Author's Notes: Not exactly original, but a good exercise in getting back into the groove of writing.
For Anna, who doesn't think it's weird that I want to be a starfighter pilot when I grow up.
"What happened? Report!" The captain braced himself against the control console in front of him as a second, smaller explosion rocked the ship. He grimaced, finding the strength within himself to keep from slamming a fist down onto the console in frustration. The last thing this war-torn ship needed was more damage.
Warning lights blinked to life as another blast shook the vessel to the core, then another. One of the technicians stopped scrambling over his controls long enough to twist his headset's microphone away from his mouth and turn to the captain. "Explosion on deck 14, port side near--"
"Inside the ship?" the captain bellowed.
The technician frowned, looking over his screen. "Inside. Sensors read no malfunction beforehand."
The captain raised an eyebrow. "Sabotage?"
"Not sure. Looks like a bomb," the tech said, nodding. He took a breath and continued with the report. "Secondary thrusters are offline, and fuel tanks two and three were destroyed." He stopped long enough to let that sink in. "We're dumping the remaining fuel to avoid further damage. The engineering bays are being--"
He was cut off again, this time by a second technician. "Engineering bays are evacuated."
"Good," the captain said, standing and taking several paces toward the nearest viewport. "Take the engines offline until there's a full damage report. Switch to auxiliary power." The bridge filled with the buzz of technician chatter as what little lights were still on faded to a sulfur yellow. Finally a moment of quiet.
"Captain." This time it was the communications officer. "We're receiving a transmission."
"What? From where?" The captain grumbled. They were in the middle of nowhere!
"I—I don't know..." he stuttered. "Ah... it's routing to the projector! I didn't even accept the hail!"
If the captain had been wondering how things could possibly get even worse today, his question was soon answered. "It's you!" the captain growled, pointing an accusing finger at the hologram.
The visage of CATs loomed ominously over the projection table in the center of the bridge, surveying the shambled bridge with a look of contempt. He stifled a laugh before he spoke. "How are you, gentlemen?" he asked, his voice dripping with something akin to aloof curiosity. "Did you enjoy my gift?" The captain didn't have an answer beyond a scowl. "Well, allow me to bring you up to speed on current events, Captain," CATs smiled almost warmly at him as he spoke. "My forces have taken every major installation in the sector. The rest of your fleet limped away hours ago." Even the cybernetic patch he wore over part of his face seemed to convey some twisted form of glee. He switched effortlessly over to mock concern. "Frankly, I'm surprised you're even trying."
"You won't get away with this!" the captain shouted, his face red.
"Well, have it your way. You're on the path to destruction, Captain," CATs shook his head, frowning.
"What are you talking about, CATs?"
"You won't survive this. Not this time. Savor the time you have left, old friend." He smiled, almost warmly. "Might I suggest settling your affairs? Perhaps a prayer." CATs cackled madly for a long moment before the signal cut out.
The captain took his head in one hand and slammed the other into his console, sending sparks flying. It was silent for several minutes before a technician spoke up.
"Captain, two capital ships and several wings of fighters inbound."
He sighed. "We don't stand a chance."
"We're the last hope and it ends here, for us." He let out a resigned sigh he seemed to have been holding in since the beginning of the war. He paused, regained some composure. "Prepare to launch all the Zig fighters. We'll distract the enemy here long enough for them to get out of range." He nodded to himself and picked up a headset and snapped it to his ear.
"Attention all Zig pilots! On my order, launch and head for the nearest base. Retake as much as you can from CATs' fleet." He watched out of the viewport as the enemy ships drew closer, creeping in like a steel fog. He nodded.
"You know what to do," he said into the communicator. "Launch!"
The deck plating rumbled beneath him as the wing of Zigs launched from the hangar bays below, each fighter streaking around to the far side of the ship before moving into formation and then moving away at blinding speed. "For great justice," he murmured. "Good luck."
He removed the headset and dropped it to the floor just as the swarm of enemy fighters overtook the vessel. A rain of laser fire started down on the ship before it was consumed in a fireball.