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TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 13

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By Durkee341   |   
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Published: October 4, 2006
The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #13 (Planetfall) By Earl S. Wynn

The wispy, blue-purple embrace of Tarsis 12's atmosphere consumed Cordova’s Seindrive like a hungry blob of cold-glowing flame. Starry darkness faded away above the clear ellipse of his canopy, subtly giving way to endless vacuum tinged with boiling sapphire.

Instantly, Tessa’s rig was there beside him in the blue-black, Phoebe darting in off her left wing and sandwiching Cordova gently between them. Commands and data darted between resident AIs, S-Vectoring panels shifted, accommodating changes in velocity, and a single word crackled across the comm, smooth and devoid of anything but hard purpose.

“Phoebe.” The pause was deafening. Cordova’s rig rattled with the atmospheric sheer rolling off its dead wings and the building turbulence of fast descent. Tarsis 12 spun on beneath them, holding them in a steadily deteriorating, atmo-skimming orbit. Another word crackled across the comm. “Go.”

Instantly the two operational rigs turned over, gracefully flipping inverted and slipping beneath Cordova’s wings with all the practiced care and elegance of a pair of dancers in some choreographed ballet. Every move was important, each step preformed in perfect pairs, each twist, dilation, and shift as simultaneous as it was graceful. In both cockpits, resident AI’s chirped happily, glad for the exercise in mental calisthenics and precise intersquadron networking. This kind of opportunity didn’t come along very often, and the AIs relished in it.

“Alright Cordova, there’s going to be a little bump” Phoebe thumbed the mike, fingers  on her free hand flicking across the controls, “nothing to worry about, just the hover systems coming online...”

AI’s coordinated the activation. For Tessa, most of the steps involved were automatic, functions tied directly into Phoebe’s controls– all she had to do was keep her rig lined up beneath Cordova’s right wing, which didn’t require much more than gentle little twitches of the flight stick or the occasional hat-switching of the overhead maneuvering thrusters. Just as well, she thought. Whatever she’d done to herself trying to avoid those Cygnan missiles was making her tired, shooting fuzz into her brain. God, I hope they have coffee waiting for us planetside.

“Davidson, status.” That was Izzy. Something was wrong. Probably just worried. A slow smile spread across Tessa’s face. Davidson’s voice crackled across the channel.

“I’ve got the data. Transmitting now.”

Tessa’s display lit up instantly. Frequencies and coordinates scrolled across screens. 120.55 – Tower frequency for R. Jones Planetary, her blurry eyes struggled to focus, fingers reaching for the knob. Snap out of it Tessa! She swallowed, blinked, and an eternity of darkness seemed to pass before her eyes opened again. The knob clicked over.

“–four others coming in, maybe more if the other squadrons manage to make it out of the fire.” Davidson’s voice sounded worried, uneasy. “Right now we’ve got a seventy-seven hundred entering atmo, a beige Seindrive 4 Blasterchild with Minerva squadron markings, pilot’s name is Lieutenant Cordova and his rig is zero operational, repeat: zero operational, but he currently has assistance.”

“A blaster-what?” That had to be ATC, one of the tower guys– his voice was shaky, ancient sounding, like the crackling of dead leaves in a creaking doorjamb. “Sonny, I don’t care what kind of newfangled TCGND crap you’re floating in here on, we just repaved the field with nanocrete and the last thing we need is to have something like that dropped in the middle of–”

“Who’s in charge down there?” Izzy broke in suddenly, anger barely reined in, fighting against rigid walls of self restraint. “I want to talk to the cheif ATC dickhead down there right fucking now.

There was another pause, an astonished, wordless gap in transmission that seemed almost permeable, like a wall in the path of time’s otherwise inevitable progression. No-one in ATC ever expected to be talked to that way, even by naval pilots– it was part of radio etiquette to keep harsh language to a minimum and keep transmissions short and professional. All that went out the window for Izzy, especially in an emergency.

Izzy bared her teeth, thumb ready to jam the comm again. Just a little longer... wait just a little longer...

Lady,” tower responded, tone calm and patient, almost condescending, like a grandparent gently scolding a problematic toddler. “Let’s get something straight, alright? This ain’t no fancy schmancy airfield like the kind you see roundabouts the core– there ain’t no ‘chief,’ I’m the only one ever uses the radio in here–”

“Great.” Izzy cut him off again; the old fart could patronize someone else in his own spare time. “Then put out the call to get the field cleared ASAP. We’re coming in hot, and in a few minutes we’re going to be right on top of you, so I’d pick a runway and seal it until we’re on the ground.” The or else lingering in the wake of her transmission remained unspoken– everyone knew what would happen if the landing didn’t go off smooth as butter.

ATC chewed on the silence. Tessa grinned softly. Normally verbally backslapping backwater ATC’s into shape was the LC’s job, but Izandra was just as quick and just as hard, lashing tongue beating the tower boy into forced submission. Naval pilots risked their lives to keep backwater worlds like Tarsis 12 from falling into Coralate hands, and all civilians had to do to stay safe was to stay out of the way.

Izzy nearly thumbed the mike again, but the call went out before she managed to rip off another scalding line of harsh words for ATC. “Runway two-niner right and runway two-niner left are now closed for emergency Galactic Naval use. Please clear the area immediately. Currently updating ATIS, niner-six-point-five.”

“Thank you.” Izzy almost made it sound vulgar. Tessa smiled again.

And then the sky shifted.

It happened so suddenly that it was almost nauseating– Tessa’s eyes went wide, Phoebe’s voice shooting across the comm, full of urgent fear. “LC! You’re drifting! I... I can’t hold the magnetic cohesion without you!” The pause was quick, frantic. “Tessa!?”

Fingers twitched, gaze blurring. Tessa opened her mouth to speak, gloved thumb brushing against the trigger for the comm, but the words died in her throat, bloody and stillborn, fragments of sound lost across her drying tongue. Every slow, rattling breath she sucked in screamed fearful agony, as if the blade of a razor had pierced her very soul, tainting her life blood with every dark and labored inhale. The bloody coughs that followed were getting worse, getting wetter, deeper, and harder to push from her struggling lungs. Panic gripped her, icy beads of sweat breaking across her skin. Something is very, very wrong with me.

The blurriness was getting harder to fight. The sleepy haze and clinging fog filled every nook and wrinkle of her tired brain, steadily gaining purchase and threatening to pull her into the throbbing darkness of the abyss. She opened her mouth again, hoping to force words from her body before it could take her, before that eternal night could reach out with skeletal claws and claim her, then bared her teeth at the sky, forcing all the defiance she could muster into a single desperate gesture. Voices clamored across the frequency, all rich with anger and concern– Izzy rattled off a long string of curses, a collection as vicious as it was vulgar, and ledt a suitably stunned silence in her wake. Hell of a thing to hear on your way out. Tessa mused, her grip on reality already slackening, giving way to dimness and darkness. I think... I think she’s getting more creative, though...

Tessa managed a dry swallow, lips slipping back over teeth in silent repose, and then the cold grip of the void closed in on her. In that endless pause of time, death itself seemed to breathe a satisfied sigh, and the night shivered in silent ecstacy.

As Tessa sank into the darkness, Izzy cursed again, weaving another elegantly vulgar tapestry of colorful language. Phoebe pushed gloved fingers into her eyes and breathed a shaky sigh; she’d long since given up on the comm.

Fingers dropped away, returned to controls. A quick glance at the display showed Tessa’s Seindrive listing, dangerously close to slipping off into the abyss on one side and getting tangled up in Cordova’s rig on the other. The AI’s were going crazy, lights flashing, waiting for a response. Phoebe’s eyes flicked nervously to the right, then darted back left. Fingers tightened anxiously against the stick. It’s now or never, Phoebe. Time to take charge.

Gloved hands flew across the panel. Only one thing to do.

“Tessa, if you can hear me, just hang in there, okay?” Reluctant tears burned in the young lieutenant’s eyes. She didn’t want to lose her LC, didn’t want to lose her friend, her hero. She forced her eyes open and pushed on. “I’m putting in the remote codes for your rig’s resident AI to override all pilot control and land while Izzy takes your place up here.” No response. Phoebe forced the tears back roughly, nearly choking on a denied sob. Be strong, Tessa would want you to be strong.

“I’ll... I’ll see you on the ground, okay?” The barriers shattered; tears welled and broke from her eyes, etching wet trails across her cheeks. She wanted to cry out, to let even a little sound of desperation cross her lips, but she held it back, kept it in check.

“Oh god... hang in there, Tess.”
© 2006 - 2020 Durkee341
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #13 (Planetfall)

I love these dramatic “OH NO!” endings!

Progress report: Nothing new since last week. Haven’t even touched 18. I’ve been spending my time on homework, Pink Carbide, and Xenosaga III (Not necessarily in that order!)

But anywho, this is the twelfth installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode, “The Last Hurdle” is done and scheduled to be released first thing next Wednesday (October 11th, Pacific time.)
Comments5
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M4dLeprechaun's avatar
"OH NO" ending indeed! Such bloody excitement of the fun kind! Poor Tessa. She must feel like she's donated much too blood at the drive and then got smacked in the side of the head with a seagull while coming down with a cold.
Durkee341's avatar
Durkee341Professional Writer
That's the best analogy I've ever seen, hands down. I want to use that in casual conversation.

"I feel like I've donated too much blood and then got smacked in the side of the head with a seagull while coming down with a cold."

Awesome.
M4dLeprechaun's avatar
I surprised myself with that one..

You tell me how that goes, hahaha.
Durkee341's avatar
Durkee341Professional Writer
Kinda along the lines of:
I feel like I've been beat to death with a rubber chicken, ressurected, and then beaten to death again.

I dunno, I'm probably due for a flu. I haven't been sick in... like a year or so. *laugh*
M4dLeprechaun's avatar
.. goddamn that would suck.. You're all alive again, happy as can be then "WHAM! SQUEAK!" Rubber chicken all up in your grill! Shhazaa!

.. ew.. flu, don't get me started.. I used to get colds all the time, but lately, besides my stomach rebelling, I haven't gotten so much as the sniffles. Thus I'm just waiting to get slammed with.. something. Bleg.