All posts by K D Grace

The Bet: A KDG Scribe Story

 

Good Morning my lovelies, and welcome to 2024! I decided to start the new year by sharing a Scribe story with you, so hang on to your hats. It’s time to visit a very exclusive Vegas casino that deals in very unusual bets. Michael is about to learn the hard way that the lines between winning and losing are not always as clear-cut as they seem. Enjoy!

 

 

The Bet

Part 1: Few People Come Here More than Once

Magda had arranged for Michael to arrive at Buried Pleasures Casino in a white stretch limo. Oh it certainly wasn’t done in an effort to impress him. In fact it would embarrass him, she figured. But a white limo for his last night seemed appropriate under the circumstances. She had known for a long time that he would come. Endlessly patient, she watched and waited, knowing that when the time was right and everything came together as it must, he would never truly be able to imagine the knock-on effects of the cataclysmic change he thought he so desperately wanted. But then his kind tended to be naïve, kept so sheltered as they were.

Jack Graves, the casino owner, usually furnished transport for those he had invited. But this time she asked him to allow her the honors. Buried Pleasures was by invitation only, but rules had been broken and lines had been crossed in order for Michael to be here.

She’d been careful to arrive just before he did, waiting in the shadows so she could see his response. She’d asked the driver to take the long route and make sure he gave Michael a tour of the Strip and the Downtown area before bringing him to Buried Pleasures. She wanted him impatient, even a little intimidated. She needed to see just how willing he was to do what was necessary. And she wanted him off-balance, at least a little. Though really, it was difficult for one not to be off-balanced by first impressions of Buried Pleasures. There was no glam, no glitz, only the gaping maw of a storm tunnel. Even the limos were allowed just a quick drop-off on a cracked concrete slab under the constant buzz and flutter of an aging sodium streetlight. There were very few pick-ups.

The storm tunnels beneath Las Vegas were a mind-boggling engineering feat began in the seventies to offer flood protection to a city built on bedrock and totally surrounded by mountains. The individual segments always reminded Magda of giant hollow Lego blocks made of concrete. Originally there was to be over a thousand miles of tunnels serving Vegas and the surrounding area. They were all designed to channel the waters of any flash flood that threatened the financial heart of the city into Lake Mead some thirty miles away. The project was never finished, but there were still an impressive two hundred miles of tunnels beneath the city. They now provided shelter for the homeless who didn’t mind playing the odds that their meager belongings wouldn’t get washed away in the next deluge. They also had provided a hiding place for murderers and thieves and who knew what else? Well actually, Magda knew what else. She was there when the tunnels were built. She was there long before. There were lots of reasons why Buried Pleasures was the most talked about secret hidden beneath Sin City.

The real attraction of Buried Pleasures was that everyone was dying to see what was inside, what was very literally buried under the storm tunnel façade. But only a select few were allowed in. And that exclusive clientele had nothing to do with wealth, power or fame. Beneath the dank passages crawling with scorpions and ripe with urban legends, oligarchs placed their bets next to waitresses. Beneath chandeliers the size of steamships, rock stars and famous athletes played black jack next to farmers and janitors.

 

 

Michael hadn’t waited for the driver to open the limo door. He’d unfolded himself from the back seat and stood for a moment, his hands thrust deep in the pockets of an ill-fitting sports jacket. With a quick glance he took in the complete lack of anything that would have given him a clue he was about to enter the most exclusive casino in the world. There was no shock, no doubt, no surprise on his face. Just chiseled determination.

As he straightened his jacket and stepped toward the entrance, she made her move. For a moment she simply stood there in front of him letting the impact of her presence wash over him, a presence that assured he’d never even notice her dark glasses. No one ever did until she removed them, and then it was too late. Sometimes beauty was not only untouchable but deadly, for a split second its subconscious impact a reminder that the sublime often exists only a hairs breadth from destruction. And once the initial moment of surging pulse and rising goose flesh had passed, she approached him casually. First impressions were lasting impressions, after all, and he would remember her for a very long time to come. “You’re first time here?” She asked as they walked into the tunnel, which would have been pitch black if not for the utility lights glowing in their protective metal cages.

He only offered a grunt of affirmation, and blushed furiously – something anyone else would have missed, but Magda saw way more than most.

“A silly question, I suppose.” She slid a hand into the crook of his elbow as though she were his date, and he tensed at her touch. “Very few people come here more than once.”

“I only need once.” He was softer spoken than she had expected, but then she doubted he’d had much experience interacting with people.

She smiled to herself. He was right. He only needed once. What he would do afterwards, though, that was what interested her.

They took one of the two service elevators down, both more suitable for forklifts and men with jackhammers descending to a construction sight than for the steady stream of people anxious to bet everything. Some were dressed to the nines in designer originals, some wore faded jeans and tee-shirts. There was no dress code, and no matter how much speculation the place generated, what went on in Buried Pleasures actually did stay in Buried Pleasures. Those select few who returned from a visit to the casino never talked about it, no matter how much they were offered for their exclusive exposé.

He chose poker – after she’d recommended it. He’d never played before. In fact, he’d never gambled before, but then a lot of people invited to Buried Pleasures hadn’t. It didn’t matter. Ultimately everyone played the odds. While most people who came here weren’t very skilled, Magda knew there was far more to gambling than cards or roulette. It was all a matter of just how far they were willing to go and if they were they willing to bet it all.

Michael spoke with the careful elocution of someone who had worked with a coach to perfect the accent in a language that wasn’t his own. That was to be expected under the circumstances. And even if Magda hadn’t known who he was, what he was, she’d have assumed this was his first trip to the big city. Not that Vegas was big, and it didn’t really qualify as a city, but Michael seemed a bit overwhelmed by it nonetheless. In all fairness she doubted if he got a lot of time for recreation in his vocation. It was a risk for him to be here at all. But then he wouldn’t be here if he weren’t willing to take the big risk.

See you next week for Part 2 of The Bet!

Dragon Ascending Part 80: Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday everyone! And a monumental Friday it is! For eighty weeks you’ve followed Dragon and Len’s adventure in the Dust Cloud Crossroad, and while it’s time for their story to end, the adventure goes on, as I’m sure you’ll see in the final episode of Dragon Ascending. I think it’s quite possible that KD had at least as much of an adventure writing Dragon Ascending as our main cast of characters, though thankfully not nearly as dangerous. I hope it’s been an adventure for you too and that you’ve had as much fun as I have. Will there be another novel from the Sentient Ships series? Well, certainly there’s one in my head. We shall see. As always, I love it when you share my work with your reading friends, so feel free. In the meantime, enjoy!

If you missed the previous episode of Dragon Ascending follow the link for a catch-up. If you wish to start from the beginning, of Dragon Ascending. Follow the link.  

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: Book 2 of the Sentient Ship Series

On a desolate junkyard of a planetoid, scavenger Lenore Felish, 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 Epilogue: You have a Different Fate

Through the observation shield in his office, Kresho watched Dragon make the jump, wishing he’d had more time to better know the woman Len had grown into, but glad that she had found love, had found her rightful place. He and Ori had persuaded Len and Dragon to take Gert with them, a task the woman was a little too excited about in his opinion, but Len wasn’t a pilot, nor did she have the kind of experience troubleshooting that Gert did, and the two women got along surprisingly well. Besides she and Dragon both hoped to build a working crew. They planned to take onboard escaped and free indentured and help them begin a new life beyond the Rim, all that while they searched for Len’s uncle and Quetzalcoatl.

Ori spoke, as they watched her brother vanish. “Humanoids need humanoid companionship. It has been good for us both to be surrounded by so many humanoids, Kresho, though perhaps we were surrounded by too many before we had the chance to enjoy each other as a bonded pair.” He felt her caress of the nape of his neck, and he lifted his arm to accommodate her construct as she slid in tight against his body.

“Then we’ll have to make up for it, won’t we?” He said, turning to kiss the top of her ear. “Does it bother you that Tenad Fallon is here?” The woman was now in a secured room close to the infirmary under full time care. They both visited her every day since they brought her onboard Vodni Station, though she was unaware of their presence.

“Of course it doesn’t. It’s only that I wished I had handled the situation better. I feel responsible for her present condition to some degree.”

“Jesu Vati, Ori, how can you be responsible for the fucked-up mind of a Fallon?”

When she didn’t reply, when he felt her searching for the right words, it was as though the lights had suddenly come on. How could he not have seen it before? “You had me go to her because you wanted her.”

“I wanted us to be happy, and when I learned that Fury had two compliments, I thought perhaps if you had someone human then maybe things would be better. I didn’t think she would escalate the situation like she did.”

Kresho thought about that for a minute and then dropped into his chair. “Perhaps,” he said slowly, “perhaps the reason she pushed for the bonding with Fury is because she wanted something more.”

His com pinged. “Ivanovic, you’d better get down to the infirmary.” The security guard assigned to Tenad’s room was breathing hard, and Kresho could hear the scuffle in the background.

“On my way.”

Even from down the corridor, they could hear the noise, and there was a trail of blood leading into the infirmary. The two security guards always posted at Tenad’s room were not outside, but in the room struggling to restrain Tenad while Doctor Candice, tried to sedate her.

With very little effort, Tenad shoved the doctor on her ass and pushed past the guards to lunge at him, already in mid-sentence, the first words she had spoken since the fiasco of her bonding. “Ivanovic, I have to go. You have to let me go. She needs me to find her. I have to go now!”

Kresho motioned the doc away, and the guards stood back knowing that Ori wouldn’t let anything happen to him. With some effort, he turned her back to settle her on her bed. “Go where, Tenad? Who needs you?

She pounded the side of her head with her open palm. “Here. I can see them here. She won’t leave me alone. I have to go. I have to.” She pulled in a massive breath, her eyes misted and she looked right through him. “There’s a veil, a fog, I can’t get through it, but she’s there. I have to find her.”

 

 

“Find who? Where must you go, Tenad Fallon?” Ori asked.

“Fury … when we were together.” She pounded the side of her head again. “I saw them, I shouldn’t have been able to, but I did. Like I was there. Like I was them. Like they were me. He did this to me. He did this!”

“Who? Who did what? Fury?”

“No, no, no! Not Fury. Never Fury. He would never…” She gave Kresho a shake. “You’re the scientist. Tell me how that can be. You and the SNT you belong to, listen to me, there are others. I don’t know how many, but they will come. The Authority. They will come. The Independent University wasn’t the only one experimenting. They were us. He used us. We didn’t know how many of us there were. My father kept most of us secret from each other. Then I bonded with Fury, and I could see.” Tears streaked her face. “I could see, and now I’m the only one who can, and I can’t get them out of here.” She pounded her temple again, “I have to go. I have to find them. They’re angry, so angry. They will never let it end here. They will never set me free now that they know. Fury did this to me. Fury did this to me! She pounded her temple hard enough that Kresho grabbed her hands.

For a long moment she sat only staring into space. Then she drew another deep breath. “You have to let me go. I know where they are. We need them, I know them. Oh Fury, I can see them. I know them. You could have helped them, and now I’m nobody, I’m nothing, but I’m all there is. I have to go. I’m all there is.” Tenad gave one last convulsive gasp and then her eyes were once again empty. Doctor Candice shooed Kresho away and examined her.

“Well?” Kresho said, when she made no reply.

“It’s like nothing happened. Her brain patterns are consistent with the catatonic state she’s been in since she tried to bond with SNT1. I can’t explain what happened, only that she suddenly sat up, agitated, demanding to see you, and when Pelton tried to sedate her, well,” she shook her head. “He’s over in the infirmary with a broken nose and a dislocated shoulder.”

“What?”

“She forced a bond with an SNT,” the doctor said. “We don’t know the side effects of that, but we do know that the bonded compliments are stronger, more agile, in tune with the functions and needs of their ship, and they’re often very intuitive. If she can ever properly access it, she may have a deep bond to memories, events that only SNT1 would know. But that, whatever just happened, that had nothing to do with SNT1.”

“If she can ever regain consciousness, she will be unique in the galaxy,” Ori said, “and possibly even more frightening than she already was. We must discuss this with Fury.”

 

Tenad dreamed. She dreamed all the time now. It had become her existence. It always seemed like only a thin membrane separated her from the people moving around her, from the events that had changed the politics of the Dust Cloud Crossroads irrevocably. Even when she screamed out to them, tried to reach them, she couldn’t.

In the good dreams she watched her brother and Griffin make love to their pregnant compliment. She watched Dubrovnik interface with Professor Keen and his scientists in exciting research. She sensed the ship’s proud closeness with its double compliment. She watched Dragon make love to his new compliment, felt his pleasure in creating safe and comfortable places for his crew, and she watched Fury and his compliment still celebrating their reunion weeks after their return to him, as though she had never been there at all. How could she have dismissed Vodni Station so lightly? Tonight Kresho and his SNT were making passionate love, not rough like when he’d fucked her, but neither was it gentle. They couldn’t get enough of each other, and there was … love, there was love. She wondered what that might feel like, and she ached with loneliness. She couldn’t pull herself away from their love, their tenderness. Sometimes the camaraderie, the playfulness of the ships with their compliments was worse than her own nightmares because she was always only watching, never participating, always an outsider, one who none of them cared about. Sometimes she would almost prefer that they loathed her than that they did not pay her any mind at all. Lonely. She was desperately lonely, and she lived with the pain of it every time she was pulled into the dream that was the life she would never have.

“You don’t belong here, Tenad Fallon.” The woman’s voice she’d heard before in her fevered dreams, even before she bonded with Fury. She always walked on a craggy peak veiled in black. The air was thin. The wind was icy.

“I don’t belong anywhere.” Tenad tried to turn her face to the wall, but she was only dreaming, and there was no turning away. “It would have been better if I died.”

The veiled woman cackled with laughter. “Do you seriously think your survival was luck, girl? You gambled, and you got more than you bargained for.”

“I didn’t gamble. I considered every factor.” Tenad tried to hold the gaze of the woman before her, but it was impossible through the sway and lift of the veil in the howling wind.

“Your whole existence has been a gamble, Tenad Fallon.” Her words were a harsh, dry chuckle, as though she thought all of this was funny. “You’re not yet finished. You’re not your father, and you are not your brother. You were the best kept secret, the secret unlocked by your own ambition. And now your fate is thrust upon you. And you will rise to meet it, or you will die.”

And just like that the woman on the crag vanished, and Tenad Fallon woke up.

 

The End

 

Dragon Ascending Part 79: Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday everyone! Time for the penultimate episode of Dragon Ascending. Wow! What a wild ride it’s been. I hope you’ve had as much fun with it as I have. In this week’s instalment, Len pays a visit to old friends and discovers things are a changing. As I mentioned, I am now attempting to post episodes at lengths that will be better suited for the flow of the story and enhance your reading pleasure. Some will be slightly shorter, some will be longer. This is especially true as we draw nearer the end of the novel. 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!

If you missed the previous episode of Dragon Ascending follow the link for a catch-up. If you wish to start from the beginning, of Dragon Ascending. Follow the link.  

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: Book 2 of the Sentient Ship Series

On a desolate junkyard of a planetoid, scavenger Lenore Felish, 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 79: Old Friends, New Beginnings

 They were all on Vodni Station longer than expected. The place felt like home, and it gave them an opportunity to get to know the rest of the family. Besides it was hard not to catch the excitement of a sudden exchange of people and goods between Vodni Station and the Taklamakan System, which had been happy to let the outpost extend its influence for everyone’s benefit. It had long been Ouroboros’s dream to do so, but she felt her hands were tied as long as there was a need to protect her brother. She and Kresho had done what they could to send business Sandstorm way and to help out in unobtrusive ways, but it wasn’t easy without coming out into the open and forming some kind of alliance. Within a few days the new alliance was already benefiting Sandstorm, now that the SNTs could work their seeming magic out in the open. It had always been Keen and Harker’s dream to make things better for humanoids. From the beginning that had been the mission of the SNTs. So with the combine science and tech of Vodni and New Pandora onboard Dubrovnik, they had installed a water molecularization plant in Sandstorm, the only one of the three outposts that didn’t already have one. In the process, they also upgraded the plants on Windward and Sunward. While it was their plan that the whole planetoid should benefit from SNT science and tech, they gave the majority of their attention to Sandstorm, which was the most impoverished and the one in most need.

In the past few months, the people of Sandstorm had become a part of the SNTs’ extended family, having put themselves at risk, as they had. As important as that was, what mattered even more was the fact that the small outpost had been a family to Lenore, another drain on their meager resources when they could just as easily not have revived her. But they had, to the last person, been the family she had lost, never knowing just how special she was, and yet, at the same time, she was special to them simply because of who she was. They had, in essence, rescued nurtured and loved Dragon’s beloved until she was old enough and ready to give him the wake-up call he needed. They had stood nose to nose against the Fallons with little more than what they could salvage. It was only after Kresho and Ouroboros sent deep geo-scanners to Tak Major, they realize that whatever it was at the core of their little sand heap, it wasn’t sand, and they might actually be sitting on a goldmine, having a renewable source of power fed by the intense heat of the system’s sun. It was exactly the kind of power Kresho could harvest, with no harm to the planetoid, for the Tri-axe replacement he and his scientific team had invented. They reckoned that in a few years, all the systems beyond the Rim could be free of the dependence on Tri-Axe, with the help of the Outer Rim Alliance. And suddenly, Tak Major became a hot commodity, though only a few trusted allies knew it just yet.

Tak Minor’s true scientific value had been mostly ignored by the Authority, interested in nothing more than using it to spy on the Rim Alliance. It had, in fact, been completely abandoned after Len left. Clearly there had been no intention of getting the last scientist, who had been executed aboard the Fidelio for betraying Len and her mother and Kresho to the Authority, off the planetoid when his five-year term expired. He had been on the Authority shit list anyway and the posting was the punishment he hoped to get out of by turning in the SNT scientists. When the Authority had not been able to use Vodni as a relay station for the little spy project after they lost the battle with the Alliance, they tried several other methods to relay their information, if there was any to be gathered, and decided it was not worth the cost to them. Their data nodes were automated and maintained through the last Authority scientist, hoping they would find a way to of relaying the information. They gave up the effort and just told the rest of the world the station was to be automated.

As it turned out Tak Minor was indeed a scientific marvel, and most of the data, which Len and her mother had collected and Len had memorized before she fled the planetoid, was outrageously exciting. Tak Minor’s erratic orbit had little to do with the pull of the sun, but no one knew just what it did have to do with. There was a new research station in the works as well as a team from Vodni Station and from Dubrovnik’s Pandora team to work there when it was finished. This station would be a proper research facility akin to what Pandora Base had been on Plague1 and, with Len’s data, long distance research from Vodni had already begun.

Though they kept it well hidden, Vodni Station was far wealthier and better protected from the Authority than Hammerfel Station, which was over twice its size. Vodni Station had an SNT ship with an aptitude for smuggling and making win-win deals, and it was run by a brilliant scientist who knew how to create, market and sell on the sly cutting-edge technology that had benefitted the Rim Alliance quietly. All of this together had made Vodni a quietly wealthy outpost. It was so far out that no one gave it a second thought, and after losing the battle for the station, the Authority was happy to fuck off and leave the survivors to save themselves, having no idea that the whole of the place had been rescued from total destruction by an errant SNT ship, whom they believed to have been long destroyed, along with one of the foremost SNT scientists in the galaxy. In a nutshell, it was the best-kept secret in the quadrant.

All the other SNTs had gone two days ago, but Len and Dragon had lingered. Since the takeover of the Fallon ships, she’d not been back down to Sandstorm, and she wouldn’t leave without saying good-bye. When Dragon ‘tranned her down, she was surprised to see just how quickly things were changing. The Dustbowl pretty much looked the same, but crews from Vodni Station had been working nearly round the clock in special environmental suits that protected them from both the heat and the cold. Bit by bit mountains of salvage, which had long ago been demoted to rubbish, were giving way to state of the art eco-builds, each with proper showers and actual running water.

 

 

Inside Tula and Vaness were behind the bar. “Wow! Something smells in here,” Len said as she came in through the new pressure door.

“It’s called clean,” Tula said, and then added with a bawdy laugh, “took us all awhile to get used to it. Can’t even remember the last time I’d had a proper shower.”

Vaness shook her head slowly. “Seems so decadent, so wasteful.”

“Yeah, well as long as we share quarters, Hon, don’t you even consider saving water by not bathing. I didn’t realize just how bad you smelled until I’d bathed.”

Vaness gave her the finger and then came around the bar to give Len a rib crushing hug. Vaness was a big woman.  “How you doing, Girlie? ‘Zat SNT of yours making sure you’re getting laid enough?”

Tula giggled. “Hell, all you have to do is look at her, Nessie, to she’s walking bowlegged.”

“I like them,” Dragon said over the com system that had been put in place so the actual SNTs could communicate with the surface.

Tula gave another hearty laugh. “Well, Dragon Boy, I’m sure Nessie and I would both give you a freebie just to know what a little SNT cock feels like.”

“I would hardly call it a little SNT cock,” came the response that had both whores guffawing.

“That being the case,” Vaness replied, “maybe we’ll pay you. We’re business owners now, you know?” She nodded around the bar, which was comfortably busy.

“I shall take that under advisement if we are ever lacking for funds,” came the response.

Vaness came out from behind the bar and handed Len a beer, which she tasted. “Wow, that’s actually good.”

“Just don’t tell Arji,” Vaness replied, a blush of pleasure crawling up her cheeks.

“The secret ingredient is water,” Tula said, returning to pulling three more pints as Arji and Camille came from the back room along with Kresho — Arji hand in hand with Camille.

“Hell, I’d have used water if I’d had it,” came the ex-bar owner’s reply. Under the circumstances … well my brew was creative.” He broke away from Camille and swept Len up in a hug.  “How you pissing, Girlie-Girl? Looks like ole Dragon is treating you right. He’d better be.” He glanced around the room and raised his voice slightly just to be sure ole Dragon heard.

“I see that she eats regularly, gets laid whenever she wants and pisses very well indeed.”

“Them sounds like wedding vows on this dirt ball.” Digby came through the pressure door and grabbed Len up for another hug, which was followed in quick succession by half a dozen other Sandstormers coming in to wish her a bon voyage.

“You won’t forget us, will you?” Jax said, her eyes uncharacteristically misty, though she swore if was only the scent of the high-falluting soap Kresho had delivered from Vodni, something that up until the water-system, had not been useful on Sandstorm.

“I would never forget my family,” Len replied, wiping her own eyes.

“See that you don’t,” Digby said.

Even after they came out into the pub, Kresho, Camille and Arji sat at the back table with their heads together, sipping their pints.

“What’s going on?” Len asked Tula nodding back to them.

“Kresho has a half a dozen contracts for them and the Janisha. Those two are gonna be well rewarded. They’re taking Jax and Clapper with them so they’ll have a full crew. If I understood right,” Tula was a great eaves dropper who never missed anything, “their first little expedition is out to Diga Prime. Big enough contracts they’ll need the full crew.”

“So, who is taking the Love Shack now that you two are pub owners and beer makers?” Len asked.

“Gonna be on a rotating schedule for now,” Vaness answered for her partner. “Ori and Kresho have several professionals, both chicks and blokes, who would be happy to trade out and spend a rotation here. They’ll be making a lot more dosh than we were now that the place is becoming all hoity-toity. That’s all right,” she said filling a pint and sliding it across the bar to Clyde. “Them professionals do their job right, all the punters’ll be here to drink up, before and after. We won’t suffer none, especially now with real water for the beer. Hell, we might even start stocking two kinds, and Camille and Arji are saving a little space to bring us back a shipment of good New Hibernian and maybe even a couple of crates of New Dalmatian Wine. We got a little deal going on their returns to Vodni.”

“And what will all this do to the salvage business?” She asked Fido, who gave her a one-armed hug and ordered her another pint.

“More traffic, more salvage. Ain’t nobody wants to pay full price when they can get used cheaper. Plus once the upgrades are all in place, we’ll have a way of sorting what we got and cataloging it a little better. Hell, ain’t a soul ever been able to figure out how all this shit got here in the asshole of the galaxy. I s’pose it’d be nice to know. Got some archeologists and metallurgists and chemists and what-not landing here, so things is changing. Guess I’ll hang around to see what happens.”

Strangely enough for a community of people who had vowed to the person that they’d leave Tak Major in a heartbeat if they had the chance, very few of them actually did.

“What about you, Girlie,” Digby asked. “Where you and ole Dragon off to?”

“We’ll be looking for my brother and Quetzalcoatl,” she answered.

“And we will find them,” Dragon said. “We will not stop until all of our family is once again united.”

Digby nodded as Fido came to his side. “Out here, family is everything.”

“Anywhere, family is everything,” Len said, and she felt the warm brush of Dragon next to her in quiet agreement.

 

Dragon Ascending Part 78: Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday everyone! Time for another episode of Dragon Ascending. Wow! We’re down to the last three episodes in book 2 of the Sentient Ship Series! What a wild ride it’s been. I hope you’ve had as much fun with it as I have. In this week’s instalment, Gerando Fallon deals with a family problem. As I mentioned, I am now attempting to post episodes at lengths that will be better suited for the flow of the story and enhance your reading pleasure. Some will be slightly shorter, some will be longer. This is especially true as we draw nearer the end of the novel. 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!

If you missed the previous episode ofDragon Ascending follow the link for a catch-up. If you wish to start from the beginning, of Dragon Ascending. Follow the link.  

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: Book 2 of the Sentient Ship Series

On a desolate junkyard of a planetoid, scavenger Lenore Felish, 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 78: Refuge for a Fallon

Food was served in the big dining room and, from somewhere on the station, Gerd had actually come up with a small band that played upbeat, danceable music. Who knew she was so good at party planning?

“This room is amazing,” Keen said as he watched Rab spin Flissy around the floor.

Kresho felt a surge of Ori’s pride, pride in him. He could feel her construct sitting close to him, hand resting on his thigh. “We wanted a place where all SNTs could come and bring their constructs to interact with their brothers and sisters and their compliments. I don’t think either of us imagined that we would be dealing with SNTs taking multiple compliments, but that makes the space even more essential, I think. When it’s not being used as a dining room and gathering space, it can be subdivided into smaller spaces where small groups of the family can get together and chat over a meal or wine or just nothing more than simply be with family.”

“I doubt there is anything we SNTs have missed more than family, more than being with others,” Ori said.

“And everyone onboard Vodni Station knows about you?” Fury asked.

“They do, yes,” Ori said. “The survivors of the battle with the Authority simply think of me as their home. They teach their children about the battle and about how the station became sentient. I am aware of everyone who lives here. When new people come in, they find out before long. Most stopped thinking of me as an SNT a long time ago.”

“Besides,” Kresho added, laying his hand over hers, “we’re all a bunch of rebels and smugglers here, trying to make a living as far away from the Authority as possible. There’s not one person on Vodni who wouldn’t fight beside the SNTs to bring down the Authority.”

“And no one ever betrays you, Ouroboros?” Gerando asked?

“They don’t live very long if they do,” Kresho replied. And then he waved a dismissive hand. The people sort that out. Other than my governing the place… ish, the local government, law and order, punishment for crimes, that’s all in their hands, and the one thing they don’t tolerate is betrayal of home or family.”

“Was it station justice where Tenad and Jessup were concerned?” Gerando asked.”

“It was I who ‘tranned Jessup into space,” Dragon said. “He was going to violate my beloved.”

Gerando’s hand flinched slightly around Stanislavski’s and she shot him a sympathetic glance. “I only ever met Jessup once. He was a mist head even back then. Tenad, I knew a little better. Tenad scared the shit out of me.”

To everyone’s surprise it was Griffin who responded. “Perhaps too much of our father’s blood in them.” Then he added matter of factly, “I did the same to him for killing my brother and threatening my eldest brother’s beloveds.”

“Nary a fucking shit stain deserved it more than Abriad Fallon,” Rab commented.

 

 

Gerando slid his arm around Stanislavski, drawing her closer, only nodding at Rab’s remark. After a sip of Andavinian coffee he cleared his throat and said, barely opening his mouth. “My sister?”

“I gave her what she demanded,” Fury replied.

Stanislavsky nearly came out of her chair. “Was the woman crazy? Didn’t she understand the risk she was taking, that it would kill her?”

“Of course she did. I explained everything.”

“She couldn’t have undergone the series of necessary treatments in such a short time,” Gerando said.  “It took me nearly a year and I handled the side effects better than most.”

“She was very ill,” Fury replied, “but she insisted hurrying along the process and when dear Camille, the woman was then her indentured – you shall meet her later — escaped with knowledge of her plan, she wished to bond with me immediately believing that she could then command me.”

For a long moment there was chilled silence as they all thought about the implications. Finally Keen heaved a sigh and said, “at the risk of sounding like a calloused bastard, I would like to autopsy the body, if that’s okay,” he glanced over at Gerando. “Perhaps what I learn can help us to ease transitions for future compliments.”

“Oh Tenad Fallon is not dead,” Fury replied. “She is just not functioning at present time.”

There was a collective gasp around the room and a low rumble of comments. Then Fury continued. “We have done what we could to make her comfortable in her catatonic state. As you know all bondings are different and they often involve more looking inward than looking at ones future partner.”

Gerando gave a shudder. “She’s a Fallon and I have yet to meet a Fallon who could relish looking inward. That part of the bonding nearly killed me, probably would have if it hadn’t been for my brothers.”

“I would request a place for her onboard Dubrovnik where she might receive the best care science may give her,” Fury said.

“Is she dangerous?” Harker asked. “I have too many vulnerable people onboard to risk a Fallon running a mock.”

“Captain Harker, I do not believe she will ever be the same if she does recover, and I do not know if there is any hope to hold out for such a recovery since nothing like this has ever happened to any of us before.

“All the same, she’s a Fallon. No insult to you intended, Gerando,” Harker said.

“I agree with Harker,” Gerando said. “I wouldn’t have her on Griffin.”

“I would override your choice if you did want her onboard,” the ship replied.

“She can stay here,” both Ori and Kresho said at the same time. And Kresho felt the reassuring squeeze of Ori’s hand.

“I’m not Keen, I know,” Kresho said, “but I’ve probably had more hands-on experience with an SNT than anyone here, and Ori can speak to how hard she fought in the beginning to keep me alive. My scientists have made some huge breakthroughs with Ori’s help, and we have space for her.”

“And what about your people,” Keen asked. “You’re not afraid for their safety.”

“My people have handled worse,” Ori replied. “They have no reason to fear her.”

“As I have said, I do not believe she will ever be a danger to anyone again.”

Fury commented. “Though of course none of us can ever be sure.”

“None of us has ever been sure, Ori said. “Of anything.”

 

Dragon Ascending Part 77: Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday everyone! Time for another episode of Dragon Ascending. Wow! Only four more episodes left in book 2 of the Sentient Ship Series. What a romp it’s been. I hope you’ve had as much fun with it as I have. In this week’s instalment, Len and Dragon meet their growing family. As I mentioned, I am now attempting to post episodes at lengths that will be better suited for the flow of the story and enhance your reading pleasure. Some will be slightly shorter, some will be longer. This is especially true as we draw nearer the end of the novel. 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!

If you missed the previous episode ofDragon Ascending follow the link for a catch-up. If you wish to start from the beginning, of Dragon Ascending. Follow the link.  

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: Book 2 of the Sentient Ship Series

On a desolate junkyard of a planetoid, scavenger Lenore Felish, 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 77: Family Reunion

A lot had changed since Mac and Manning had left Dubrovnik still a barely born new SNT ship and Griffin, recovering from his enslavement to Abriad Fallon and newly bonded to Gerando Fallon and Ina Stanislavski. They now stood next to Len and Kresho welcoming their family onboard Vodni Station. There was a contingent on board from each of the ships that had belonged to the Fallons as well as Camille and a good representation of people from Taklamakan Major. But for now, the reunion on the observation deck of Vodni Station was just for SNT family.

“Well look at you, little girl!” Captain Levander Harker lifted Mac off her feet into a bear hug and offered her a hearty laugh. “It would appear that Fury and Manning are taking good care of you.”

“Well, actually, she’s taking care of us,” Manning said, offering Harker a hearty handshake. “And it would appear that Dubrovnik is taking pretty damn good care of you too, and the good Doc.”

Dr. Flissy gave Mac a hug that was nearly as tight as the one Harker had given her, and then she gave Manning a kiss on the cheek.

Mac had to admit they both looked a good ten years younger, and that in spite of the burden placed upon them now that they had literally been bonded to a floating colony of scientists and ex plague victims. “Manning’s right,” she said. “You both look great.”

“Being bonded has been good for us,” Harker said, and the adoring look he gave Dr. Flissy was one Mac had seen in Manning’s eyes often enough to know that the bond that had already existed between them, kept from its natural inclinations by their professional behavior had now blossomed to so much more, thanks to Dubrovnik, or Nik, as they now called him.

“Even Keen looks younger,” Manning said as the man came onboard and gave both him and Mac a hearty hug. “Nik don’t tell me you’re having the professor on the side.”

“I am not, but the professor is having Doctor Atkinson in genetic research, so perhaps that is the reason for his restored youth and vigor.”

Keen blushed heroically and said. “Sometimes, Nik, you don’t have to tell everything you know.”

“Well it is true,” the ship said. “And you do look much improved, even younger, I would say.”

“Everybody looks younger but ole Uncle Rab. Looks like I may have to clean myself up a bit and see if I can’t nab me an SNT sweetie, or maybe a nice doc from down in research. Good to see you, MacAllister.” The man gave her a nod and a smile, no doubt not too sure how she now felt about him since his main task when he came onboard Dubrovnik what seemed like ages ago now, was to keep an eye on Abriad Fallon’s prize indentured and then find and get her back to the bastard when Manning and Fury had whisked her away.

“You still hanging out with that reprobate, Gerando?” Manning said. “Though I suppose Stanislavski has him all lined out now.”

“Are you kidding me? ‘Those two together now I got twice the work keeping them both in line. No rest for the wicked, I guess.”

“Don’t let our Rab fool you,” Griffin said. “They have to keep him from corrupting me.” Then he added quickly, “He knows all the best jokes.”

“Speaking of the kid and his lady. They’re late. Is she feeling all right?” Rab asked.

“Right as rain,” came Griffin’s reply. “But I would not let her come onboard such a large station with so many people without I checked her out first.”

“Mother hen.” Rab grumbled.

Before Mac could ask if Stanislavski had been ill, Keen spoke. “I’m anxious to meet Dragon and Ouroboros after so long. I’m assuming that’s you, Dragon, there with the sleek falcon outline.”

“It is I, professor,” came Dragon’s reply. “It is a pleasure to see you again. And the lovely woman who I am still trying to fatten up after her ordeal is my beautiful Lenore Felish.”

Keen took both Lenore’s hands into his single large, calloused hand. He had lost an arm to the plague, Lenore had been told. He offered her a smile that was nearly blinding. “At last I meet Diana McAllister’s little sister. Of course none of us knew that at the time. Your mother kept your conception a secret. She was a wonderful woman, your mother, and one of the brightest minds I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I’m sorry that we were too far away to make her memorial.”

“Thank you, Professor Keen. She spoke fondly of you.”

“If you and Dragon are all right with it, I would like to run some tests on you, and on Dragon, for that matter, before we depart again.”

 

 

“Of course,” both Len and Dragon spoke at the same time.

“I’m still stunned that against all odds, you ended up being exactly where you needed to be, exactly in the right place for Dragon when he needed you. All that has happened to bring us together like this gives me hope. Dragon, I’d like to hear your story as well, that is if you’re okay with it. We all thought you dead with the Merlin and the others who were lost.”

“It does make you wonder,” Kresho said, “if there are maybe other ships that we thought were lost that escaped to fight another day.”

“Vanderbilt” Keen offered his hand and then a quick smile, “I’m sorry, I understand you go by Kresho Ivanovic now, and have done for a long time.”

“There’s a tradition out here, one that I didn’t know of until a free indentured aboard the Fidelio gave his life to save mine. To honor a fallen hero, someone else will take their name upon themselves and carry on living. That name is a constant reminder that you now live not just for yourself, but for them as well. You live the life they sacrificed. His name was Kresho Ivanovic, and when I couldn’t remember who I was, after Ori rescued me, I took Kresho’s name. Strange, that was nearly the only thing I remembered, his face as he pushed me out of the way. Fuckers were using de-mole tech.”

“I’m honored to meet you, then, Kresho Ivanovic.” Keen looked out the observation bay window. “And where is Ouroboros? When do I get to see her again after so long?”

“Me, you won’t recognize, Professor,” came the response. “I have been here all along. I am Vodni Station.”

Rab let out a long low whistle. “Well fuck me with a tri-axe torpedo. Didn’t see that coming.”

Ouroboros chuckled wickedly. “And you, Mr. Rab, perhaps it is time we consider bonding you to an SNT, no doubt it would have to be a saucy one.” The humor in her voice was warm and the little man paled for a moment before he realized she was joking. Then he laughed.

“Well, I reckon if you ever have a ship who has a taste for short, bald blokes, who drinks too much and tells dirty jokes, I might be her man.”

“What, and have our child grow up without an uncle?” Griffin said. “It would be an unthinkable loss.”

“Hold it, hold it, hold it,” Manning managed around several fish gasps. “Our child? What child?”

“Griffin was supposed to wait until we could all share it together,” came the deep clear voice now barely recognizable as belonging to Gerando Fallon. And in truth the broad- shouldered man with closely trimmed dark hair and beard definitely didn’t look like the alcoholic, plague-ravaged man with the haunted eyes and a spirit crushed by his old man.

As different as he looked, Ina Stanislavski was practically glowing.

“Ina Stanislavski is carrying a child.” Fury spoke, his voice full of wonder.

“Well so much for our news,” Stanislavski said with a mock pout, resting a hand on her still flat stomach. “I forgot just how nosey and gossipy SNTs are when you get them together.”

“Can SNT ships do that?” Len said, frantically looking over her shoulder at Dragon. “I mean make a baby?”

“Our situation is unique,” Gerando said. “In many ways I’m more an extension of Griffin than a compliment, you see, Lenore, he’s my brother.”

This time it was Len’s turn to whistle.

“I was dead, for all practical purposes, and the only way Griffin could save me was to build a matrix for my life, making it in essence, an extension of his own.”

“And then they bonded with me.” Stanislavski picked up the story. “I wouldn’t have thought the pregnancy would have been possible. Certainly we hadn’t planned it, but as Fury has confirmed, I am most definitely pregnant and with Gerando and Griffin being a part of the same life force, they’re both father to the child I’m carrying.”

For a long moment, the observation deck was awash in the static of excited SNT energy, and Ouroboros said, her voice filled with awe. “We have never had a baby before. What a treasure this child will be, and what a family we shall give it.” Then everyone was talking at once, hugging and congratulating everyone on the new family member, and Professor Keen was actually in tears.

Manning came up and patted him on the back after congratulation the happy trio. “Does this make you a grand dad?”

Before he could reply, Mac came to his side. “Do you think this child will be like Len and me? Is it even possible that it might grow into another SNT like Fury?”

“At this point we just don’t know,” Gerando said. “One of the reasons we arrived so soon after Nik is that we thought we needed to consult Professor Keen, and possibly now Professor Ivanovic as well?” He said turning his attention to Kresho, who gave several more fish gasps of his own before Ouroboros spoke for him.

“Our facilities on Vodni Station are state of the art, and Kresho has kept up his own research and studies of SNTs. Our plan has always been to avail ourselves to our brothers and sisters as a safe place, as a … well, I guess a home, if you will.”

“I think that is a wonderful idea,” Keen said, swallowing his emotions. “We have been without a home far too long.”