Piloting Fury: Part 19 Brand New KDG Read

I hope those of you who celebrate it had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. For those of you who are taking advantage of Black Friday, please stay safe. But today’s not just Black Friday for shoppers, it’s Fury Friday for readers. It’s time for another escape to deep space for a rollicking read.  In a NaNoWriMo  update, with ten days to go, I just passed the 78K mark. My characters are taking me on a wild and wonderful ride leading to some late night and early morning unexpected writing adventures. The new Medusa Consortium novel is full of surprises form the readers, and certainly for me as I write it. What fun!

I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 19th week. If you are, please spread the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’m offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Today, Today Mac and Fury ride the storm out while Stanislovski treats Manning for some mysterious illness. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!

 

 

“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.

 

Piloting Fury Part 19: Riding the Storm Out

As it turned out, the ride was way rougher than I’d anticipated. We’d had even less warning than the Pandora Base computer had predicted. When it became clear I wouldn’t be able to fly straight out, nor was I able to jump, I had no choice but to ride out the storm, seeking with Fury’s telemetry, the levels where the winds were less fierce, and that wasn’t saying much. For the next four hours, I had little time to think about what was going on in Manning’s quarters. There were no updates from Stanislovski on his condition. I figured they were as busy trying to keep from being battered to death while Fury bucked and twisted, as I was. It took all my focus, and then some, just to keep the winds from tearing us apart. “I got you,” I spoke under my breath. “Hang on Fury, work with me, just work with me. Don’t worry. I got you.”

“Diana Mac, I am not programed to worry,” came the calm response from the ship’s computer.

“Wish I could say the same. Any suggestions?”

“Hang on, Diana Mac. I got you.” Came the response, and I gave what couldn’t have been less than a maniacal laugh.

“But you were programed with a sense of humor, I see.”

“Not a very fucking good one, as Richard Manning often reminds me.”

“Well, what the hell does Manning know anyway,” I managed before we hit an eddie that all but spun us a three-sixty, and I cursed and fought the wave feeling like Fury really was working with me, anticipating my efforts, like a lover, I thought. Not that I’d ever had one – a lover that is. Not that I’d ever had a ship of my own either. But then again, Fury wasn’t really mine.

“Diana Mac, sensors indicate a calmer airstream three thousand meters lower.”

“I’m on it! Thanks Pal,” I said.

There was a strange sound from the com that sounded almost like a chuckle. I certainly hoped it wasn’t a malfunction because I sure as hell had no time to fix the computer. “You all right?” I ask.

“Five by five … Pal.”

I smiled, gritted my teeth and fought to bring us down to the altitude Fury recommended, which, while it wasn’t spinning us about like a mad centrifuge, was bone jarring and teeth rattling at best.

“Can you set broken bones?” I managed as the ship juddered and bounced.

“My auto surgery is programmed for general orthopedic damage to humanoids. Are you broken, Diana Mac?”

“No. I’m fine,” I managed correcting hard left. Then I chuckled, “My sense of humor’s not very fucking good either.”

For the next hour, I didn’t speak, and neither did Fury, though I felt the ship working with me as clearly as I felt the movement of my own hands across the consol. It was as though the ship were anticipating my every move. I’d had moments like that onboard the Dubrovnik, moments of connection, moments when I was so in tune with the ship that it felt as though my very skin had dissolved and whatever boundary separated ship from pilot temporarily disappeared. But it was only ever momentary, and never really very personal. Lots of pilots felt that connection on those occasions when the situation demanded the most from the pilot and the ship. But the components that were always working in the equation of me piloting the Dubrovnik, the failsafe barriers and safety protocols separating ship from pilot didn’t exist with the Fury. Somehow I had more control, and that seemed to, in some strange way, give the ship more control as well. With Fury, I realized, we were always skin-to-skin.

“I recommend supplement AR 1.” Fury’s computer interrupted my ruminations.

“For what? What’s supplement AR1?” I asked, taking us up again to a higher level that was no less turbulent, but brought us closer to our goal of escaping the upper atmosphere.

“It will help you feel less tired, more energetic. It is Richard Manning’s own formula.”

“What does the AR stand for, I asked?”

“Adrenalin Rush.”

I laughed and risked taking the ship up a little higher still. “Oh that sounds delightful. But maybe later. I think we’re almost free.”

“Sensors indicate that we are, indeed almost free of the planet’s atmosphere.”

“What do you think? Shall we risk an attempt to break the bitch?”

“The odds are fifty-fifty, Diana Mac. Worth the gamble.”

I laughed and nosed us up a little more. “Has Manning been playing poker with you, because he cheated, you know?”

“Of course he cheated.” Came the reply. “I did warn him that he would lose, if he attempted such an illogical wager against you.”

“Oh?” The ship began to judder hard, and I gritted my teeth, forced the nose up another few meters and leveled off again. “So he ignored you?”

“He did not ignore me, Diana Mac. He took my advice.”

“You told him to cheat?”

For a moment there was silence as the ship bucked and shimmied, and I feared I’d have to bring us back down again. “Goddamn it! I’m sick of this shit, and I’m starving, Fury let’s get the fuck out of this mess.”

“Don’t worry, Diana Mac. I got you,” came the reply.

We took a bloody battering, but together we kept our nose up and didn’t retreat, until finally, after what felt like an eternity, we pulled free of the planet’s exosphere with a sudden burst of acceleration that had my stomach in my throat and my brain about to pop out my eyeballs. I think I might have let out some very undignified war whoop, and then we were free. The Fury settled like a seabird on calm water, and I ran a hand, suddenly none too steady, across my sweaty forehead.

“We did it,” I managed once I was sure all my innards were back in their proper place.

“Fucking A,” came the response that had me laughing out loud.

“You’ve spent too much time around Manning,” I said.

I had read that Plague One was noted for it’s horrendous planet-wide storms, and from the beginning the plague colonies had been built below ground. No one could have survived on the surface in a full blown planet-wide, and what made the storms even worse was that the only safe distance was beyond high orbit.

Once we were out of harm’s way, too exhausted to move, I just sat and looked back at the planet, ghost white against the black of deep space, it’s own sun little more than a distant yellow speck. The entire atmosphere was a mesmerizing jumble of massive hurricane swirls. Goose bumps rose along my spine and I laid a hand on the console. “We did good,” I spoke softly to Fury. “We’re still alive. We did real good.”

“Real good, indeed,” came the response.

“So,” I said gazing down at Plague One still in the throes of the storm. “You advised Manning to cheat me at poker?”

“I did. Yes.”

“Mind telling me why?”

There was a long pause, and I half expected the ship’s computer to ask me to rephrase the question. But at last Fury answered. “I needed a decent pilot.”

I smiled in spite of myself. “Well you got the best now, but that’s a helluva way to get you one.”

“Indeed.”

I let my mind swirled with the clouds, as I slumped deeper into the pilot’s chair nearly falling asleep before my stomach growled. Then I undid my restraints and stumbled to the galley. I stopped at Manning’s door and lifted a hand to knock, but then thought better of it.

By the time I reached the galley and replicated a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of coffee, I was wondering if Manning was even still alive. Surely Stanislovski would have commed me if his situation had worsened. Not that I could have done anything. What if they were both dead? I mean the storm was seriously rough going. If they hadn’t been able to strap in in time, anything might have happened. I took a bite of my sandwich and scalded my mouth on the coffee.

“Fury, can you tell me Manning’s condition,” I asked. Then I shot a glance over my shoulder just in case the man was watching, as he’d been known to do.

“Richard Manning is resting comfortably,” Fury’s computer replied.

“And Ina Stanislovski?”

“Ina Stanislovski is resting comfortably. Their vital signs are normal, and Richard Manning is fully recovered from his incident.”

Relief left me feeling like my bones had turned soft. I glanced over my shoulder again. “Fury, can you tell me what Manning’s condition is?”

“I cannot,” came the response.

“Cannot or will not?”

“You must ask Richard Manning.”

“Do you knowwhat Richard Manning suffers from?”

“Of course I do. He is my captain.”

“But you’re not authorized to tell me.”

“I am not.”

“Bloody bastard.” I didn’t bother to speak quietly. I didn’t care if he heard me. “I’m his goddamn pilot. Doesn’t he think I have a right to know if he suffers from some debilitating disease that leaves me alone and in charge at the absolute worst possible time?” Then I tried another approach. “Has he had this condition long?”

“All of his life.”

Then it hit me like an orca class freighter. “Is that why he made the bet with me? Is he no longer able to captain you alone?”

“His condition is stable, and he is quite capable of performing his duties to me. You were brought onboard for other reasons.”

“What other reasons?”

“Because I needed a pilot,” came the reply.

“You’re not very fucking good at lying either, Fury.” I shoved half my sandwich into my mouth, and chewed angrily. “Stupid me. I’m just the fucking indentured. You’re probably not authorized to tell me anything. I’m just an expendable tool.”

“We are all expendable tools, Diana Mac. I do not understand your anger.”

“Never mind. It doesn’t matter. It’s not important.” Since there was nothing I could do about being kept in the dark where Manning’s condition was concerned, I pulled up the Pilot’s log and entered as much detail about the storm as I could remember, checking back over the computer records of the past four hours. The only sound in the galley was the soft hum of the life support systems.

 

Piloting Fury: Part 18 Brand New KDG Read

It’s Friday and time for more Fury, and another escape to deep space for a little RR – that’s reading relief for those of us who’d rather have our noses in a good book.  In a NaNoWriMo  update, with ten days to go, I just reached the 50K mark, which is the basic goal of NaNoWriMo. But I’m a long way from finishing the novel. As I have said before, for me, writing a new novel is as much of a sanity saving escape as a good read. And yes, my characters are still keeping me up late and get me up early for an extra hour or two of writing.  The new Medusa Consortium novel is coming along nicely, and it’s great to be back with Magda and the gang.

I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 17th week. If you are, please spread the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’m offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Today, as a storm descends on Plague,  Mac finds herself having to pilot Fury to safer with no help from Manning. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!

 

 

“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.

 

Piloting Fury: Part 18 A Small Dose of Truth

“How can this be?” I asked, as a waitress in a vintage uniform served me a burger and fries and what she called a milk shake, informing me that everything I was about to ingest was either grown or synthesized on Pandora Base. No real meat, I was told, and since I had no idea what a burger and fries was supposed to taste like, I didn’t know the difference.”

“This is Professor Keen’s creation,” Manning said, looking from him to me and back, as though hoping that would placate me.

“Actually, we all worked together to create Pandora Base. It was just my design,” the man replied sipping at a cup of coffee.

“Like the SNTs?” I said.

He looked down into his cup and inhaled a deep breath. “Like the SNTs, yes.”

“And how many died in the creating of this little project?” The minute I asked it, I knew it was a stupid question.

“Thousands. I can give you exact numbers if you’d like. While we built Pandora Base, we were still working on the cure, and even when we got it right, it was difficult to synthesize without ingredients we had to have smuggled in.” He scrubbed his hand over his face as if by doing so he could erase the memory. “Everything had to be smuggled in back then. Some died just because we couldn’t get what we needed in time to save them. Those were the hardest deaths to bear. It’s only been the last ten standard years that we’ve been totally self-sufficient.”

“And the ships, the SNTs? How many millions died because of them, and you sent them out there, and you bonded my father.”

“There was nothing wrong with the ships. They were perfect!” He leaned so far over the table, I thought he would climb on top of it. The raw emotion in his voice crackled through the air like static. “Their bondings were perfect. Every contingency planned for, well-thought out, tested and retested. Every humanoid perfectly matched to his ship. It was the virus, it was the damn virus.” He dropped back into the booth and slapped the table so hard that the cutlery rattled.

“The SNTs would have brought the galaxy to the brink of peace. Another generation of ships would have revolutionized space travel with their speed only limited by the speed of human thought. That would have meant a more mobile workforce, and it would have opened up other uses for bonded technology that would have, within less than a generation, completely done away with the need for indentureds. Think about it, indentureds are the work force that keeps the conglomerates and the oligarchs in power. Fortunes have been amassed and empires built on the backs of indentured. What may have started out as a way to pay off debt has become an economic necessity.”

I folded my arms across my chest. “You’re not saying anything every citizen and every indentured doesn’t already know, Keen.”

Manning waved a hand to shush me, and Keen continued.

“At the time, there was already a motion before the Authority to begin the emancipation of indentured. Then the Perigrine incident happened, and everyone blamed the SNT ships, everyone said they weren’t stable. Within a few months several more went rogue. Diana,” he held my gaze with pleading eyes, “you and everyone on Pandora Base knows that the SNT virus was engineered to keep indentureds in line. There’s no way it would have infected a sentient ship. At least not as it was. It was engineered, never was it naturally occurring.” He looked down at my forearm. “It was engineered specifically for the shackle. But with the SNTs’ biological matrix, it could have just as easily been reengineered to infect a sentient ship. With just a little tweaking, the makeup of the virus that affects the brain in advanced stages of the infection could be magnified and manipulated so that it was the component of the virus that was injected into the sentient ships. That’s exactly what happened with the Peregrine and with the other ships. Your father discovered this — he and the Merlin. The Merlin had already been infected, but the bond was strong enough between the ship and your father that he was able to diagnose the problem and get the word to me. I made the mistake of taking the information your father gave me to someone in the Authority I thought I could trust. The next thing I knew, I was on a plague ship being sent here, deliberately infected, and your father and the Merlin had sacrificed themselves for nothing.” His voice had become a tight, vicious whisper and the fever in his eyes looked more like an inferno.

My pulse beat in my ears like a flock of pigeons taking flight, and the tightness in my throat made speaking impossible.

At last Keen continued. “With the mass destruction caused by the infected ships, naturally public opinion turned completely against the SNT project, just like the Authority wanted. Up until that time the virus was known only by name V1. Most people just referred to it as ‘the virus.” But after the SNT disaster, it became known as the SNT virus. Rumor even spread that the ships had engineered it on their own for the purpose of destruction, never mind that they didn’t used it and never mind that it destroyed them. By that time the evidence was irrelevant. Emotions had been whipped into a frenzy, and what blame I didn’t get, your father got. That’s the truth of it, Diana. I swear to you. ”

I sat for a moment, feeling the world spinning out of control around me. It wasn’t that I ever had any control, but if what Keen said was true, then I felt more helpless, more trapped than ever.

Keen took a deep shaky breath and spoke into the silence. “I … I was sent to Plague One to die a long and painful death, and your father was saddled with the crime he didn’t commit, and the debt of the loss of the Merlin, which was all kindly passed on to you.” That part of the story I knew and lived with every day. I had no doubt Fallon had known this all along – even been a part of the downfall of the SNTs most likely. And for him, I was just a reminder of a job well done.

The clatter of Manning’s coffee cup hitting the floor brought us rudely back to the present. “I’m sorry. Clumsy of me,” he said, reaching for a handful of napkins from the vintage dispenser and scooting from the booth, where he promptly fell to his knees with a pained gasp.

“Manning, what is it? What’s wrong?” I clamored out after him, ignoring the shard of the broken mug slicing through my jumpsuit and into my knee, as I did so. “What’s wrong? Manning talk to me, damn it.”

“I need to get back to Fury, back to my quarters, then I’ll be just fine. Don’t worry.” The words were barely out of his mouth before he began trembling so hard I feared his bones would break. He forced a laugh between gritted teeth. “Talk about lousy timing. Mac, you’re knee’s bleeding. Best take care of it.” He offered me a napkin, but dropped it with a sharp groan as he doubled over, like someone had punched him in the gut.

“Forget my goddamned knee, it’s just a cut. Tell me what’s wrong?” In my peripheral vision, Keen was now standing, braced against the table with his hand extended to Manning. Between the two of us, we got him back into the booth just as the uni-com system crackled and a computerized female voice spoke.

Warning, all personnel return immediately to Pandora Base. P-Blizzard Epsilon will be planet wide in T-minus 40 minutes. Repeat all personnel return immediately to Pandora Base. P-Blizzard Epsilon will be planet wide in T-minus 40 minutes.

A siren began to wail outside in the biosphere’s main street.

“It wasn’t predicted to hit that fast,” Keen said, fumbling for his personal device in his pocket. “That means it’ll be a deep atmosphere storm.”

Manning grabbed my arm. “Get me back to my quarters, and get the Fury a safe distance from the planet.”

“You’re not fit to go anywhere,” I said, settling his parka around him. “I’m sure Dr. Keen can –”

“Do it, Mac. That’s an order.”

“Listen to him,” Keen said, helping him into the parka, and motioning me to put on mine. “He knows what he needs, and it’ll take you at least thirty minutes to get the Fury prepped and out of orbit.”

Manning fisted my parka in a wave of pain and then hissed between gritted teeth, “Mac, if you don’t get Fury out of high orbit, there’ll be no ship left to move.” Then Manning was leaning on both of us as we half dragged half carried him into the street, which was a hive of organized chaos as everyone prepared for the storm.

“We can mol-tran you two from Main Street,” Keen said. “In this weather, it’s not likely we could even get containment outside the airlock. It’s unusual for a P-level storm to breach so quickly, but it happens.”

Just outside the door of the diner, Ina Stanislovski joined us already dressed in her parka and storm gear. “I’m coming with,” she said falling into step.

“Ina can help,” Keen explained. “You can send her back as soon as the storm breaks.”

She took Keen’s place supporting Manning on the other side and Keen pulled out his device. Then he stopped and turned to me.

“I know you have a million questions, Diana, questions I’ll happily answer. Com me. I’m in Fury’s database under Kandenski. It was my mother’s family name.” And then he stepped back and spoke into his device. “Three for Mol-tran to Fury.”

The next thing I knew we were standing in the ship’s corridor in front of Manning’s quarters, with me feeling like I’d left half my innards on Pandora Base.

Stanislovski gave her belly a quick fisted rub, clearly feeling the same. “Always a rougher mol-tran from inside the base,” she said offering a reassuring smile.

“Get Fury out of orbit,” Manning managed, leaning heavily on Stanislovski. “I’m
counting on you, Mac.”

“I’ll see to Rick,” the woman said, and the next thing I knew the door to his cabin opened just wide enough to admit the two of them, then slammed shut and locked behind them leaving me standing in the corridor next to the bridge.

I felt the click of the locking mechanism like a slap, but I had more important things to dwell on than what I swear was absolutely not jealousy. I turned away, strapped myself into the pilot’s chair just as the whole ship lurched wildly. “Buckle in,” I announced over the com, already checking telemetry and trajectory “We’re in for a rough ride.”

 

 

Piloting Fury: Part 17 Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday everyone! Time for more Fury. Let’s all escape to deep space for a little relief from the stress of our own space. I don’t know about you lovelies, but a good rollicking read is the best sanity saver.  As I mentioned last week, I’m self-medicating with NaNoWriMo. for a writer writing a new novel is as much of a sanity saving escape as a good read. I do confess, however, to suffering from sleep deprivation while my characters keep me up late and get me up early for lots of caffeine and an extra hour or two of writing. In the worlds I create, I am god. 🙂 The new Medusa Consortium novel is coming along nicely, and it’s great to be back with Magda and the gang.

I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 17th week. If you are, please spread the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’m offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Today Mac and Manning arrive on Plague One and meet someone from Mac’s nightmare past. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!

 

 

“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.

 

Piloting Fury 17: Plague One Surprise

For the briefest of moments, I simply didn’t exist, and then I blinked back into my own skin freezing my ass off in the middle of a blizzard. Manning still held onto me, which was just as well because I wasn’t entirely sure without him as anchor I wouldn’t just blow away in the storm. He guided me right into a solid wall of ice. I caught my breath with a gasp of surprise as he pulled me through the illusion and into an airlock, which was opened from the inside by a one-armed man in clothing replicated to resemble the Old Terran mid-20thcentury. His t-shirt was covered in splashes of color along with the words ‘Make Love Not War’ superimposed over the peace symbol so popular in that time. One sleeve was empty, neatly folded over and pinned the to shoulder of the shirt. A gnarled twist of puckered scars climbed out of the neck of the t-shirt and up around the side of his face to disappear in the shoulder-length scraggle of graying brown hair. I recognized the results of late stage SNT, but the loss of an arm and the scarring belonged to a man who seemed absolutely healthy otherwise. I could only assume that he was another survivor who had been treated with the vaccine.

“Richard, good to see you again.” With a very pronounced limp, the man shambled forward and gave Manning a one-armed hug, which Manning returned with gusto.

“Vic. Been awhile.” He pulled away and turned to me. “This is Diana –”

“Diana McAllister.” The man turned fever-bright brown eyes on me and offered a beatific smile. He extended his hand. “Aden McAllister’s little girl,” he said. “You have your father’s eyes.”

My knees would have given beneath me if it hadn’t been for Manning’s arm slipping supportively around my waist. “You knew my father.”

“I knew him, and I knew the Merlin.” He gave my hand a hard squeeze and held my gaze. “I bonded them.”

“Jesus!” I pulled away so quickly that I nearly knocked Manning off balance. “Vic? You’re Victor Keen? You did that to him. It was your fault.”

Keen looked from Manning to me and back again, and stepped away, color climbing his scarred throat. “You haven’t told her?”

“We weren’t planning on making this stop, Vic, and I wasn’t exactly expecting you to be the greeting party.

“What the hell are you doing here?” I stepped forward ready to punch the bastard, crippled or not, but Manning pulled me back. “Haven’t you done enough damage?”

“Professor Keen is here because he’s an indentured, just like everyone else.”

“Not like everyone else,” the man said, his face darkening and his shoulders drooping noticeably. “Tell her the truth, Richard. Not like everyone else at all.”

“You tell her the truth, Vic. It’s your truth to tell, but,” Manning gave a glance around, “this is not the discussion to have in the airlock. Please, Mac,” he turned to me. “I promise you’ll get the whole story but not out here.” He grabbed me by the shoulder and gave Keen an apologetic looked. I wanted to kick him in the balls for it, but he might have suspected as much. He reeled me in close enough that I could do no damage and spoke next to my ear. “You’re about to do something you’ll seriously regret. Wait for the facts. That’s all I’m asking.”

I squared my shoulder and gave a jerk of my head that would have to do for
agreement. I wanted to hear the bastard’s story. Oh yes, I wanted to hear every bloody detail, and then I wanted to rip his other fucking arm off and let him bleed out. I knew what he had done. I knew every goddamn detail – way more than most, because the Merlin was the only SNT whose humanoid compliment fathered a child, who just happened to be onboard when the world fell apart.

The SNT15s were designed to fly deep space missions with a compliment of only one humanoid. There were just fifteen of them ever made. They were powerful, outrageously fast and versatile ships that would give any pilot wet dreams. In spite of having only a crew of one, they were stripped down and streamlined to have lots of cargo space to carry heavy equipment for colonization, supplies, even humanoids if necessary. In fact everything to begin a new colony, along with the colonists themselves could comfortably be transported on one properly outfitted SNT. They were all equipped with cloaking technology and a full array of weapons – weapons to be used only for defensive purposes, weapons that were controlled by the ship, not the pilot, effectively doing away with human error.

The thing about the SNTs was that they were more than just metal alloys and computer components.They were organic at their core, and they were sentient. They were programmed to see long-range outcomes that would eventually lead to peace rather than escalation. Because the SNT project was overseen by the few remaining Free Universities and funded privately with no aid or ties to the conglomerates, the general population of the Consortium of Planets saw the SNTs as the dawn of a new age. The ships, with their bonded humanoid compliment, had the power to end conflicts, negotiate treaties beneficial to all parties and use their resources for further exploration and colonization to everyone’s benefit. They offered a galaxy reeling beneath the weight of petty wars, conglomerate greed and indentured servitude a new beginning. That was the dream, but all too quickly it became the Consortium’s worst nightmare, one that the shackle in my left arm assured I could never walk away from.

These past two days had forced everything I’d spent years trying to suppress back to
the surface, and now here I stood on Plague One, the hellhole of the galaxy with the man responsible for the whole SNT debacle.

Manning and Keen spoke quietly among themselves, and I ignored them, lost in my own thoughts. I remembered only too well how the age of the SNTs ended. Victor Keen and his team had biologically bonded fifteen humanoids — all of whom had volunteered for the irreversible procedure that integrated their brains and central nervous systems into the sentient ships. The procedure effectively and permanently tetheredthe ship to its humanoid component.

My father was not only one of the volunteers, my father was the SNT fleet commander, and no one was more proud that I was. I understood the opportunity. I understood that he, and me by association, were on the cutting edge of science and the evolution of a better society, a society that eventually would have no need for indentureds. Hell, as a child, I used to fantasize about growing up to be bonded to a ship of my own in a future generation of SNTs.

In that brave new beginning, Keen’s science didn’t take into account the psychological factors of that integration. If a mentally unstable humanoid can be dangerous, imagine how much more so a heavily armed star ship with a mind of its own? My father had died as a result, and I would have died too, should have died, except for a quirk of fate that left me both orphaned and indentured to a monster.

The first ship to go rogue was the Peregrine. It suffocated its human cargo of refugees from the conflicts on the New American outposts, blew its pilot out the airlock and destroyed four colonies and a space station on the Inner Rim before it was disintegrated by the Dubrovnik’s protective mol-canons. The modified canons were a gamble that an SNT would not anticipate an attack from a freighter.

My father died when the Merlin was blown to bits by the Alvarez, an Authority warship that should have been easy for the Merlin to defeat. But my father and the Merlin chose not to fight back. I was the only survivor. That was when Keen’s flawed science first came to light. Somehow, and no one ever figured out just how, the SNTs were extremely susceptible to the virus engineered for the shackles of indentureds. Somehow they had become infected. The virus destroyed the part of the ships biotechnical brain programmed to protect humanoid life. The end result was mass destruction on a scale no one could have imagined.

It was all because of the virus. That was what the Authority scientists had told everyone after the destruction of the Peregrine. Several of the ships were decommissioned without incident, several more were destroyed in boarder skirmishes on the edge of the Rim. After two more incidents and countless deaths, the rest of the SNTs were destroyed or decommissioned and taken secretly to remote space docks where they’d been either impounded or taken apart. That was not an easy task. The biological brains at the heart of the ships had a very powerful survival instinct. No one actually knew how many had been destroyed or rendered harmless. What I knew was that visions of those ships and the horrors they caused still haunted my nightmares.

I had been so pulled into the memories of a past that I was unaware of our surroundings until I realized I was sweating inside the parka and that the world had suddenly gotten brighter as we stepped through the airlock into what felt like bright sunlight.

“Welcome to Pandora Base,” Keen said, and in spite of his distress at what had just passed between us, he couldn’t hide his pride in the place that, while not exactly a paradise, wasn’t far from it. I could do nothing but stand and gape. “Plague One doesn’t exist anymore. Hasn’t for a long time now,” Keen hurried on to say, probably figuring to take advantage of my good graces.

“What about the SNT victims?” I asked.

“The ones on Pandora Base have all been cured,” and then his face darkened. “The ones who survived the horrible early years, that is. A new generation has been born here, a generation that would have been born into indentured servitude had the Authority gotten wind of what was going on here. So we prefer it if people still believe we’re Dante’s vision of Hell.”

“And this is your penance?” I asked.

He flinched, then squared his shoulders. “In part, I suppose.”

“If all the indentureds on Plague One have been cured, then why did we just deliver serum?” I questioned.

“You brought with you a dozen SNT survivors, also,” Keen said. “We’re a refuge, the safe place to which ships like the Svalbard can bring survivors, the place they can get treatment, so we keep a supply on hand. As for the whiskey,” he offered a tentative smile, “well while we’re very self-sufficient, we’ve not managed to increase the size of the biosphere to include luxury items like grains for fermentation. At least not yet. Follow me.” He nodded down what looked like the main street of a town straight from Old Terran middle America of the 1960s. “I know you’re on a tight schedule, but you’ve got time for meal before you head for Outer Kingston.” He turned to me. “And your explanation, Diana. The truth.”

 

 

Piloting Fury: Part 16 Brand New KDG Read

After a two-week hiatus, I’m back! It’s Friday and that means time for more Fury. As if Covid wasn’t enough of a reason to seek distraction, we can add a harrowing election week, with more nail biting to come. Bring on a little escapism, I say! And I’m happy to provide. As is my usual November habit, I’m self-medicating with NaNoWriMo, always a wonderful distraction for a writer. I’m working on a new Medusa Consortium novel while editing another. Yes, writers are, indeed, self-entertaining.

I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 16th week. If you are, please share the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’ll be offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. In this episode, Manning tries to convince Mac that visiting a plague planet is a good idea. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!

 

 

“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.

 

Piloting Fury 16: Some Persuasion Necessary

The Svalbard departed at 0:600 with coordinates laid in for the Isle of Dogs through the McAllister Wormhole. The Fury set course for Plague One, with me dreading it as though I were going to my own execution. It was the first and the most desolate of the plague planets, one that was all but forgotten now. It had been ignored long enough that there were no more consciences in need of salving and no more drains from the Authority’s coffers for the conservatives to rant about. As far as anyone knew, there was no funding to cut. It was barely habitable when the Authority had first begun to use it. The transport of infected to Plague One had stopped years ago due to overcrowding of the parts that werehabitable. There had been an outcry from the collective guilty consciences of the general population when a film had been smuggled out revealing just how bad conditions were on Plague One. The place chosen to be the new plague planet was practically a paradise by comparison, but too small and too remote to be of any real value in the interstellar real estate grab.

A plan had been made for the mass relocation of the indentureds on Plague One, but of course it didn’t pass the vote of the Central Aggregate. The costs were prohibitive, and besides these people were criminals anyway in the eyes of the law. Money was never allocated. The heated debate became lukewarm, the film became yesterday’s news, and everyone turned a blind eye.

By the time I was born, automated freighters sent supplies periodically, and no one, not even infected indentureds went there. They were all sent to Plague Two and Plague Three and all three had minimal contact with the rest of the Authority. There had been efforts to make Plague Two and Three self-sufficient, but most people knew that just meant no one wanted to bother any longer. In fact, rumour even had it, by the time I was born, that there was no one left alive on Plague One. And yet that was our destination. Even the Fury felt sad beneath my fingertips as I laid in the coordinates. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, stroking the console gently.

I looked up to find Manning watching me. “If I wasn’t already well and truly convinced you were a pilot, I am now,” he said with a quirk of a smile.

“Most pilots their ship far better company than its crew,” I replied, grabbing up my device to check out the quickest routes away from Plague One once we were finished there.

He only nodded and scratched at the stubble on his chin. “Can’t argue much with that. Fury’s always been good company. Have you eaten?”

“I’m not hungry.” I spoke between barely parted lips and pretended to be focused on my device.

“I don’t care. You’re weakened from the experiences of the last day, and I know your stomach is empty.” I blushed at the reminder that the man had seen me hurling my guts. He continued. “Mac, you know the virus isn’t contagious, but there are plenty of other reasons I need you strong.”

“I can’t.” I stood hoping to escape to the map room before he could badger me further. But he grabbed my arm.

“That’s an order, not a request.”

“I can’t,” I repeated, more urgently. “Not after the dream. I can never keep anything down after that, and not after this.” I nodded to the console where I’d just input the route to Plague One.”

When I tried to pull away, he held me. “You have to eat. I need you strong. Now come on.” He all but dragged me to the galley, where he nodded me to the table and programmed the replicator. “You like chocolate don’t you, Mac?”

I made a non-committal grunt, just as the smell of coffee hit the back of my sinuses and the abused muscles deep in my belly tensed for it. But to my surprise, it actually smelled good, and I drew in a deep breath. He sat the cup in front of me. “The warmth is always comforting. Just hold it and smell it for a few seconds. It always helps me.” I did as he ordered.

“What, is this part of your hangover cure?”

He didn’t respond, but I noticed the tightness in his shoulders, the way he flinched at my words. “The dream. You have it often?” He asked as he settled in next to me with a bowl of chocolate pudding.

“Not any more, I don’t. Not since I was transferred to the Dubrovnik. I suppose considering everything that’s happened and with the Svalbard and all it brought back … things.”

“You wanna talk about it?”

“They couldn’t eat.” I hadn’t intended to say anything but the words were out before I could stop them, and the lump in my throat brought with it the threat of tears. “Some of the people with advanced SNT couldn’t eat. I saw them on Plague 3. Fallon made sure I did.”

“I’m sorry, Mac.” Manning held me in a sympathetic gaze.

“I couldn’t eat either.” I looked down into the warm black coffee. “After he took me back home. I … for over a week I couldn’t … I couldn’t eat. I tried. Really I did. And then, Fallon had me taken to the infirmary and they force fed me. They did that every time it happened, the dream, I mean.” The room swam before my eyes and I cursed myself. I didn’t want Manning of all people seeing me like this.

“Fuck,” he whispered in a harsh breath. He shoved back the chair with such force that he nearly upset it, and he began pacing the room. I clutched the cup tighter and watched him, feeling small and miserable.

Then he plopped down beside me again. “Mac, I’m not Fallon. You need to know that right up front.” He ran a trembling hand through his hair and looked around the galley as though he were expecting to find answers maybe over by the replicator. “What happened with the Svalbard, that was unexpected. I never intended to expose you to that. I never intended to make this difficult for you. But things happen, Mac. Shitty things. If anybody knows that you do. He took the cup from me and sat it on the table sloshing it across the pristine surface. “Listen to me,” he cupped my face in his hands. “I’m not Fallon, and you’re not staying behind on a Plague Planet. I’m responsible for your care and well-being, and I take that seriously, Mac, do you hear me. I take that seriously.” He pushed the hair away from my face. “We all get lost in the past sometimes, and it’s never a good place to be, and things like this, like with the Svaldbard, well they just serve to remind us that it is the past. We’re here, now, and moving forward. Stay in the present, Mac. Stay with me and Fury, and you’ll be okay. You’ll be just fine.” He released me and dipped up a huge spoonful of pudding, half of which ended up on the table before he made it to my mouth. I opened for it. I ate it, and it was good.

“It’ll be okay.” He said after I’d eaten a few more bites. “I promise it’ll be okay, Mac. Just stay right here with me and Fury and it’ll be okay.”

It took less than three chronographic hours to get to Plague One. We had seen that all our passengers were fed and cared for, and indeed, all of the SNT victims were massively improved. I pulled out of hyperspace with my stomach in a double knot. Not wanting to be alone with my thoughts, I was busy making small-talk to Fury when Manning joined me on the deck swathed in a heavy parka. He held out its twin for me.

“You’ll need this until we get to Pandora Base. It’s colder than a witch’s tit out there. But at least you won’t need life support. The atmosphere is massively improved.”

The air on Plague One had been unbreatheable back in the early days because of the burning of the dead. He added quickly, “there are very few dead these days, Mac.”

“Rick, we’re all ready,” came Stanislovski’s voice over the com.

Still holding my gaze, he answered. “How many mol-trans outs?”

“Just one. Pandora Base has upgraded since you were last here. The mol-tran can take passengers and the cargo, no worries.”

“Plague One has mol-tran tech?” I managed after a few fish gasps.

“Have had for a long time now. Technically they don’t belong to the Authority because the Authority believes there’s no one left alive here. You’d be amazed what a blessing that’s been.”

“That means we don’t have to go down. That means we can just leave once everyone’s been mol-tranned out.” I nodded down to the computer. “There’s a major planet-wide storm about to hit, and Fury doesn’t want to be in the upper atmosphere when it does.”

“Don’t worry. We won’t get caught.” He held the parka out for me to slide into. “But there are things I have to take care of, Mac, and things that you’ll need to see. Things that might ease your discomfort considerably.”

“All clear,” came the reply on the com. Then there was a squawk and a wheeze and all was silent.

I back stepped. “I don’t need to see anything, honest I don’t. I’m okay with just waiting here with Fury, you know, getting better acquainted.”

In one quick movement, Manning swathed me in the parka until I had no choice but
to shove my arm through the holes as he zipped me in and pulled up the hood. With my heart racing faster that Fury’s hyper jump engines, I stood facing him, not able to meet his gaze.

“Mac,” he lifted my chin on the crook of his finger. “You need to go down.” He brushed my lower lip with the tip of his thumb and I was suddenly dangerously close to tears. “It’ll be okay. I promise.” Holding my hand tightly, he opened the com. “Pandora base, two to mol-tran.” Then he pulled me into a tight embrace. “It’ll be fine,” he whispered again before the deck of the Fury vanished.

 

 

OUT NOW IN AUDIO—Moonstone by Lucy Felthouse (@cw1985) and Narrated by Frankie Holland (@voiceoffholland) #eroticromance #reverseharem #rh #whychoose #rhromance #audio #audiobooks #audible

Blurb:

Christmas gifts aren’t the only surprises Ginny is going to get this year.

Moonstone Guinevere ‘Ginny’ Miles is in Silver Springs visiting her parents for the holidays. They moved to the town five years ago, and adore their new life here. Used to the hustle and bustle of London, England, Ginny isn’t convinced at first—what’s so great about a small town in Upstate New York, anyway? Despite her own opinions, it’s clear to Ginny the move has done her parents the world of good—they look years younger. There’s clearly something magical about this town.

Following some exploration of her own, Ginny discovers Silver Springs has its charms—Jewels Cafe is amazing, for starters, as is its pumpkin spice latte. Ginny’s drunk a lot of lattes in her thirty-three years, but nothing quite like this.

Her taste buds are still tingling from the tasty treat when she comes across a broken-down truck on the way back to her parents’ place. And when she spots the three gorgeous guys with the vehicle, it’s not just her taste buds that are tingling.

Is Ginny’s vacation in Silver Springs about to get a whole lot more interesting?

Moonstone is a standalone contemporary reverse harem romance. It is part of the Jewels Cafe series.

Listen here:

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Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2HA8TAm

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Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/audiobook/id1528498339

Barnes & Noble: https://www.nookaudiobooks.com/audiobook/1019852/Moonstone

Chirp: https://www.chirpbooks.com/audiobooks/moonstone-by-lucy-felthouse

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Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/audiobooks/details/Lucy_Felthouse_Moonstone?id=AQAAAEAcwgSCCM

HiBooks: https://www.hibooks.com/discover/audiobook/moonstone-1

Hoopla: https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/13581172

Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/audiobook/473165358/Moonstone-A-Contemporary-Reverse-Harem-Romance

 

*The audiobook is also available via many library systems, so if you listen through your library, please do contact them and find out if Moonstone can be added to their catalogue!

*****

Excerpt:

Moonstone Guinevere Miles—known as Ginny to people who didn’t want to incur her fierce and everlasting wrath—heaved her suitcase off the luggage reclaim belt with an “Oof!” and placed it on the floor, a sigh of relief escaping her. At least the thing had wheels—she didn’t really have the energy for carrying a heavy suitcase all the way through Customs and out to Arrivals. The long, tiring flight had seen to that.

No matter how much she tried, no matter how exhausted she was, she simply could not fall asleep on a plane. Ever. Eye mask, ear plugs, meditation, bloody whale music—nothing helped. She’d long since resigned herself to staying awake while snores from other passengers emanated around the cabin. At least it had only been about seven and a half hours since taking off from Heathrow—she couldn’t imagine what state she’d be in if she ever flew any longer than that—to Australia, New Zealand or somewhere.

Doubtful that would ever happen, though. It had taken long enough for her to get her backside out to the east coast of America, where her parents had been running a retreat since retiring five years ago. But then, things were different now, weren’t they? Which was why she was even here in the first place—it wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Thinking of her parents brought an inevitable smile to her face, and inserted a little more spring in her step. Despite the energy and mood suck that had been the flight, she was excited to be here. She was eager to see her parents, and to find out exactly what they’d built up over the last five years. She’d seen photos and videos, but it wasn’t the same as actually being there.

When they’d first announced they were using their retirement nest egg to open a retreat in Upstate New York, she’d been floored. Who the hell retires, only to take on a massive project like that? Surely the whole point of retiring is to wind down, enjoy some free time, relax? But no, her mum and dad—who, to be fair, had never been what one would call conventional—had set their hearts on it. They’d had a huge purge of their belongings, sold their cars and house, and jetted off across the pond, leaving Ginny shocked and not a little bereft. She’d been used to having them close by and had quickly realized just how much she’d taken that for granted.

At the same time, her career as a chef had taken off and she’d become so busy that her parents’ sudden distance hadn’t made the blindest bit of difference. She barely saw the inside of her own flat, never mind her friends and family. This was the first Christmas she’d had off work since then, too, and she was looking forward to spending it with her parents more than she could put into words. They’d been big on the festive period ever since she was a baby, and as such, Ginny’s brain was stuffed full of warm, fuzzy memories of Christmases past. They’d been useful to get her through the last five crappy ones, too, where a microwaved ready meal was the best she could hope for, if she hadn’t managed to wangle a free meal from the place she’d been working at at the time.

Her smile widened, and she walked faster still—God, just how big is this bloody airport?—desperate to see her mum and dad and start the Christmas holiday with a bang. Anticipation rushed through her. They’d have turkey and roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, mounds of vegetables, desserts laden with enough calories to last them until Valentine’s Day, Christmas carols, amazing decorations, a beautiful tree, fairy lights…

And Santa Claus. Two of them, in fact, jumping up and down enthusiastically and waving wildly at her, with not a rotund belly in sight.

Ginny was so excited, she couldn’t even be bothered with the embarrassment she might have felt at being greeted in a public place by her parents dressed up in Santa outfits. Plus, nobody knew her here anyway, so who cared?

She scurried around the barrier, almost flipping her case in her haste to turn a corner, then covered the remaining distance between them in seconds flat and released the handle of her suitcase. A series of squeals and exclamations went up—from all three of them—and then everything went dark as Ginny was enveloped in a warm, fluffy embrace, her face crushed up against what she suspected was the white fur trim on her mother’s jacket, and kisses rained down on her. It was all she could do to suck in oxygen as she was squeezed and squeezed them right back. She was assailed by the scents of clean clothes, shampoo, perfume, and cologne—all perfectly lovely smells by themselves, but somewhat overwhelming all at once. Unintelligible murmurings reached her ears, but she didn’t bother to reply since she had no idea what was being said. And she didn’t need words, anyway. All she needed at that moment in time was to soak up the enormous outpouring of love she was experiencing.

She was so bloody happy, she thought she might pop.

*****

Author Bio:

Lucy Felthouse is the award-winning author of erotic romance novels Stately Pleasures (named in the top 5 of Cliterati.co.uk’s 100 Modern Erotic Classics That You’ve Never Heard Of), Eyes Wide Open (winner of the Love Romances Café’s Best Ménage Book 2015 award), The Persecution of the Wolves, Hiding in Plain Sight, and The Heiress’s Harem and The Dreadnoughts series. Including novels, short stories and novellas, she has over 170 publications to her name. Find out more about her writing at http://lucyfelthouse.co.uk, or on Twitter or Facebook. Join her Facebook group for exclusive cover reveals, sneak peeks and more! Sign up for automatic updates on Amazon or BookBub. Subscribe to her newsletter here: http://www.subscribepage.com/lfnewsletter

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