TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 3

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #3 (The Von) By Earl S. Wynn

“Minerva squadron one calling Von der Tann IV control.” Tessa flicked up her helmet’s shaded, form-fitting visor and breathed a tired sigh. “Currently about fifty klicks out, request permission to enter the pattern for vector pad thirty-six right.”

The visor was snug, and worked great when Cygnans used local stars as cover during atmospheric dogfighting, but it wasn’t much use in the dark vacuum of space. It didn’t help any that passing through the outer limits of a planet’s atmosphere had the tendency to raise the temperature in the cockpit just enough to make her sweat, which in turn caused the gel around the edges of the visor to get slick and sticky, clinging uncomfortably to her skin.

“Roger that Minerva squadron one,” came the response, and her eyes flicked reflexively to the bulbous beige bulk of the Von der Tann IV floating beneath her, holding its own pattern in high orbit. “We have you on our screens– there’s no traffic today, so why don’t you just head straight in. You’re cleared to land whenever you’re ready, pad thirty-six right. Welcome home Lieutenant Commander.”

“Thanks Aki,” That was easy. Tessa grinned, already yanking the helmet’s chin straps loose. Thank goodness for solo missions on lazy days. “Looks like you managed to hold the Von together while I was gone.”

“It was hard,” the other woman joked back. “Pretty vicious chunks of rock and ice floating around up here.”

Laughing, Tessa pulled the helmet off and shook out her long, midnight hair, gloved hands pushing smooth, loose fronds away from her ears as the helmet floated slowly up toward the peak of the cockpit canopy, a victim to zero gravity.

“Sorry Lieutenant Commander,” Aki’s voice cut back over the comm, “but we better cut the chatter. The C/O’s monitoring control today. Catch a beer later?”

“Yeah.” She paused, binding her hair into a ponytail before thumbing the mike again. “Any taxiway advisories?”

“It’s all clear. Just bring her in and the autodrone will park her where she goes.”

Tessa caught the helmet and forced it down onto her lap. “Roger that.”

Only 32 klicks from the Von Der Tann IV now. Tessa’s striking, cobalt-blue eyes flicked across the instruments. The Icarus conventional had gone offline, sealed itself, and allowed the Icarus sublight to take over. In the end, it was all basically the same system, all powered by the same deca-bypass quantum hotcoil pods that gave the Seindrive its incredible thrust, but the sublight equipment boosted the efficiency of the pods by almost a hundred fold, forcing the fighter’s drive to dilate the fabric of space/time directly, instead of indirectly through the intermediary of the Schrödinger vectoring panels, and gave it the necessary boost it needed to reach escape velocity when exiting the atmosphere. In truth, the Seindrive 4 Blasterchild was capable of achieving light speed with the sublight equipment, but it was strictly forbidden– the only pilot who had ever tried to break the light barrier in a Blasterchild had ended up spread across five light years of space in fragments no bigger than a thumbtack. The rig’s airframe just wasn’t tough enough, it wasn’t designed to stand up to the flight stresses of traveling that fast.

The Seindrive was on a slow burn now, cruising toward the Von at a casual 274 km/h, the chronometric anti-dilation inverter holding steady at a healthy 3200 Y-Rehns, tachyon dispersal pattern reading nominal. Running the inverter was standard procedure during space operations, even when the rig was traveling at a speed negligibly effected by the harsh, time-bending laws of relativity. A cautionary measure, they said, in case she had to punch the throttle at some point. The Navy wasn’t willing to sit around twiddling their thumbs for months while a pilot shot out at half the speed of light and came back, even if only a few minutes had passed inside the cockpit. Oh well, at least it kept her wrist watch aligned with the ship’s chronometer, give or take a few seconds.

S-vectoring panels read clean– no extradimensional gunk clinging to the rig. Attitude indicator, guidance systems, all temperature, pressure, and power gauges checked out, showing green. The Von der Tann IV was getting closer, 12 km now. The lights of the vector pad winked flourescent green into the endless night.

Five more klicks and she cut the throttle, switching the S-vectoring panels into an automatic landing cycle and letting inertia do the rest. Another quick glance at the panel; everything still in the green. A silent proximity alert flashed in the corner of the heads-up-display, numbers counting down from 500 meters.

Retros came alive, tiny little precision burns triggered by the Seindrive’s resident AI. Tessa’s hand flexed eagerly against the grip of the stick. 100 meters clicked past with a jolt and a whirr, S-vectoring panels shifting, splaying out beneath the Seindrive like a thousand tiny, squared-off teeth, each as beige as the hull of the Von. 75 meters. 50. Tessa bit her lip apprehensively. The clear white lines and flashing green lights of the vector pad rose up beneath her. Retrorockets fired a final time. The proximity alert clicked down slowly from five meters, speed indicator reading a solid < 1 km/h.

Two meters and the Seindrive shifted into parking mode, panels twisting and lifting back into the underside of the airframe as the hover systems took over and corrected for slip and drift. The lights on the vector pad switched from green to yellow. Tessa’s grip on the stick relaxed.

The rest was entirely automatic; as Tessa ran through the after-landing checklists blinking at her from the heads-up-display, switching off the Icarus pods and the systems tied into them, the anti-dilation inverter, the independent power sources for the L-web emitters, the exterior lights, the radio equipment, transponder systems, guidance controls, and a dozen other things, the vector pad latched a tiny, vaguely insectoid towing drone onto the nose of her fighter and let it carry her into the gaping rectangular mouth of the Von’s right-side hangar.

Gravity kicked in a second later, gently at first, the weight of her flight helmet growing steadily against her lap and the seat softening beneath her, pulling her further into it. The onboard AI hummed quietly, uploading a complete record of the flight to the drone, which in turn scanned it for damage, tampering, and viruses, then relayed it to the Von’s central core along with all the required certificates of authenticity and a clean bill of health.

Passing smoothly through the soft aquamarine glow of the Mitarashi field, oxygen, temperature and pressure levels equalized outside the cockpit and the gravity rose to point nine Gs, then stuck, unable to clear that last hurdle to reach equivalent earth gravity. The central section of the Von was the only place on the warship that had normal, earth-like gravity, with the fore section dropping to .84 at it’s lowest point and the aft reaching as high as 1.37 in the furthest depths of the ship’s massive Fu-Hetschwietz degen-drive. She’d always seen it as a typical example of military engineering; command got the lowest, most comfortable gravity setting, while the greasemonkey skags in the engines had to deal with all the extra weight generated by the superdense matter in the drive. If the Fu-Hetschwietz’s gravity field had worked in the opposite way, lighter load in the aft and heavier in the fore, the whole thing would probably have ended up oriented utterly backwards from the way it was now.

The hangar off of thirty-six right was home to three of the Von’s six squadrons; Artemis, Hera, and Tessa’s own five-man wing, Minerva, sat in long rows on either side of the central taxiway, separated by their dissimilar paint jobs. While the planes of Minerva Squadron were painted uniformly beige, Artemis squadron’s fighters were done up in a soft, creamy blue and the Hera rigs in a fiery shade of orange. Only fitting– Artemis squadron was a wing of rigs equipped with recon gear, and the Hera fighters were as bulky and massive as pitbulls, each fitted for direct assault action. Minerva Squadron’s planes, however, were as neutral as their color, a well rounded wing of non-specialized rigs flown by some of the best pilots in the fleet, all handpicked by Admiral Virek himself, all men and women whose sense of tactics, skill, and resourcefulness were incredible, tangible things. Every pilot of Minerva squadron was innately creative, all artists, writers or poets, all well educated masters of strategic thought, some published, some holding degrees, others just exceedingly intelligent. Add to that the fact that every one of them had scored extremely high on the Rhine, Radin, and Himmler extrasensory perception tests, and you had a squadron of pilots who were born aces, because in the cockpit, a pilot’s reflexes, adaptability, and ability to make intelligent snap decisions mattered as much as, if not more than, the equipment they had at their disposal.

The drone disengaged with a hollow snap, leaving a blinking “all clear” in the corner of the heads-up-display as it departed, flicking it’s antennae and floating gracefully back to the vector pad. Tessa glanced once absently at the four beige rigs parked next to hers, then triggered the latches that kept the glass shell of the Seindrive’s cockpit locked and sealed. It popped open almost immediately, the resident AI having already taken care of anything that might be an issue, equalizing pressure and temperature during the drone-assisted taxi and leaving the collection and removal of errant space dust and microdebris to the Mitarashi field.

It was a quick hop over the edge to the floor close to two meters below; agile feet flexed in brilliantly white, high-traction tennis shoes as she touched down, helmet tucked under her left arm, hair flaring wildly for a half second in the lesser gravity before it settled back into it’s uniform ponytail shape, smooth length like a cord of black silk stretching obediently to the small of her back. The Seindrive’s AI closed the cockpit canopy behind her and radioed the tech team; Tessa’s personal eagle had landed.
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #3 (The Von)

So I decided... Since I’m already working on Episode 7, and Episode 3 is fun, but not as fun as the episodes that follow, (and the image for it isn’t as cool either) I’d post it early! Plus, I just can’t wait. I’m so jazzed about this series that I'm actually considering posting two episodes a week! But, for now, episode 4 will be coming in place of episode 3, on this coming Wednesday!

This is the third installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode, “Minerva Squadron” is done and scheduled to be released first thing next Wednesday(August 9th, Pacific time.)
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M4dLeprechaun's avatar
Whoo! Another great episode. I really gotta get back into the sci-fi lingo, ah gad. I'm n00b. I admire your taste for detail though, it never faaaaails.