TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 35

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #35 (Old Heroes) By Earl S. Wynn

“No. Freaking. Way.” Izzy’s mouth fell open, hung there as her eyes wandered.

“I don’t believe it.” She reached out, gently touched the rig’s beat-up crimson hull for a moment, suddenly lost in the details, overwhelmed. “A K-8 Slashdriver.” She licked her lips absently, then let her gaze snap back to the old captain, lips already forming a stunned, fumbling grin. “First deployed before the police action in the Centauri system. Early twenty-third century rig, right?”

“That’s right.” Mac grinned back.

“But you’ve modified the loadout–” Izzy continued, stepping past him to run her hand along the pitted scarlet fuselage all the way to the tail, eyes playing across the wings, darting to the long cylinders of smooth, black graphene ceramic that housed the rig’s asteroid crackers. “Twin CTR-11 Arcwave Cannons?”

“That’s right.” He turned, hands slipping into his pockets as his grin turned wry. “Picked the idea up when I was fighting ‘moes on Toliman. A pair of rock-crackers is easier to come by out here on the rim, and they’re cheaper to maintain than a heavy flak cannon ever was, with the added advantage that they never jam.” He stepped up a pace, gestured. “Ten years in a barn– I played with the limiters on the Arcwaves, dropped the yield a notch to boost the range another twenty meters.”

“‘Moes?” She asked, eyes widening a moment later as the ancient slur sunk in and registered. “You flew this thing against the Centauri Syndicate in ‘45?” Izzy gave him a momentary glance. “Holy crap. Like cavalry?” She turned back as he grinned and nodded. “No way. You’d have to be like...

“In my nineties?” He finished, grinning. “Thank god for modern medical miracles, wouldn’t y’say?” He stepped up beside Izzy, still smiling, then turned his eyes back to his rig. “Y’know, they say there’s a special bond between a Cavalry pilot and his bird, that as long as you take care of her, she’ll take care of you, on the ground or in the sky.” he gave the old ship a gentle pat. “Eighty-four years old, this girl is, and she made it clean out of the atmosphere without much more than a few scrapes.” He turned his smile on Izzy again. “She’s not even rated for semiatmospheric flight. By all accounts I should never have been able to escape Tarsis’ atmosphere in a rig like this, but, well...” He shrugged. “Just goes to prove that this old Slashdriver is still better than anything Seindrive is putting out, even today.”

“What!?” Phoebe sputtered, suddenly drawn into the conversation. “You can’t be serious? That thing?” She shook a finger at it. “It’s– It’s a heap of crap!” She faltered, hesitated as Izzy and Mac turned back to face her. “I mean, it’s cool from a historical perspective, yeah, like, as an antique, but...” She gestured emphatically. “One on one against a Blasterchild?” She shook her head, held up her hand as if to stop the tide of bullshit she seemed to sense coming. “No offense, Captain, but you wouldn’t stand a chance.”

Mac’s grin widened as he leaned back against the fighter’s hull. “Is that a challenge, sweet cheeks?”

“What if it is?” She shot back.

The old Captain pushed off the fuselage, took a step forward. “Then I’d say it’s time you put your money where your mouth is.”

“I’ll bet you a hundred big ones, old man.” Phoebe grinned. “I hope you’ve got the chips to pay up when you lose.”

“Don’t you worry, little lady. My credit’s good.” He smiled back. “‘Course, I’d hate to take that kind of money from a working woman such as yourself.” He planted his hands on his hips. “Tell ya what, how about we bet dinner instead? Just you and me. Whoever wins, foots the bill.”

“What?” Phoebe’s face twisted into an unpleasant grimace. “No way! You’re like fifty times older than me, gramps. I don’t do dinner dates with guys who fart dust.” She gestured loosely. “I stick by my hundred. Take it or leave it.”

“Can’t say I didn’t try to take it easy on ya.” He laughed. “Well, you’ve got yourself a deal, little lady.”

“Don’t get all cocky, gramps!” She shot back. “I was top of my class Earthside! I’ve shot down more Ciggies in the last year than most people blast in a career.”

“Sounds like me when I was your age.” He grinned. “Only now I’ve traded all that piss and vinegar for a few decades of combat experience and the devious ways of an old man who remembers what it’s like to be young,” He paused, letting it sink in, “and what it’s like to be humbled.”

“Humbled? Yeah right.” Phoebe scoffed. She opened her mouth to continue, but Izzy cut her off before she could speak.

“Where’s Tessa?”

Phoebe paused, hesitated, glanced around. Izzy took a step away from the Slashdriver, hand dropping to her side, eyes suddenly aloof. “Shit. Tess.” She shook her head, turned a frustrated look toward the old Captain.

“She’s like any good LC.” He smiled back. “She worries about her wingmen, gives more of a damn about them than her own self.” His smile turned soft. “You two go off, help your LC find your squadron buddies. I’ll finish securing this old bird and then give the tech-crew a hand with tarping and getting everything sorted.” Izzy nodded absently, turned back to the cargo bay as Mac continued. “Don’t worry. I’m sure they made it out alright. I’ll ask around, see if anybody’s seen your boys. Names?”

“Davidson.” A tired voice broke into the pause, and all eyes flicked to the nose of the Slashdriver. The figure stumped a pace forward, then stumbled to an ungraceful stop, staring up at the old Captain’s rig with shocked eyes. “Woah.”

“Harley?” Phoebe sputtered. “Woah! You made it!”

“Have you seen Cordova?” Izzy asked immediately.

“What?” Davidson glanced back at the two women, thick red-brown sideburns somehow more wild and unkempt than they’d been in his file photo. “No.” He gave the crimson rig one last look, then turned his slack jawed stare on Captain Mac. “Nice rig.”

“Thanks.” Mac grinned, then leaned in toward Izzy’s ear, whispering: “Cordova’s the other guy?” She nodded and his smile turned soft again, as reassuring as the gentle squeeze he gave her shoulder before he turned away again. “So, Davidson.” He stepped forward, gestured loosely at the Slashdriver. “Feel like giving me a hand with her?”

“Sh–” He hesitated, eyes meeting Izzy’s in the momentary pause. She nodded once, smiled, and he continued. “Sure. Yeah, okay.”
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #35 (Old Heroes)

Author Blurb: Double blargh. New years eve this time, lol. Durrr. If only I knew how to math, right? Nevermind, I’m tired, and I’ve been reading too much Vonnegut lately.

I like Captain Mac. I have no idea why, but I do. Maybe it’s because he reminds me of a lot of the good old boys and World War II Veterans I grew up around. My father has always been entranced by the air battles of the Second World War, and since Sonora has always kind of been a retirement community, I met a lot of people who had fought the Germans or the Japanese in now famous historic battles.

Progress report: Feeling better about #36, probably going to try to finish it today. I’m working as far forward as #39, with most of the work done on #37 & #38, but just a few sentences on #39. #37 & #38 are going to be rockin’ though, so stick around!

Anyway, this is the thirty-fifth installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode will appear on Wednesday, January 7th, 2009 (PST)

1118 Words
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