TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 47

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #47 (Specters) By Earl S. Wynn

“She was more than just an officer or a wingman to me.” Tessa heard herself say. “She was a friend, someone close, and I...” She hesitated, unable to work past the knot that built steadily in her heart, rose to fill her throat and force new tears past her defenses and into the cobalt pools of her eyes. She blinked, sniffed, tried to ignore it all, tried to set aside the rush of emotion, the surging tides as deep and cold as trenches cut by current into the stony depths of some alien ocean. Her eyes dropped, lips moved, uncertain even as she coughed. “I–”

“Tessa.” Someone said. She looked up, saw the gentle smile, felt the soft and reassuring touch of a man dressed in a simple priest’s habit, black suit with white collar out of place, a sharp contrast to the whites and grays of her on-deck uniform.

“Come.” He gestured lightly, and she followed him without thought. A quiet apology passed her lips as he led her away from the podium and left her to sit a few paces from the starry blackness of the gauss bay’s only observation port. Returning, he lifted his hands to the air in a practiced gesture. The curve of his smile turned ironic, almost as if somewhere inside of him, a part of his being were secretly pleased.

“All rise.” Said the Chaplain, and as Tessa looked up to meet the faces of all those still left, all the pilots assembled on the deck in remembrance of their fallen comrades, her lips drifted open, slackening, breath coming shaky, fast. Moving so quickly that the chair shrieked against the deck and wobbled on the edge of falling over, Tessa shot upright, took a step forward. Beyond the Chaplain, beyond the podium and the lines of corrugated tracks etched with steel into the floor of the gauss bay, there was nothing, no one, just a sea of empty chairs arranged in rows, as if a thousand ghosts had showed up to pay respects to the recently departed.

“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to honor the lives of those who have passed on to the great hereafter and whatever awaits them there.” The Chaplain droned on, addressing the army of vacant seats. “We come to honor friends, family, those who were close to us, the dreams they had of a better life for all humanity, dreams that may have faded, but will never truly die for as long as each of us lives to carry on these memories and pass them on to others...”

Tessa pulled in a deep breath and glanced around the bay, her mind as blank, as empty as the room around her. It took four stumbling paces to get to the Chaplain, and even as she reached him, even as she put her hands on the podium and screamed to get his attention, he continued to speak, oblivious to her attempts to pull him away from his invisible flock. In a last ditch attempt to shake him out of his monologue, she reached out for him, recoiled as her hands came up against something hard, a thick and insulated glass that separated her from the Chaplain with the kind of cold indifference that only a bulkhead of transparent steel could effect.

“Brothers, sisters,” He said, raising his arms again as his speech reached its climax and stirred him into a religious fervor she could almost feel through that sheet of unbreakable glass, “remember always the people we honor this day. Hold them in your hearts, for while eternity stretches out before those who have departed, tomorrow is a new day for all of us left behind in the realm of the living, a day with new challenges, new decisions, new opportunities, and new reasons to put aside your mourning and be joyful instead.”

Cut off, she stumbled away from the Chaplain, turned back to the sea of empty seats, almost hoping to see someone, anyone, a shade or a specter of a pilot, an officer, an Admiral– And then she saw... beyond the empty seats, beyond the invisible onlookers that the Chaplain droned on and on for the intangible benefit of...


Tessa dropped to her knees instantly. Beyond the seats, an ocean of glossy grey coffins carved from carbon nanofoam stretched on and on into foggy oblivion, as if the other end of the gauss bay had no end, as if the corpses, the boxes draped with flags and set with framed holographs filled a distance between her and eternity with millions of rotting dead. Beside her, the Chaplain finally seemed to notice, finally seemed to see her again. Slowly, solidly, he knelt beside her, reached for her hand and squeezed it gently. The soft smile of an understanding father touched his lips as he met her wet eyes, stayed as he said. “It is time, child.”

“Time?” She asked. Shock, horror of imagined meanings set in, tore creases in her features. “Time for what?”

“Time.” He echoed, then gestured out to the sea of coffins. “To pay your last respects.”

Slowly, reluctantly, she turned back to the phantom audience and the endless domain of the dead, but this time there were no seats, no crowded lines of coffins. A single box sat in the center of the gauss bay, a ring of synthetic flowers around the holograph resting on its cold lid, a holograph of its lonely, rotting occupant.

“Who is it?” She asked, glancing back at the Chaplain. He smiled again in response, shook his head.

When she stood, it felt as if she were lifting the weight of the universe on her back, and when she took her first step, the movement came so slowly and with so much effort that it might as well have been the footstep of some ancient colossus out of myth. Every pace hit the deck heavy, and even as she made her way across that impossible distance, her eyes never left that holograph, never turned or glanced away. She had to see who it was, who she had come to pay her respects to.

...and when she did, when the holograph was close enough to touch, to slide her fingers across, the familiar features filled her soul and tore a ragged rent in the depths of her being. For a moment, she couldn’t breathe, could only sputter and cry. There was no thought, nothing but the pain. Somewhere within, she managed to steal a breath, and even as the air was filling her lungs, she screamed.

“Tess!” Someone shouted. Reality fractured and fell away like a gallery of shattered glass. Light flooded in, and then there was a face, brown eyes full of worry. Tessa blinked, startled– and then recognition set in. Izzy. “Tess, you alright?”

Tessa groaned, squeezed her eyes against the fragments of the dream that still haunted her, still stung like a thousand tiny crystal slivers that would have to be picked out over time, one by one, piece by piece. “I...” She blinked. “What time is it?”

“Nine.” Izzy reached out, ran a reassuring hand over Tessa’s shoulder, down the length of her arm. “Nightmares?”

Tessa nodded silently, but looking at Izzy, the last thing she wanted was to think about them, to talk about the images that had come to her in the dream. Izzy looked on, concerned, then asked, “Want to talk about them?”

The two women locked eyes for a moment, and even as she hesitated, even as she considered telling Izzy the horrors she’d seen, Tessa shook her head. Gently, compassionately, she reached out, ran a hand along her lover’s cheek. A tear pulled at her eye, rose and stuck along the rim, but did not fall. In her mind’s eye, she saw the face in the holograph again, the lifeless husk in the coffin, and she knew she could never tell Izzy.

Because the face in the holograph had been hers, and the letters cast in bronze at its feet couldn’t have been clearer.

Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #47 (Specters)

Author Blurb: Started work on a new set of written things lately I call “Aerostream.” It combines mythological imagery from a number of different backgrounds and traditions with the feeling of flight and a poetic form that borders on stream of consciousness. So far, the focus is all on fighter aircraft as goddesses, which I’m sure sounds bizarre, but will make perfect sense when I get around to putting a piece of it up in my gallery here.

What else– I admit it, I’m tired of being single now. I actually went onto E-harmony in an attempt to find someone who is a match for me, and in the whole entire world, there are apparently none. I’m just too unique, I guess. I got a good review though– apparently I’m softhearted and generous (of five possible personality types, haha.) Which is funny because I fall into the category of INTJ in terms of that other kind of personality type I can’t remember the name of at the moment.

So yeah.

Progress report: #49 is waiting patiently for its final revisions (I swear I’ll get around to it!, haha) and #50 is coming along nicely. Other than that, zippo! I know where the story is going to go, but midterms and illnesses crawling around the household have cut into the time I usually use to write TTC. Thank goodness I managed to pull through this far. This coming week is Spring Break, so I should be able to set aside some time to work on the series then, and Summer comes just before the end of May, which is what I’m really aiming for, because that’s when I’m going to be able to whip the episodes out at a much higher speed. Writing a series like this while doing all upper-division classwork is hardcore!

Anyway, this is the forty-seventh installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode will appear on Wednesday, April 1st, (no fooling) 2009 (PST)

1358 Words
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