TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 28

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #28 (RETURN) By Earl S. Wynn

All across the debris field, Seindrives lit up as resident AI’s came online. Tessa didn’t waste any time– she thumbed the mike reflexively, broke radio silence instantly.

“Minerva Squadron, switch to Fingers and report in!”

“Shitshitshitshitshitshitshit!” Izzy panicked, already fumbling with the leads, trying to get the radio routed back through the transmitter array. Hands moved quickly, swapped connections, hesitated, fumbled again. “Motherf– Arg!”

“LC! You’re okay!” Phoebe’s voice rang out across the radio, cheery, full of life. “Izzy made it too, she’s just being slow.”

“Thanks kid.” Izzy’s voice flickered into the channel, wreathed in static. “We can’t all be hotshot geniuses like you.”

“Hey–” Phoebe started, her words falling short as Tessa spoke again, voice tense, quiet.

“It’s good to hear your voice, Iz.” She managed. There was so much more she wanted to say, needed to say, but Izzy understood. It was the silence that spoke loudest, the unsaid words that echoed in the stellar noise eating at the open frequency. Izzy sucked in a deep breath, indignantly wiped an errant tear from her cheek. Her voice broke through the channel again, shaky, thick with static.

“Yeah,” She managed, swallowing silently in the pause. “Good to hear your voice too. I was worried about you,” she hesitated, lips refusing to move. “Phoebe figured out a pretty tricky way to gimmick the comm leads and route a transmission through the cooling jackets on the L-web emitters, but when we didn’t hear from you, I...” She stopped, couldn’t finish. Her thumb dropped from the mike, hand tightening into a desperate fist. Tessa stayed silent– she knew.

“I guess the range of these Argon-Ion emitters is really short,” Phoebe spoke suddenly, pushing away the silence, the thickness of relief and worry and pain that hung tenuous between the two lovers, binding hearts together despite the walls and fields of their Siendrives, despite the long hungry blackness of space that hung between them. “Not anywhere near what the old BS12 Brackenworth HRL’s gave.” She continued, suddenly thoughtful, still oblivious. “Must be something about the difference between the overall cohesion of the resonance of the frequency as it passes through the–”

“Later, Pheebs.” Izzy said gently. In the pause, Tessa pulled in a deep breath, held it. All three pilots seemed to wait, and time seemed to stretch out and wait with them. In her heart, Tessa was hoping to hear the voices of her other two wingmen, the high, thin, reedy voice of Cordova, or the lazy, tired sound of Davidson, but there was nothing. Nothing. Except for the three women, Fingers was dead, totally silent.

“Cordova?” She tried suddenly, voice breaking into the night almost desperately. It hurt to lose wingmen, and the last thing she wanted to face was another death in her squadron, another young life snuffed out in the war against the Coralate, another funeral to keep a brave face through, another heart-broken mother to write to.

“Dammit, Jose.” Izzy’s voice cracked across the channel. She knew, she’d been there with Tessa before, seen wingmen slagged and burnt to cinders over foreign worlds, heard the deathly silence that filled the channel when lost pilots failed to check in. She’d written her fair share of letters too, stealing responsibilities from Tessa, fighting against the LC’s stubborn sense of duty and forcing her to share the burden of pain, the closure that came with sending off letters and corpses. Usually there wasn’t enough left of a pilot for a proper send-off, just ceremonial ashes meant to represent the deceased, packed away in a vacuum-sealed urn stamped with the seal of the TCGND. It wasn’t much, but it seemed to help give everyone, including the bereaved families waiting planetside, an odd, sad sense of closure. But it didn’t matter. The last thing Izzy wanted was to deal with another ceremonial urn, another crying family to try and forget about. “Come on regs-boy!” Izzy tried again. “Answer already!”

“Izzy.” Tessa managed, and the other woman fell silent again. Lips parted, struggled. She didn’t want to call the other name, didn’t want to face the possibility of losing two wingmen so close together– it wasn’t right, wasn’t at all fair. Cordova and Davidson had been so green, hadn’t even flown through a mission with Minerva squadron yet, hadn’t come back to the hangars of the Von or met with the three women in the officer’s mess for a drink to celebrate their first flight out. They were brand new, rookies, untested, and that made it hurt even more.

“Davidson?” This time it was Phoebe. She seemed to sense the pain, the sharp stab of loss. She’d been there when Minerva squadron had lost the last two pilots that Cordova and Davidson had been brought in to replace. Her voice cracked in the static of the channel when she spoke again, and in that moment, both Tessa and Izzy felt that the young woman was far stronger than either of them could ever be, and neither could look away from the stars that sprawled along all around them, almost seeming to wait as tensely as they were, hoping, needing. Phoebe spoke again, and her voice was like a call that went out to the ends of the universe, a shout swallowed up by the cruel icy distances of deep space. “Davidson! Are you out there?”


The pause dragged on, darkened. Somewhere overhead, a scarred and tortured-looking rig in the burning scarlets of Zeus Squadron limped along through the debris field, one operational engine sputtering, maneuvering thrusters correcting, correcting. No answer on Fingers, just the quiet static of a dead frequency.

“Lieutenant Commander Eisenherz?”

Tessa started suddenly– it wasn’t a voice she was expecting, but it was vaguely familiar, like the voice of someone met once or twice and then never seen again. But not Davidson, not Cordova. She hesitated, thumbed the mike, holding the channel for only the barest instant before she forced herself to speak. “Y-yes?”

“Lieutenant Stanley Moore, Athena Squadron.” The young voice spoke quickly, nervously, frightened. “I... I can’t raise Lieutenant Stone or Lieutenant Stewart. I think I might be the only pilot left in my squadron, and...”

He trailed off. The silence was ominous, oppressive. Tessa swallowed, pulled in a quick, shallow breath, anticipating, waiting– a tiny stab of pain flared in her heart at the names he’d mentioned. Stewart and Stone. Two more pilots lost, gone, like vapor in the depths between stars.

She closed her eyes– she’d been talking to Stone only a few hours ago, could still see the woman’s short and wiry copper hair in her mind, her eyes the color of burnished brass, lips moving. She could still hear the words the woman had said as they’d pounded across tarmac among a throng of anxious pilots, all eyes but Izzy’s intent on silent rigs.

One of my pilots is unconscious, Stone had said. Right-rear, rig says ‘Stewart’ on the side.


He’d been abandoned there, just like that, left to sleep through his drunken stupor while the world rose up in flames and blew itself apart around him. There was no way she could have known, no way any of them could have known, but Tessa’s own response to Stone’s offer still rang on through her mind, keening with all the cruel singing tones of a falling guillotine blade– a death sentence she had delivered unknowingly, but a death sentence nonetheless.

“Give it to Cordova.”


And now they were both gone. Stewart and Cordova, and Stone now too. Gone. She bit her lip hard, dug in against the pain.

“And...” Moore’s voice brought her back. He seemed to be choking, wrestling with his own emotions, fighting against tears that forced themselves loose in unheard cascades. He tried again. “And I...”

“I can’t seem to raise my left rear wingman.” Tessa finally managed, breaking into his struggle and offering him a way out, a chance, a shot. It was almost impossible to speak– so many people, so many good people, and the Coralate had taken them all away. “I could use a rig in that position. We lost... a lot of good people in this system.”

“Y... Yeah.” Moore’s response came quiet, almost resigned, but still brimming with pain. “Thanks, LC.”

“No need for thanks, lieutenant.” She forced a smile, pushed strength into her voice. “We’re soldiers, this is what we do for a living, and there’s a lot of hostile space out there to get lost in.”

“We’ve got to stick together if we want to survive.” Phoebe put in. “Help each other, watch each other’s backs.”

“Yeah, so hey, Davidson,” Izzy broke in suddenly, “if you’re still alive out there, wake up and get your ass to the Hok, but make it fast. That Admiral doesn’t sound like she plans on waiting around forever.”

“You too, Cordova.” Tessa managed, voice soft, worried, knowing that if either man was going to answer, they would have already. But the hope wouldn’t go away, and no matter how much in vain it seemed, it stuck with her. She couldn’t help it. “Get to the Hok, and be safe.”

“Well, Tess” Izzy began, trying to sound more cheery and less sarcastic than she felt. “Ready to get this show on the road?”

“Yeah.” Came the tired response. “Yeah, let’s go.”
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #28 (RETURN)

Author Blurb: This one is fun. Reunions and new questions! Did Cordova or Davidson make it off the planet? You’ll just have to wait and see!

Man I am ready for the semester to be over!

Progress report: Episodes are complete all the way through #31, currently working on #32.

Anyway, this is the twenty-eighth installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode will appear on Wednesday, November 19, 2008 (PST)

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