By Richard Paolinelli
© 2019 RICHARD PAOLINELLI . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO COPYING OR ANY OTHER REPRODUCTION OF THIS STORY IS PERMITTED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.
He was off by only eight minutes. Surprisingly, the Kustani never picked up on the small fleet of shuttles as they made for their targeted enemy ships. Sinclair expected the shuttle to come under fire as it made its’ run for what was believed to be the Kustani flagship. But the Kustani seemed to have been focused on the main element of the attack and didn’t notice, or just didn’t care about, the unarmed shuttles and let them approach unmolested. Earth’s battle cruisers and the fighters had already engaged and were giving as good as they were taking, but they were starting off with a five-to-one disadvantage in ships to the Kustani. Even taking out two ships for every Earth ship lost would result in over sixty Kustani ships free and clear to attack a defenseless Earth.
Squadron Five had broken away without a scratch, the Kustani choosing to not trouble themselves with a small group of ships they felt were fleeing for deep space. Sinclair doubted the Kustani would ever believe what the squadron’s mission was even if he broadcast it to them.
As the shuttle flew into an open docking port, Sinclair took some comfort in knowing that, at the very least, that much of the plan was going to succeed. The pilot dropped the shuttle on the deck and the clones leapt out. Sinclair paused long enough to wish the pilot luck before joining them outside.
The shuttle lifted off and away from the deck and headed toward its final part of the attack. Whichever ships hadn’t been boarded would be struck Kamikaze-style by the shuttles after they had unloaded their assault teams. Each shuttle would duplicate Rogers’ run into the engines and detonate a nuclear device. Sinclair was hoping to knock out at least twenty enemy ships this way.
“Alright people,” Sinclair barked out. “It seems we’ve caught these bastards by surprise. You have your assignments. Let’s get going before they figure out where we are and what we’re up to.”
One of the clones, who’d been programmed with as much of the layout of the ship as military intelligence had been able to piece together over ten years, took the point and led the team into the bowels of the ship. They swiftly made their way through dimly lit corridors without meeting any resistance, heading for what was believed to be the command deck of the ship. Sinclair grew more and more uneasy with each minute that passed without the team meeting any resistance. At length, the strike team burst through a hatchway that was marked in their layout as the ship’s command deck. Sinclair was hard-pressed to tell which group was more surprised at his team’s entrance. His assault team, that the intelligence proved to be accurate, or the half-dozen Kustani positioned around the deck.
Fortunately the clones had been enhanced with lightning-quick reflexes and reacted before the Kustani. Within seconds of walking onto the deck, Sinclair found himself standing in the center of the deck as his team removed the six dead Kustani.
They looked even uglier dead than they do alive, Sinclair thought to himself as we watched the last of the Kustani dragged off the deck.
“That seemed a bit too easy gentlemen,” Sinclair said. “Somebody hack into the command computer and confirm that this is the command deck, I want two of you on the nav controls and weapons, two more stationed on every hatch and the rest of you start sweeping out from this deck and find out where all of the Kustani are.”
Sinclair waited, listening to the sounds of his team trying to gain control of the enemy ship while trying to figure out why the Kustani hadn’t yet responded to the invaders. When the answer came, he could hardly believe it was true.
“Sir,” cried out the clone accessing the ship’s computer. “You need to see this.”
Sinclair crossed the deck to where the clone had linked a compared to the Kustani mainframe and was quickly downloading and translating every file he could find.
“What is it?” Sinclair asked.
“Look here,” the clone replied, pointing to the small screen. “It’s a complete roster for the Kustani.”
“No Sir, for the entire fleet.”
Sinclair did the math in his head.
“My God,” he exclaimed. “That’s less than fifty per ship! We estimated thousands per vessel based on their size. We always thought they had us easily outnumbered.”
“Yes sir,, and I think I know why there are so few of them,” the clone quickly switched to another file. “Here is a recent census of their planet they just received. There aren’t many more back on their homeworld than there are out here.”
Another screen popped up as the clone continued gleaning vital information from the Kustani computer.
“This is a detailed accounting of a long-term breeding program they’ve been working on for decades with every species they’ve encountered. Their species can longer reproduce and it is dying off.”
Sinclair was stunned.
“They’re not scavenging for natural resources,” he said. “They’re looking for a species compatible enough to save themselves.”
“Yes sir, and the human species is exactly what they need and only the females, not the males.”
“So they infected the women, forced us to put them in hibernation and tried to outlast us…,” Sinclair’s voice trailed off as a sudden thought occurred to him. “Does that mean…?”
“Yes sir,” the clone replied. “As soon as they had defeated us, they were going to revive the women and give them the antidote before using them for breeding. They have it synthesized already and I’ve downloaded everything into this computer.”
Sinclair clapped the man on the shoulder.
“Excellent. Get that information out to all of our assault teams and try to get a message off to Earth Command too. Then I want you to get a shuttle, a fighter, anything that can fly back to Earth, load everything on it and send it home as soon as possible.”
“Yes, sir,” the clone snapped off a quick salute before dashing off the deck to carry out Sinclair’s orders.
Sinclair turned to the two clones at the nav console.
“You two have that thing figured out yet?”
“Aye, sir,” replied one. “We can get underway on your command.”
“Weapons are online, sir,” said the other.
“Very well,” Sinclair said. “Target enemy capital ships that don’t have boarding parties first, then hit anything else in range as we go. Set course for the heaviest fighting, max speed and fire at will.”
“Aye, sir,” the two said in unison.
For the first time in ten years, as his latest, and possibly final, command rocketed forward, Sinclair began to believe that they might just win yet.
* * * * *
Takahashi watched the battle from CIC, there were very few reports trickling back to Earth, but they could track the progress of every ship. When he saw the ship Sinclair had boarded begin to move toward the other Kustani ships he smiled slightly.
The man must be descended from samurai, Takahashi thought and said another prayer to his ancestors, one had actually been a samurai, for any scrap of divine intervention they could muster up.
NEXT WEEK: The Final Chapter
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