TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 41

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #41 (The Condottieri) By Earl S. Wynn


The Captain ducked under the rising airlock door and slipped into the brushed-steel conference room, pulling once at the bill of his hat and tugging down the corners of his uniform. Aloof blue eyes rose cautiously, met the tired steel grey of Virek’s gaze, and locked the Admiral in a silent, steady stare. The response came quick, clipped, efficient.


Virek gave the barest hint of a nod. “How’s your ship? How close are we?”

“Just short of seventy-two percent, but rising quickly.” Came the response. “The Chief says three hours, maybe four.” Hilleboe looked up and past Virek, glanced briefly across a desk made from the same brushed steel as the walls. The eyes of a woman who had the look of a grizzled veteran rose to meet his look, locked with his gaze and snared it as solidly as if he were suddenly stone. In her gaze, he could see the cool, steady stare of a woman who was used to working with death, who feared nothing and who had seen decades of missions, decades of action, and decades of fuck ups. She smiled softly back, and the crease that formed across her aged lips was cruelly confident, the kind of smile that went hand in hand with sudden death– in that instant, the last of his doubts melted away, forgotten. Just one look, and he knew– this rough-as-iron woman was exactly the escort the Von needed. He couldn’t imagine what her crew was like. They had to be good, real good.

“The mercs?” Hilleboe turned back to Virek, got another simple nod in response.

“They have a good record, a clean one, and the rate I’ve been quoted seems reasonable enough.” He smiled, turned just enough to meet the woman’s stare levelly, respectfully. “Captain, meet Chief Marshall Imalda Grande, leader of the Ixion Condottieri.”

“Chief Marshall.” Hilleboe offered a single, white-gloved hand, and the hand that rose to shake it was scarred and worn, half steel and half tortured flesh.

“Captain.” She gave a quick nod, the broken edge of a smile. “It’s a pleasure.”

Hilleboe nodded once in response, used the pause the handshake provided to study her features, her uniform. “What do you fly?” He asked, already gauging her response.

“Seindrives, mostly.” Grande folded her arms, showing off the long strips and plates of steel that traveled up and across both limbs, threading their way in lines up her neck to poke out here and there in tiny chrome patches. She was older, had the look of someone who had seen far more than her fair share of action– her silver-grey hair was cut into a short and vicious buzz that seemed as tough and no-nonsense as she did, yielding only to the harsh leather strap of the black eyepatch she wore, emblazoned with a chrome Jolly Roger skull and crossbones. “Twos and threes, heavily modified. Two fourteen-man squadrons, old order.” She continued, then added, “My own rig is an Alpha, though you probably wouldn’t recognize it with all the mods I’ve tacked onto her.”

Hilleboe raised an eyebrow at that. Alphas were old tech, Centauri Syndicate old. Sure, Seindrive airframes were trusty, could be hollowed out to take more modding and aftermarket tech than anything else on the market, but an Alpha, of all things. Hilleboe opened his mouth to ask her about her rig, ask her what kind of hardware it was wired up with, but he stopped short as the stained, unraveling threads of a patch on her worn-out leather jacket caught his eye.

“Ex-Navy?” He asked simply, suddenly.

“Retired.” She grinned, killing the question. “I did my time, realized I could make a shit-ton more working freelance, and signed up with the Jovian Pinoy Boys until they disbanded about fifteen years ago.”

“Good company.” Hilleboe nodded, smiling. “I’ve seen clips of their work. Very nice.”

“Don’t expect anything less from the Ixion Condottieri.” She shot back, a smile quirking the corner of her lips. “I don’t.”

“Glad to hear it.” Virek smiled broadly, turned in his chair to face the Chief Marshall fully. “The Von should be ready to go within four hours. Can you get your people together by then?”

“My people are ready to go whenever you are, Admiral.” She met his gaze, her tone serious, no nonsense. “We’re the best. We fly when you want us to.”

“As long as the price is right?” Hilleboe grinned. Grande glanced at him, nodded once, simply.

“It’s not like the Coralate is bidding.”

The grin that cracked across Virek’s face was wide, admiring.
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #41 (The Condottieri)

Author Blurb: What are Condottieri? Well, it’s an ancient term (Italian, if I remember correctly) that was used to describe the original mercenaries of the good old days before Semi-atmospheric flight and mass produced cheese. As for Ixion– he was the father of the Centaurs in Greek mythology. Yep, shagged a cloud, and next thing you know, the world is full of these half-man, half horse creatures. How that makes sense, I have no idea.

It’s also the name of a Kuiper Belt object, a British corporation, a time-traveling train, and an aeon from Final Fantasy X. Thank you, Wikipedia. :)

On another note, life (the universe, god, whatever) also has a bizarre sense of humor. About six months ago, I got turned down, (rejected, left out in the cold, whatever) by a girl I really had a thing for (seriously– we were like bread and butter, only better when we were together) with the classic line “It’s not you, I’m just not in the market for a relationship right now” or something similar. Two months later, she’s snogging a low life piece of trash (not biased?) and now, a handful of months later, she’s asking me for relationship advice. (Seriously.) What can I say? She’s a friend, I give it to her. I feel like such a chump though. It goes against my ethical code to be an ass, as much as I probably should. Funny thing is, it doesn’t go against my code of ethics to write this and foist it upon the whole world. Whatever.

Progress report: #44 is in the works, and thank goodness I have this weekend all to myself, because I’m still not too sure about #43 and #44 yet. They still feel too Borgesian (leaning more towards fabulism than realism) to me, and that just isn’t going to fly. I like to find a comfortable medium when it comes to TTC– something fabulous, but still believable. Not this, man enters an elevator in fifteen different universes and the random things that happen to him in each universe kind of crap. Wow, look at that, I’ve written about as much in the comments as I wrote in the story. I must be tired or something. The creativity of the preview image is probably a good gauge of that as well. Oh well, everything that follows so far is longer, so hopefully the images will get more creative too.

Anyway, this is the forty-first (why isn’t it spelled fortifirst?) installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode will appear on Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 (PST)

781 Words (The story, not the comments.)
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