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TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 22

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By Durkee341   |   
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Published: December 6, 2006
The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #22 (Shadow of the Coralate Part 1) By Earl S. Wynn

Admiral Faith Minear sighed and looked up.

It had been a long jaunt, and she could tell the crew was beginning to feel it. Heck, she was beginning to feel it, beginning to feel every twitch and vibration more and more clearly in her bones, as if she were slowly becoming a part of the ship. It made the crew edgy and irritable, but she’d promised them a week of shore leave once they’d picked up Virek’s pilots and made their rendevous with the Von, and that kept them on their toes. Sure, Earthside command would be spitting nails at the end of it all, but regulations gave Faith the leniency she needed to give her crew what they needed, what they deserved– a chance to gear down and relax for a change, without having to worry about getting shot at or running across a Coralate fleet on a routine jump.

She blinked, and her eyes slipped across the balding head of her Captain to the men and women working consoles near the massive vidscreen that dominated the entire forward wall of the Hok’s operations control center. With the Wu Ang Hok’s Fu-Hetschwietz degen-drive running at maximum output, the lightyears had whipped by, stars warping and bending into impossible shapes, strange angles that stretched on into other realities, other dimensions of thought, as if the fabric of space itself were being pulled toward some distant point and just happened to bounce off every particle and wave between the ship and that point at every possible angle at once.

Or at least, that’s the way it would have looked to anyone unlucky enough to be outside on the surface of the hull. FTL cruisers were sturdy, streamlined ships, massive, smooth, and totally devoid of any kind of window or viewport– instead, they relied on hundreds of artificial windows, millimeter-thick sheets of silicon plasmate designed to give the illusion of glass or some sort of energy field and provide a realtime feed of what was really going on just outside, or at least until the drive kicked into gear and the cruiser punched through the light barrier. At that point, the realtime feed would immediately transition to a preprogrammed section of an extensive, ship-wide mock feed, a stream of modified and coordinated images that gave a contiguous loop of the standard stars-scrolling-by reel, moving in a manner consistent with the rest of the faux-windows pasted to the walls throughout the ship. It wasn’t accurate, considering, but countless Science Fiction vidshows over the past few centuries had instilled a vision of FTL space flight that people expected, and the false footage kept the crew of FTL ships from going insane.

Thinking about the system’s intricacies and idiosyncracies brought back memories of a prank the then-Junior-Grade-Lieutenant Virek had pulled off on the Cloudwalk during his first assignment there, their first assignment together, both of them straight out of Earthside academy and still wet behind the ears as far as officers went. Using his expertise with the ship’s systems to hack and reprogram the streaming window feeds into randomly clicking over to a series of non-standard programs at sporadic intervals for random lengths of time, Virek had left the system to its own devices, augmenting it with a media library of close to a hundred different spliced feeds he and five other crewmen had cobbled together using a cannibalized terminal that had conveniently disappeared off the quartermaster’s equipment manifest a month before, thanks to a close friend who worked miracles in the cargo bays when it came to secret requisitions and making things vanish without a record or a trace.

Even Faith had been tied into the prank, trying her hand at the editing and processing, cleaning up old images and working to contribute seventeen different sequences of her own during her shifts alone with the console. Most of the material that the other crewmen involved with Virek’s project had her editing was the same, plugging the system full of neohop sensedata condensed down to grainy high-def digital audio-video feeds with some of the oddest, shakiest camera angles and the faint but ever-present rhythm of the human heart pulsing bass-like in the background of every soundtrack, but Faith’s contributions had been much more contemporary– She claimed credit for splicing together a couple sequences of swirling psychedelic colors with lines of old Jimi Hendrix music and copy-pasting Neuroline recordings of Arizona Alhambra during ancient concerts at her peak in 2162. A series of action scenes from black-and-white westerns were her work as well, packed with shots of ancient leather-clad cowboys chasing hooting Indians away from burning wagon circles and shooting each other down in dusty high-noon draws with lilting whistling and gently-strumming strings accenting each dusty, tumbleweed-sepia frame. Virek’s own special touch had come in the form of a handful of old Russian music videos, everything from the golden era when bands like t.A.T.u. had forced their way into the Western limelight to material from the later Ruskie Comeback of the 2170's that had followed eager colonists out on some of the first manned expeditions to the distant stars. A few collages of classic films from the twenty-first century had come out of Virek’s rest intervals as well, copy-pasted bits of jumbled material from Dracula, Frankenstein, and Poltergeist set to obscure music from the same forgotten era.

The changes to the feed program were an instant hit with the crew– two days after the installation, requests had come in, silicon dataplugs left taped to the door of central processing, asking for everything from the simple and modern to the ancient and bizarre. Some of the requests were easily indulged, others laughed at and passed over, but the stockpile grew steadily, with one young officer starting a betting ring with wagers on which sequence was going to pop across the screens next.

But like all good things, it wasn’t meant to last– when the Cloudwalk’s Captain, Hans Christoph van Schattendammerung III woke up half-way through the night to scenes from The Exorcism of Emily Rose dubbed over with the equally ancient composition Beyond the Bounds, he’d gone on an immediate witch hunt, yanking officers he suspected out of their bunks and screaming at them redfaced until Virek had finally tracked him down and claimed responsibility outright. Just eight short days and the whole thing had come crashing down, with Virek taking a permanent mark on his record for it, reprimanded and forced to spend the rest of his rest interval switching the screens back over to the same old bland scrolling of software stars that rolled monotonously by as the ship hurtled through the heavens.

Faith sighed at the memory. It felt like so long ago.

Like Virek, she was an Admiral now, no longer an officer bowing and scraping to the ops brass and calling them “Blackpants” behind their backs. Now she was a member of that group, a Blackpants, and in her mid-fifties but aging well. Her long, glossy black hair still held its shine, fell in long straight lines past olive eyes and creamy cinnamon skin until it tapered off near the small of her back among the seams and black silk of her on-deck uniform. Unconsciously, she brushed one of her soft, black bangs away from her eyes and absently studied the gold trim, pips, accents and filigree edges of her cuffs. Blackpants. God, I really was that young once.

She’d been thinking a lot about Henryk Virek lately, ever since that message, ever since the message that had brought the Hok to this colony at the ass-end of space, her cargo bays refitted and converted en route into makeshift hangars ready for the rigs of Virek’s little lost pilots. Now all they had to do was slip into the Tarsis system and find his pilots, locate their rigs and bring them home to the Von.

...or whatever’s left of their rigs, whatever’s left of them.

“Harrison–” She shook her head, forcing the thought away. “I want a readout on Cygnan activity the second we pop into the Tarsis system. Anderton– keep the drive hot. I want to be able to get the hell out of there as soon as possible if we end up flying into a hornet’s nest, got it?”

A pair of stiff “Yes Ma’am”s came back in response. Captain Lazar gave her a wary glance, and she swallowed reflexively. I know, I know. The last thing anyone wanted was to end up on top of a Coralate fleet in the middle of a Cygnan invasion. The air was thick with nervousness.

The sound of the Hok’s degen-drive powering down to a hot standby whispered along silent vibrations slipping through the deck, softly jarring lines of unstable gravity bouncing between each subatomic particle and back again. She could feel it, feel each point zero-zero-one G-shift as it slipped through her body, moving in waves between every inch of flesh, every cell, every molecule, every particle in the very fabric of her being, but they said it was never enough to do any real damage. Long term exposure was supposed to cause all kinds of problems, everything from osteoporosis to Resnick’s Advanced Gravitic Cellular Anti-Cohesion Syndrome (RAGCACS) but most Naval Officers were subjected to years of exposure and got away at the end of their service with little more than the occasional oddly-placed rash or sporadic spike of short term heart burn to show for it. Faith herself had been on FTL cruises off and on for close to thirty years and hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary, but that didn’t mean it didn’t happen. The Wu Ang Hok’s chief medic was always busy treating obscure reactions to FTL travel.

Klaxons sounded, suddenly, obliterating her thoughts. Yellow lights flashed, once, twice, three times. A final shiver passed through the deck, and then the monitors switched over to live feed and Tarsis punched through, all five outer planets roaring by to put the Hok within sight of Tarsis 12, that little blue gem just less than a unit from the system’s unassuming little yellow sun. Faith glanced at the tracking scope, eyes darting across the display, waiting.

The results came up fast, too fast. She blinked, looked again. No way.

No hits. No Cygnan activity. The system was clear.
© 2006 - 2020 Durkee341
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #22 (Shadow of the Coralate, Part 1)

Author Blurb: *Writing this while still conscious* probably a good change– Alright, so here is episode 22, part one of the cliffhanger finale for this round of episodes! A nice change of pace and the introduction of a whole new group of people only briefly mentioned up to this point. Plus, it helps build up things for the end of the arc.

Also– anyone who knows what the song “beyond the bounds” is from is a god and needs to be acknowledged in his or her godliness, so post and be... er... god-ed?

Progress report: This week it’s Finals’ turn to evicerate my time. Still working through the same chapter for revisions on PC, and... haven’t touched 24 since last week. I can’t wait for the break!

Anyway, this is the twenty-second installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode, “Shadow of the Coralate, Part 2” is done and scheduled to be released first thing next Wednesday (December 13th, Pacific time.)
Comments8
anonymous's avatar
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M4dLeprechaun's avatar
Schattendammerung.

Had I already mentioned the sheer niftyness of that name? If I had that name, I would be a teacher or a Senator or.. someone.. important just to listen to people try to pronounce it.

I loved the thing about the faux windows and such, that was interesting, yet heratbreaking at the same time-- All those childhood concepts shredded to bits!

The system is clear? No! Liesss..!

Ahhh.. I need sleep. Or a weekend.
Durkee341's avatar
Durkee341Professional Writer
Schattendammerung is a sweet name, isn't it? I was basically trying to create the longest, most involved name I could for the captain, something to make him more intimidating, and that's the last name I came up with. It's got alot of great sounds in it, and even though it's just two German words jammed together (Shadow + Twilight) it's parts hearken back to orchestral stuff like wagner and whatnot. makes it darker and more... I dunno, distinguished?

I feel ya on needing a weekend. I've got a nice one coming up--- if I can just make it that far... Classes are out the 15th here.
M4dLeprechaun's avatar
And you truly suceeded! Yeah, whenever you're out of names, foriegn languages are the answer, no kidding. Nothing says distinguished like linguistic acrobatics.

Nothing also says "something that sounds bad but isn't" like linguistic acrobatics. I'm so going to employ that in class.

":: Network crashes.:: Schattendammerung!"
"No cursing!"

Yeah.

Good for you! And likewise, despite ACT's bright and early Saturday...but school's out on the 18th for us. Groovey.
Durkee341's avatar
Durkee341Professional Writer
Linguistic acrobatics for the win!

...I might have to give Schattendammerung a try too. Sounds like it could be alot of fun.
shahath's avatar
Part twenty-two? Jesus, friend. I read this and I dug it, mostly, but I don't think anything can catch my attention for twenty-one more sessions. Best of luck to you, though.
Durkee341's avatar
Durkee341Professional Writer
That's okay, what matters is you stopped in and gave it a read. This episode is the tail end of the arc so I was starting to flag when it comes to my creativity and I don't think it stands up all that well to parts like 16 & 17, or heck, 1-4.

But thanks for stopping in and giving it a read!
shahath's avatar
Mhm. Maybe I can start on a few and work my way up, but getting through all twenty-one in one sitting might not be wise. lol But this one was intriguing, that's certain. :)
Durkee341's avatar
Durkee341Professional Writer
*laugh* glad to hear it!

Yeah 21 in one sitting would be a bit hard on the rear-- gotta pace yourself. *laugh*
anonymous's avatar
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