TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 48

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #48 (The Wake) By Earl S. Wynn

1100 hours fell across the shoulders of reality with the cold sense of quiet finality and resignation that accompanies corpses of friends and lovers into the arms of the speeches and tears of their final ceremonies among the living. Squadron leaders stepped up to the sleek gray podium in the center of the gauss bay and spoke for their lost wingmen, Lieutenants who had lost their LCs clustered together, made broken attempts at speaking, at helping each other whenever one broke down mid-sentence and cried. Through it all, Tessa forced a stolid face, stayed strong, firm, unbending, a monolith of respect for the dead that filled the room around her. When the podium opened for the final words to accompany Cordova into the abyss, she mounted the makeshift stage stiffly, cleared her throat, and silently wished one of her wingmen hadn’t been among those lost in the purple skies of Tarsis 12.

She coughed quietly. There wasn’t much to say– she didn’t know him, knew only the few snatches she’d caught about him from his bio. He had a family, a degree in some arcane, obscure form of theoretical mathematics, a handful of trophies for victories in professional grav-tennis, and an uncultivated interest in law that cropped up in odd ways throughout his academic career, but knowing these facts couldn’t help her formulate a decent eulogy. Swallowing, pushing back hesitation, uncertainty, she reached for the old standby, told everyone that Jose had been a good man, a friend– a valuable member of her squadron that would be missed. By the end, a moistness had come to her eyes of its own accord, and she wiped it away with a quick swipe of her finger. It was cheap, a sham, and even as she chastised herself for saying so little she knew that she was the only one who would see the hollowness of it all, who knew her words were strung together only to fill the gap where silence might otherwise take its place. It was a horrible way to be remembered, the unknown subject of a generic eulogy that could have been for any soldier lost in territories far from home, far from the friends and relatives who would truly miss him. Tears tugged at the corners of her eyes, but they were not for the loss of her wingman, they were for Cordova himself, for the forgotten, all those pilots who were too new or too introverted to warrant anything other than that same sad, pat eulogy.

“I’m sorry.” She managed, sniffing back the tears as she waved vaguely and left the stage to make her way back toward the hunched remnants of Minerva Squadron. Izzy rose slowly, and as Phoebe and Davidson watched, she reached for her lover and let Tessa fall into her embrace. They stood there for a long moment, enmeshed in each other, just holding, needing the touch, the support that came with the embrace. Tessa buried her face into the fabric of Izzy’s uniform, stained the grey and white over her shoulder with the dark smears of budded tears.

“Shhhhh...” Izzy tried, and Tessa collapsed a little more in response. Beyond her, beyond the coffins, the surviving pilots of the Von’s twin Assault squadrons came together to honor their collective dead, Nguyen and Murphy supporting Nogawa as she climbed the stage to speak for Zeus Squadron in its entirety.

“After all,” She said, trailing off as she broke into tears. “I’m the only one who made it back...”  

Over her lover’s shoulder, Izzy’s eyes wandered, slowly gathering up a good look at who was left and leaving her silently grateful that Minerva Squadron had come through the fires of Tarsis with so few losses. Of the twenty-five pilots who had lived aboard the Von and flown Seindrives into the heat of battle for Hilleboe and Virek, only thirteen had made it back to the Hok in one piece. Of six LCs, only four would come home.

Thank God Tessa is one of them. She thought, then brushed away the feelings of guilt and pity that rose to tug at the corners of her being. Tarsis had been full of close calls for everybody, and while some had lost everything, she believed that those who had been spared had survived for a reason. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away...

...and the Lord always has a reason. Izzy reminded herself.

When Tessa broke away again, the two women locked eyes for the barest instant, trading a sense of recognition in the silence that only twin souls connected by the unbreakable bonds of spirit could share. In their minds, they knew, they understood, and the feeling was like an anchor for Tessa, a validation for Izzy.

“They... they...” Nogawa tried. Beside her, Murphy reached out and touched her shoulder, but the broken woman brushed away the gesture with one thin and bruised arm, forcing herself to continue, to speak for those who no longer had voice. “Drake, Byrnes, MacLeod, Adams... they... I loved them, all of them... I’ll never forget them, not for as long as I live.”

In the audience, someone hunched next to a coffin and cried. Turning back to the podium to take in the final words of Nogawa’s speech, Tessa caught sight of Dimitrov and froze. At the far end of the room, he leaned over a box, ran a somber hand across its top, but did not glance up. Even as she stared, his eyes never wandered, never rose to meet hers.

For one long, impenetrable second, she watched his lips move in quiet conversation with the coffin, watched him smile weakly and press his forehead against the side of the box. Something was different, something was wrong– none of it fit with the memories, with the vision that had come to her in her moment of broken despair. Someone walked up to Dimitrov, put a hand on his shoulder. As he stood and turned away from her to face the newcomer, Tessa looked away herself, let her eyes stray back to reality, back to the people who counted on her to be strong, to be a leader. Izzy’s gaze was the first to meet hers, to snare hers, and then Phoebe looked up, glanced once at Davidson and led his unsure stare back to the firm, cool depth of Tessa’s cobalt eyes. Lips parted, and like the leader they all saw her as, she spoke.

“Come on.” She managed, and the sound came broken and hoarse, but with enough steel that resolves hardened and wills tempered themselves to fine, hard edges. In their eyes, Tessa could see the change in her wingmen, and it hardened her own resolve to see them stronger for hearing her words.

“Let’s have a drink.” She gestured, forcing the faded lines of a weak smile. “For Cordova.”
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #48 (The Wake)

Author Blurb: Alrighty! I promised a link to Aerostream once I got one up, so here ya go: [link]

What else is new in my life? On Spring Break, and promoting the heck out of my website now that I finally have the time... and yet neglecting the essays and studying and other assorted bits of fun that my instructors were sweet enough to stick me with during the break. Also fighting off a nasty flu that’s been going around like crazy.

I’ve decided to do a daily blogging thing in the hopes of getting my name out there, so feel free to stop by [link] whenever, follow me if you’re on blogger, comment, or whatever. It’s not just fiction, there’s no life drama, whining or crap– it’s just a lot of different cool stuff. Like yesterday I posted a bunch of cool Pink Carbide art, and today I put together ten fun writing prompts to inspire people. So check it out! Who knows what sweetness tomorrow will bring.

Progress report: #49 is revised and ready to go, so we’ll definitely have an episode for next week. 50 is coming along slowly, and I’m starting to panic, because it’s like: “Work on TTC, or work on Essay? Can’t do both!” and that’s just frustrating, because it’s bad enough I dropped this series once. I don’t plan on being even more washed up and unpredictable of a writer than I already am.

Anyway, this is the forty-eighth installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode will appear on Wednesday, April 8th, (no fooling) 2009 (PST)

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