The Last Charge (The Nameless War Trilogy Book 3)

The Last Charge (The Nameless War Trilogy Book 3) by Edmond Barrett

Book: The Last Charge (The Nameless War Trilogy Book 3) by Edmond Barrett Read Free Book Online
Authors: Edmond Barrett
cruisers, carriers and finally capital ships, slowly, methodically dropping into real space between the orbits of Mars and Saturn. Clouds of fighters deployed outwards into a protective sphere around the fleet. For the first time in over a quarter century, an alien fleet was entering Earth’s solar system; and no Battle Fleet ships were engaging them.
    Looking around the Warspite ’s bridge, Lewis could see the effect it was having. Officers and ratings were glancing over their shoulders at the holo. Their confidence was being shaken and if they were to stand a chance, he needed them sharp.
    “Tactical, what’s the count?” he asked.
    “Bridge, we have one hundred and thirty-three escorts, seventy-four cruisers, thirty-one capital ships and twelve carriers. Support ships are still jumping in, sir.
    “Two hundred and fifty ships,” Captain Sheehan whispered, “Sweet Jesus!”
    Between them, Home and Second Fleets could come up with a combined strength of under one hundred ships of all types.
    “They’re light in carriers,” Lewis grunted. “So at about sixty fighters per carrier, that gives them about seven hundred and twenty, plus perhaps another sixty flying from escorts, less whatever they lose due to serviceability issues. That’s against the four hundred or so that Planetary Defence and we can come up with, so odds of less than two to one. Unless their fighters have got a lot better than they were a few weeks ago, then we have the advantage there. Interesting.”
    “What do we do now, sir?” Sheehan asked.
    “We, Captain? We, Captain, do nothing. The first move belongs to our colleagues and good luck to them.” Lewis turned towards Warspite ’s captain. “Captain Holfe, I would like to invite you and your officers to dinner this evening.”
    Prior to jump technology interstellar space had represented the final barrier to human expansion, an empty gulf of near nothingness separating Earth’s sun from its nearest neighbour. Before first contact, science fiction writers had imagined vast colony ships setting forth on centuries’ long one-way journeys, their crews either hibernating through countless centuries or entire generations living out their lives in ships that would be the only world they knew.
    Those imagined futures became obsolete the day that first alien ship force landed on Earth, the day humanity seized jump drive technology and made it their own. From that point, interstellar space changed from barrier to irrelevance. As soon as a ship cleared the mass shadow of its home planet, it could jump away, free to travel without ever passing through the great emptiness. This was no place for humanity.
    Yet humanity was here.
    The carrier Dauntless and her three escorting destroyers hung silent and motionless, all but invisible in the darkness. Nearby, three support ships waited in equal silence. In front of them, so distant that it was just one speck among countless others, was Earth’s sun.
    Alanna took a deep breath, adjusted her grip on the bar and made the lift in a single smooth motion. As her arms locked straight, she began to count under her breath.
    “One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand…”
    She continued the count to ten, then, slowly lowered the weights back down. Sitting up from the bench she frowned to herself. To be able to lift and hold that amount was acceptable, but acceptable wasn’t the same as good. Fighter crews could expect to be subject to major G loads in combat. Raven fighters might be fly-by-wire and in theory the control column could be worked with a fingertip, but in a tight turn the pilot’s hand might weight as much as his or her torso did in Earth gravity. So muscle building wasn’t so much a choice as an occupational requirement. On top of that, there was the problem that went all the way back to the earliest days of the space age: muscular dystrophy. What with everything else happening on board, she hadn’t

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