Thursday, February 9, 2012


The Cygnus War
Episode #1, Aces & Veterans 
By E.S. Wynn

It was sleek, fast, deadly. Typical Coralate semi-atmospheric fighter, but still no match for Tessa’s Seindrive 4 Blasterchild. The underslung Agere PD cannon on the nose of her rig alone could turn the Cygnan into swiss cheese from 50 meters with a good shot, and it was a peashooter compared to the other ordnance she was carrying. They didn’t build strong ships on Cygnus, but they knew how to build an engine like nobody’s business.

The skies over Tarsis 12 were a deep afternoon purple, visceral against the rich reds and pinks pooling up from the dark aquamarine line of the horizon, and the Cygnan was a hot spot of brilliant silver in the glowing crimson reticle of her heads-up-display. 762 meters and arcing to the left at 2837 km/h. Hauling ass, but still running on conventional drive. Too risky to run the sublight stuff this far into the atmosphere.

Lips tightened, a sharp smile spreading across her face. Her fighter was cutting edge Terran technology, the best that the Commonwealth’s Galactic Naval Division had at its disposal, and tuned as tight as monowire by the best techs back on the Von der Tann IV until it pushed the envelope right to the edge in every direction and then some. The gravity couch was the only real custom piece–– something to counteract the effect of the increased G’s the rig’s hyper-tuned drive kicked off at full speed, but throw it into a dive with the engines on full burn in normal atmosphere, and even the gravity couch couldn’t keep you conscious for long. Just long enough, a tech had told her once, for you to black out the instant before you leave a smoking crater on a nice green patch of alien soil. Hell of a way to go.

The Cygnan was looping and twisting near the horizon now, accelerating and decelerating in harsh bursts as he harassed the colonial gear that thundered and flashed from the ground, blasting more useless flak into the atmosphere. Briefly, she considered sending a volley of her wing-mounted Finsternis-XI warheads screaming after him, but the countermeasures on Cygnan vessels were as legendary as the engines that gave them their speed. Throwing F-11's against the blueskin would be about as useful as throwing rocks at flies–– the Cygnan pilot would either have to be blind or real unlucky to get clocked by something as clumsy as that kind of ordnance. Better to save those for bigger, slower game.

“Screw it,” She cursed under her breath, gloved fingers tightening eagerly over the dual wing of the throttle control. Close-in fighting was better anyway; you got to watch the way the Cygnan’s rigs burnt as they fell, trailing hot rainbows of flame out of every hole in the hull until they nosed into the ground and imploded, caught in the short-range blast destabilizing Singularity drives produced as they popped back into n-space along with whatever was left of the rig and anything else that happened to be within five meters. A flash of light from the ground caught her eye–– probably a hydrogen tank going up. No point in waiting around, letting the Coralate rip through the colony like an unchecked predator.

Biting the inside of her lip, Tessa jammed the throttle forward and twin Icarus I610F conventional Deca-bypass quantum hotcoil pods, each originally rated in excess of 348 kilonewtons of thrust at their highest setting, answered in turn. Schrödinger vectoring panels dilated into Nth dimensional space as the Seindrive hurtled forward, burning a hot line across the sky as it closed the distance between her and the Cygnan in a matter of seconds.

The Coralate pilot caught the move, and in the next instant, he was spinning fluidly, looping up and out of range and arc of the majority of her hardpoints. The Seindrive’s AI followed him with the precision of a hunting dog, blaring as the g-forces of sudden deceleration rolled over and through the rig like waves of turbulent water. Tessa bit her lip harder, eyes flicking, flying across the HUD. The blueskin was cutting in close, nosing over from a climb, forty-one meters off her seven, plas-flechette railcannons heating up.

Reflexively, she flung the Seindrive over onto its side and pumped the throttle, just hard enough to put her ahead of the screaming cloud of blinding, superheated particles that scorched the air in her wake. 196 meters ahead of him now, the Cygnan dove square off her six. Pretty typical Coralate move, something she’d seen a thousand times before. The little blue bastard was probably cussing in that weird click language of theirs.
Working quickly, Tessa swung the nose of her rig up and over, pumping the throttle lightly and putting the Coralate rig roaring past her at ten o’clock. Two seconds to prime the argon-ion L-web emitters and jam the caps off a line of Rapier A5 rockets, half a second to nudge the rig sixty degrees to the left...

She mashed the thumb trigger, and in the same instant that the hardpoints on her rig flared, the Coralate fighter dove.

Yanking the Seindrive reflexively to the right, swearing, peeling away from her payload of explosives and hot blue light in a sharp turn, she followed it with her rig’s sensor suite as the cloud of death passed harmlessly over the diving Cygnan. Rising, the rockets tried to reorient themselves to follow the Coralate fighter, but the countermeasures on the blueskin’s rig kicked in at the top of the climb and scrambled the warheads’ sensitive tracking systems, leaving them to twist aimlessly off into the heavens. Swearing again, Tessa’s fingers worked quickly at the two halves of the throttle control wing as she jerked the rig around and dove after the Cygnan again, the colony a sprawling mass of blue-green and pavecrete grey smeared across the ground beneath them.

The pilot was good with his rig, no question about it, and the acknowledgment of that fact brought the edges of a wry smile to Tessa’s face. Quick corrections by the Cygnan kept her sharp, following him as he spun and darted, yanking himself out of a dive and leveling out again, as Tessa came up hot behind him. Her finger tightened across the trigger for the Agere reflexively, but before she could squeeze off a line of fire, the Cygnan threw his fighter into another spin and went hurtling off to the right. 1742 km/h and rising. The plasmatic tracers carved an arc of hot lines through the sky in his wake.

This time, the move came reflexive–– Tessa’s fingers went tight around the throttle control as she rolled the Seindrive over and went after the Cygnan again. He was darting left and right like crazy, trying to shake her off his tail and get her in his sights again, but she kept up with him, matching his every move, ready to send another line of tracers his way the instant she had a good shot. The Coralate fighter spun suddenly left, then jammed the retros and went spinning back right for a half second before the pilot cut the thrusters and dropped the thing a hundred meters instantly. Keeping his rig straight and level until she was practically right on top of him, he flipped the fighter over its blunt, silvery nose and hit full acceleration, jamming out of there inverted, another line of Agere tracers scorching the air behind him. Tessa’s fingers tightened across the throttle, knew that the Agere wasn’t going to be enough. She primed the L-web emitters again and pumped the throttle.

“Yeeeeeeeeeeee haaaaaaaw!” Static lanced through the radio as something shot overhead with a buffeting shockwave and went blazing after the Coralate fighter. Blinking reflexively, Tessa caught only a glimpse of the rig as it burnt past, eyes stunned by the fuselage that was a mishmash of peeling red paint and shining, polished aluminum cut with wide swathes of oily rust. The seductive curves of a hand-painted pin-up girl beckoned from the side of the rig as she watched it dart improbably off into the sky, winked back at her from the gentle slope of the old warbird’s nose. The pilot’s voice came again, rough and dry as a tumbleweed desert.

“Move over sweetheart, this Ciggy’s all mine! Hah-HA!”

- - -
It is the dawn of the twenty-third century. Space has been good to the pioneering men and women of the Terran Commonwealth, but in spreading out among the stars mankind has become a rich target for the enigmatic and predatory Cygnan Coralate. Thrilling squadrons of fans from all over the globe since 2005, The Cygnus War is a story that looks at love, war, and what makes us human in the wake of an interstellar war with the Cygnan Coralate, a shadowy enemy bent on nothing less than the total and complete annihilation of humanity itself.

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