TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 1

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Literature Text

The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #1 (Aces & Veterans)

It was sleek, fast, deadly. Typical Coralate semi-atmospheric fighter, but still no match for Tessa’s Seindrive 4 Blasterchild. The underslung Agere PD cannon on the nose of her rig alone could turn the Cygnan into swiss cheese from 50 meters with a good shot, and it was a peashooter compared to the other ordnance she was carrying. They didn’t build strong ships on Cygnus, but they knew how to build an engine like nobody’s business.

The skies over Tarsis 12 were a deep afternoon purple, visceral against the rich reds and pinks pooling up from the dark aquamarine line of the horizon, and the Cygnan was a hot spot of brilliant silver in the glowing crimson reticle of her heads-up-display. 762 meters and arcing to the left at 2837 km/h. Hauling ass, but still running on conventional drive. Too risky to run the sublight stuff this far into the atmosphere.

Lips tightened, a sharp smile spreading across her face. Her fighter was cutting edge Terran technology, the best that the Commonwealth’s Galactic Naval Division had at its disposal, and tuned as tight as monowire by the best techs back on the Von der Tann IV until it pushed the envelope right to the edge in every direction and then some. The gravity couch was the only real custom piece–– something to counteract the effect of the increased G’s the rig’s hyper-tuned drive kicked off at full speed, but throw it into a dive with the engines on full burn in normal atmosphere, and even the gravity couch couldn’t keep you conscious for long. Just long enough, a tech had told her once, for you to black out the instant before you leave a smoking crater on a nice green patch of alien soil. Hell of a way to go.

The Cygnan was looping and twisting near the horizon now, accelerating and decelerating in harsh bursts as he harassed the colonial gear that thundered and flashed from the ground, blasting more useless flak into the atmosphere. Briefly, she considered sending a volley of her wing-mounted Finsternis-XI warheads screaming after him, but the countermeasures on Cygnan vessels were as legendary as the engines that gave them their speed. Throwing F-9's against the blueskin would be about as useful as throwing rocks at flies–– the Cygnan pilot would either have to be blind or real unlucky to get clocked by something as clumsy as that kind of ordnance. Better to save those for bigger, slower game.

“Screw it,” She cursed under her breath, gloved fingers tightening eagerly over the dual wing of the throttle control. Close-in fighting was better anyway; you got to watch the way the Cygnan’s rigs burnt as they fell, trailing hot rainbows of flame out of every hole in the hull until they nosed into the ground and imploded, caught in the short-range blast destabilizing Singularity drives produced as they popped back into n-space along with whatever was left of the rig and anything else that happened to be within five meters. A flash of light from the ground caught her eye–– probably a hydrogen tank going up. No point in waiting around, letting the Coralate rip through the colony like an unchecked predator.

Biting the inside of her lip, Tessa jammed the throttle forward and twin Icarus I610F conventional Deca-bypass quantum hotcoil pods, each originally rated in excess of 348 kilonewtons of thrust at their highest setting, answered in turn. Schrödinger vectoring panels dilated into Nth dimensional space as the Seindrive hurtled forward, burning a hot line across the sky as it closed the distance between her and the Cygnan in a matter of seconds.

The Coralate pilot caught the move, and in the next instant, he was spinning fluidly, looping up and out of range and arc of the majority of her hardpoints. The Seindrive’s AI followed him with the precision of a hunting dog, blaring as the g-forces of sudden deceleration rolled over and through the rig like waves of turbulent water. Tessa bit her lip harder, eyes flicking, flying across the HUD. The blueskin was cutting in close, nosing over from a climb, forty-one meters off her seven, plas-flechette railcannons heating up.

Reflexively, she flung the Seindrive over onto its side and pumped the throttle, just hard enough to put her ahead of the screaming cloud of blinding, superheated particles that scorched the air in her wake. 196 meters ahead of him now, the Cygnan dove square off her six. Pretty typical Coralate move, something she’d seen a thousand times before. The little blue bastard was probably cussing in that weird click language of theirs.

Working quickly, Tessa swung the nose of her rig up and over, pumping the throttle lightly and putting the Coralate rig roaring past her at ten o’clock. Two seconds to prime the argon-ion L-web emitters and jam the caps off a line of Rapier A5 rockets, half a second to nudge the rig sixty degrees to the left...

She mashed the thumb trigger, and in the same instant that the hardpoints on her rig flared, the Coralate fighter dove.

Yanking the Seindrive reflexively to the right, swearing, peeling away from her payload of explosives and hot blue light in a sharp turn, she followed it with her rig’s sensor suite as the cloud of death passed harmlessly over the diving Cygnan. Rising, the rockets tried to reorient themselves to follow the Coralate fighter, but the countermeasures on the blueskin’s rig kicked in at the top of the climb and scrambled the warheads’ sensitive tracking systems, leaving them to twist aimlessly off into the heavens. Swearing again, Tessa’s fingers worked quickly at the two halves of the throttle control wing as she jerked the rig around and dove after the Cygnan again, the colony a sprawling mass of blue-green and pavecrete grey smeared across the ground beneath them.

The pilot was good with his rig, no question about it, and the acknowledgment of that fact brought the edges of a wry smile to Tessa’s face. Quick corrections by the Cygnan kept her sharp, following him as he spun and darted, yanking himself out of a dive and leveling out again, as Tessa came up hot behind him. Her finger tightened across the trigger for the Agere reflexively, but before she could squeeze off a line of fire, the Cygnan threw his fighter into another spin and went hurtling off to the right. 1742 km/h and rising. The plasmatic tracers carved an arc of hot lines through the sky in his wake.

This time, the move came reflexive–– Tessa’s fingers went tight around the throttle control as she rolled the Seindrive over and went after the Cygnan again. He was darting left and right like crazy, trying to shake her off his tail and get her in his sights again, but she kept up with him, matching his every move, ready to send another line of tracers his way the instant she had a good shot. The Coralate fighter spun suddenly left, then jammed the retros and went spinning back right for a half second before the pilot cut the thrusters and dropped the thing a hundred meters instantly. Keeping his rig straight and level until she was practically right on top of him, he flipped the fighter over its blunt, silvery nose and hit full acceleration, jamming out of there inverted, another line of Agere tracers scorching the air behind him. Tessa’s fingers tightened across the throttle, knew that the Agere wasn’t going to be enough. She primed the L-web emitters again and pumped the throttle.

“Yeeeeeeeeeeee haaaaaaaw!” Static lanced through the radio as something shot overhead with a buffeting shockwave and went blazing after the Coralate fighter. Blinking reflexively, Tessa caught only a glimpse of the rig as it burnt past, eyes stunned by the fuselage that was a mishmash of peeling red paint and shining, polished aluminum cut with wide swathes of oily rust. The seductive curves of a hand-painted pin-up girl beckoned from the side of the rig as she watched it dart improbably off into the sky, winked back at her from the gentle slope of the old warbird’s nose. The pilot’s voice came again, rough and dry as a tumbleweed desert.

“Move over sweetheart, this Ciggy’s all mine! Hah-HA!”
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #1 (Aces and Veterans)

[EDIT] 9/18/09: I'm going through an editing these one by one for print, so I'm going to be putting up the new and significantly revised versions as I go.

This is the first installment of an original Science Fiction series made to be exclusively showcased in my DeviantArt gallery. The second installment (Aces and Veterans pt. 2) is on it’s way, and with a little luck, it’ll be out soon. Every installment should be between 1500 and 2000 words, or about the same length as this one.

Anyway, in TTC: The Cygnus War, our main character is Tessa Eisenherz, a lieutenant commander in the Terran Commonwealth’s Galactic Naval Division (TCGND) who flies a Seindrive 4 Blasterchild semi-atmospheric fighter and lives aboard the Terran Wallace-class Warship Von der Tann IV. It chronicles her missions and experiences during the war against the Cygnan Coralate, from interstellar dogfights and bar-room brawls to teary emotional sequences and the shocking ending in the series last installment: Noir Destiny.

Now I know that this story (as well as the other episodes in the series) is pretty heavy in terms of unfamiliar names, terms, allusions and extrapolations of things currently considered to be very theoretical, but that’s done on purpose. It is Science Fiction, after all! It cultivates a sort of mysticism that can only be done with sci-fi and is meant to add to the fun and excitement. I mean think about it– where would Star Trek be without inverse Tachyon beams, or Xenosaga without the Hilbert Effect? And hey, if imagination isn’t enough, there’s always wikipedia, right?
© 2006 - 2021 Durkee341
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purpleduckling's avatar
This is good stuff!

My name's Tessa, and I'm skinny with short hair, but I don't wear leather, have a motorbike/shotgun, etc. :laugh: We all have our character types.

You mentioned the Seindrive’s AI. Is it possible that the fighter can learn a pilot's style, and start to react a fraction of a second before the pilot does?
Durkee341's avatar
Maybe, haha. The Seindrive's Resident AI is alot like having a copilot, but it would definitely become accustomed to a particular pilot and be able to shave down their reaction time significantly. The trick is that Tessa is also slightly psychic, or mainly precognitive, so she reacts a fraction of a second earlier by reflex anyway, so the resident AI has that much more catching up to do. :)

Thanks for the comment! I'm glad you like it! That's amazing that you've got that much in common with the character, haha. She's an archetype I find I keep coming back to in my fiction in one way or another.
fcneko's avatar

Interesting read, but you'd better be in for a technical spec document with bits of characterization in it for this... I learned more about a fighter than I did about the pilot, and all the different sci-fi bits actually detracted from the storyline - Star Trek works because, despite it's tachyon whatchamacallits, the story is about characters. A reader doesn't need to know the specs on Tessa's ship during the first read - they need to learn about Tessa. She's an expert pilot (apparently), but that could have been put across in an interaction on the ground rather than during a fight in the air.

A bit more background on who the Coralate folks are and why they're attacking might be good as well. Perhaps a Prologue explaining how the war started, so the reader will care why they're fighting? Anakhin Skywalker was a great pilot, but that was secondary to his personality and character. Based on this piece (and agreed, this piece alone as I haven't read anything else), you've got that backwards. We know more facts (that ultimately may not matter in the overall story) about a starship than we do about its pilot...

Sorry if this is harsh. Critique can be rough at time and I'm falling back on the basics. "More info about the pilot, less about the ship" would probably say the same thing that I just said, but the reasoning behind it is what helps authors to get better. Otherwise it's "F-OFF, DUDE!"

Hope this helps... O_o
Durkee341's avatar
Thanks for taking a look and commenting!

You're right, the first episode does focus more on the ship than the pilot, but doesn't it also teach us the most important things we need to know about Tessa? We get what we need considering the emphasis on action-- TTC is very much character oriented, but it's spread over the series, not crammed into the first episode to hook readers who are looking for Space Opera.

As for the Corolate-- they're left shadowy and indistinct as "bad guys" because it adds to their allure and their mystery. They're obviously bad, and like most soldiers, (or pilots) we don't need to know why-- Tessa is just following orders, and she believes in them because she has faith in the officers above her. So yeah, no prologues. I can't stand prologues.

Anywho, sorry if I ripped back, and I'm sure you didn't mean to be too rough, but the whole air of superiority thing you took on in your critique really got to me. We both have our own styles and we both know how writing critique works. Lets exchange commentary on work as equals. :D
fcneko's avatar

I so totally didn't think you were ripping back, and I apologize if I came across as superior.

*aaannnndddd that's enough with the whole California-dude thing*

That's why I always end with "I hope this helps." Everyone goes about things differently and I can only throw out what I have come to learn works when it comes to advice. As always, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). ^_^

I'll have to read more and my only other comment would be that I have been where you are (both in feeling like you're being attacked and biting back) and I've found that critiques, both harsh and friendly are all equally helpful in the long run. The bastard who ripped my piece to shreds in front of my Creative Writing class taught me to have a tough skin (if nothing else...). ^_^
Durkee341's avatar
Man! Sorry!

Yeah, I've been lucky-- the only person who ever ripped me up in front of a class was an instructor I had when I first started college when I was still 15, and he was pretty brutal, but when it's a fellow student-- man! That just shatters the whole implicit sense of camaraderie that's supposed to exist between classmates!

But no, cool, okay, I get ya now. Sorry I overreacted! You're right, all critique is useful in the long run. Heck, even that teacher I mentioned taught me a few things that took my rebellious self a few years to truly absorb or realize. So yeah, thank you!
langsam's avatar
Pee-shooter? Are you sure?

On a girl's ship?

How do you make o umlaut?

1742 km/h is almost 500 m/s. So isn't 50 or 47 m pretty close quarters for a fight?

Everything else is quite believable. :D
Durkee341's avatar
Pee-shooter. It's a colloquializm. Just means it's small and kinda useless compared to her other weaponry.

*laugh* I just got your joke(s).

Yeah, the speed and the distance are pretty incredible, but it's supposed to be. Tessa's reflexes are the result of several hundred years of technological evolution-- keeping up with computers is something each generation seems to be doing better than the last, and with the advent of computers that move at even more incredible speeds, training such reflexes into a human being at an early age should (theoretically) be much easier. Also-- this is the 24th century we're talking about here, and it's conceivable that augmentation in some form or another to increase reflexes (especially among combat pilots) will be refined to an extreme point and be common practice.

It's all implied, but it becomes more apparent as the details in the storyline snowball along.

Anywho, the real question is-- did you like it? :D
langsam's avatar
I know the term "peashooter" or "pea-shooter," meaning a toy or something that shoots stuff no more dangerous than peas, but I never heard of a pee-shooter before, which sounds like something totally different. No joke this time.

I'll take the speeds under advisement until I get further along in the story. What bothers me right now is the biological human reflex limit of around 0.4s, which does vary from person to person (one source of exceptional athletic ability either way), but not by enough to make the speeds you quote even close to workable now, even with extensive training. So presumably you're talking mainly about actual biological evolution, which of course is possible to imagine if ways are found to greatly accelerate it beyond what it's been in the past. So I guess I'll have to wait until I've read more to see if I'm convinced.

I don't know yet whether I like it as much as I do chicken banana and glass. It's well written, as usual. I guess my only really non-trivial comment is that I got kind of tired of all the numbers. But maybe I'll soon see their reasons better.
Durkee341's avatar
*laugh* Oh god, I feel like an idiot. I see what you mean on the peashooter thing. *laugh* It's different on my draft for some reason-- guess I caught it after I posted. *laugh* Thanks for pointing that out to me. That's kind of embarrassing.

Yeah, the first one's pretty heavy on the numbers, but they drop off considerably as it goes along-- the focus shifts from the specs of the machine to the people somewhere between EP 3 & 4.

I thought of something else this morning that should be taken into account with the dogfight-- It's fighter v.s. fighter, so they're essentially strafing one another and darting back after flying out, oh, probably 600 meters, maybe more. It's still close, and it's still intense, but they aren't at a constant distance of 47-50 m 'cause that really would be too dangerous (not to mention impossible to manage at those speeds), and both rigs are equipped with weaponry that's primarily forward facing. Still-- augmentation. It's the future, after all. *laugh*
BadMediCynInc22's avatar
WEll, I have to say, your lay out is very well thought out. I am starting to read these, but being I get easily confused with science fiction reading it, I had to re-read it a few times heehee. But that's cause I am a moron and more adapt to understanding emotions rather than technical terms. But the more I re-read this, the more the story pulls me in. Why is she named Tessa though, just a name ya like? I am just being curious. I am very intrigued with this story though :boogie:
Durkee341's avatar
Hehe. I doubt you're a moron. *laugh*

I'm glad you like it so far! I actually don't put much planning into it, because I find that with my manuscripts, if I layout any details or things that must happen in the storyline (besides the ending, of course!) it's like jumping over hurdles. You can only jump so many before you stop and say "f-this, man!" *laugh* So it's mostly just spontaneous, and carrying threads over. (Though there's actually alot of stuff that I've been working with for a while in other pieces... I think I just contradicted myself.) *laugh*

Anywho-- Tessa? Actually it's based on the name "Natessa," which is a name I used for a character that's part of a different story altogether, but is distantly related to Tessa. (A century or so in the future.) Beyond that, Natessa is, for me, a character type-- it's the skinny, badass girl dressed in black leather on a black motorcycle with short, wild black hair that carries a shotgun and blows stuff up when it gets in her way kinda character. Tessa is a part of that. Kinda. Same basic mold.

Can't wait to see what you think about the other installments! And curiosity is always cool!
I Really Like This Story:)
It's Well Written And In Good Style:)
Now Excuse Me While I Go Read Part 2:P
Durkee341's avatar
Thank you! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! *laugh*
M4dLeprechaun's avatar
Oooo. I like the finale, like the commenter above I'm not an avid science fiction writer, but I do enjoy this and will surely continue to follow it! Maybe it's Tessa. Haha. Oh, and somehow I really enjoyed the "about as useful as throwing rocks at flies" simile. Catchy!
Durkee341's avatar
Hehe, thanks! Yeah, originally it was going to be "throwing rocks at sparrows," but then I went outside and tried it and it really wasn't all that hard to do. *laugh* Besides, flies are smaller than sparrows. They can dodge rocks easier.

Glad you liked it! I'm enjoying writing it!
Umbernay's avatar
I'm afraid I don't read much science-fiction, so I found all the technical terms hard to follow, but I really like the pacy writing style and vivid descriptions!
Durkee341's avatar
Thank you so much! I was wondering when someone would take a look at this piece! *laugh*
Ambriel23's avatar
Nothing to comment on this one. :) It is very enjoyable to read; I am interested to see where the next post takes it.

Durkee341's avatar

I'll probably stick #2 on sometime early next week. Currently working on #3.
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