Diaz sighed. After hours of manning an ion battery aboard the Vice, his arms tensed reluctantly at every movement. His ship had been engaged in combat for the last fourteen hours.
"Attention crewmen: We will be entering a hotzone in ten minutes. Be on the lookout for enemy swarmers."
It was always the same message. At first, the fighting was very heavy and violent. It had slowly tapered off during the past six hours, leading Diaz to believe that the battle was going well. He snapped out of his daze as the comm addressed him.
"Starboard 4 ready" he chimed in, after the seven other gunners.
He could feel his head spinning, but then quickly realized that it was actually the ship making a full turn. Earth came into view, reminding the young soldier of everything that was backing him. After a bit of searching, Diaz stared at his hometown. The small speckle of lights near a gulf on the North American continent seemed indifferent to the battle that had been raging on that day. Diaz knew differently, though, and could feel the pride of his family flowing from his home town. Strength returned to his arms.
"Diaz, you there?" erupted a voice into the silence.
"Yeah, I'm here," replied Diaz, trying not to sound exhausted, into his personal communicator.
"It's me, Roberts," said the voice on the other end.
"I know. You're the only one who ever bothers me on this thing. Should you really be making personal calls when we're about to enter a hotzone?"
"I don't think command will mind. We're their lucky number 7!" replied Roberts, perhaps too loudly.
Diaz reflected for a moment. After fourteen hours of battle, the Vice had not suffered a single blow. Indeed, it had seemed that their call number, 7, had been lucky. He went to reply, but noticed that Roberts had turned off his communicator. He smirked at the thought of his friend yet again being yelled at by a commanding officer.
His seat shuddered underneath him as the Vice rocketed to its rendezvous point. Before he knew it, enemy fighters were swarming past the ship. Letting out reluctant creaks and groans, the turret machinery followed his movements, letting out blasts of energy at every pull of the trigger. The ship lurched as it was hit again and again by enemy fire, a feeling that had been unfamiliar up until now. Had the other ships not arrived? Something was not right.
Diaz started to panic. Gunning down enemy fighters with increased fervor, the ensign felt a surge of victory as an orb of energy smashed into the tail end of one of his adversaries. The ship silently roared through the void to its doom, leaving a short trail of flames as it lost its oxygen supply. Suddenly, Diaz felt the desperate, malicious, final intent of the pilot. Still trailing fire and smoke, the fighter took a sharp right turn, aiming straight for the fourth Starboard battery. Diaz turned his seat around and jumped out. It seemed he could almost feel the heat of the suicidal enemy's ship on his back. He stumbled in the short hallway leading to the rest of the ship, jamming his shoulder into the wall and grimacing in pain. Bursting through the door, he turned around and kicked it shut. A small click was followed by an impact that threw Diaz into the wall behind him. Everything faded away.
"Come on, buddy, wake up," said Roberts, lightly hitting Diaz's cheek with the back of his hand.
"W...Where am I?" asked Diaz.
Before his friend could answer, Diaz sat up and observed his surroundings. He was on the bridge, seemingly along with half of the crew. Frustrated officers pounded their fists on viewscreens. Shouts of obscenities told Diaz that frustrations were running high and something was horribly wrong. The main viewscreen displayed Earth, showing that the Vice's position had been stalled facing its home planet.
"I dragged you up from the lower starboard walkway. It looks like our ship has been hijacked electronically somehow," answered Roberts before his confused friend could ask.
"Electronically hijacked?" asked a confused Diaz, not really expecting an answer. A dark, ominous feeling grew in the pit of his stomach.
Suddenly a large, energy-based, fizzling sound shuddered through the ship as the shields gave the last of their energy.
"They're attacking!" shouted a crewman.
The whole bridge rocked from side to side as the Vice was pelted with fire. In a plight of inaction, the crew could do nothing to help the situation. An explosion rocked the ship, and the view of Earth moved to the right. The two soldiers braced themselves against the wall. A large, slow-flying missile harmlessly past, destined to burn up in Earth's atmosphere. It seemed that the ship had nearly been hit. Recalling enemy tactics, Diaz remembered that those types of missiles were always used in pairs. Before the soldier could realize the implications of this thought, an explosive wave of energy swept through the bridge. The Vice had seen its last battle.