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TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 18

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By Durkee341   |   
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Published: November 8, 2006
The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #18 (Faith) By Earl S. Wynn

It had been forty-six hours.

Forty-six hours out from Tarsis 12, forty-six hours that Admiral Virek had spent stewing in his office with only the groggy spinnings and tired regrets of a mind kept conscious by nano-stims and four pots of reconstituted coffee to keep him company while he silently scanned reports and communiques on silicon pads. It had been forty-six hours since the Von had leapt out of the hot seat and left every pilot and Seindrive behind to take the heat in its place-- a cruel decision to have to make, a decision that wasn’t even the least bit fair, but one that had also been exactly what had been needed to save his crew and his starship from being reduced to a heap of slag left to float aimlessly between the stars.

Another necessary evil to add to the list.

He regretted every hour that passed because of the decision, his decision, every hour that his people were trapped in the Tarsis system, outnumbered and unsupported with the Coralate thick in their midst. Every hour that passed steamed with his regret, every minute, every second, leaving his psyche scalded and numb, locked. It was a sacrifice, a sacrifice indifferently labeled as cutting losses, keeping casualties to a minimum. As an Admiral, you should be used to the idea by now. He wasn’t.

He tossed one of the reports back toward the stack, watching it slide across his desk, not caring as it slipped over the edge and clattered against the floor. A medley of Opera and Classical hung in the air, lilting and directionless, soft and endless, everywhere, some scattered bits familiar, others not. Wagner, Bach, Nicolas Lens...

He breathed a tired sigh. It seemed like no matter how many years passed, no matter how many medals were pinned to his uniform or scars were pinned to his flesh and psyche, he would never be jaded enough, never find himself truly able to accept the notion of acceptable losses, expendable lives.

But now, this time, at least, there was some shred of hope.

Granted, it wasn’t much hope, just a pinprick admitting a tiny ray of feeble light, but it was real hope, tangible hope– at about two hours past 80 Ursae Majoris, Virek’s ensigns had made contact with another Wallace class warship, one of the Von’s sisterships on the rim, the Wu Ang Hok.

Virek and the Hok’s C/O, Admiral Faith Minear, had shared ground classes, been off-and-on friends through their years Earthside, and had served together during their first assignment on the Cloudwalk back before the rim had extended out as far as the Tarsis system, so it hadn’t taken much effort to convince her to leave her uneventful patrol routes around Laurentis’ Star and burn hard for Tarsis 12 instead. TCGND command would probably have an ear full for both of them when it was all over, but at least Virek’s pilots had a shot at survival now. Sure, it wasn’t much of a shot, but a slim chance was always better than no chance at all.

Virek closed his eyes, and the darkness of sleep beckoned immediately, swirling drunkenly under his lids. Estimates put the Hok in the Tarsis system within another forty-eight hours. I just hope there is still someone left for her to rescue...

Now there’s a dismal thought. He sighed, rubbing his palms against his eyes. Hilleboe still didn’t have an estimate on the Coralate’s standing forces in or around the Tarsis system, but if what the Von had come up against there had only been the tip of the iceberg...

He’d seem swarms of Cygnan ships come down on frontier systems like Tarsis before, usually one lead ship with hundreds of cruisers just an hour or so behind it, each folding space at once like a swarm of eager locusts, the successive gravitic bending of physical space building into massive waves of stellar turbulence that bent the courses of whole planets and moons. They filled the void with their numbers, a cloud of shimmering liquid silver that obliterated the black sheet of the universe, a wall of mercury that blotted out the endless stars, with each tiny drop of quicksilver a bristling battlecruiser ready for bear.

Once, he’d seen a cloud of Coralate ships like that pop back into normal space right on top of several dozen Terran warships waiting for them. Once. Weapons had been hot, holding maximum charge, targeting arrays lined up and eager. The instant the Cygnans popped into their sights, the order to fire had blasted across the channel with all the force and ferocity of a startled roar, every frightened cadet, recruit and weapons officer squeezing triggers and slamming firing controls desperately, knowing that death was close, that they wouldn’t get another chance to hurt the Coralate like this for a long time.

Every Cygnan cruiser and fighter had been ripped to pieces in that fateful moment, all splitting open like so many festering silver boils, fragmenting into the night and disappearing into the hungry mouths of a series of implosion vortices that blossomed across the heavens long before the Coralate rigs could manage to bring their own ship-to-ship weaponry online. It had been easy, too easy, like dumping a thousand helpless infants into the churning maws of a massive galactic meatgrinder.

But that had only happened once. In the entire history of the war with the Coralate, the TCGND had only managed to pull off a single ambush that daring and that effective. In a way, Virek felt proud for having been a part of it, for having seen it, but it was also a dark pride, a macabre pride that left him wondering what part of his mind, what part of the human mind, was capable of taking any kind of pride in wholesale slaughter, even of a heartless and merciless enemy like the Coralate. It didn’t help that every other time the Cygnans had swarmed into a system en masse he had been forced to run immediately, to pull out without so much as a shot fired or a Seindrive launched.

And perhaps, in it’s own way, that’s even worse... His mind dropped its original thought and went shooting off after a tangent. At least with a TCGND ship like the Von, we can choose to jump if things get too hot. Most civilians, on the other hand, were chained to their planets and homes, and when the Coralate horde streamed into a system, their only remaining hope, the Naval division of the very government that had sworn to protect them, the men and women whose salaries the taxes levied on their hard-earned incomes paid, could simply desert them without a second thought. In the end, it all came down to the greater good. Don’t throw good soldiers after a lost cause, Virek. Live to fight the Coralate another day, Virek. Pick your terms, Virek. Better terms, Virek. Damn it all!

Another weight on my mind. All those lives... How many rim colonies had he left to the Coralates like that? Four. Four systems whose names he would never forget, could never forget. Seventh Yorkshire, Van Buuren, Delano, Abel-Gray. They haunted him like so many ghosts, plagued his sleep, chased him through the dark corridors of his mind in his darkest moments. How many people died? There was no official count... he’d probably never know for sure. Millions was a safe estimate. God, Millions.

And they were all dead, without doubt. The Cygnans were reported to be brutal, almost harsher on civilians than they were on soldiers. Every colony abandoned on the eve of a massive invasion like that was doomed, almost every man, woman and child left to spend their last few hours praying that they might be killed in the initial stages of the massacre, when ship-to-ship weapons stabbed down from orbit and ruthlessly scoured the major cities and settlements from the planetary surface, vaporizing everything, every trace of civilization, every trace of life, and leaving only scorched earth in their wake. Those who lasted longer, those who managed to stay alive long enough to see the hive-like Coralate troop transports land, were hunted for sport, caught and slaughtered in sadistic ways before being reprocessed into... well, that only the Cygnans knew. The Cygnans and God above, he mused, had he chosen not to avert his eyes to their savagery.

Or at least, that was the word from the few leaked reports and recovered planetary vidcasts that had escaped invaded planets and punched through high-end Cygnan information nets. No one really knew for certain, no one had lived to tell the tale, no one had escaped, and despite limited communication between the Terran Commonwealth and the Cygnan Coralate, one thing had been made perfectly clear by the blueskins, a chilling fact that seemed to confirm all the rumors.

We take not humans captive, need no slaves. We grant death exquisite to the deserving. All others gathered, euthanized accordingly.

It was simple, direct, and painted a grim picture for civilians with claims staked out across the rim. The rim was the front line in the war against the Coralate, and it was impossible to tell which system the Cygnans would set their sights on next– Tarsis was just the latest in a series of too many Commonwealth stars. Or seems to be.

Images of frontier colony towns coalesced in his mind. They were all so similar, all second-hand tech and local resources cobbled together in a fashion like a cross between a well-established old western town and a starship graveyard. The children would be playing in the dusty streets, nanoweave denim, cotton and flannel the unspoken dresscode. Women in dresses shouting from plank sidewalks on streetcorners, women in pants sweating with tools and heavy loads, men filling every other nook and cranny, working side-by-side with women, taking up subdued fatherly roles. They were always so idyllically western, with none of the defined gender roles, none of the racism, none of the hatred. Colonists were peaceful people just trying to get by, to carve their own little niche out of the foreign soil of another world and forget about the complexities of intergalactic politics.

But it meant nothing when the Cygnans came. Beams of blue light would erase it all in two or three quick sweeps, vaporizing everything, all the colonists’ hopes and dreams, all that they had bled for, all that they had fought for, all that they loved, all of it gone in an instant. All those colonists would be obliterated, ruthlessly wiped out, and probably every last pilot that had called the Von home among them.

Damn the Coralate! It had become like a mantra for Virek since the beginning of the war. Damn the Coralate! Yes, and damn the torpedoes while you were at it. It doesn’t make any difference in the end. The mind wanders when fatigued. The clock on Virek’s desk clicked over. Forty-seven hours since Tarsis 12, and close to sixty-five since he’d slept. Six hours of sleep wouldn’t cost him the war, or anyone else for that matter... Hilleboe could handle himself. He is Captain after all... If I’d had a codgy old admiral lording over my every move when I’d been in command of the Glovalsky, I’d probably have pushed him out an airlock. He smiled. Ah, the Glovalsky. Those were my own good old days.

“But you’re not that young anymore Henryk.” He mused aloud, taking off his hat and scratching his head absently. And you won’t be worth a damn like this if something does happen. “Come on, old man. It’s time to get some sleep.”

He stood and disabled the music, then made his way for the door, pausing to glance back at the silent comm terminal on his desk.

Good luck, Faith, and Godspeed. Bring my pilots back alive.
© 2006 - 2020 Durkee341
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #18 (Faith)

Author Blurb: Virek is back! Ahhhhh! *laugh* A little background information on the Cygnan Coralate and the regrets of a tired old Admiral. Also– we learn his first name and his first assignment!

Progress report: Work is coming along with #22, with some basic stuff laid out for 23+

Anyway, this is the eighteenth installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode, “Strength of Bond” is done and scheduled to be released first thing next Wednesday (November 15th, Pacific time.)
Comments10
anonymous's avatar
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langsam's avatar
langsamHobbyist General Artist
And also is the mad apostrophe obsessor back. You got one too many.
M4dLeprechaun's avatar
First name and assignment aside, it's still sad. That's the military for you though, yes?

"Reprocessed". Now that's efficiency.
Durkee341's avatar
Durkee341Professional Writer
Hehe. Yep, well, on a starship, everything gets turned back into subatomic goop before it gets reprocessed into something like, say, a urinal cake or a twinkie or a bottle of whiskey or a porterhouse steak. Probably all tastes funny (or the same) *laugh*

The military-- ah, yes. I don't envy the people who have to live as soldiers, even if they do get to pilot sweet rigs. *laugh* I'd rather write about people getting shot at than actually get shot at.

First name and assignment, eh? Then you caught the inside joke on this one? *laugh*
M4dLeprechaun's avatar
Wow, that's pretty good. It's like one of those things you really want to know and wonder about, yet really aren't supposed to know/don't want to know about. Kind of like where McDonald's chicken nuggets come from. Oh wait! Maybe that's it, maybe they're reprocessi.. ... ew.. nevermind.

Heh, it's a tragic occupation no matter what your coming from!

Hey, I was just referencing the notes. Roffle.

Oh, and I forgot the mention beforehand the story ID/thumbnail/I don't know the official name; it's snazzy!
Durkee341's avatar
Durkee341Professional Writer
Chickens don't have nuggets *shifty eyes* It's a conspiracy!

The preview image? Thanks! Yeah, I've decided to start experimenting with photographs instead of just wierdo cheapo cut-out computer collage art stuff. *laugh*
M4dLeprechaun's avatar
Arrg! Chicken's don't have nuggets! I should've known.. the general public is so gullible. We must warn the world.

Yes, the preview image! Man, I should've known that too.
TheDemonPhoenix's avatar
TheDemonPhoenix Photographer
You write exquisitely. Do you write with an idea of how you want your stories to end, or do you go along with it and see how it plays out, or maybe a general idea you work towards?

For me it varies, but I'd like to know how it works for you.
Durkee341's avatar
Durkee341Professional Writer
It varies for me too. Usually I'll have a brief idea that will span a couple of installments which will then become a basic framework where I work to fill in the details until everything gets pulled together into the finished product (well, after several revisions, at least.)

Thanks for the comment, by the way. Personally, I think this is probably one of my least favorite episodes, but oh well.
TheDemonPhoenix's avatar
TheDemonPhoenix Photographer
Ah but its still cool. I'm trying to write some science fiction stuff now, because generally I stay into the whole 'evles and swords' thing of fantasy and I want to expand so I'm good at writing everything.

I mostly like writing about angels and demons, though. They fascinate me! But, yeah. Good stuff, none-the-less.
Durkee341's avatar
Durkee341Professional Writer
Thanks, thanks.

Y'know, Science Fiction can go alot of ways. You could always try working something out of both Sci-Fi and Fantasy. It's worth a try. Who knows, you might come up with something really sweet.
anonymous's avatar
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