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TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 8

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By Durkee341   |   
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Published: August 30, 2006
The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #8 (Crossfire) By Earl S. Wynn

There was a terrible moment of anxious, expectant silence, something almost tangible that hung in the wake of Hilleboe’s words. Only a death knell from some long forgotten cathedral would have been more numbing, more threatening.

In the next moment, every Cygnan and Terran rig tore away from the Von seemingly as one, abandoning the fighting and scattering like a swarm of frightened insects as the warship’s main cannons came online. Tessa bit her lip; the Coralate battlecruiser was already training its own weaponry on the Von der Tann IV, and the fighters on both sides were caught in between the two mammoth vessels. She’d seen this kind of thing too many times before, and knew exactly what kind of a massacre it could turn out to be; a lot of fighters, Terran and Cygnan alike, were going to be toasted in the crossfire, and a lot of good pilots were going to lose their lives in the fighting today. Stay safe, Izzy. She thought. Stay safe.

The radio chatter picked up again a few moments later, all the garbled bits of calm, tactical orders returning along with the angry shouts and taunts that cracked across the channel like burning bullwhips. Someone shouted something incomprehensible that was consumed by a screaming blast of static, and then the two starships opened fire.

Hot arcs of burning blue light stabbed through the darkness, crossing one another, reaching, seeking, vaporizing whole rigs as they passed unannounced through the swarm of fleeing fighters. Terran, Cygnan, it didn’t matter; the magnitude of firepower to take down a starship was so great that the rays they fired at one another consumed anything smaller than fifty meters in diameter that got caught in their paths for the split second that they roared through space. On impact, the beams scoured ten meters into exterior armor plating, carving deep, hot lines across wide stretches of thickly armored hull and vaporizing what wasn’t sheared off as plasmatic slag. The backwash from the impact alone was enough to fry any rig that got within the splash radius, usually less than twenty meters, and the residual radiation left in the wake of each blast could throw off any electrical system that happened to stray close enough, tweaking the readings of heading indicators by several degrees, shooting static into the radios, confusing the resident AI, the works. Dozens of rays flying every which way were much worse; being stuck in the middle of the crossfire made heading indicators almost useless and filled the radios with so much static that they were practically unusable. The AI hummed quietly, leaving the heads-up-display to flicker with electronic snow as it hid in the bowels of the system like a frightened dog.

But hey, at least on the bright side, Tessa thought, we’ve actually got room to breathe now.

The fighting among the rigs picked up again, and was in full swing a moment later; fighters chased one another around arcing beams as if they were nothing more than simple obstacles in a course, blasting clouds of plasmatic flechettes and webs of their own smaller beams of hot blue light at one another in the endless darkness. Agere PD cannons rattled, Rapier A5 rockets tore from overwing racks, and the heavy weaponry on the Hera and Zeus assault rigs still flying blazed away into the endless night; the Cygnans outnumbered the Terran pilots almost five to one, but the Navy had skill and variation on its side. The primary tactic of the Cygnan Coralate was a simple one, tried and true, and ultimately the same plan time after time: overwhelm the enemy. Every Coralate pilot was willing cannon fodder, a sacrificial lamb thrown into a massive Terran meatgrinder with hundreds of his or her own brethren lined up beside them, ready to give their lives for the greater good.

Sacrifice. It’s part of war, she reflected. Her grandfather had told her that once, had told her that ultimately every war is about sacrifice. We sacrifice some part of our lives collectively in pursuit of some higher goal every day, and war is no different, has never been any different. It’s all about what you’re willing to give up to preserve or establish an ideal or a way of life. Every Terran pilot on Minerva squadron that had died during the course of the war had died for an ideal, a need, a way of life, a solid future. Without sacrifice, and without pilots willing to put their lives on the line and fly Seindrives like hers into battle against the Coralate forces, the Human race would never have a chance against the marauding Cygnans, would never see its clean, clear, peaceful future pass from the world of pleasant dreams to the realm of solid reality. It would stay a fantasy, some tattered bit of dreamy pastel tapestry hanging on in the dead eyes of desperate children, beaten out of slaves in dark mines, burning in the sleeping minds of servants, and reflected dully in the pallor of corpses strewn across hundreds of long forgotten battlefields where men and women alike had made their own valiant last stands. Sacrifice. The hard part is measuring what you’ve bargained against the other guy and hoping that the cost isn’t too steep in the end. Her grandfather’s smile had always had an odd charm about it, spreading out as he finished his speeches, crinkling, soft and leathery around the edges, age darkened and sharp in the center, a gap where one front tooth had been.

“Tessa!” That was Izzy; she blinked, and the HUD blinked back, red and frantic. “You awake? You’ve got a Cygnan on your six!”

Breathing a curse, she slammed the Seindrive into a fast spin and rocketed off to the right, weaving between two arcing beams of weapons fire. The AI practically dove for cover again, and the data it gave on the Coralate fighter behind her seemed off, flickering constantly. She narrowed her eyes at the display. Izzy’s voice crackled across the channel again. “Dammit Tess, am I gonna have to save your ass again?”

“Don’t worry about my ass, Izzy.” Tessa’s eyes darted across the panel, fixed on the Cygnan’s readings as they began to stabilize. “My ass is just fine, and I don’t plan on letting anything happen to it anytime soon. My ass will be just as soft and squeezable when this is over, I promise.”

“You mean just as bony, right?” A wry chuckle echoed across the channel.

“Smart ass.” Tessa jammed the caps off a line of Rapier A5 rockets and quickly primed the argon-ion L-web emitters. Izzy’s laugh was lost in a line of thick static.

“Takes one to know one” came the response a moment later, followed by more laughing. The resident AI was anxious now, filling the display with more frantic red warnings. The Coralate fighter on her tail was close, persistent; his plas-flechette railcannons were heating up, locked and ready to discharge at any moment. She bit her lip, mind already tuning out the static and voices playing across the radio. “Tess...”

Her next move was entirely reflexive; rolling the Seindrive right and going inverted immediately, she jammed the nose down and flipped the whole rig over forward, pivoting on the very point of the nosecone in a maneuver that pushed her hard into the seat, gravity couch straining to keep her pirouetting plane from liquefying its own pilot. Inertia did the rest, flinging the fighter over in a quick, fluid movement that put her behind the Cygnan with one wing tilted high, Rapier A5's already ripping from their overwing housings. She grinned, and the Coralate fighter exploded, then promptly winked out of existence, every inch of flaming, blasted wreckage twisting through space for the briefest of moments before it was all consumed in the rig’s own implosive death throes. The last rocket to go roaring after the Cygnan detonated prematurely at the edge of the wave, coughing silvery shrapnel into the black vacuum as Tessa pulled away, aiming her Seindrive at another Coralate weaving between twin beams of blue light. Izzy’s whistle was choked with static. “Slick.”

Tessa thumbed the mike, still grinning. “That’s why I’m an LC and you’re still just a plain old Lieutenant.”

“Aw, Come on, nobody likes a bragger.” Izzy laughed. “Or a show off, for that matter!”

“Is that jealousy I hear, Izzy?”

“Only in your wet and wild erotic dreams!”

Tessa laughed and quickly thumbed the mike, but before she could whip off a witty reply, Hilleboe’s voice shot across the channel again, burning away static and conversation instantly; she closed her mouth slowly, hand quivering slightly against the flight stick as his words echoed through her cockpit, through the cockpit of every Terran pilot on the standard open frequency. It was worse than a death knell; the sound of his voice was like the insolent and merciless grating of a slaughterhouse door sliding up into the gorestained bowels of a building that had been steeped in the blood of innocents for untold centuries.

“All units, this is Captain Hilleboe. We’ve taken heavy damage and we're withdrawing immediately. All fighters are advised to proceed directly to the colony and wait for reinforcements to arrive.” There was deep, tired sigh in the pause, something that seemed to convey infinite disappointment in a way that only Hilleboe seemed capable of. “Good luck and godspeed to us all.”

Tessa swallowed uneasily. All around the Von, reality seemed to tense, blur, and then the burnt, black-carved ship popped out of existence, leaving only starry darkness in its wake

Somebody fought for words with an obscene noise; another pilot managed something much more concrete, something they were all feeling.

“They... he just... Hilleboe just abandoned us!”
© 2006 - 2020 Durkee341
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #8 (Crossfire)

...And the plot thickens... DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUN!!! *shakes fist at Hilleboe*

Kinda returning to the classic look for the preview image again. Not sure what the next one’s gonna look like... Maybe it’ll be really wild, or maybe it’ll be more of the same. Gotta check back and see next wednesday!

Progress report: Finally finished 12, like yesterday. Little bits done on 13-15, kicking around ideas for 16+. Currently writing about 10K+ words/week on a novel on the side, so TTC is getting neglected a little bit. Plus school just started, and I’ve got two English classes. (Both Poetry!)

Anywho, this is the eighth installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode, “Abandoned” is done and scheduled to be released first thing next Wednesday (September 6th, Pacific time.)
Comments13
anonymous's avatar
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langsam's avatar
langsamHobbyist General Artist
sp: its
Durkee341's avatar
Durkee341Professional Writer
Caught it. Thanks!
M4dLeprechaun's avatar
Bwehe, I like the suttle humor here and there.

Descriptions? Over the top? Maybe I'm just a patient person then. Roffle. I dunno, or maybe I like to be informed. Anyway, another great element to the series!

Shouts like bullwhips.. ffffwichhh! Ffffwichhh! I need sleep.
Durkee341's avatar
Durkee341Professional Writer
Coolness! Thanks!

I dunno, I guess it varies from person to person. I really write more for myself than anyone else, so I'm just glad when people like it! *laugh*
M4dLeprechaun's avatar
That's the way to do it!
lwcldylan's avatar
lwcldylanHobbyist General Artist
Your descriptive skills are amazing. They have gotten so much better over the last couple of years. If I may critique, I think sometimes the descriptions get a little over the top. And by that I only mean there is sometimes too much of them. I don't know though (not like I'm a writer, maybe I'm just impatient) lol

anyway, keep up the great stuff man!
Durkee341's avatar
Durkee341Professional Writer
Nah, I get that alot-- I've always put a little too much detail into my stuff, because there's just so much to see and feel. I've been trying to cram lots of detail into wham-bam kind of easier to absorb sentence fragments, but it doesn't always work! *laugh*

Thanks Mstery!
lwcldylan's avatar
lwcldylanHobbyist General Artist
Yeah, no prob. I can see how that can be a fatty problem, trying to represent a world that lives very vivaciously in your head must be really difficult. haha
Durkee341's avatar
Durkee341Professional Writer
Extremely. Especially when there are about eleven separate such worlds. Keeping track of details can be crazy sometimes!
lwcldylan's avatar
lwcldylanHobbyist General Artist
Oye VE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'll say, do you keep any notes or anything like that to keep your facts straight?
Durkee341's avatar
Durkee341Professional Writer
Sometimes, but usually only when it comes to long names and serial numbers.

...but then, I could quote the armament of a Seindrive 4 blasterchild or tell you what acronyms like NXRC, TCGND, and DOTJE stand for from memory, so I dunno. Most of it's locked in my brain, along with all the D&D stuff we've done. *laugh*
lwcldylan's avatar
lwcldylanHobbyist General Artist
that's good to have, a brain that locks in info. forever! haha
Durkee341's avatar
Durkee341Professional Writer
I wish I had a photographic memory with complete recall! That would be the best!
anonymous's avatar
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