TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 10

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Literature Text

The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #10 (Burn) By Earl S. Wynn

“Alright, well... here’s what we’re going to do.”

Tessa didn’t have time to grimace at the lack of conviction coloring her words– she had a squadron to lead, a colony to protect, and a planet to burn hard for. Swallowing, she forced steel into her voice again, then jammed the comm hard with her thumb.

“I want the newbies, you guys, Davidson and Cordova, to blast full throttle for Tarsis 12, raise somebody on the local ground and tower frequencies, tell them what’s going on up here in the black, then land your rigs and wait for us.” She paused, considering her next move. Pieces on a chessboard, Tess, pieces on a chessboard. “Phoebe, Izzy– Keep flying, keep scrapping blue-skins. I’m gonna chase the newbies to atmo, keep them out of trouble, then double back for you two. Sound class?”

“Yeah, real class.” Sarcasm from Davidson. “With all due respect, LC, I’ve probably flown–”

“I didn’t say it was up for discussion, Lieutenant.” Tessa shot back harshly. “Turn your rig around and fly hard for Tarsis. Same goes for you, Cordova. I want you two there yesterday.

A pair of beleaguered yes ma’am’s followed close behind, with Izandra’s laugh following in their static-laced wake. “See ya in fifteen, big commander lady.”

“I’ll be back in ten” came the immediate response, all hard bravado and none of the feisty playfulness Izzy was expecting. Too rough. The next came softer, more friendly. “Kill some Coralates for me, okay Izzy?”

“My pleasure.” Direct and to the point. Tessa bit her lip.

Cordova and Davidson were already jamming their Seindrives’ throttles; an instant later, Tessa was close in behind them, riding cosmic wash like the waves of some stormy, turbulent sea. Her rig’s resident AI stayed busy while they ran for Tarsis 12, filling the active display with a three-dimensional map that tracked Izzy,  Phoebe, and a dozen or more Cygnans through local space, lighting friendlies up in green and hostiles in red. The Coralate battlecruiser hung at the edge of the map, waiting like some gargantuan scarlet whale and casting off clouds of thin blue lines that lanced off endlessly into space, never seeming to hit anything.

A quick glance at the display showed a disorderly retreat among the Terrans, some pilots breaking and running for the colony at high speed while others stayed and tangled with the remaining Cygnan fighters– closer, lengthier inspection revealed the loss of a handful of rigs during the battle, most of them from the assault squadrons.

The display picked up a single frightened lieutenant with a barely operational rig abusing her one remaining engine on a hard burn toward Tarsis– she was the last pilot from Zeus, the only one to make it out of the skirmish alive. Hera had taken heavy losses too– three Seindrives had bit the dust, leaving only a veteran dogfighter and the squadron’s LC. Athena hadn’t fared so well either; losing a recruit and its senior officer, Athena’s surviving fighters flew in a shaky formation and broke off to savagely harass targets of opportunity at seemingly random intervals. The two recon squadrons were already halfway through the atmosphere, decelerating, switching to conventional drives, and descending toward the colony waiting for them planetside. They’d been lucky, hell, she’d been lucky– their three squadrons were the only ones who hadn’t lost anybody.

She bit the inside of her lip again. Minerva Squadron hadn’t lost anybody yet. The recon boys were out of the hot seat, but Minerva hadn’t cleared the black yet and there was still a chance, still a chance that no matter how much she hoped or planned, no matter how hard she flew, trying to keep her people alive, she might still lose somebody. The thought settled cold in the pit of her stomach, a brick of iced lead. Stay safe, Izzy. You too, Phoebe. She swallowed uneasily, cracked her shoulders and flexed her fingers. Cordova and Davidson she could take care of– a few more minutes and they’d be dropping through layers of atmo, angling in for easy landings on whatever operational airfields ATC happened to route them to.

Tarsis 12 loomed up ahead, a smoothly curving mosaic of purple, green and blue that outshone all the nearby stars, its halo of lavender radiance leaking into the hard vacuum of the black like light from some mystic lighthouse. It was a beautiful planet, middle of nowhere, cheap property... She cut those thoughts loose– there wasn’t time to stare, they were coming up on it fast, Cordova and Davidson already slowly backing off on the throttle. They’d be running through all the required checklists in preparation for their final approach to atmospheric descent by now, doubtless following procedure to the letter, even in a situation like this. A wry, almost harsh half-smile cracked across Tessa’s face as her gloved fist tightened across the dual wing control of her own Seindrive’s throttle, inching off, matching them for speed. Still, nice looking planet. In spite of everything that had happened, everything that was still playing out across the display, she smiled.

“Shit! Tessa! Watch out!” Izzy’s voice shot across the comm, startling her and erasing the smile immediately. “A couple of fighters just broke from the pack– looks like their headed after you and the newbies, maybe the recon squadrons! Watch your six!”

Tessa cursed, then thumbed the radio, eyes flying across the panel. Time to go to work.

“Right!” Eyes shot across the display, taking in the Corolate rigs burning hard in her direction. “Davidson, Cordova, hang tight, keep doing what you’re doing. Check back in once you’re planetside.”

Yanking the throttle back, Tessa flipped the Seindrive over backwards and into a simultaneous half-spin, then jammed the dual-wing control up again, effortlessly sending her rig burning hard away from the planet. The resident AI chirped excitedly, lighting up the display panel with a dozen blinking red lights that demanded her attention, but none of it mattered. Her eyes were already on the target, already locked on the lithe silvery line that could only be one thing, a  Cygnan rig. There wasn’t time to prime the Argon-Ion L-web emitters, but she kickstarted the cycle anyway and jammed the caps off a couple of rapier A5's more out of habit than for any other reason. The Agere was what really mattered at this range– reflexive fire was her best bet.

The Coralate rig closest to her was running hot, plas-flechette railcannons ready to fire. She bit down, hard, and squeezed the trigger, jamming the half-power L-web emitters ruthlessly along with it.

The detonation was instantaneous; burning chunks of twisted metal fragments roared past the canopy as she threw the throttle forward to just short of full speed and went catapulting through the wreckage, narrowly avoiding the Coralate’s implosion wave. The AI was chirping again, scarlet lights dancing across the display. Her eyes darted back to the panel, one word burning itself into the back of her eyes.


She didn’t need to think, didn’t have the time to waste on it; a flick of the stick, a reflexive split of the throttle wings, and the Seindrive was spinning to the left at incredible speed, kicking off additional lights and warnings. She bared her teeth against the G-forces, straining, fist tightening around the stick, stars blurring to white lines and spinning sickeningly off into the abyss around her. Something popped in her flightsuit, something nestled somewhere in the vital tissue beneath her ribs– pain blossomed through her chest in scorching waves, but still she fought it, eyes practically riveted to the panel and the display that tracked the trio of eerily silver Cygnan warheads screaming hard after her.

They were getting closer. She pushed harder.

Somebody was shouting something at her over the radio, but it didn’t seem to matter any more than the flashing lights or a dozen other things that demanded her attention– another flick of the wrist and quick scissoring of the throttle with shaking, straining fingers sent her spinning just as suddenly off in the other direction, Cygnan rockets dropping back a couple meters with the course correction, trying to stabilize themselves against the incredible spacial turbulence her Seindrive was kicking off with every rotation. She cursed, and it came out slurred, lost to a scream as the pain quickened suddenly. A throbbing, stabbing sensation built and bubbled beneath her skin, nerves screaming. It felt vaguely like someone had suddenly decided to do rapid, impromptu surgery on her vital organs with a piece of broken glass and had forgotten to drug her beforehand.

Eyes strained, fighting the deadening wash that came with the pain, fighting the numbness gripping her as blood catapulted to one side of her body and back again. Dimly, she registered that it had been twelve seconds, seven to the left and five to the right. The resident AI was still working, still trying to outwit the Cygnan-made electronic defenses and reprogram the warheads to veer away from her rig and self-destruct. Damn the Coralate and its R&D labs– it seemed like every time she went up against the Cygnans it took longer and longer to flitz out the software in their missiles. The encryption on the command subroutines of their autonomous weaponry just kept getting better and better. They’re getting faster too, she realized suddenly. Faster and more...

She couldn’t finish the thought. Things were getting too tight, too close to the line. It was hard to keep her eyes open, hard to focus. Breathing got difficult, reality went silent, fingers went numb, and then darkness seemed to close in on her... tunnel vision. She licked her lips absently. Had to get out... Had to...

The warheads dropped away suddenly and blasted themselves to pieces amid her Seindrive’s wake. Everything seemed to happen in a dream, maybe underwater... she couldn’t tell. It all hurt. Carefully adjusting the throttle, she pulled the rig into straight and level flight at roughly a fourth of the speed of light, giving her senses a chance to recover. Tarsis 12 spun on silently somewhere above her and to the left, slipping away behind her canopy. Somebody on the open frequency was screaming... not her, not Izzy, not Phoebe... someone else, someone familiar.

“Oh my fucking god, I’m hit! I’m gonna die! I don’t wanna die! Oh my fucking god!

Suddenly she was wide awake. Cordova!
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #10 (Burn)

OH NOES! you didn’t see that one coming! It gets better– make sure to check out the next installment!

Woohoo! We hit double digits!

Progress report: I wrote four chapters last week. Well, three or four. Something like that. I’m currently working through 16, kinda injecting ideas into a common petri dish of words and letting it grow a fancy mold of sorts. I’ve got some hot ideas for later episodes, but nothing gelled beyond 16 and maybe 17, (maybe) yet.

But, this is the tenth installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode, “Against All Odds” is done and scheduled to be released first thing next Wednesday (September 20th, Pacific time.)
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M4dLeprechaun's avatar
Shiza, I've been out a while.

"I want you two there yesterday!" --I'm so yelling that at one of my underlings in webdesign at least once this year.

Nice ending! Took me by surprise. Gad.

Psssst. Psst! What's an L-web emitter? It sounds cool. I must know.