TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 2

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #2 (Aces & Veterans part 2), By Earl S. Wynn

“No way...” Tessa managed. The pilot had to be crazy, going after a top of the line Coralate fighter in a rustbucket like that. “Jesus.”

But there it was, nevertheless– an old K-8 Slashdriver from before the war, one of the typical TCGND support rigs that had been decommissioned half a century ago for crop duster work in the rim colonies. More recently though, someone had refitted the old bucket with what looked like a pair of salvaged CTR-11 Arcwaves, slow-charging coherent plasma arc cannons originally made for cracking rocks in deep space, and a handful of dusty 20th century air-to-air missiles that couldn’t be much use against Coralate technology even if, by some miracle, the warheads they carried were still viable. Old style Helium-3 thrusters threw off long, shimmering blue flares as the crimson beast pushed through the sky at an improbable 1822 km/h, airframe trembling violently, wings trailing hot streamers of vapor, the whole ramshackle mess dwindling to a rusty red dot burning hot behind the little lance of sleek Cygnan silver. Something red sheared off and went tumbling through purple nothingness. The radio crackled again. “Wooo-ee! Hear me baby, hold together!”

Absolutely insane. Damn colonists. Tessa’s fist tightened anxiously over the dual wing of the throttle control.

Already, the Cygnan was diving again, spinning, pulling a series of wicked hairpin turns and leading the Slashdriver into a handful of other harsh maneuvers that the old bucket wasn’t at all equipped to handle. More red pulled loose and went glittering into the heavens.

“Come back here you blue-skin shitbag! I flew this old bird against the Centauri Syndicate back in ‘45 and there’s no way you’re getting away from me! I got some sticks here got your name right on ‘em, see, and they’re gonna bite you right in the ass just like an old bloodhound!” He dove after the Cygnan, Arcwaves lighting up and thundering, each sending its own streamer of crackling blue light etching though the sky in the wake of the Coralate fighter. An indecipherable blast of static followed, and then, as Tessa watched, every warhead slung from the racks beneath the Slashdriver’s wings suddenly dropped free.

There were seven air-to-air missiles in all–– five flared to life immediately, shooting off after the Cygnan like white hornets while the other two tumbled end over end toward the colony below, age-weakened shells already fragmenting. A third blew itself to bits prematurely, and a fourth caught fire immediately afterward, falling behind the other three. Dropping them into the air with a lead on the Cygnan gave them just enough leeway to negate the edge the Coralate rig had in the speed and power of its drive, but the advantage was fading quickly. Throwing itself sideways and into a spin to avoid the rockets, the Coralate let the three warheads pass within a scant few meters of the craft’s silvery skin and lit them up an instant later with fire from his twin plas-flechette railcannons as they passed through minimum range. The Slashdriver pilot cursed in the static as the Cygnan twisted lazily into straight and level flight, taunting him.

Then the unthinkable happened. The burning missile that had lagged behind the other three arced in and smashed itself against the hull of the Cygnan fighter, obliterating its fragile flaming shell in the impact. Tessa waited for the detonation with wide eyes, watching the warhead for the instant that it stuck out of the Coralate rig like a giant crushed cigarette, smoking and sputtering against silver skin.

A reflexive, jerking flick of the wings sent the warhead spinning off into the heavens, but the sudden jarring motion set the thing off close to a meter or two from the rig’s nine and it detonated, catching the Coralate’s wing and throwing him into a fast spin in the opposite direction, left side trailing black smoke. The radio crackled with a sudden burst of crazy laughter.

“Ya-fucking-hoo, bitch!” The Slashdriver’s pilot shouted, his voice loud and thick with static and, if the slur was any indication, cheap whiskey. “Took one right up your alien turdpipe, didn’t ya? You like that you little blue backbiter!? You know you do! Captain Mac’s got the special touch.”

Tessa stifled a laugh at how full of himself Mac was for a backwater yokel in a prewar relic that was disintegrating into the air around him. He was good, she’d give him that much–– even with the hardware he was using, he’d managed to land a hit on the Cygnan and leave a mark, but the Coralate still had the upper hand, and in the end it wouldn’t matter how good Captain Mac was, the Coralate fighter was still faster, tougher, and more maneuverable than his old Slashdriver. Even in a contest of sheer firepower, the Cygnan’s railcannons outperformed Mac’s Arcwaves, having a much wider spread, a longer range, and more sheer power behind them than the CTR-11s could ever manage to muster. It was like locking two men in a five-by-five, one with a twenty-two long rifle and the other with an eight-gauge tactical scattergun. Mac might get a good shot off before his rig was turned into aluminum hamburger, but face-to-face, the victor was clear.

And now the Cygnan was pissed. It was clear in the way he flew, fast and direct, jamming the engines to max and heading straight for the ambling Slashdriver, railcannons spraying, filling the air with brilliant clouds of burning plasma. Tessa bit back another curse. If she kept hanging back to watch the two go at it, the colonist would end up dead. her fingers hesitated on the throttle control for an instant. 115 meters to the Cygnan, 108 to the Slashdriver, 189 between them. She slammed the throttle.

Captain Mac’s maneuvers were slick as oil, falling fluidly away at just the right moment and bucking just far enough to the left and the right to dodge everything the Coralate fighter threw at him. In the next instant, Tessa was there in the middle of it all, drawing a bead on the Cygnan and already priming the L-web emitters for a third time. He seemed to catch sight of her in the middle of a turn and jerked suddenly, letting another volley loose in the direction of the Slashdriver and yanking his rig into another quick spin, but it was too little too late. Tessa grinned, even as the Slashdriver caught fire and fell away beside her.


Jamming the thumb trigger into the stick mercilessly and crisscrossing rays of brilliant blue light across the Coralate fighter’s silvery hull, she cut a pair of wide, burning swathes through the alien metal. Within the space of a second, it was too late– the emitters made quick work of the Coralate rig, carving it up as it spun like a roast on a spit.

She kept the emitters on him for three seconds, heat warning indicators coming alive and hot colors dancing across the HUD–– four seconds at a stretch was the most the emitters were designed to handle, and five had the nasty tendency to cause permanent damage to the cooling jackets. Anything more than that, and her rig’s emitters would end up like the Coralate fighter–– useless burning slag.

She watched the twisting, blackened wreckage as it fell for a moment, then winked out of existence entirely, caught in the implosion wave of its fried and destabilizing Singularity drive. Another smile stretched across her face, then vanished just as quickly. The Slashdriver!

Nudging the Seindrive over onto its left side and looking out over the edge of the cockpit, she caught sight of the old rig rising slowly up beside her, oily black smoke whipping into thick, knotted streamers that poured from between scorched scarlet panels on one of the thing’s overhead nacelles. Tiny tongues of flame flickered in the burnt scarlet gap, snuffed out by the wind the instant they tried to reach beyond the safety of the engine housing.

“Don’t worry about me, mister hotshot.” The pilot’s voice crackled through the static of the channel. “Just having a little engine trouble.” His voice was calm, tired. She could see him through the glass of the Slashdriver’s bubble-shaped cockpit, old-style brown aviator leathers, goggles, and chrome-edged hand-mike making him look more like something out of an old war documentary than a veteran of the Centauri police actions of 2245. “These old Helium-3 engines are hard to rebuild in a barn.” He added, shaking his head. “I’m gonna have to put her down soon. Just wanted to say thanks ‘for I landed the bird.”

Tessa grinned and thumbed the mike as he pulled up beside her, both rigs flying level, wingtip to wingtip. “No problem Mac, just doing my job.” He started at the sound of her voice and looked over immediately; she flipped up the shaded, form-fitting visor of her flight helmet with one gloved hand and gave him a wink and a casual thumbs up in response. “Next time, leave the Cygnans to the Navy, alright? You’re taking your life in your hands just getting behind the stick in that old rustbucket.”

“Holy shit!” His voice shot across the radio; goggles came up, revealing bushy silver brows and pale blue eyes. “No way! You mean they actually let women fly rigs like that in the Navy?”

Tessa laughed, her smile widening as she flipped him off playfully. “Take care of yourself, Mac.” Damn redneck colonists.

He watched in stunned silence as she nudged the Seindrive over into an elegant split-s and dove gracefully out of sight. Sliding down and flipping once, she gave the colony one quick pass before she cranked up the throttle and cut a blazing swath over the sea, rising just enough to punch through the atmosphere as the surface of the planet fell away beneath her.

Glancing at the instrument panel, Tessa smiled and ran one gloved finger along the worn edge of a holograph wedged into a notch beside the speed indicator. The chestnut-haired woman in the picture, her good luck charm, winked back at her from beneath a large pair of aviator frame glasses.

Tessa’s smile spread, turned into a satisfied grin. Somewhere in the stars above, Izzy and the Von der Tann IV were waiting for her.
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #2 (Aces and Veterans pt. 2)

[EDIT] 9-18-09 Revising for print + made Mac's language a little less "colorful." :)

(Watch out! Captain Mac has some very colorful metaphors in his repetoire and he isn’t afraid to use them! Luckily, we don’t see him again for a while. *laugh*) You've been warned!

This is the second installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode, “The Von” is done and scheduled to be released first thing next Wednesday (August 9th)
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langsam's avatar
Holograph, like harass, is just one word.

And your spell-checker has got the best of you. It's means it is, and its means posessive, and it don't never have the sense to figure out which it's.