TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 24

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #24 (Apocalypse Now) By Earl S. Wynn

She felt it. Long before fire tinted the sky a violent shade of crimson and the frantic screams of tortured souls blasted relentlessly across the open frequency, Tessa felt the rising heat, the gasping, shuddering shockwaves thrown off in the final desperate throes of a dying planet, and in orbit, the throes of a dying moon, with hundreds of thousands of miles of destructive aurora light pulsing in between– her Seindrive bucked and tossed on wicked thermals, went spinning off into scarlet nothingness, kicked around by sudden gusts of frantic air blasting crazily through burning sky. Through it all, she maintained her calm, pivoting lightly, rolling with each jarring blast and coming out level every time, still alive, still rising toward the stars. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. She knew that if she made it out alive, if she made it out of the atmosphere and past the blast radius of whatever it was that was ripping the planet apart before her Seindrive melted around her, it would be a miracle, an experience she would never forget.

And it was already an experience she could never forget. It was burned into her brain as surely as the pillars of fire that reached up from Tarsis 12's blue-purple depths had burnt away the clouds in each vicious swathe of crackling flame, each shimmering column hundreds of miles wide. They whipped excitedly through the sky, stirred by blasts of hot air and carving wicked lines through atmosphere that glowed a hazy crimson in their wake. Somewhere ahead, a Seindrive vanished in a silent puff of orange smoke. Tessa blinked, wondering briefly what squadron it had been a part of, wondering if it had been one of her pilots.

The AI in her rig was going crazy, flashing every light in the cockpit at her in frantic attempts to get her attention, but she was too busy staring– it was so beautiful, the way the sky burned away, the way everything vanished in shimmering waves of cruel heat, everything stained the color of tired embers and spilled blood. Static blasted across the frequency, obliterating everything but the screams, garbling all the frantic orders, all the shouts that clamored to restore order, a cataclysmic cacophony of chaos and death as harsh and complex as any symphony, a symphony of the damned.

The Cygnan fighters the colonists had detected dropping through the atmosphere were fierce and determined. They darted in among the flames, a few careless rigs burnt to cinders as the rest cut in close, hulls glistening and scorched, liquid-chrome reflective, like the carapaces of infernally luminous quicksilver beetles, but the fighting was half-hearted– a few hastily aimed shots were exchanged here and there, rigs clustering, spreading apart, taunting and dodging, swooping and rising, always rising. The heavens loomed ahead, the endless expanses spread out in starry void somewhere above, beyond an eternity of red sky wreathed in flame. It all seemed so far, so far.

The second blast caught Tessa off guard. As Tarsis blew itself apart and spread its fiery viscera across the airless vacuum of space, she drifted, half conscious among the debris. At some point she had lost consciousness, blacked out and let the Seindrive take its own course into the black. Everything hurt, everything was fuzzy. Parts of a frozen forest, half charred by some forgotten flame, drifted by, trailing icy leaves in its wake.

Tessa sat up in her seat, fingers stretching, considering, hovering over the controls. The AI had gone dead, all the lights off and silent. A quick glance outside showed ice, lots of ice, and bits of rock. Pieces of twisted, burnt, unrecognizable metal floated by, and beyond it, beyond the mess and the debris, the massive silver hull of a Cygnan warship hung in the endless night like an omen, stark and ominous.

She froze, swallowed quickly, glanced back at the display. A quick wink of red light showed her the AI was still operational– it had gone deep into the hardware, running the Seindrive in silent mode to avoid detection. To the Coralate, she was nothing more than another piece of garbage thrown off by the exploding planet, a dead rig floating aimlessly among the ruins of a dead world. Nothing important.

She glanced around, leaning forward, looking back across the tail. Garbage as far as the eye could see, an endless field of slagged and cracked rock where clouds of frozen vapor cast off from boiling oceans and the grand spires of uprooted mountains stood out as giants among tiny fragments like bits of shattered shell from some massive, stony egg. The extent of the destruction was staggering, mindblowing, like something out of a holofilm– it took a moment for her to take it all in, a moment for the extent of the devastation to hit her, truly hit her, and when reality finally slapped her across the face with all the fury of a gale force wind, she reeled with the blow, suddenly grasping desperately forward through a sea of shock and unbridled emotion that she couldn’t name but couldn’t ignore.

The first thoughts to break through and manifest coherent were of Izzy. Suddenly, she wanted to yank the AI out of hiding and jump across the frequencies like a woman possessed until she found Izzy, trying to rally whatever was left of her squadron and the Von’s other planes to her side in some desperate, heroic attempt to hit the Coralate back for what they’d done to Tarsis 12, but she knew instantly that it would be suicide. The Cygnans would have her location triangulated within seconds, and wouldn’t hesitate to turn her lonely rig into slag, along with anyone else who might start up and respond to the call. Options, Tess. Options. She bit her lip. There had to be a way to get out of this that didn’t involve running in silent mode until the Coralate cleared the system or she starved to death... or both she reflected, knowing that even at full throttle, it would take her years to reach the closest Terran frontier planet. She glanced around the cockpit quickly. It was a long time to go without food, and the two days worth of emergency rations stuffed under the seat tasted like powdered dogcrap anyway. Options...

Her eyes darted across the console. The AI winked its lonely red light at her again. There was no protocol for this kind of situation, no training exercise to prepare her for getting caught behind enemy lines except dropping into silent mode and waiting for reinforcements to arrive. One glance at the shimmering wall of liquid silver poised and threading its way through the debris field around her was enough to tell anybody that reinforcements might be a long time coming, long enough that waiting for the cavalry was much less than “not-an-option.” She had to act, had to come up with something, some way to get in contact with her people and get as many of them to safety as possible. Her eyes strayed to the massive stretch of cruiser hull sliding by outside her canopy, considering. What would Izzy do? What would Phoebe do?

Cold void and the blank expression on her translucent face reflected across the canopy glass stared back, incapable or unable to offer advice or options. She sighed, let her eyes focus back on the hull of the cruiser, and crossed her arms.

It looked like it was going to be a long wait. Running silent, she’d have plenty of time to think, to consider her options, to delve deep and struggle to unearth new ones. There’s always a way out of every labyrinth, she reminded herself. Every situation has a solution, it’s just a matter of finding it.

The holograph of Izzy winked at her from the instrument panel, tip wedged into a notch beside the speed indicator. My good luck charm. She pulled in a deep, careful breath. I just hope you’re still alive.

Tessa swallowed, stared off into the sprawling distances, gloved fingers playing idly across the caps for her last few Rapier A5 rockets. You better be alive, Izzy.
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #24 (Apocalypse Now)

Author Blurb:Dun Dun Dun... So now we know at least one person survived! The cliffhanger continues! How’d you like that description of a purple planet going up in flames? Anyway, we’re back online as of TODAY! Expect weekly episodes until the floor falls out from under my schedule! (whenever that is) Other than that, still singin’ the singles blues (whatever man) and just started classes here today. There’s more in my journal if you’re interested.

Progress report: I started work on the series again the week before classes started up again, so I’ve got 24, 25, and 26 written, but nothing after that. Playing it by ear, and spending a lot of time working on other projects, like my novel/series Pink Carbide. If you haven’t already, you should check it out here :iconpinkcarbide: The novel should be available for purchase online as of... omg... FEBRUARY! (but don’t quote me on that)

Anyway, this is the twenty-fourth installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode, Aftermath, is in process and scheduled to be released first thing next Wednesday. (January 24th, 2007 Pacific time.)

1384 words, 2 ½ pages.
© 2007 - 2022 Durkee341
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M4dLeprechaun's avatar
Giyah, giyah. I've been lazy with projects myself because.. you know, school is.. evil. Mostly.

Dang! Crazy purple planets blowing up! You can't go wrong! One of those "Wow that's pretty. Too bad thousands of people are being slaughtered because of it" things.