Happy Friday, everyone! Time for another episode of Dragon Ascending. Last week Len realised that Ascent is an SNT. This week, she contemplates the implications and the dangers of staying with an amnesiac SNT ship. For the next couple of weeks, I will be posting slightly longer episodes of Dragon because I feel it will be better for the flow and enhance your reading pleasure by allowing these posts the extra length necessary to complete the scene. 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 24: Not My Memories
Ascent was an SNT!
The thought screamed across her consciousness flashing supernova bright. But she swallowed back the urge to blurt it out as quickly as it had come, hoping they were not so connected that he could read her mind. It should have been obvious to her from the beginning. Thinking back now, hadn’t it been plucking at the back of her mind since she first woke up? How could she not have made the connection considering the household she’d been raised in, with her mother doing what she did and her uncle … ending up like he had? How could she not have seen the signs? And yet under the circumstance it should have been impossible for an SNT to be here buried in a Tak Major salvage dump. It made no sense at all that he should be here. Her skin prickled, and she forced herself to breathe deeply, to calm down. That her uncle’s fate was still unknown unlike so many of the SNTs and their compliments made her hold her tongue. Ascent didn’t remember who he was. Ascent! The strange name suddenly made sense Ascent SNT! Whatever had happened to him had been that traumatic. An SNT with no memories of who he was or what had happened to him or what he had done could be a very dangerous thing. And, sweet Vaticana Jesu, she had his biological soup running through her veins now.
“Ascent,” she sat up on the edge of the bed, then stood to pace feeling him watching her intently, “What do you remember before I woke you from your long sleep?”
“Nothing,” the answer was quick and sharp edged. She stopped pacing and froze, feeling the skin crawl on the back of her neck. Then he added more gently, “I do not know how long I have slept here in this place. Lenore, you are frightened, why?”
“Do you want to know your past,” she asked.
“I wanted very much to know … facts, information, data. When you were dying and I could not help you, I wanted, I tried, I raged to access what I needed to know in order to heal you. I could not. There are other parts of me, however, that I wish never to access again. They make me feel things I do not wish to feel.”
She stopped pacing and sat back down on the edge of the bed. “These memories, the ones you don’t want to access. Is it that you aren’t willing to access them, or is it that you can’t?”
For a moment the stillness in the room was electric. If it had not been for that feel of static and tension she’d felt in his presence before, she would have thought he had left her.
“I have not examined … that part of myself closely enough to ascertain if it is one or the other. I … have slept so that I did not have to remember.”
“Ascent, before you pulled me back from the salvage yard today, I remembered horrible loss, fire swallowing up everything and the wanting nothing more than to sleep. Those weren’t my memories. Could … could your blood give me access to your memories?”
Again the feel of static passed over her skin and he said, “I do not want you accessing my memories. There is no place in them for a humanoid stranger.”
She forced a laugh. “Believe me, I don’t want to access your bad memories. I have enough of my own without yours to keep me company too. I guarantee I didn’t access them on purpose.” When he didn’t respond, she continued. “You said it had been a long time since you embraced a humanoid. That means you have, right? At some point in your life you have embraced a humanoid.”
“There are no points in my life. I have no life. I am a ship’s computer.” This time the static was cold and nearly painful, and she recalled with a sudden lurch of fear the madness of the SNTs and resolved to ask no more. He gave her no options though even if she had wanted to.
“Go and take a shower,” he said, sounding for the first time since she had known him like a ships computer. “Then rest.” And just like that he was gone.
She had no intention of sleeping after she showered. For the first time since she woke up in the place Ascent had created for her, she wasn’t anxious to linger in the cleansing cascade, her discovery making her hyper vigilant to every sound, though there were few other than the barely audible hum of the life support system. Ascent’s breath breathed out for her, she thought. And then she wondered if he would now end it because she had made him uncomfortable. She stood for a moment, frozen on the floor of the bathroom, towel clenched tightly to her breasts, heart racing, willing herself to be calm. He would know it if she was panicked. She was very young when the SNTs became infected and went on a destructive rampage, but she recalled the details only too well, details that had changed her life forever. The SNT virus had affected the organic CPUs, the brains of the SNTs, driving them into destructive madness. Several of the maddened ships had turned off their life support systems and suffocated their compliments before jettisoning them into the vacuum like so much rubbish. Others had been responsible for the deaths of millions. Had this ship been one of those? And would he suffocate her? Of course she wasn’t in the void. The atmosphere was breathable on Tak Major, if not very nice, but the ship could pump in carbon dioxide and she would die just as surely. All he needed to do, really was just abandon her to the planetoid itself. Without help, without transport, she would never make it back to Sandstorm alive.
Still none of her speculation made any sense when he had worked so hard to bring her back from the dead. Surely he wouldn’t have gone to all that trouble only to kill her again. But she had no idea how long she’d been dead before he revived her, did she? What if she was just the experiment of a demented CPU? The abilities she now had certainly weren’t natural, and then there were the memories that weren’t even hers and with the way they could communicate inside each other’s minds, was she even human at all anymore or had he created for himself a new, Frankenstein’s monster sort of companion to replace the one he’d lost? But she recalled her uncle’s connection to Quetzalcoatl. Hadn’t he said they could share thoughts, and that by being bonded to the SNT, he had abilities he could have never have had as a mere humanoid. But that bonding process had taken ages. There were the immunosuppressant drugs, the transfusions, the other things she’d not understood as a child, and then there was the actual bonding experience between ship and compliment, which was supposedly some sort of secret union that was never shared between anyone but a ship and their bonded compliment, and certainly never spoken of in any detail with anyone outside that bond. She did remember that her uncle seemed different somehow, but it wasn’t something a little girl could easily define or understand. She only knew that he was about to begin a great adventure in the most amazing ship ever. And then she lost him, and she and her mother had to flee the shackle.
By the time she was dressed, her mind was racing. If Ascent was an SNT, then which one could he be? He certainly wasn’t Raven or Ouroboros. They were both females. The sex of a ship was the sex it was born with, just like with infants. And Ascent couldn’t be Quetzalcoatl because that was her uncle’s ship, and when Ascent spoke of his compliment, he spoke of her. The others that had survived were on the far side of Authority space separated to the far corners in distant and abandoned shipyards, their locations kept secret. None of this made sense, and yet she knew as certainly as she knew her own name that Ascent was an SNT who had survived the destruction, the decommissioning and the diaspora. While Ascent had no memories of himself, the real question was had the experience driven him insane, and if so was she in danger. Not that it fucking mattered. She had no way of getting back to Sandstorm, even if she was.
She lay down on the bed, lost in her thoughts, wondering if perhaps Ascent might know something of her uncle’s fate, but for the moment, he didn’t know his own name and she was afraid to ask any more questions. She was certain she would never sleep, certain she should begin trying to plan an escape. But the thought of going back to Sandstorm was far less appealing than staying where she was. As a child, she’d only ever dreamed about growing up to be the companion of an SNT. Well, certainly this wasn’t what she had in mind, and she didn’t fancy suffocating in her sleep or finding out she was some kind of zombie created to serve a demented ship. But it was very hard to get enthusiastic about returning to Sandstorm, where at some point she would have no other choice but to turn Arji down and resign herself to a life alone, or share his bed and resign herself to a life that was a lie. She supposed that said something about her own sanity, but before she could dwell on it, she did sleep.