TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 37

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #37 (Need and Regrets, part 1) By Earl S. Wynn

“Ugh.” Tessa’s mouth felt dry, dusty, like the bad end of a hummer skimmer after a long jaunt across the sands of some blistering, sand-swept desert world. Slowly, carefully, she forced herself into a sitting position, winced. Her hand slipped to her pounding forehead in a reflexive movement, fingers feeling for blood, for a wound, but coming up against nothing but untouched flesh. The memory of an elastalloy cable snapping free from the deck, lashing out to clip across her forehead registered for an instant, and then was gone. Looking up, her eyes found Izzy perched in a chair less than a pace from her bedside, book in hand, bespectacled eyes moving in quick, steady lines over printed text. Letters cast in a ropy gold leaf scrolled across the worn, leatherbound cover– War of the Worlds.

“Hey Iz.” Tessa managed, blinking unsteadily. “What happened? Where are we?”

“Our quarters.” Izzy said flatly. “Home sweet Marine barracks. Thank God we only had to double up. Can you believe they cram four of those jarheads in a room like this normally?” She turned a page, shook her head. Tessa made an attempt to speak, grasped at syllables, shook her head in resignation as Izzy continued. “You’re lucky I love you as much as I do. There were a lot of pissed off people who I had to talk to while you were out.”

“People?” Tessa asked hoarsely.

“Yeah, people like the techie who had to go to medical when the cable snapped because you were fucking with the tarp on my rig, babe.” Izzy looked up from the book in her hand, gently marked her spot with the tip of a finger. “People like Doctor stab-happy in medical, who wanted to take blood tests for a head injury and almost ordered me to leave you in his so-called capable hands so he could check to see if any complications had developed since Doctor Kaismann patched you up on Tarsis.” She scoffed. “Like I don’t know how to use a field medscanner.”

“I guess I owe you one.” Tessa managed. “Thanks.”

“At least one.” Izzy’s eyes slipped back to the book, picked up where she’d left off as Tessa slid a little further back into the bed, her eyes moving curiously through the basic quarters. Izzy had retracted all the partitions and privacy screens, leaving the room more open, as spacious as it could ever be. Izzy hesitated, pulled in a deep breath and turned the page, marking her place as she looked up again.

“Want something to drink?” She asked, then mused: “I could use something to drink.”

“No thanks.” Tessa tried a smile. “I already feel like I have a hangover.”

Izzy shrugged absently, folded over the edge of the page and closed her book. Standing, she started toward the kitchen alcove at the other end of the room, but Tessa raised a pair of fingers that caught her attention. “Y’know, on second thought, an orange juice with a caffeine and B-complex tablet, if room service left us any.” She paused. “Always works for headaches like this.”

“Yeah.” Izzy managed. “I’ll see what we have.”

Leaving the book behind, Izzy stretched, working the stiffness out of her legs as she walked slowly to the kitchen alcove. Grey plated and dull, the alcove came about as close to a kitchen as you could expect from the kind of pocket-sized barracks quarters a warship’s onboard Marine detachments were housed in– sure, it was nice by Marine standards, certainly better than sleeping in a cold ditch or upside down in an alien foxhole, but for a pilot, it was about as spartan as it got. It had all the amenities you needed to survive, but with the toilet, sink, coffeemaker, fridge and everything else that required water contained in a single, modular alcove, not to mention the total lack of a shower or a bath, it left something to be desired when it came to comfort.

“If you’re feeling better later, Captain Mac wants to get together with the two of us, plus Phoebe and Davidson, say twenty-hundred hours.” Izzy pulled open an overhead bin, sifted through the paperfoil packets of dehydrated meals and supplements, pulled two. “They’ve got an orange and a caffeine, but no B-complex.”

“Whatever.” Tessa gave a quick, dismissive wave. “That works. Thanks.”

“Yeah.” Izzy fed the packages into a slot, searched absently through the overhead bin again while the machine assembled Tessa’s drink. “So what do you think?”

“About what?”

“Dinner.” Izzy turned back, handed the drink off to Tessa. “With Mac.”

Tessa took a sip, grimaced. The orange juice tasted like citrus that had gone through the wrong end of an elephant before someone thought to add sugar to it in a misguided attempt to make it more appealing. She set the drink down reflexively. “I don’t mind if you go, babe, but I think I’m going to sit this one out.”

“Why?” Izzy grinned, scooped up her own drink as the machine finished assembling it. “It could be a lot of fun.” She made a loose gesture, took a sip. “He’s been around, Tess. I’m sure he’s got some great old war stories to tell.”

Tessa picked up the drink again, forced herself to take a long pull of the sludge, eyes never leaving Izzy’s. The swallow came slow, sour, and she grimaced at the aftertaste as she looked away. “I’m sure. I’ll bet all the best ones are about fighting the Syndicate in ‘45 too.”

“Well, yeah!” Izzy paused, hesitated as Tessa set her drink down again. After a moment, it clicked, and Izzy’s eyes dropped to her own drink, suddenly uncertain. “Oh.”

“Whatever.” Tessa managed. “I know it was over like sixty years before I was born, but the Centauri Syndicate was the last organized uprising people like me, people with GMO heritage, ever managed to put together. It hurts to think about.” When she looked back again, her eyes were moist, red around the edges with restrained tears. “Every time I hear him say a word like ‘moe, or use ‘genetically modified’ the way other people using ‘fucking’,  it makes my skin crawl.” She paused. “Brings back a lot of bad memories. It brings back memories of the kinds of things people use to say to my Grandmother when they spit on her.”

Izzy swallowed apprehensively. “I-I’m sorry.”

“I know.” Tessa said flatly, unable to meet Izzy’s eyes again. “And I know I should have told you about what I was a long time ago.”

“Nobody’s perfect.” Came Izzy’s meek response. “We both have our skeletons.”

Tessa turned back, slowly, and as a tear broke from the rim of her eye and traced a cold line across her cheek, Izzy looked up and met her solemn stare. The connection was almost immediate– in the moment, amidst all the desperation, the pain, and the twisting sea of conflicting emotion, their minds linked as easily as if they had been touching.

I miss you. Tessa’s thought rang out, and in the next instant, Izzy was in her arms, unable to restrain herself. Tears of her own were already breaking free, tears she had held in for so long, and soon the tide of emotion overpowered every sense, rose to war within both of them like a bitter hash of angry elements in a plasmatic alloy. In the next instant, Tessa was crying too, burying her face in Izzy’s shoulder and opening herself to the other woman even as she tried to comfort her, tried to be the rock that would steady her against the surf. She wanted to be something solid that Izzy could hold on to, something that would never betray her, never shift away and leave her lost in the cold wilderness of an emotional sea, but it was so easy to get lost in that tide, so easy to get swept away. . .

I love you. Someone said, but it came so clearly that it was as if the thought were born within both minds in that same moment, as if the two lovers were of a single unified soul, a consciousness bound within two bodies that had already began to blur together, quickly becoming indistinct, becoming one. Lips met, parting with the heat of passionate need, and soon nothing else mattered, nothing but the need, the feeling, and that one thought rolling through over and over again.

I love you.
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #37 (Need And Regrets, Part 1)

Author Blurb: Writing is coming along slow, and I’m beating myself up because the break is almost over, lol. My first class ever (!) Is coming up on Saturday at noon, and I’m pretty nervous about that, but I think it’ll probably be a breeze. Three people, discovering your personal muse– how hard can it be? *knock on wood*

Progress report: My creativity has been blurry lately (about as close as I come to writers block anymore) but I’m powering through it and getting some stuff done. I was really happy with 37 when I wrote it and when I revised it a week later, and now that I’ve read through it again and corrected all the things I didn’t like about it, I’m pretty happy with it again.

Anyway, this is the thirty-seventh installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode will appear on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 (PST)

1427 Words
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