heard a faint, hopeless laugh coming from the opposite end of the connection. “A… destroyer? You expect us little flies to take out a giant like that? Do we have any other squads supporting us?”

Sarabhai sighed. “No. We’re spread too thin. The other squads are right towards the big capital ships in the middle of the assault. We’re supposed to ‘protect the flanks.’”

“Captain, you understand that we won’t take that ship out. It’s suicide!”

“This entire mission is suicide!” Sarabhai roared back, slamming his fist onto the console that he was sitting at. “It isn’t going to help if we keep thinking about it, though. We’ll do our job. That’s all we can do, anyway…”

“Right Cap. I’ll contact the Rajput and deliver your message.” The Avatar’s captain replied with a tone of loss.

“Good luck out there.”

“We’ll need it…”

Sarabhai signed off and again looked out of the windows into the great screen of nothingness that was space, unfolding to him everywhere he looked. The only place that was not covered in the abyss of darkness was the tan planet of Kahhaj, a small island in a great sea. Sarabhai looked at the planet longingly as it brought back memories of his home like a flood. Sikkim was his real home; it was everyone on boards real home. Now their ships were all they could call there own. Sikkim had been taken away from them in the war, when the Zarktonians had first started their burning crusade onto the unprepared sector. Some said they began for conquest, for new lands. Others said that tension between them and the Allies had finally snapped. And others even ventured to claim that they were possessed by demons; determined to bring death to all living things. Whatever the reason, it happened that Sikkim was one of the planets on their “hit” list, categorized with other small worlds that were within close proximity to Zarkton- 5 that had the option of subjecting to the Zarkton Empire’s will, or be “cleansed”, as the Zarktonians liked to put it. The tragedy of Sikkim was one of the great catastrophes of the war. As the Zarktonian war machine rolled to their world, they were offered the same terrible choice that 2 other worlds had been given before them: join or die. During the time in which the Zarktonians gave Sikkim to decide, the leaders and a majority of the people had decided to join the Zarktonians and save their world. However, it seemed that during this time, a radical group based off of Sikkim had launched a desperate offensive with stolen military ships against an unsuspecting Zaktonian capital ship, destroying it. Furious by this act of war, the Zarktonians opened fire upon all major cities and towns on Sikkim, destroying 95% of the population in the firestorm of death that came upon their world. The Sikkim fleet was currently at orbit at the time, and decided to retreat to Allied territory rather than fight the massive Zarktonian armada. Along the way the picked up the colonists on the moon of Gangtok, and made there was as refugees to safety: the last remnants of their proud people.

Breaking the silence of his thought, Sarabhai’s link crackled violently into his ear, giving him a shock.

“Squad Commander Sarabhai, do you copy? This is Fleet Command” A deep voice boomed.

“Sir, the Viraat is ready for duty.” The captain replied hesitantly. It wasn’t often that the head of the Sikkim fleet talked to him. Reporting to the admirals always gave him the jitters.

“The Zarktonian fleet has made the hyperspace jump into the system. Contact in 3 minutes. Good luck, Captain.”

The communication ended, and Sarabhai shuddered. Those monsters that destroyed everything he knew… he would fight them soon. He and his son on the Rajput were the only ones left of they’re proud family line. His wife and 2 daughters were expecting him to return after a 3-year term of service. Now there was nothing, and no one, to return to. Everyone on the ship had such a story to tell, a tale of personal tragedy on that fateful day. Now they’re here to finish off what they didn’t destroy on Sikkim he thought in a sudden wave of despair. The Allies had put nine tenth of the Sikkim fleet in defense of this planet. If they lost, their civilization would be destroyed. There was too much at stake to lose this battle, and yet it was inevitable that that they would be defeated. The Allies said they could get the nearest Centerius fleet to the engagement, hopefully in time to save the remaining Sikkimese. However, all the captains knew that they would not be able to. The nearest fleet to Kahhaj was leagues away. Even if they had begun a day earlier, it would still be too late. The Sikkim fleet had the misfortune of being the only fighting force in the system.

“Those people down there…” Sarabhai said suddenly to the crew. “… They will become like us if we fail…”

“We all know that what we are doing right now will lead to disaster. But we must fight anyway. If we don’t… then people like those down on that little planet will be destroyed like our friends and family. We mustn’t let that happen. We mustn’t let Kahhaj become the next Sikkim.”

“Sir, is their any chance of support? Why can’t Kahhaj support us?” A technician said from behind her station.

“The Allies will probably not arrive in time, and the Kahhaj have no weapons to fight with. We are… alone in this. But that is what makes our assignment all the more important. We are the only shield this otherwise defenseless world has against those dogs that murdered our people. Everything depends on us.”

The crew was silent at this. Some of them began to pray silently, while others thought to themselves about the battle and their fate.

“Captain! We have visual! Battle stations, everyone!” The navigation sergeant cried as he picked up the mass array of signals that slowly moved towards them on the sensors array.

“Get our weapons going! Focus the ship’s power to the ion cannons! We have to hit em’ with as much as we can muster!” the Captain commanded in a sharp voice, determined not to show fear in the face of his nerve wracked crew.

“Avatar! Rajput! Focus power on weapons! Aim for the bridge!” Sarabhai yelled to the captains under his command.

“Here they come!” the Senior Gunner cried from the right bridge turret. The entire crew turned to the windows as they saw small, bright dots in the horizon, moving closer and closer. They kept on growing to the horror of the crew. Everyone had seen pictures of the Zarktonian capital ships, but when one saw them face-to-face, it was a truly frightening experience. Their immensity was terrible, these dark grey and gold creatures that bristled with terrifying weapons that literally stuck out of the hulls. The Zarktonains had no need for subtlety.

“There’s our target!” Sarabhai cried to his communications link and his crew, pointing to a ship that moved on the far left of the group, separated from the rest of the fleet by a small distance. “Let’s do this!”

As soon as he said these words of encouragement, a web of searing yellow bolts crisscrossed between the two massed fleets.

"Aft’s been hit! Avatar reports massive damage!” a woman at the master communications array yelled as the ship bucked from the heavy hit it took.

“Let’s keep it together…” Sarabhai said with determination as his Viraat closed in on the target that was busy firing upon a Sikkim destroyer from afar. “Fire now!”

In position, all three ships fired in unison towards the front of the great beast, the guns of the three ships discharging in a near constant rate. The destroyer was taken aback by this preemptive strike, but prepared for a counter as it turned towards the three little flies that pestered it.

“Prepare for counter- strike!” the Captain commanded in shock. He had expected to cripple the ship with that blow at its vitals, forgetting the heavy armor these ships possessed. “Move and fire! Avoid damage! That thing’s guns will slice us in half!”

The engines booming, the Viraat began to move at top speed while trying to hit its mark. The decision to move proved wise as a massive bolt of light sliced through the area in which the Viraat had just left.

“Avatar’s been crippled! Its engines are hit!”

Sarabhai cursed. “Tell the Rajput to give cover fire for Avatar! We need all our guns working!”

The technician frowned as it tried to make contact. “All we’re getting is static, sir.”

“No! Where’d they go! Are they down?”

“Captain, look!” a crewman yelled as he looked out of the window. Peering out, the Captain could see the Rajput careening into the depth of space away from the battle, sparks and electricity coursing around a substantial hole in the ship.

“Avatar’s been crippled Cap. Its guns are offline!” another crewman yelled to the gathered crew, which was dumbstruck from all of the misfortunes that had struck in the last minute.

“Are we sunk, Captain?” a technician said with a wail of sadness.

“We’ve been hit! Massive damage! We’re crippled!”

“Guns offline!”

“Engines shot!”

“Sarabhai sunk into his chair and put his hands over his face, not hearing the screams of terror and confusion of the crew. He was in shock. Everyone was going to die. His people were all going to die. All in less than a minute. He knew that he in a few seconds he knew that the final bolt would sear through his crippled vessel, like a lion giving the death blow to his wounded prey. He closed his eyes and prayed. Prayed for his son, his wife, his daughters, and his people, all who were lost to him. Lost from this universe. All the noise around him. It was a storm, a storm that was engulfing everything on the ship.

“Zarktonian Destroyer has been destroyed sir.” He heard it, but did not believe it. His squad had been crippled. There was no way.”

“The Allied fleet is here! We’re saved!” a crewman cried in ecstasy. “The Allies have saved the battle!”

Sarabhai gave a tired sigh. The Allies had had come. It was true. He looked out of the window and saw the massive Allied fleet crawl towards the dumbfounded Zarktonians, guns blazing.

“We’ve done… well. You are all to be commended. We saved those people down there.” Sarabhai said to the crew with a proud expression on his face.

Sarabhai’s receiver crackled “Viraat, this is Vigilance III of the Allied fleet. You’ve done well Captain. Your people saved the battle. Maybe you’re not half as bad as they make you out to be.” “Likewise. We’d like to help you clean up these dogs, but it seems we’ve been crippled. Our whole squadron too.”

“Just lay low. We’ll pick you up after we finish this.” The Allied captain said, the communication ending.

Sarabhai closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. Maybe his people still had a future. Maybe this war could be won.

Maybe they could find a home.

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