TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 7

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #7 (Cygnankrieg) By Earl S. Wynn

Tessa glanced nervously at the instrument panel; the anti-dilation inverter was steady and green, tachyon dispersal pattern clean and normal. Good– traveling at these speeds without all the bells and whistles running at peak efficiency, and they wouldn’t reach the Von until long after the battle had been decided. Already, Tessa wondered if they would be able to get back in time to help drive the Cygnans away from the Von and maybe cut down on Terran casualties. She pushed the throttle up a little further, matching Izzy for speed– every second counted, and the more time they could shave off the trip the better.

For what had to be the hundredth time, she found herself wishing Seindrive’s fighter development team had designed the Blasterchild with the capability to over-compensate for near-lightspeed time dilation– but then even that had its problems. Enough of an adjustment, and Minerva Squadron just might arrive yesterday, literally, and time travel wasn’t something Tessa wanted to get mixed up in. Add to that the fact that even small backward manipulations were strictly forbidden by a number of arms treaties and the convention of New Arahal, and it was the kind of thing no one sane would touch with a fifty-foot pole.

Phoebe’s rig wobbled slightly in the cosmic backwash thrown off by Tessa and Izzy’s fighters, then jumped forward suddenly, attracting the lieutenant commander’s attention as it came roaring up beside her– Cordova and Davidson continued to lag behind, burning hard a scant length or two ahead of Artemis Squadron, but never picking up enough speed to jump forward like Phoebe had. Probably something in the regs I missed, she grinned. oh well.

Looking up, she could almost see the Von from where they were at; at this distance, it was still little more than an ugly bulge of glossy beige lit by tiny intermittent flashes of harsh blue light that played along the steadily growing curves of its hull. Tiny lines of silver appeared as they got closer, catching the light eerily, darting and weaving, exchanging tiny bursts of fire with a mosaic of Seindrives in an elegant dance of scorching death. Tessa bit the inside of her lip. She hoped the four squadrons defending the ship were holding their own– they’d lost too many pilots in skirmishes like this...

She forced her thoughts back to the controls. The standard open frequency was silent at this range– no one in Minerva or Artemis was willing to break the stillness that hung over the channel and the driven need to get closer to the action that came with it, but after a few minutes of hard burn, the dead air steadily gave way to bursts of quiet static, and then suddenly it was alive with the clear, crisp chatter and howling battlecries of Terran pilots. Tessa flipped through the other four common frequencies quickly; the usual excited ops babble and shorthand slang clanged through triple-A, recon pilots coordinated spotter runs over harsh blasts of static through ICE, and dead silence echoed across HI and Fingers.

Flicking back to the standard channel, she caught the sound of Izzy’s voice. “...getting close. Looks like the Von’s short range weaponry is finally coming online.”

As if on cue, a series of precise bolts of refined blue light shot from a dozen emplacements scattered across the Von’s hull, slipping like needles through the vacuum and spearing unlucky Coralate rigs like so many silvery fish. Someone was cheering, someone else screaming; a third pilot mumbled garbled commands through it all. The fighting seemed to thicken immediately, Cygnan rigs drawing in tight against the Von, closing the distance between themselves and the Seindrives and shadowing the Terran fighters mercilessly. Weapons fire from the Von slowed in the next instant; the fighting had gotten too close, too tight, and the last thing that Virek and Hilleboe wanted was to risk blasting their own fighters in the vicious melee. It was bad enough that the Cygnans had forced things so close together that rigs on both sides were practically clipping one another with each pass– one careless move, one violent enough collision, and the whole battle might fold itself up into one big snowball of burning metal and twisted carbon nanotube. At least, until the Cygnan drives caught in the mess started to destabilize...

It had happened before. She’d been one the few pilots in the navy unfortunate enough to see it, and it wasn’t pretty. One little accident like that could cost both sides a lot of good pilots and a lot of expensive equipment.

Tessa glanced at the heads-up-display, estimated. Less than a minute and they’d be in the middle of it all. She thumbed the mike apprehensively and steeled her voice. “This is Minerva Squadron one. All units in my squadron, split up and engage the enemy as soon as you’re in range. Let’s see if we can even the odds a little.”

“Roger that.” Came Izzy’s immediate reply, shadowed by a trio of quick acknowledgments from the other three pilots. Tessa thumbed the mike again. “Holgar, your people going to hang back?”

“Just for a second or two, yeah.” He sounded older, grim. “It’s times like these I envy you, Eisenherz. It must be real nice not to have all this recon gear slowing you down.”

“Not as nice as it would be to have one of those String Resonance Wave cannons Hera and Zeus are carrying.” She shot back, half jokingly. “But then, their rigs aren’t very maneuverable, so hey, pay your credits and take your ‘soft, I guess.”

“I guess.” Holgar’s response was quick, absent sounding. He cleared his voice, and all the familiar strength she’d come to expect from him was back in his tone. “All Artemis squadron rigs break formation and follow me. Switch to HI and wait for orders while I talk to Hilleboe on Triple-A...”

The rest was lost, unheard as the three leading fighters of Minerva Squadron plunged headfirst into the fray.

Out of the corner of her eye, Tessa saw Izzy’s rig shoot off to the left, spiraling wildly and blasting a line of holes through the wing of a Coralate as she rolled fluidly across a second’s hull, wings slicing vacuum mere inches from the other craft. Phoebe cut her throttle and fell back behind, dropping beneath the rest of the squadron and zeroing in on a Cygnan harassing the Von’s bulky, skin-mounted turrets. A hot cloud of plasmatic flechettes caught a red-painted Zeus Seindrive as it swung in from the right, eating through the bulk of an overwing-mounted Longinus Systems SRW cannon and leaving behind a trail of slag that froze in grey globules and streamers when the rig pulled away again, already chasing another Coralate fighter. The Zeus rig’s remaining String Resonance Wave cannon kicked into gear a moment later, lurching as it sent wide, screaming beams of reality-ripping energy into the endless night, utterly vaporizing the pilot’s Cygnan target with a flash of blinding white light.

Her Seindrive’s resident AI was already tracking a target of its own; Tessa’s fingers tightened around the stick in silent anticipation, forcing the rig through a series of quick, fluid motions to avoid fire and fightercraft alike– in the next instant, she yanked the rig over and dived between a pair of green Hermes rigs, coming up behind her target with crosshairs lined up perfectly across silver hull. Squeezing the trigger was reflexive, and the underslung PD cannon on her rig responded in kind, ripping the back end of the Coralate fighter into a confetti of twisted, burning metal that scattered into the chaos around them. The Cygnan craft wobbled uncertainly, narrowly avoiding a collision with a grey Athena Seindrive that seemed to come darting in out of nowhere and disappeared just as fast– in the next moment, the Coralate rig nosed over into a dive and slipped into a fast, uncontrolled spin, only to be caught in its own implosion wave an instant later. Tessa barely registered the kill; her AI was already tracking a second target through the fray.

“All units!” Tessa glanced reflexively at the HUD; Captain Hilleboe’s voice shot across the channel clean and clear, slicing through the tactical chatter and heated screams of six squadrons of Seindrive pilots with all the precision and elegance of plasmatic monowire. “All units! Break away from the Von der Tann IV immediately and engage the Coralate fighters at range as soon as possible! We’ve picked up a Cygnan battlecruiser closing fast on our position! Repeat: engage the Coralate fighters at range! I don’t want any of you getting OC’d by splash or backwash!”

“Shit!” Tessa yanked the Seindrive over immediately, the beige hull of the Von rolling away beneath the cockpit and giving way to fighter-choked space. Beyond the chaos, reality seemed to ripple, to tense expectantly, and then it was there, the silvery bulk of a Coralate battlecruiser, as sleek as a shark and every inch of hull bristling with deadly weaponry.

Izzy’s words went blazing through her mind again. There’s more of them nearby somewhere, a transport or a warship, something big just waiting...

She swallowed, then jammed the throttle.
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #7 (Cygnankrieg)

Another exciting installment in The Cygnus War! (Or at least, I think so!) *laugh* Things are heating up storywise, so buckle up!

(The picture’s supposed to be the cockpit of a Seindrive 4 Blasterchild.)

Progress report: Stuck halfway through 12. Still tossing around ideas for 13+
Stress is bad for your writing muscle.

This is the seventh installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode, “Crossfire” is done and scheduled to be released first thing next Wednesday (August 30th, Pacific time.)
© 2006 - 2022 Durkee341
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langsam's avatar
sp: its

".. snowball of burning metal .." is quite a metaphor(?!)

I thought Longinus was a lance.