TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 15

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #15 (Regrets) By Earl S. Wynn


It was a lonely place, a lonely, endless vacuum of black spotted with so many cold, pale burning stars, each set so far apart that traveling between the closest took days with the latest in FTL technology, but more often an order of weeks or even months. A typical supply run between the ribulon-8 gas mines that stretched their long, Ceralloy tongues half-way into Jupiter’s stormy core and the platforms at Yuba Station on the outskirts of Proxima Centauri, a little over a parsec distant, was a two week journey for any ordinary slowlane freelance shipping contractor. The Von der Tann IV’s degen-drive was cutting edge technology, and even with a core like that running the starship, that same jaunt took close to twenty-two hours from start to finish.

A little over twenty-two hours out from Tarsis 12 put the Von shuffling past 80 Ursae Majoris, –Alcor in mudder slang– and its four stellar companions, the brightly burning blue spheres of light known collectively as the Mizar A and B binaries, In excess of 402 the speed of light. It was a nav point in the middle of nowhere, five stars all less than a light year from one another, and home to nothing more than a lot of barren chunks of ice and rock. One supermassive gas giant hung alone in the mix, surrounded by a cold, dark cloud of treacherous debris.

Alone, like all those pilots you abandoned. Virek pushed his fingers into his eyes and breathed a tired sigh. He hated having to make a decision like that, hated having to leave handpicked men and women as irreplaceable as those in the hot seat while he ran for safety. Sure, it made sense numbers-wise, just another calculated risk, another sacrifice. The needs of the many always outweighed the needs of the few in war, and so six squadrons of Seindrive pilots had been left in Tarsis 12's outlying space, abandoned, while a hundred and fifty three crewmen ran from the battle, hoping to pull together enough reinforcements to drive the Coralate back again before the blueskins had a chance to wipe out the nearly defenseless colony planetside and all of his remaining pilots with it.

Another sigh. Damn procedure. It felt like he was being forced to hide behind Hilleboe, leaving everything, every crucial announcement to the captain. That’s why they all think he’s a prick. Yeah, he’s a hardass, but every harsh decision has just been something I handed down to him. Virek looked up, vision blurry, and took in a slow breath. Poor bastard. I know exactly how that feels. The traces of a smile played across his face. Wasn’t as hard for me, though. I actually have some sense of finesse. Hilleboe was as rigid and unyielding as the surface of a diamond star. And his wrath is handed out just as heavily.

Stars and speeding streamers of cosmic dust and stellar debris roared by the Admiral’s office window, and he thought of his daughter back on Earth. Sarah Virek-Baxter had followed in her mother’s footsteps, working her way through college instead of chasing after the mammoth enlistment bonuses the military was offering to secure the best and the brightest for duty in Earth’s second interstellar war. Now she taught for the ivy league Zakharov Orbital Botanical University that hung in orbit along with a massive array of a hundred or more other artificial satellites, everything from the centuries old equipment that pirates bounced the odd signal off of here and there to the prestigious orbital outreaches for universities like Cambridge and UCLA. It was a mess out there, a veritable web of slowly-spinning metal and glass hooked into the finest Air/Space Traffic control system ever devised by mankind. It made worlds in backwater systems like Tarsis seem uninhabited.

Tarsis. He nearly swore under his breath. Damn his mind and its nasty tendency to return to anything stressful no matter how much he tried to forget it. He’d had five ensigns on the horn since Hilleboe had ordered the retreat, each sending periodic QE signal bursts across all the upper frequencies. Conventional frequencies were useless at FTL speeds, and didn’t have the range or speed of Quantum Entanglement, so he kept them offline. Minimizing the galactic noise pollution put off by ships was standard procedure– the Navy wasn’t too fond of the idea of Terran transmissions echoing across stars and planets for millennia, clogging up the conventional frequencies with static and ancient distress signals.

The closest ship they’d been able to raise had been the Alekzandr VIII, an older Carrington class cruiser already involved in an operation around the Maas-Vanmitter 11-82 system, about three parsecs away. Another ship, a Ceres class Dreadnaught affectionately referred to as The Daisy Chain for its long tail of trailing weapons platforms, was ready and willing to assist, except they were headed the wrong way through the Kruger 60 system and only bent space at a maximum speed of about 152 the speed of light, putting them more than a month out from Tarsis 12. But the Von was still receiving QE IFF signatures, new blips appearing on the screens about once every couple hours, usually little more than fast-moving patrol ships passing no closer than five parsecs, and nothing big enough or fast enough to take on a Coralate battlecruiser alongside the limping Von der Tann IV. Not yet, at least.

If all else failed, there was always Thuban Reticulae Station 88, an extensive orbital port-of-call in the Tiefke-Ixion system, another five parsecs earthward, but that meant at least another week of hard burn before the Von could turn around and head back to Tarsis. Time for nano-mechanical clouds and N-space matter converters to repair the damage to the hull was extra, but with a little luck, QE transmissions would put sufficient reinforcements on standby before the Von even arrived, and they could jaunt back out together as soon as the ship was patched up. If not, there were always mercs, but they took time to scout and hire. Freelancers were always eager to help, and clustered thick around major ports like TRS-88– it was a well known fact that the TCGND couldn’t meet every incursion on the rim without assistance, and was willing to fork over astronomical amounts of cash for that assistance when it came to pulling their people out of the fire, so the number of mercs fiercely trying to outbid one another was always mindboggling. Three hours at the station, maybe four, and the Von would be on it’s way back to Tarsis, its own little fleet of ragtag spacers armed to the teeth trailing in its wake.

Virek threaded his fingers together and studied the window again. Two weeks. It was going to be close. Too close.

He breathed a sigh. There has to be someone else out here.
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #15 (Regrets)

BAM! No resolution to the “OMG is Tessa dead?” dilemma just yet! Instead, you get to spend a little quality time with Admiral Virek. Don’t worry, Tess and Izzy will be back next week.

Progress report: Progress is picking up again. I had this great weekend of like four days to do nothing but write, and I ended up working on pretty much everything but The Cygnus War, but I managed to get the 19th installment done, along with some work on #20. I’m almost past all the hurdles that have been getting in my way lately, so I’ll be able to concentrate fully on this series again.

Anyway, this is the fifteenth installment (I missed that the last couple times!) of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode, “Skeletons” is done and scheduled to be released first thing next Wednesday (October 25th, Pacific time.)
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M4dLeprechaun's avatar
Man, I'm late on this one. Remember when I was so proud of myself for not being sick this year? Yeah, well that failed. Barf. I've been eating ice, yoghurt and generic cold medicine all week, hahaha.

This is a different installment! I never expected this as much as I like it; it both overjoys and infurates me! Haha, not really, I guess I just wanna know if Tessa is dead or not. o_o