TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 34

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #34 (Amidst The Chaos) By Earl S. Wynn

The instant her rig was parked and tied to the deck, Tessa flung herself across the makeshift cargo bay, eyes already hardening with intent. Her feet hardly touched the floor plating as she moved in the minimal gravity, and she hardly felt the stomach-dropping shift of the Hok’s drive assembly winding up to transition the whole mass of the ship into a bubble of compressed reality. Nothing really mattered in that moment except the inexorable need to find her two missing pilots, to know if she’d lost another pair of wingmen to the Coralate. Everything else was secondary– it would have to wait.

“Tessa!” Izzy shouted, hesitating on the deck, uncertain in the midst of the chaos of parked Seindrives and confused pilots. Yanking off her helmet, she stared after Tessa for an instant, then stumbled through the drive transition. Phoebe passed her in a full-on sprint, hot on the heels of her LC, her own helmet cast aside and rattling against the floor.

But it was all lost on Tessa– there was no thought, and the world had closed down to a narrow tunnel for her. Worry was bound up tight with fear, a whole mess of struggling emotions fighting against each other, all perched precariously on the thin line of sanity that kept her from shouting the names of her wingmen outright, kept her from panicking, from losing control altogether.

“LC!” Phoebe shouted, but the sound didn’t reach Tessa– her eyes flicked right and left, searching. Shattered, broken and slagged rigs crowded the deck all around her, made it hard to move. She ducked under a wing still vibrating with the n-space distortions of a broken S-vectoring panel, stole a glance at the name painted on the side of the cockpit. Williams. Wrong rig. It didn’t even matter that it was the wrong color, the wrong configuration. Only the names registered. Keep looking.

Tessa pulled in a shaky breath, felt the gentle tingle of the energy field that clung to the fuselage of Williams’ rig as she ran her hand across the pitted and scorched plating. She looked up absently, then pulled away, stumbling back into a half-run. The cargo bay wasn’t built like a hangar, it wasn’t huge, there weren’t any designated tie down spots– everything was parked haphazardly, pilots and support crews scattered and bunched up at random intervals. Someone shouted, some tech in an orange uniform, glossy yellow hard hat, bioluminescent patches on his vest. Tessa looked away reflexively, tried to catch her breath, to focus on her breathing as she fought to keep the world in focus. There were only a handful of rigs in the bay, a dozen or so– less than half the Von’s total fighter compliment. They’d been slaughtered on Tarsis, cut down to nearly a third of their original numbers by the vicious swarms of Coralate fighters that had met them there.

“Hey. Hey.” Someone grabbed her– a voice, older, male, oddly familiar, like the voice of a crotchety, old, forgotten grandfather. “Steady.” He tried. His hands tightened across her arms, strong, rough hands in fingerless leather gloves. She fought, tried to shake him off, tried to rip herself away, but the world was too blurry, her legs too weak. “You’re safe.” He tried again. “It’s alright! Calm down, it’s over.”

“No.” She mumbled, shaking her head, eyes already casting about again. “I have to find them. I have to find my wingmen.” She struggled again, gaze darting left, right, glancing across the broken lines of a Zeus rig to fix unsteadily on a Seindrive the Hok’s technical staff was already tarping down with a nanoregenerative plexicarbon canvas. She squinted– It looked familiar, a multipurpose rig in the seagull grey of Athena squadron, but she couldn’t see the name. Cordova? She had to get to it, had to see the name that was printed on the side of the cockpit. The old man tried to say something more, but summoning up a quick burst of strength, she yanked free of his grip and pushed him away. “Let go of me!”

“Lieutenant Commander!” He shouted, and she froze in her steps. “I may not be in the service anymore, but I can still read rank insignia, and I know I outstrip you by two whole marks.” He paused as she hesitated, mind blank, unsure of what to do. A Captain. A Veteran Captain. What the hell is a veteran Captain doing on the Hok, in the cargo bay, in the middle of all this? She swallowed, heard his boots scuff as he shifted. “Don’t make me order you to fall in, soldier.”

She glanced back over her shoulder, considering. She couldn’t see much with him standing only a few paces directly behind her, but she could tell he wasn’t in uniform. All the more reason to ditch him before the techies tarp down that rig. One of the old man’s hands lifted, gestured loosely. “You Navy women are all the same.” He stated. “Wild as a cai-yote and meaner than catshit.”

One of Tessa’s fists clenched, glove squeaking as fingers tightened into her palm. She half turned, head flicking toward the old man in a move so quick and reflexive that the long cascade of her midnight hair slid up off her shoulder and half floated momentarily in the minimal gravity. Cold cobalt eyes hardened into a vicious blue glare, but the second they touched him, the second they lighted on his grizzled features, his odd, grease-smeared, olive drab flight suit, his polished, golden-spurred cowboy boots and crisp, regulation stetson, some of the color and fierceness drained from her face. Her lips worked in quiet motions, unable to form words. She knew him, knew his face. It was impossible– how?

“LC!” Phoebe shouted, slowing from a sprint as she came to a stop just beside Tessa, eyes already giving the grizzled old Captain a wary look over the other woman’s shoulder. Izzy walked up to stand beside Phoebe a moment later, but something else had caught her attention, another relic from a distant past, and she stood staring slack jawed as Tessa turned to face the old Captain fully, Phoebe practically hovering off her left shoulder.

“Who’s he?” The young Lieutenant whispered, eyes never leaving the old man’s weathered face.

“He. . .” Tessa tried, swallowed. Even without the archaic flight helmet and goggles, she recognized him, the way he grinned, the old-fashioned, cavalier attitude, the rig tied to the deck behind him. It seemed impossible– she shook her head, struggled, but the words refused to come. How could. . .

“Name’s Mac, Captain Mac.” The old man spoke up suddenly, grinning as he gestured back to the eye-rendingly crimson hull of the antique fighter perched on the deck behind him. “And this here is Cathy-Lu, my rig.” He gave Phoebe the sharp edge of a tired but cocky grin. “Pleased to meet y’all.”
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #34 (Amidst The Chaos)

Author Blurb: Blargh. Why did Christmas Eve have to be a Wednesday, lol?

Been pretty busy lately, partly because of holiday stuff, partly with writing projects that I’ve been working on. Tried to edit and get this out last night (after midnight, so it was technically Wednesday) but was too tired and later, when I went back over the story, I was kind of glad I didn’t rush it because it still needed some work.

Still this episode has it's charm. Gotta love the surprise, lol. I wonder how many people remember him.

Progress report: I am not at all happy with #36. I mean, it’s alright, but I think it needs some work still. The drama that happens just isn’t gripping enough. Other than that, it’s pretty much done. Just needs work, I guess. #37 is growing bit by bit, and I’ve probably got 90% of the dialog handled, but yeah...

The stuff I really WANT to write is always way in the future! Well, not always, but some cool stuff is going to happen, and it’s distracting me from writing the current episodes. Also writing lesson plans for classes– that takes a lot of time too, and being the holidays, family gets all the time, lol.

Anyway, this is the thirty-fourth installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode will appear on Wednesday, December 31st, 2008 (PST)

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