The chaotic racket of alarms and sirens ran rampant through the bridge of the Valiant as the ship's computer rang out in distress. She was dying and was making sure those she harbored were made well aware of that fact. She had held on for hours now, smoldering as fires reemerged; almost as soon as they were put out they'd spring back to life again. The Valiant was dying. She was on the last string of her life and too short that life had been. But . . . her story was not yet over. It couldn't, and wouldn't be until she no longer functioned in any form. A time that was all too quickly approaching for her.
It took about an hour, maybe more, for the blue and green orb to fill the transparasteel viewport of the cruiser as Umgul crept closer and closer. It's orbit was vacant; there was not a single ship that passed through the sector. It was as though life had come to a screeching halt in a moment's notice here. Like the prosperous life these people had once known was gone completely. Even if that were not the case, it's how it appeared on this day. Not one ship outside of the Valiant. Not a single one.
A moment longer passed and the engines sputtered and groaned on the cruiser and then finally ceased. They were dead. Their life had left them as the last of the fuel reserves had been expended following the breach that jettisoned the vast majority of what had once been there. The pale blue glow that once emanated from the four large mechanical constructs dissipated and finally vanished. Shields were gone. Hyperdrive was gone. The communications array was down. And now the life of the engines had fleeted from existence. It was a sad day and the crew braced for the worst. They braced for the end and among them was their Commander, a Colonel. He was sitting in his chair in the bridge, leaning forward, resting his head in hand with the elbow anchored to his thigh. He closed his eyes a moment and thought, letting his emotions swirl around like a vortex in his mind before bringing himself once more to the present. A new, more serious and determined expression came across his face and within a brief second, he'd sat up and thumbed a command to open the ship's intercom. "Today marks the end of a long journey and a journey well traveled. I couldn't have dreamed to have served alongside a more extraordinary group of men and women than I have with you. I challenge you this. Remember your families, Remember your homes. Remember what you've fault for. We will get back to those. We will survive and we will prove the galaxy wrong for we are not meant to die this day. We are meant for so much more." Alden paused a moment and wiped a tear from his eye as his thoughts not only fell upon his family and his home, but also to the one single greatest part of his life. But, he had to remain strong, if not for himself, for the men and women that served beneath him. He swallowed the lump in his throat and proceeded to continue. "I am ordering you now to abandon the Valiant and use the escape pods to seek refuge here on Umgul and make contact with the Confederacy. Make it home to your families. To your friends. To your loved ones and to everything you know and love. Do it all while holding their memory near and dear to your heart. You all came into the Navy for your own reasons, swearing you'd lay down your lives if you had to in service to the Confederacy, but I'm giving you another order. You said you would die for it; I'm asking you to survive for it. Serving with you has been the greatest of honors."
Speeches were not his thing, but still, he put his heart behind his words. And he meant every word that left his mouth. And even as the officers aboard the bridge evacuated, he solely remained. A Lieutenant turned in his direction as his was about to step foot into the turbolift to head for the nearest escape pod. Concern filled her heart and sorrow covered her face. "Are you not coming, Commander?" There was genuine concern in her voice as she asked her question, maintaining eye contact as best as she could as he awaited his reply.
Alden sighed, and stood from his chair. "Lieutenant, it's been an honor. Go, I'll be behind you in a moment." It was a downright lie as he voiced his reply returning her salute as she turned to enter the turbolift. He felt bad for it, but he couldn't stomach telling her his true intentions were to stay with the cruiser. That he intended to go down with it, but save as many men and woman as he could in the process. Leaving every last escape pod and shuttle for the crew. He would not take away from their limited options of escape. Too many had already been lost in the struggle. Too many dead. And their blood was on his hands. It weighed so heavily on his heart and he didn't know just have much longer he could carry that. He couldn't lose any more. That's why he'd ordered their evacuation. It was the only option he had left to save them and he was going to use that.
One by one the pods and shuttles launched, darting to the planet's surface below. Following their Commander's orders. They were going to survive. They were going to send a distress call to the Confederacy from Umgul’s surface. They were going to be rescued if nothing else. They would make it home, even if their Commander did not.
He returned to his seat not and sat once more. The fiery embrace of the planet's atmosphere caressed the Valiant as she descended for her final time. Her speed exponentially increased as the planet's gravity pulled harder and harder at her. Hull plating broke and cracked before being ripped away. Still the speed of the ship increased more and more, alarms and sirens continuing to sound endlessly. The fires spread and threatened to envelope the entirety of the ship and the outside sped by in a blue. The altitude rapidly decreased and with a thunderous crash the Valiant came to her final rest.
She hit hard and broke apart in two and then three. Shrapnel flung about in all directions and a trail of ember and flame drew a crude trail as she finally skidded to a stop where the planet’s famed mist would swallow her whole. She was nothing of her former glory. You could barely tell she'd once been a ship and it would be amazing to think anyone could have survived such a crash. It was a scene that screamed death and destruction. Agony and horror. The Valiant was dead. She met her end. She was no more.
Long live the Valiant.
An hour passed and nothing stirred at the scene. Then a second and a third. But as the fourth hour threatened to pass without a sign, something changed. On the bridge, Alden's eyes finally opened. He lay upon the durasteel floor, thrown from his seat on impact. Warm, red blood painted his head and face, and a splitting headache ravaged his skull. A flurry of emotions washed over him. The gloom and depression, but the relief and happiness too. By all accounts he should not have survived, but it seemed the galaxy had other intentions for him. It seemed his story had not yet come to an end. He eased himself to a seated position and reached a hand, open palmed, and touched it to his forehead in an effort to stimulate the pain that throbbed about his head. The blood smeared a moment and painted his hand now too.
He'd lived, but at what cost? How was he to survive?