TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 30

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #30 (In The Thick Of It) By Earl S. Wynn

“Izzy! Blueskins! Ten O’clock!”

“Tell me about it.” Izandra all but growled back. “There’s so many of these blueberry bastards on my ass I can hardly see the stars.”

Tessa scissored the throttle and quickly hatswitched the thrusters to compensate, sliding her rig off and out of the way of a cloud of plas-flechettes so gently she hardly felt it. White-orange clouds of burning barbs went screaming past, almost too close for comfort, with the sleek silver shape of a Coralate rig coming up fast behind.

Fifteen seconds ago they’d ripped into the curtain of Cygnan fighters slowly enveloping the Hok like a shivering membrane of quicksilver, scattering rigs with every plunge and weave, Argon-Ion emitters flaring, carving chrome hull with crosshatched webs of brilliant blue light. Phoebe spun her rig through the swarm like a dancer, Moore hot on her tail, his rig trailing hers in loose support, and beyond it all the Hok stood out among the starry night like a massive khaki monolith, lances of hot light pouring from the warship’s mammoth hardpoints.

The sheet of Coralate rigs had stopped their advance just outside the splash zone for ship-to-ship weapons and flattened their spread into narrow sheet, weaving their ranks tighter just as the Von’s scattered fighters ripped into the fray. Space thickened with deadly silver as the line of Cygnans clustered in as tight as they could manage, forcing the dogfighting into that kilometer and a half of space around the warship where the static from the beams was heaviest but the danger from splash and backwash was still negligible.

As long as you didn’t wander into it.

Tessa glanced up quick, already firing thrusters, eyes catching sight of a cluster of five assault-configuration Seindrives painted in a dark shade of olive. They were fast, seemed to disappear among the stars like phantoms, little more than faded shades that burnt Cygnan rigs to cinders and left only the slagged wreckage to implode with a flash of compacting chrome as they passed.

The squadrons from the Hok were quick and slick, she’d give them that much. They were hotshot veterans who didn’t see combat as often as the Von’s pilots did, but what they lacked in field time they made up for in the simulators practicing, polishing up their performance as individual squadrons, instead of as individual pilots. With increased time in the field and on the front line, the Von der Tann’s squadrons ended up spending more time replacing pilots and training new ones, but as untouched by the war as they were, the Hok’s pilots had become more and more unified, each squadron a single artful organism of rigs that worked with near-perfect fluidity. Not that it did much to save them in the end– Tessa had already seen a few rigs in the dark colors of squadrons she could only guess the names of catch sprays of plas-flechettes and crumple up into slag, left to drift like dead hulks among the rocks and burnt debris of an equally dead planet.


Tessa closed her eyes, hating the Coralate silently as she slipped and rolled, dodged and twisted, rig flaring with the lights and launches of rockets and burning laser lances. Too many good people had lost their lives at the hands of the Cygnan Coralate, and still more were dying in the empty vacuum of space around her, fighting for a cause, fighting for a hundred causes, all tied into humanity’s desperate struggle to survive. Every day the war took the shape of a dozen skirmishes, a dozen strategic moves and countermoves where pilots and starship officers fought to beat back the advance of the blueskins as they tore across the stars like a horde of hell’s locusts, scouring planet after planet and killing millions, millions of human colonists. Since the first day they had appeared in orbit of the furthest rim colonies, they had bitten mercilessly into the soft flesh of the Terran Commonwealth’s carefree, unsuspecting collection of colonized worlds, worlds that had never expected to be attacked, raped, and wiped of life, worlds like Tarsis 12, where men and women would die simply because they could not protect themselves. No one had expected the appearance of a huge and highly hostile space-faring species, no one had expected the war– Millions of colonists had made their homes among the stars with fledgling towns that would never have sprung up if humanity had seen the coming tide of the war, had even the slightest inkling of the threat that was to leap suddenly from the bosom of the stars and begin to systematically exterminate them. Commonwealth territory was vast and lightly defended, and the rigs and pilots of the TCGND, pilots like her, like Stone, like Stewart, like Cordova, were the last and only line of defense between the colonists and the Coralate horde.  A thin, tattered line.

Switching periodically back to Triple-A, Tessa had heard the call-ins that went to the Hok from the other LCs and those whose fragmented squadrons had given authority to a replacement C/O. Zeus and Hera were decimated, one squadron down to a single, barely functional rig, and the other slashed to two fighters that had seen better days. She’d seen Hera’s LC, Harry Nguyen and the squadron’s veteran left-rear wingman, Lieutenant Murphy, dancing a quick duet in the midst of the dogfighting, cleaving through Cygnan rigs and sliding effortlessly across one another like blades of greased obsidian. Their grace together was enviable, and rare in squadrons– even Izzy and Tess didn’t fly that well together when they were alone.

“Besides,” Izzy was saying, snaring Tessa’s attention again, “you’re the one with the malfunctioning gravity couch, remember? Shouldn’t you be watching your own ass instead of mine?”

“You kidding?” Tessa laughed, banking hard to avoid the speeding silver wedge of a Coralate fighter as it went rocketing past, chrome underside inches from her canopy “With all the attention my ass gets from you, I figured I’d return the favor.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Came the casual response. Another beam of light from the Hok flared outward, vaporized half of a Coralate rig unfortunate enough to get too close. “Tell you what, you can do whatever you want to my ass when we get back to the Von.

Tessa cracked the edge of a grin. “Anything?”

“Yeah, anything.” Izzy paused, channel crackling in her wake. “On one condition.”

“Name it.”

“You keep your eyes on your own ass until then.” Izzy said forcefully, jamming the words out too hard, as hard as the caps came off the line of rockets she sent blasting toward a trio of Coralate rigs harassing a cluster of the Hok’s Seindrives. “Because if something happens to your ass, the only thing this ass is going to be good for is slagging blueskins, and I might end up trying to take on one of those big silver warships all by myself.”

“I’d still lay odds in your favor.” Tessa shot back, tone almost serious “Pull a stunt like that, and the brass might have you leading Minerva Squadron.”

“I think I’d rather keep my job as a lowly wingman.” Izzy managed, her fiery tone flickering, smothered by a cold front of sadness and worry. “The LC has to fight, lead, and do all the paperwork.”

“Thanks, Izzy.” Tessa tried a laugh. “Remind me to start sharing some of the responsibilities with you when we get back.”

“Remind you to give me more work to do?” Izzy chided “That sounds about as smart as shooting myself in the foot.”

“All fighters, all fighters!” The call rang out across the frequency, the voice of the Hok’s Admiral burning out all the loose chatter. “Osiris squadron is returning with survivors from the destruction of Tarsis and they’re going to be in the thick of it in about seven minutes! Keep the Coralate busy until they’re aboard, if you can, and then proceed to hangars as assigned by ATC.”

“You heard the lady.” Tessa’s voice trailed Faith’s. “The sooner the recons and survivors are in, the sooner we can get the hell out of here.”

“Amen to that.” Izzy shot back. “First stop when we get back: the bar.”
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #30 (In The Thick Of It)

Author Blurb: Busy busy busy. End of the semester busy-ness, or there abouts. More ass jokes, lol. Wooo, big three zero!

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

Anyway, this is the thirtieth installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode will appear on Wednesday, December 3, 2008 (PST)

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