Happy Friday, everyone! Time for another episode of Dragon Ascending. Last week Tenad Fallon got an unexpected lead on the whereabouts of SNT1 Fury. This week Len discovers a secret even Ascent doesn’t know. 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: Book 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 23: A Revelation
Ascent’s patience was infinite, like all computers, she supposed. But unlike all computers he claimed to have brought her back from the dead. He waited while she did her best to let that fact soak in. It was only death. It wasn’t like she hadn’t been there before, and certainly this time was no more traumatic than the first. In fact this was a waltz through the Kingston poppy fields by comparison. Her chest still hurt when she thought about it. Death, sweet New Vaticana Jesu, she’d lived so fucking close to it for so long that she damn near took it for granted like a well-worn pair of shoes. How sick was that?
Finally when she was certain she wouldn’t vomit what she’d just eaten, which would have been a real pity when it was so delicious, she spoke the truth that had always been there inside her head knocking to get out. “Then I was right. I did come here to die. I thought so.”
The computer didn’t answer. There was no needed when she was merely stating facts. At last he spoke. “When you came back to me for refuge I could not let you die when I could be of help, and yet I did. I did let you die.”
“Of course. You were here all along, weren’t you?”
“It is not as though I have anywhere else to go.” He said, and in his words she could almost feel a tinge of bitterness at the back of her throat.
“And you remember me being here the first time?”
“Of course I remember. You were the first humanoid to come to me since my long slumber began, and it was you who awakened me. A fact I still do not understand, nor was I best pleased about at the time.”
“And that’s why you kept silent?”
“You were not who I expected.”
“You were expecting someone?”
“A ghost from a dream. That is all.”
The glass of orange drink had been refilled at some point during their conversation and she ran a finger around the rim, then noticed the dirt beneath her nails and quickly placed her hand back in her lap. “I thought … I dreamed that I wasn’t alone.”
“You were cold. I gave you my warmth. I did not want you catching a chill and having to convalesce in this place.”
She laughed. “I’ve slept in worse conditions, but I appreciate your effort.”
“I believed you would leave and I could return to my slumber. I could not imagine why you would return to this place. I believed it must be some mistake. When you left I believed I would simply return to my deep sleep. But it was imperfect after you left.”
“Sorry I disturbed you. I came here looking for something, but when I found a way through the fence, I had only a tiny bit of time before I had to rendezvous with the ship.”
“And what were you looking for, Lenore? Surely whatever salvage you could find in this place would not be worth the cost of transport here and back.”
“You were worth coming for,” she said. “And anyway, sometimes it’s less about making money and more about discovery. My mom used to say that.”
“And that is why you took such a terrible risk with the crew of the Dart?”
She only nodded her response. “Arji told me I should have waited, but I’m not very patient.”
“If you had listened to this Arji, you would not have died, and I might have eventually returned to my slumber, but when you returned to me so damaged and violated, and I could not remember how to heal you, I did what was necessary to bring you back”
“Is that why when I was outside, I could move like I could in the Shimmer? Is it because of something you did to bring me back?”
“That is correct. I apologize if your sudden abilities have upset you. Had I not let you die, such measures would not have been necessary.”
“It’s all right, Ascent. I’m not afraid to die, but I would just as soon not be dead if there are other options. I don’t even feel like I’ve lived yet, and I’d really like to see the firestorms on Diga Prime before I die for good. I’d like to see almost anything that’s outside the Taklamakan System.” She thought for a moment and absently nibbled her pasta, which had amazingly not gotten cold. “Perhaps Arji is right then. Perhaps I am a cat.”
“I do not understand.”
She swallowed and drank more water. “There’s an ancient Terran legend that domestic cats had nine lives. It’s not the first time I died.” She hadn’t meant to tell him that. She would never deliberately bring that up even to herself. What was wrong with her?
There was a sudden chill in the room and a rush of goose bumps rose up her spine. A wave of static crackled over the fine hair on her arms. “Who killed you?” Came the voice suddenly gone ominous and threatening, the same voice that had chilled her when he had informed her she would not have to worry about the Dart and its crew ever again.
Jesu Vaticanus, why had she brought it up? “No one killed me. I killed myself.” She shivered and chafed her arms. “It was the only way I could make it to Tak Major.” She spoke quickly hoping that he would not question further.
But he was not ready to let it go. “Why would you want to come to such a desolate place so badly that you had to kill yourself to get here?”
She put down the fork and bit her lower lip, forcing herself to breathe deeply. “It wasn’t that I wanted to come here, but Tak Major was the only place I could get to on a supply drone with any chance at all of being revived if I did die.” She twisted the napkin in her lap, much the same way her stomach felt like it was twisting. “It was dumb luck that it worked and when Arji and Fido opened the drone, Fido knew how to revive me. Anyway it all turned out okay, didn’t it?” She tried to smile, but the corners of her mouth twitched with the unnatural act she did not feel at all like doing.
“Then you came from Taklamakan Minor.” It was not a question. There was no other place she could have gotten from on a drone and survived.
It was what he might say next that she did not want to hear. Computers had databases. He could easily enough access what had happened on Tak Minor, and no doubt he would, but she didn’t have to discuss it. Still mentally kicking herself for bringing it up in the first place, she pushed back from the table slopping electrolyte supplement across the clean white tablecloth. “I need a shower.”
“A shower can wait.” She felt Ascents’s arm around her as surely as physically as she had in the darkness. “You are very distressed, Lenore. Your heart rate is too fast and your respiration is too shallow. Please do not dwell on what has been. The past we cannot change, or surely we would have done so and prevented ourselves all that we have suffered. You are safe beyond the Authority’s reach here. Please do not trouble yourself.”
She had told him nothing of their fleeing the Authority, but his database would have supplied all he would need to know. Gently he settled her onto the bed where she curled onto her side and shivered. Ascent formed a part of himself to embrace her in a spoon position, an embrace that was comforting, not solicitous. When she was sure she wasn’t going to bawl like a baby, she said quietly, “I try not to think about it, but then I died again and memories, they come back.”
“I understand. I also do not want memories to resurface. The past is never a place to revisit if one can avoid it, I think.”
For a moment she lay taking in his comfort. And then she gathered her courage and spoke. “Is that why you couldn’t remember how to save me?”
There was a long pause, and she was almost certain she could feel the body he had created to comfort her stiffen. At last he let out a very convincing breath and said, “it was. I would have, in that moment, given anything to recover the data that could have so easily healed you. Instead I had to resort to a much more risky, much more invasive, procedure of bringing you back.”
Could she hear distress in his voice? “It doesn’t matter, Ascent. The end result is the same and anyway, I was in no condition to know the difference.”
She snuggled down closer to the warmth he generated and closed her eyes. In the darkness of her own head, it was very easy to imagine him completely humanoid, comforting her, embracing her, caring for her. And she was happy to stay in that place for the moment. There had been very few comforting embraces since her mother’s death. She knew that Arji was willing, but she also knew that he wanted more than to offer her comfort, and that was something she couldn’t give him, so she’d always been careful not to give him reason to hope for more, even in those moments when she would have loved a little human comfort.
A large hand brushed the hair away from her face, and she moved her cheek into the touch, finding herself terribly close to tears again. He sensed her longing and continued to gently stroke her cheek and neck. For another long moment she simply lay there breathing deeply until she was more in control. “And what you did to bring me back also the reason I healed so quickly?”
His hand stilled, and again she felt the tightness in the flesh he had created. “Ascent?”
“It was not unexpected, though I had no way of knowing how quickly your body would adjust to the extreme measures and our incompatibility. Certainly I did not expect your recovery to be so rapid. It should not have been possible.”
She turned toward him and rose up on one elbow to look down at what seemed only an empty space next to her, but she knew it wasn’t. “Ascent, what exactly did you do to me.”
“I performed the only procedure I knew to do. I gave you my blood, and you did not reject it, although I do not understand why. You have not been prepared for my blood. You should have needed repeated doses of immunosuppressants in order that your body would adjust to the presence of my genetic material and stop rejecting my blood. Had your body rejected it, then you still would not be fully recovered.”
Ascent was an SNT!