TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 29

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #29 (The Weapons of Man) By Earl S. Wynn

“Madre mia...” Cordova growled. Tessa’s voice crackled across the radio again, indistinct, punctuated with a tired, resigned sigh. Why can’t she hear me, dammit!?

An instant later he was buried in the mass of leads and optical circuits beneath the rig’s display suite again, hands working quickly through the guts of the resident AI and the half-fried control assembly. He’d been trying to contact Minerva squadron since Phoebe’s first transmission had come shaky and barely readable across the L-web emitters of his rig, and no matter how he tried to rewire or reroute the connectors, he couldn’t find the disconnect that kept his rig from being able to transmit. Working quickly, he jammed a handful of leads together, trying to reroute the signal through a dozen systems that weren’t designed to handle transmission information. The resident AI beeped in injured protest, struggling to sort out the rig’s systems and keep the whole mess from crashing or shorting out and stranding the young pilot in the depths of the debris field.

Cordova swapped the last lead, then jumped back into the seat, clicked the mike. “Lieutenant Commander Eisenherz, can you read me?” He paused, listened. Nothing. Izzy was talking on the channel now, saying something, reading off numbers, and then Tessa put out the call for Minerva squadron pilots to switch back over to 121.2, the Standard Naval Open Channel. Cordova flicked the knob, followed her instructions obediently, tried again. “Lieutenant Commander Eisenherz, this is Lieutenant Cordova, can you hear me?” The amount of chatter and static filling the frequency was staggering– even this far from the Hok, the sounds of pilots throwing themselves into the fray came thick and shadowy, like a heavy fog of orders, yells, and screams. He strained through the noise, listening for Tessa’s voice, listening for any hint that she or the other pilots had heard him.

“Keep it tight, Moore.” Tessa said, tone absent, preoccupied. “I don’t want to lose any more pilots today.”

Cordova threw up his hands in frustration, collapsed back into the grip of his rig’s gravity couch. Tessa’s voice drifted through the channel, coordinating plans, issuing orders. Nothing. They still couldn’t hear him. Cordova’s face twisted as he fought with a grimace, then finally leapt up and punched the HUD hard enough that the screen flickered and the resident AI bleeped back indignantly, the dark and fist-shaped rainbow bruise left by his knuckles slowly resolving itself back to data and displays.

“¡Oye, pinche cabron!” He smacked the panel again, harder this time. “¡Trabajo ya!” The resident AI chattered back at him in an angry series of beeps and pips, then seemed to hang, chittering in the pause, and promptly shut itself down.

“Wha– ?” Cordova sat up in his seat as the rig slipped back into silent mode, lights going off again and systems shutting down. Fingers flew across the controls, tried to coax the resident AI out of its electronic hibernation. “¡No, no no no no NO NO! ¡Por dios! ¡Bastardo delicatísimo!” A little red light winked back at him, but there was nothing, no response. The Seindrive just slipped quietly into silent mode and left him there, resident AI watching him from the depths of the console.

“Look, I’m sorry, okay?” He tried, gestured emphatically. “I– Come on, man. Please don’t do this, not now...” Nothing. Dead silence. Not even the static and comm chatter of the radio. Purple and blue lights flickered timidly back at him, painting the cockpit with bruised shades of color. Cordova sighed, made a weak, resigned gesture.

“Please.” He begged, hoping the AI could be reasoned with. A rig that has to be reasoned with... who thought that was a good idea? “I’m really really truly sorry I hit you, okay amigo? I just need you to do your job as my rig so that we can both get our asses back to a hangar, yeah?” Nothing. He hesitated, then reached out to touch the console, to give the thing a reassuring pat, but the AI squealed and blasted him with brilliant light in response, console flaring up with a hundred fierce shades of red that startled him and sent him backpedaling into the seat.

“Fine! Fuck you, then!” He shouted at the console, then, finding an instant of rage, he reached out and hit the console again, pushing himself up and away from the flaring lights of the AI as it growled in a low, ominous tone, filling the cockpit with a threatening shade of crimson that pulsed angrily back at him. “You treat Stewart this way, man? No wonder he’s dead.”

Crimson shifted back across the spectrum toward a softer, sadder shade of blue as the AI went silent, little lights flashing sadly, like tears falling, each strobe the color of cold pain.

“Look, I’m the pilot, okay?” Cordova tried. “Not you. You’re just a machine.”

Red flickered across the console in a hard line, but quickly gave way to that same sad shade of blue again. Cordova glanced around the cockpit, looking for some way to shake the resident AI’s sudden slip into electric depression. Nothing. A holograph of a stocky blond and two smiling children waved silently at him from a crack near the HUD, suddenly reminding him of his own family, his own wife, the cascades of her long, midnight hair spilling across her shoulders in gorgeous Sicilian ringlets, and his little three year-old daughter, so much like her mother, so much...

And then suddenly, he was desperate.

Mira, if I reach under here like this,” He grabbed up a handful of leads, fist tightening around the AI’s exposed entrails. “I’ve got you by the balls, eh amigo?” Lights blinked excitedly back at him, red and orange, frantic, almost scared as they painted their colors across the spreading edges of Cordova’s triumphant smile. “So are you going to do what I say now and fucking work, or am I going to have to yank all these leads out and castrate your electronic ass?”

Lights flickered uncertainly for a moment, then darkened ominously, filling the cabin with a shade of blue that was colder than any glare he’d been given by any human. He tightened his grip reflexively, but an instant later the quiet rattling sigh of the O2 recyclers spinning down shivered through the cockpit, raising tiny hairs of fear across the back of his neck as they clicked slower and slower, rapidly approaching their tinny stop. In another instant, the protective fields enveloping the rig sputtered and died, soft light quickly giving way to a crust of ice that stretched lightning-fast across the canopy, growing steadily more and more opaque with each passing moment. Cordova’s eyes widened– the temperature in the cabin was already dropping, descending rapidly toward unbearable. He took one look at the console, the little yellow light that blinked peevishly back at him, and let go of the leads.

The O2 recyclers came on again instantly, energy fields flaring to life all across the rig and sloughing off the ice clinging to the canopy like dead skin, a carapace of frozen condensation cracked and cast off into the stars. Cordova breathed a sigh of relief, leaned carefully back in his seat.

“Okay, fair enough.” He said quietly. “Listen, I just want to get home, same as you, yeah?” He waited, and the AI blinked back at him, noncommital. “What do you say we put aside our differences for now and just focus on getting to that big warship out there, okay?” Another blink, equally uncooperative. “Please? Come on, man. We need each other, don’t we? Let’s work together, yeah? Come on.” Nothing.

“Listen, if your nice to me, I won’t tell the technicians about this, okay?” He gave the AI his best smile, made a reasonable gesture. “You know they’ll scrub you for this, right?” Another scarlet blink, slower this time. He waited, air tense, still tinged with an edge of cold. Cordova opened his mouth to say something more, but before the words could form, lights and screens flickered back to life, controls coming back online with a burst of static and radio noise. “Yeah? That’s more like it.” He glance down at the panel “The radio work now?”

A yellow light blinked warningly. Cordova held up his hands, shook his head. “Okay, okay. We can get by without the radio.” He paused, gloved hand settling across the dual wing of the Seindrive’s throttle. “All we really need is thrusters anyhow.”

Fingers flexed, eyes rose to fix on the bulbous beige shape of the Hok, silently trading spears of blue light with a Coralate warship. He licked his lips, inched the throttle forward, and the twin Icarus drives answered in turn, lighting up to send the rig burning out of the debris cloud and into the star-choked night. He smiled, waited just long enough to clear the remains of the shattered planet, then jammed the throttle.

The engines roared, then sputtered and died instantly.

“Ayyyyyyyyyyy.” He groaned, other hand flexing across the stick in irritation. “¡Vengaaaa! ¿Es toda roto?”

The AI blinked back at him apologetically, almost seeming to shrug sheepishly through a dozen colors of soft light. Cordova shook his head in irritation, mumbled. “Pinche antigualla.” Red flashed back at him in response, and he sighed, burying his head in his hands.

“Me lleva la chingada.” He managed.
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #29 (The Weapons of Man)

Author Blurb: Cordova is alive, but the one thing that seems like it’s most likely to cost him his life isn’t the Coralate– it’s his own rig. Woo.

I almost didn’t get this one out. I actually gave it precedence over homework because if I hadn’t, it would have been the thing that would have gotten pushed off until tomorrow, and that would have blown. In other news, I built a greenhouse out of PVC pipe and rebar today. All it needs is some plastic sheeting!

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

Anyway, this is the twenty-ninth installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode will appear on Wednesday, November 26, 2008 (PST)

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© 2008 - 2022 Durkee341
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M4dLeprechaun's avatar
Dear lord. Computers that you have to bargain with, that sucks. Also scary. And makes for interesting conversation.

Hey, a greenhouse. Good for you! I planted peppermint and spearmint today. lol.