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?”
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.”
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.