Happy Friday everyone! Last week was all about our girl, Len. This week we get a good look at her through the eyes of her rescuer, who is determined not to get too close to her. I hope you’re enjoying Dragon Ascending, the sequel to Piloting Fury, as much as I’m enjoying sharing it with you. As always, I love it when you share my work with your reading friends, so feel free. In the meantime, enjoy!
For those of you who would like to read the complete novel, Piloting Fury, book one of the Sentient Ships series, follow the link to the first instalment.
Dragon Ascending: Part 2 of the Sentient Ships Series
On a desolate junkyard of a planetoid, scavenger Lenore Felik, disturbs something slumbering in a remote salvage dump and uncovers secrets of a tragic past and of the surprising role she must play in the terrifying present she now faces.
Robbed of her inheritance after her tyrannical father’s death, Tenad Fallon is out for revenge on her half-brothers, one who happens to be the sentient ship, Fury. Fury, with his human companions, Richard Manning and Diana McAllister, has his own agenda – finding the lost sentient ships and ending the scourge of indentured servitude in Authority space.
Dragon Ascending Part 13: Too Close
I should not have come to her. I should not have responded when she called to me. I did not want to know her. I certainly did not want to know that her name was poetry, that beneath the filth and the blood and sweat and vomit was a delicate, vulnerable humanoid, who had missed too many meals and too seldom slept in comfort. Len, she called herself, she move me deeply. But as I have said, I am no doubt somewhat unbalanced from my own loss. I am more vulnerable to humanoids than I would choose to be. I could not have imagined how she would nearly destroy me when I thought she would die while I watched helplessly. Her very heart had stopped. The slow steady beating of her heart in peaceful sleep almost had not happened, so close she had come to death, much closer than she should have, than she would have if I could have accessed my data as I should have been able to. If I could have accessed myself as I should have been able. Instead I had been forced to resort to the auto-surgery so helpless was I. It was only when I remembered to access my own heart, my blood and inject her with it that her heart beat again, that she breathed again, and color returned to her cheeks and wounds began to heal as though I had simply willed it, as though she had simply acquiesced to my will.
The auto-surgery stood ready to inject her with immunosuppressants to keep her body from rejecting my biological and technological materials, so different from her own.
She did not.
How could it be that she did not reject my genetic materials? The mix of technology and biology alone was usually lethal without the injections. And yet she took what I offered up from my core into that fragile, broken flesh of hers, which to my surprise devoured it hungrily, and the affect was astounding, visible from moment to moment, as the gift from my body restored her health.
Her filthy, soiled clothing had been stripped away in order to clean and treat her wounds, most of which were healing from moment to moment. Deep insider her flesh, which had been so badly violated, the physical injuries were healing as well, but there were other wounds that would not so easily be healed, the emotional wounds, which she would never be shed of. Such wounds I understood well, and I understood the desire to keep them as far from the center of one’s core as possible.
As the woman healed before my very optic sensors, the auto-surgery continued to bathe and clean the filth from her. The process was not the traditional and welcomed cleansing of flesh that humanoids were so enamored of, though in truth an auto-surgical cleaning was much more effective, and it gave me pleasure to see her clean and in no further stress. For some time while she slept, I kept watch just in case the rejection of my genetic materials should be delayed in this one. My watch had not been necessary, for she remained secure within the auto-surgery’s emergency treatment space, and yet I remained. I should have removed myself long before she woke. The less contact I had with her the better. To her I would simply be the computer of a long dead ship. In truth I was little more, and even the computer was damaged.
I had not planned to respond when she woke up. I had not even planned to be present, but when she would not drink the water essential to facilitate her recovery, I intervened. And then I lingered for the pleasure of watching her drink and then eat, and when she called out to me, in my arrogance I found I wanted her to call my name. Though all I could remember was some sort of designation I did not fully understand, and yet I knew it was as close to a name as I had at the moment, Ascent7.
I should never have asked her name. Her name gave her dimension, depth. Her name took up space in my damaged inner workings, filling a place that was otherwise empty. And her presence in that place was uncomfortable. Oh how I had worked to purge that space so that there was nothing remaining for me to feel, and now I had let this woman in. And she would not be so easily dismissed.
She did not lie quietly when she woke the second time, rather she stretched long and deep and yawned and sighed, gathering the covering to her breasts as she pushed up on one elbow. Her thin stomach grumbled and she rested a slender hand upon it and looked around.
I instantly provided food, a more substantial stew and flat bread along with an electrolyte supplement that at least looked tasty. And water, of course. She needed lots of water.
She sighed her pleasure with a deep inhalation of the scents. “I’m starving,” she said, knotting the coverlet around her and coming to the table. I would have to see to clothing for her.
She drank the water, and then glanced around the chamber I had made for her as though she hoped to see me somewhere in the corner perhaps. “Thank you, Ascent7.”
I did not answer, stunned as I was that this woman from such a place as Taklamakan Major would have the manners to thank a computer, or even feel it necessary.
“I can’t remember ever eating so well,” she continued, unaware of my surprise. “I didn’t know that ships were trained in cookery.”
Still I did not reply, determined to minimize my contact with her. It was better that way.
She did not seem to mind my silence. She ate with deliberate pleasure. Even with food readily available to her she ate slowly, savoring each bite as though she were not certain of her next meal, as though I might actually withhold food from her. The bread, I noticed, she did not touch. “My mother used to be a pretty good cook. She taught me, but,” she shrugged and swallowed carefully, and I found myself fascinated with the rise and fall of the translucent muscles at her throat in the motion of ingesting food. “You can’t get many of the ingredients here, and even if you could, I can’t afford them. No one here can or they wouldn’t live on this shithole.” She tilted head at such an angle to suggest that she was lost in thought, and then she said, “at least no one bothers you here.” As she spoke, the expressive angles of her face became harsher, tighter. She blinked a couple of times as though the light suddenly hurt her eyes, then she laid down her spoon, though she was not nearly finished. “At least most of the time.”
“Those who hurt you will not bother you again.” This time I could not keep silent. This time I feared that she would feel my own rage as it passed over me.
Her thin shoulders stiffened and she stilled, the only movement was the flutter of her pulse in her fragile neck. “You know.”
“I treated your injuries, and they were … extensive. I was very angry.” Then I added quickly, “It was not my intention to violate your privacy, but your condition was urgent.”
“She bit her lip and twisted her fingers in the napkin on her lap. “Did you kill them?” Before I could replay she said, “because I wouldn’t mind if you had.”
I studied her for a moment, once again reminded of just how much more there was to this woman than I had at first given her credit for. It would appear that she was less fragile than I had earlier believed. “If they are dead, I have not confirmed, but they were falling from high orbit when my attention was drawn back to the your disturbing lack of respiration.”
To my surprise she laughed. “Well that’s all right then. Not a pleasant fall from high orbit.”
She picked up her spoon and continued to eat, still not touching the bread.
“Is the bread not to your liking?”
“Oh, I’m sure it’s delicious,” came her reply, “but those bastards took my pack. All my rations are gone.”
“You are not at the mercy of the Taklamakan now.”
She smiled and looked around the room, once again attempting to locate the place from which I spoke. “Oh don’t be offended. Your hospitality has been above and beyond. I give you five stars. It’s just that … I don’t want to wear out my welcome.”
It surprised me that she could read me so easily. I was a collection of circuits and nanites mixed with a bit of human biology to create a Frankensteinian creature with no place in the galaxy. “It is impossible for me to be offended,” I lied, and was somewhat surprised that I had that ability within myself, the subterfuge I did not like in humanity.
“Good,” she responded. “No need to be. You’ve been wonderful.”
It disturbed me to find the thought of her departure not at all to my liking, for certainly she would leave. What was there in this place for her? “Nevertheless,” I said, vowing once again that when next the opportunity presented itself, I would sever all contact with her. “you may eat all that you like while you are here, for certainly you are in need of a more caloric diet.”
At that she laughed and ripped into the bread with an animal-like growl that suggested pleasure and not anger. And I was pleased.
“I will also see to your need for clothing, Len.”
“Thank you, Ascent. I haven’t had a new party dress in awhile.”
“Then you shall certainly need one for my annual gala soirée.”
Oh her laugh! Such a sound I could not recall hearing, such pleasure in sound had once been mine, I was sure, but I no longer recalled that time, nor did I try. “Afraid you’ll find I’m not a very good dancer.”
“Nor am I, so we shall do just fine together,” I replied.
Once again at the end of her meal, she saw to her elimination needs and then returned to bed. I was aware from trembling of her limbs, that she needed rest as much as she did food. She slept, and this time I did retreat as far from her as I could get, determined that I should sever the ties between us before it was too late to do so.