TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 42

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #42 (Glass) By Earl S. Wynn

“Phoebe.” Izzy skirted the edge of a dark and empty mess table, stopped short of the vacant bar. Phoebe leaned a little further into her drink, ignored the gentle swishing of the autotender as it moved from glass to glass, polishing, endlessly polishing. “Sorry I made you wait.”

“Hey.” The young lieutenant managed, shifting a little on the stool. “They’re gone already. Mac wanted to show Davidson a few tricks in the simulators, and I didn’t know where you were, so I...” She hesitated, breathed a shaky sigh. “I decided I’d wait for you.”

The barest edge of a smile flickered across Izzy’s face. “Thanks.”

“It’s– it’s alright.” Phoebe shook her head, “They were kind of having their own conversation anyway, and I don’t feel so hot and I... I didn’t want to be a party crasher or a rig anchor or anything, so I...” She sucked in a deep breath. “I...”

“Phoebe.” Izzy slipped slowly across the last few paces between her and the bar and took a seat on the stool beside Phoebe, tried to meet her gaze as she trailed off. Looking away, Izzy caught the red rimmed traces of restrained tears retreating with her eyes. “You okay?”

Phoebe hesitated, looked up slowly, eyes drifting to meet Izzy’s for an instant before they drifted away again.

“No.” She managed. Eyes dropped back to her drink, hands leaving, rising to frame her face as she stared into the murky depths. “I... I keep thinking about Cordova.” She paused, pulled in a shaky breath. “I mean, it was hard when we lost Daniels and McPherson, really hard, but it didn’t feel like this, y’know?” She shook her head. “I dunno. It just feels different. I mean, last time we lost someone, it wasn’t right off the bat like this, y’know? Last time I had trouble getting through it, the LC was there, only now she’s all banged up, and our rigs are trashed, and the Von...

“Shhhh.” Izzy whispered, leaned in to wrap her arms around the young Lieutenant. Phoebe broke down instantly, reached out to pull Izzy closer as tears rolled down her face in thick, wet streaks.

“I just...” she sputtered into Izzy’s shoulder “we’re in bad shape, Iz, and I just keep thinking... what if next time it’s the LC who bites it? Or you? Or me? How am I gonna pull through if those blueberry bastards...”

“Don’t think about it.” Izzy tried, fighting the onset of her own tears, pulling in a sharp, shaky breath as she pulled Phoebe a little closer, held her a little tighter. “You have to... you just have to...” She squeezed her eyes against the tide rising in her chest, the nameless pain that kept building, found roots in everything, in everyone, everywhere she looked, everywhere she went. She sputtered, forced herself to speak again. “You can’t think like that, Pheebs. You’ve got to hold on to the now, cherish the people who matter to you now,” she sucked in another shaky breath, “whatever happens in the future... can go fuck itself.”

The broken, tear-wet and sputtering blast of a laugh was Phoebe’s only response, and soon Izzy was crying again, crying like she had hours earlier, like she found herself doing every time she thought about Tessa, about Vultaggio and the faith, about all the good people, all the young people the Coralate had butchered in the skies of worlds like Tarsis. The good lord giveth and the good lord taketh away, a specter of ancient scripture reminded her. She squeezed her eyes tighter, refused to accept it. The Cygnans weren’t doing God’s work– they were a cruel and vicious species, numberless, consuming everything in their path and leaving all behind them in ruin.

Like a plague of locusts, came the unwelcome thought.

“Damn it all.” Izzy whispered. “I hate this war. I wish I could meet the Cygnan that leads all these blueberry fuckers and punch him in the freaking nose.”

“They don’t have a leader, Iz.” Phoebe mumbled into Izzy’s shoulder. She paused brokenly as Izzy held her, gently rocking, then added, “They’re supposed to be a colony organism, a– a hive-mind” She swallowed, pulled in a deep breath. “All equals, all working toward the same goal...”

“All assholes.” Izzy grumbled. She pulled in a deep breath, hugged Phoebe tighter for a moment. One hand drifted up, gently stoked the young lieutenant’s hair as she breathed a shuddering exhale.

“How’s the LC?” Phoebe asked suddenly, still numbly groping for something else to think about. “Is she doing better?”

Izzy closed her eyes against the hurt that came alive in her heart when she thought about Tessa, and she hesitated for a moment before the words finally came. The pause between parted lips and sound seemed to drag on forever, an eternity of mist and the chill fingers of death’s hand poking her, urging her– tense breathing, Izzy fighting herself and the demons that slowly hollowed out her soul.

“She...” Izzy began, hesitated again, lips open, tongue frozen, unable to find the words. “She’s still a little bruised. She always takes it hardest when we lose someone.”

Phoebe nodded silently, and in the pause that followed, Izzy’s mind wandered back to those last few hours on Tarsis, the doctor, the reports. She blinked, considering, then pulled away slightly and met Phoebe’s wet, tired eyes. “I– I downloaded the report on the trojan that was used to hack into Tessa’s rig when we were on Tarsis.” She paused, hesitated, “I was planning on giving it to Hilleboe or the Admiral when the Von came back to pick us up, but...” She swallowed, worked past the spot of cold desperation in the pit of her throat. “Since it was the Hok that picked us up, I guess I’d better get it to her C/O instead.” Phoebe looked away, features hardening, turning into a cracked and dead mask, the face of a porcelain doll. Izzy gestured, offered the best hopeful smile she could manage. “Want to come with? With a little luck, the report might... uh.” She swallowed. “Might save a few lives.”

“I’m good.” Phoebe’s eyes rose again as she tried her own smile, forced herself to hold onto it, even as broken and faded as it was. “I think. . . I’d better just get some sleep.”

Izzy managed another smile, squeezed the young Lieutenant’s shoulder. “You going to be okay, kid?”

“Sure. . .  I guess.” Phoebe slid weakly off the barstool, virtually untouched drink abandoned on the bar. A tired glance and a half-hearted wave signaled her trek toward the door as she added “See you tomorrow, Izzy.”

Izzy blinked, hesitated, lips parting, quivering, unsure. “Tomorrow? What’s going on tomorrow?”

“You didn’t get the message?” Phoebe paused, glanced back at Izzy again. “Check your console when you get back to your quarters.” A weak gesture. “They’re holding a wake and burial for all the pilots from the Von in the gauss bay tomorrow at eleven hundred hours.”

Izzy swallowed reflexively. A wake? In the midst of everything they’d been through in the last two days, the dogfights, the ship to ship crossfires, the obliteration of Tarsis 12, she had never once stopped or paused long enough to say a prayer for the souls that had passed on. None of them had, never once had they caught a chance to breathe for more than a few hours, let alone bury anybody. Now, with the smash and grab rescue the Hok had managed, there were officers and bureaucrats behind desks that could schedule and file paperwork. Now, there was a wake, a chance to mourn. . .

. . . As if they hadn’t been doing enough of that already.

“See you tomorrow then.” Izzy managed, Phoebe nodding absently back. In Izzy’s mind, there was so much more she wanted to say, so much more she wanted to tell the young Lieutenant about life, about loss, about how things never really got better, but they did. . . or how maybe you just got used to it. None of it seemed appropriate, and yet at least some of it did, but too much of it hurt– and then it was too late. The door of the mess whispered shut behind her, leaving Izzy alone with the autotender.

Absently, she turned back and watched the mechanical assembly as it scooped up Phoebe’s drink and poured it into a collapsible drain, gurgling quietly, efficiently. A side compartment accepted the glass, blasted it for several seconds with a screen of sterilizing radiation, then regurgitated it again into the autotender’s nimble hands. A moment later, the machine was polishing it, working with the same tedious monotony that it had preserved throughout the entire conversation, endlessly working away at the molecular structure of the glass. Briefly, Izzy wondered if the machine would ever pick up another glass again if it were suddenly abandoned, or if it would go on polishing for a millennia, until Phoebe’s glass was little more than a brittle shell of what it had once been, a shell eager to crack apart and shatter in the cruel hands of the machine, hoping in the way that only glass can hope, for the sweet rest enfolded in the breast of oblivion.
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #42 (Glass)

Author Blurb: I like this episode, especially near the end, where it begins to get more metaphorical, more philosophical, that kind of thing. Longer word count than the last few episodes too. Again, not a lot of creativity in the preview image, but with the changes that have happened to DA over the years, they’re kind of pointless now. I mean, it’s supposed to be a preview image, but you don’t actually see it until you open the file, even on pasties. Journals are our last bastions of hope for the relevance of the preview image. If they take those away, I’ll probably just pack up and leave DA, because everything I write on deviant art will be hidden behind that hideous “;Poetry and prose” thing Deviant Art does. Don’t worry, if I leave, I’ll post a million things saying where I’m going, and since that would take a lot of time that I don’t have right now, it’s not going to be happening anytime soon. Besides, where would I go? I’d have to track down a place, and that too takes time I don’t have yet. :)

Progress report: #44 is done, and #45 is currently in progress with almost a page’s worth of material done. I got mostly caught up last weekend in terms of homework, but here I am stressing out again and feeling like I don’t have enough time because a buttload of work (for cash) was just dumped in my lap with a due date of ASAP (which is always nice), essays are looming on the horizon, and beyond the writing, I haven’t had a whole lot of time for me (aka time to do anything other than work on something that has a due date.)

Anyway, this is the forty-second installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode will appear on Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 (PST)

1543 Words
© 2009 - 2022 Durkee341
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purpleduckling's avatar
Well, that's unusual. I've never seen anyone anthropomorphise a glass before...
Good stuff, good as always.

About the preview image: have you tried contacting a member of staff and letting them know what you think?