TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 6

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #6 (Dark Side of the Moon) By Earl S. Wynn

“All recon units, this is Artemis one.”

The sound of an older man clearing his throat crackled across the channel. Tarsis 12 spun on silently below, unaware. “Kiertz, Abel, continue scanning grid one-eighteen by eleven. Hosaka, Ashpool, move to grid three twelve by twenty-eight and begin scanning procedures.” There was a wry, age-wizened chuckle. “Your squadron still awake back there, Eisenherz?”

Tessa opened her eyes and pulled in a tired breath of recycled air. Her thoughts were still on Izzy, her mind clouded and withdrawn as it silently entertained fantasies of what might have happened if Phoebe hadn’t come bursting into the officer’s mess when she had, if maybe they’d have missed her by just a few minutes...

“Yeah,” She managed, thumbing the radio. “Barely.” The wry laugh came again.

“Well hang in there, I’m sure there’s a hot cup of coffee waiting for you back on the Von. We’ll only be out here for about another hour.”

The orders Phoebe had brought had been simple– command had picked up an anomalous repeater on the dark side of Tarsis 12's furthest moon, and Virek was sending Artemis squadron to check it out, but they needed an escort, in case the scanner rigs under Lieutenant Commander Harvey Holgar’s command stirred up an ants’ nest during their runs. The moon itself didn’t look like anything special, as far as moons went, but it had a Brahlanite core under its gray, pockmarked surface, and that made long-range deep scanning from the Von der Tann IV totally useless. They needed fighters equipped with recon gear to get in close enough to perform the scans, and that meant Minerva squadron had bodyguard duty until they figured out what it was that was transmitting, however weakly, and had it flagged appropriately, hostile or not.

Only about another hour.” Tessa echoed, laughing. “How do you do it, Holgar?”

“What’s that? Stay awake?” He chuckled. “Lots of sleep, lots of exercise, lots of coffee.”

“Well, one out of three ain’t bad, eh Tess?” That was Izzy. Phoebe’s laughter crackled through the comm in its wake. A smile spread across Tessa’s face. Cordova and Davidson were utterly silent.

“Hey, new guys,” Tessa laughed quietly. “Cordova, Davidson, you two awake?”

“Yes ma’am, just observing radio silence, as per regulations.” That had to be Cordova. Thin and reedy, almost nerdy voice and that obsession with regulations. Yeah, that was Cordova. She glanced at his Seindrive, hovering off her two, across the nose of her rig from Phoebe. The radio stayed silent. No word from Davidson.

“Lieutenant Davidson,” she began, pausing for effect. “Hey, you awake back there?” Still no word. “Hey Izzy, you’ve seen his file, right? What’s his first name?”

“Harley.” She laughed. Someone else’s laughter followed after hers, probably one of the Artemis pilots. “His name’s Harley Evinrude Davidson.

“Figures.” Tessa allowed herself another quiet laugh. “What was his callsign Earthside? Hog?” More laughter.

“Let me edge on over, Tess.” Izzy again; her Seindrive was just off Tessa’s four, across from Davidson’s rig. “I’ll go inverted and check on him.”

“Roger that.” Tessa glanced back at Izzy’s rig. The other woman was little more than a dark grey silhouette against the blue-grey interior of her Seindrive’s cockpit at this distance, but seeing her helped a little, somehow. “Be careful.”

Izzy laughed. “And miss meeting the man upstairs sooner? Not on your life, Tess!”

“Suicide’s a straight ticket to hell, Izzy.” She chided back.

“Worrywart” came the immediate response. Tessa laughed again.

Izandra’s Seindrive rolled over as elegantly as a dancer, every move, every tap of the rig’s retrorockets and throttle as fluid and clear as they were direct and strong. There was purpose behind every graceful twist, turn and shift, but then Tessa had come to expect that from her; Izandra had always been one hell of a pilot.

The heads-up-display tracked the Seindrive as it went. Tessa glanced back at Davidson’s rig, his silhouette solid and unmoving as Izzy slipped stealthily overhead, matching his speed and looking up at him through the cockpit glass. Tessa thought she saw Izandra wave; Davidson stayed as still as a rock.

The radio crackled again, Izzy’s laughter filled with irony. “Yeah, he’s– ”

“Artemis one, I think I’ve got something here!” Tessa’s eyes shot back to the controls, flicking across the HUD. Indicators lit up– the resident AI in Ashpool’s Seindrive was already transmitting the telemetry to every unit in both squadrons. AI’s milled silently over the data. Ashpool kept transmitting, static arcing through her voice as she rattled off the exact coordinates of the reading. “It’s down there in the dirt... sticking about one meter out of the surface... I think I’m reading material going down about fifteen or twenty meters into the rock, but that may be off.”

“Definitely a Cygnan energy signature.” Holgar interrupted, his AI already conducting its own dialog with the systems of the other nine Seindrives. “I’m reading a very weak signal. Looks...” he paused, and another pilot cut in, this one male.

“It looks like noise.” Tessa checked the heads-up-display; the new voice belonged to Holgar’s husky rear-right wingman, Daniel Abel. “That’s binary, but the AI can’t make sense of it... I don’t think it’s a Cygnan program or beacon of any kind. It might be a nondirectional beacon, but... I haven’t seen a Coralate NDB like this before.”

Tessa glanced nervously back at Izzy; the other woman’s Seindrive was still inverted over Davidson’s, but it looked like there was actually movement in his cockpit now. She thumbed the mike in the silence. “Davidson, you getting this?”

“Yeah boss.” Came the tired reply. “Just, uh... playing with the autopilot...”

She repressed a snicker. Ashpool was talking again.

“...well what do you suppose it could be? It doesn’t seem to have any significant power source, any destructive capability, or even the standard transmission codes for a–”

“All units! All units! Emergency! Emergency!” The cry shot across the radio like a hot lance, obliterating Holgar’s voice and triggering a host of red lights that flashed wildly in every cockpit. “All fighters scramble! the Von is under attack by Coralate forces! Repeat: the Von is under attack by Coralate forces! All fighters scramble!”

“Shi-! Cyg-! arg-!” Izzy’s Seindrive spun and flipped in a single, blurringly graceful movement, instantly blasting hard in the direction of the Von der Tann IV. Tessa and Phoebe jammed their throttles reflexively, jumping in close behind her while the two new pilots came up hot from the rear with the five rigs of Artemis Squadron trailing.

Izzy’s voice cracked across the radio like a burning whip. “Dammit! Ambush!”
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #6 (Dark Side of the Moon)

Alrighty! Here’s the latest episode! Currently working on 10 & 11, but haven’t fleshed out anything past that yet.

This is the sixth installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode, “Cygnankrieg” is done and scheduled to be released first thing next Wednesday(August 23rd, Pacific time.)
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langsam's avatar
sp: worrywart

I can't write as well as you, but I can spell better.