The Human Race makes its final stand against an interstellar enemy.
|"How many?" Terence inquired as he looked out into the black expanse dotted with distant stars. Not all of them had habited worlds but so many did. The CIC had a real time holoscreen projected on the tactical table.
"At last count Admiral, there were one trillion, 345 billion, 359 million, 874 thousand, 129 ships of various classes. That includes 100,000 starkiller class battle spheres from the Shidda," Commander Shilpa replied.
She had volunteered for this role instead of staying at her post in the United Nations Scientific Command. A piece of living metal covered her face. It gave her abilities that Terence didn't quite understand. UNSC called it a cyber-mantle and it supposedly connected her to every single ship in the fleet and every mind within 40 light minutes with no light speed barrier. There were others like her in nearly every other ship; all connected in what was effectively a hive mind.
"No...how many people, Commander," Terence replied.
Shilpa hesitated, "I...damn...I...can't count them all, Admiral."
A tear roll down from her metallic eyes down the metallic skin of her face. Terence's much more limited implants gave him a sense of her pain and something else...despair. Yes. Despair. Loss. It was slightly askew though...not quite the same as the others on board. Alien...and not terribly different from how it felt to fight a Horror directly.
"Best estimate then, Commander."
Shilpa gulped, "Five quadrillion...give or take a few trillion."
Terence whistled. That was almost 90% of the estimated population of known space. This was truly the end.
"What's the UNSC estimate for the remaining population, Shilpa?"
She shook her head, "They estimate a 100% economic collapse in the next year. In the next 10 years, we estimate anywhere between 50% and 90% will fall into at least an Iron Age technology level as systems wear out and cannot be replaced to lack of supplies, knowledge, and/or technical expertise. We also expect the UN Interstellar Assembly to fail in next 6 Sol months regardless."
Terence put his head in hands.
"Jesus," he murmured, "The largest military might ever assembled and we still lose everything."
Shilpa simply shrugged, "This is the best case scenario. One final stand. We've been very careful about providing just enough detail about our location."
Terence shook his head, "I still cannot believe what we have assembled. Most of the people on those ships have zero space combat training. We're going to be lucky to last 24 standard hours."
A warning klaxon sounded as the tactical display lit up with probably vectors. That would be the gravitic wavefronts of impending ERBs.
"Wormholes forming, Admiral," came the shout of a tactical officer. Terence didn't quite remember his name. He was new.
The Commander touched her face to feel the silky smooth metal that felt and moved like flesh one last time. A small piece came away on a fingertip as she touched Terence's temple with it. He felt it...flow into his skull and voices came into his awareness. There was a chill and an alien quality to it. Just...like the Horror. He sucked in a sharp breath.
"That's..." he started.
"Yes. You will need some access to the network as we fight. It will need to know what you need before you even know it," Shilpa finished for him, "The ship will come. And we will trap the Horror here so humanity can live on. They can and will rebuild."