Happy Friday, everyone! Time for another episode of Dragon Ascending. Last week Len and Ascent discussed his lack of memory. This week Kresho is reminded again never to trust a Fallon. 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. I hope you find this switch-up helpful. 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 Ship 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 34: A Change in Plans
“I don’t want to talk to that woman!” Kresho slammed his palms down on his desk hard enough to rattle the samples of synth-ax on his desk that his head of science had just brought into him. He glanced at them briefly and then shoved them into the top drawer out of sight. The last thing he wanted was for a goddamned Fallon to get hold of them. He dropped his ass down in the creaky chair that he kept meaning to replace, and growled. “I want her off my goddamned station yesterday.”
“Your goddamned station considers that reference very rude,” came the quiet female voice of the central station computer.
He flipped the screen the finger, and received a rude sound in reply. “Cheeky piece of space junk.”
Beside him Gerd cracked her knuckles. “You want me to throw her out the air lock, Kresh.” She gave an introspective shrug. “One more piece of space junk.”
“That would put a bigger smile on my face than a night with a New Kingston water whore.”
His second nodded. “That would definitely put a smile on my face.”
He straightened in his chair and let out a long string of curses, ending with colourful insults to Tenad Fallon’s dead father, which more than likely his daughter would completely agree with. At last he released a heavy sigh and spoke to the computer, “Send her in and let’s get this over with so I can get her the fuck off my station.”
Tenad Fallon walked in as mild and polite as you could ask and stood meekly waiting for him to offer a seat, which he grudgingly did with the barest nod of his head. “You got what you needed?” He asked between gritted teeth.
“I did, thank you. I have to say your station is surprisingly well supplied for such a remote outpost.”
“And your crew, all well R and R-ed?”
“Very well, thank you. The station’s hospitality is spoken of in awed tones among my people.”
“Good, that’s good.” He steepled his fingers on the desk in front of him making a point of not noticing how good she looked. He let the silence stretch between them long enough that someone with smaller balls would have squirmed. When she only remained as calm as a fucking New Vaticana monk, he ground his teeth and said, “so if everything is copacetic, all contracts signed, all bills paid in full, I’m wondering why you’re still here?”
“There’s been a slight change of plans,” she said, her smile never wavering.
He was too well schooled in keeping a poker face to show it, but his stomach fisted so hard, someone with a weaker sphincter might have shit their pants. He’d learn to clench tight a long time ago. He offered her a lazy smile. “What? You’re people like my station hospitality so much they’ve all jumped ship for positions on my loading docks?”
“I’m sure there’s nothing they’d love more. I’m not an easy taskmaster, but no. Just a simple change in destination, but one for which I require a guide, someone who knows the Taklamakan system and has a certain skill set.”
This time he really did pucker tighter. “I doubt you’ll find anyone here. You’re best bet is to put out a long-range message to Digby Sellers on Tak Major. He deals in wet ware. If anyone can find you what you’re looking for ole Dig can.” Though he won’t thank me for pointing a Fallon in his direction.”
She folded her arms over her modestly confined, but nonetheless admirable, chest and leaned back in the chair, crossing those endless legs at the ankle. “I also need someone with some expertise in SNT technology.”
This time his sphincter flat out twisted in a knot. “What? You think anybody out here would admit to that and end up in the shackle, or worse, infected and sent off to a plague planet?” He all but catapulted from the chair, stormed to the door and practically broke the open button pressing it. “Lady, I don’t care who the hell your daddy was, you’re not in Authority space here and no one would complain even a little bit if I blew a goddamned Fallon out the airlock.”
The bastard spawn of a, no doubt raped, whore didn’t even bat an eye, she only smiled all relaxed-like. “You might want to close that door, Ivanovic and sit down, unless you want your whole station to know that you were one of the key scientists on the SNT projects.” He barely had time to shut the door and swallow back his threatening gorge before she waved a dismissive hand and nodded to his chair. “I’m not my father, Ivanovic. I find his fascination with the shackle and with destroying the very people he should be searching out and aiding in their research parochial and ineffective. I’m sure you’ve heard through the grapevine that most of my father’s wealth and the biggest share of Bright Star Conglomerate now rest in the hands of SNT1.” She chuckled bitterly. Never let it be said my father didn’t have a sense of humor.” She nodded again to his chair. “Just sit down and hear me out.”
“I’m a captive audience.” He dropped into his chair and mirrored her crossed arms.
“I have reliable intel that SNT1 is sniffing around the Taklamakan system”
He grunted. “No doubt intel from the captain of the Dart before you blew him out your airlock? I wouldn’t exactly call him reliable.”
This time her chuckle was goddamn playful. “Oh don’t tell me that you weren’t tempted to do the same with the whole crew, besides I can be very persuasive, Ivanovic. Of course the man didn’t know the ship was SNT1, but think about it, think about what he claims happened to him and his ship.” She scooted forward until she sat on the edge of the chair not trying to hide her excitement. “More than that think what the Lizzie Ann verified about their rescuing of the Dart. These are events that wouldn’t even be possible with the best state of the art Authority tech. I’m sure you know that. I suspected anyway, but the missing piece of the puzzle was the where of it all. I don’t know why SNT1 is there, but with your help, I intend to find him and get my inheritance back.”
“This is blackmail.”
“You could think of it if a business arrangement if it makes it more palatable.”
“You holding the shackle over me?”
“I don’t believe in wasting resources like my father did. But I’m not one to be denied either. Certainly there are people on your station who are far less valuable resources.”
“So let me get this straight, you’re threatening my people with the shackle if I don’t kiss your ass voluntarily?”
She stood and paced back and forth in front of his desk. “Look, I don’t want to disrupt your life any more than necessary, but I will have SNT1, and I need your help to get what I want.” She rested a well-manicured hand on his desk and leaned over into his personal space. Fuck, he wished she wouldn’t do that. A close-up of a beautiful monster was not what he needed right now. He tried not to look at her full lips, speaking excitedly way to close to his person. “Look, all I’m asking is that you help me find him. I have a plan. I need you to help me make it happen. I promise your station will benefit greatly from my gratitude, so you can think of this as a business arrangement, as I said.”
“My station doesn’t need Fallon gratitude.”
She straightened herself then glanced at the door. “Your second in command, she’s good at her job.”
“I can imagine no one argues with her and comes out on top. I know the two of you have been through some tough times together, always have each other’s backs. It’s good to have people like that.”
She paced back and forth in silence just long enough to make him truly dread what would come next, and then she smiled a little thoughtful quirk of her lips. “Not many women in the triax mines, but a bruiser like her, I bet she would do just fine.”
“Get out!” If the desk hadn’t been between them he’d have strangled her and let the garbage bots deal with her worthless Fallon carcass.”
She walked casually to the door. “I’ll leave you to sleep on it tonight, and we’ll talk tomorrow. Oh, and if you do decide to follow up on whatever little plan for my demise you have going through your head right now, I would reconsider. In the event of my death on this station, there’s an automated message set to make all my people very wealthy for destroying this station and everyone on it.” She let that sink in for a moment and then opened the door and sauntered through like the fucking ruler of the galaxy.
Kresho waited until he was certain the bitch was well gone and then he grabbed his jacket and headed for the door nearly running into Gert, who was coming in.
“What happened? Where are you going?”
“Out.” He left his office with her looking after him. She knew to leave him alone when he went out. Everyone knew that. She simply shut the door and went about her business.
At the end of the corridor he took the service elevator to a section of the old inner dock, no longer in use. He spoke quietly into his PD. “Flood it.”
“Inner dock sector three will be habitable in two minutes,” came the automated response in his ear. The digital countdown flashed on his PD ocular. The air would be breathable when he got there and he would need it. He would need lots of it. He pulled the jacket tighter around him not bothering with the parka hanging in the corridor at the bottom of the lift. He was too furious to feel the cold. He arrived at the hatch twenty seconds before the flooding of breathable air into the chamber was complete. It was always a sign of how angry he was when he’d walked fast enough to beat the compression sequence. Sadly these days he never came down here unless he was angry.
He waited pacing back and forth in front of the airlock. Until the sign in his ocular implant flashed compression complete. The airlock hissed open and he stepped inside. Jasmine! The place smelled like fucking flowers! She did it just to irritate him, he knew. And then he waited, pacing. She always made him wait when he was angry. It usually helped calm him a bit, that little extra time to think and cool his jets, but fuck! He’d be pacing from now till galactic New Year and not even be close to any less furious that he was now. Not this time around.
And another thing, she always snuck up on him like he was prey and she was a goddamned old Terran big game hunter.
“I am a hunter and you are my big game,” she said slipping her arms around him from behind and kissing his ear.”
“Don’t.” He said pushing her away, feeling like a little shit as his righteous anger collided with her hurt at his rebuff.
“I’m sorry you’re upset,” she said softly. “I knew you would be, but if you’d known in advance Tenad Fallon would have read you like a book. Men are easy to read when the want to have sex with you.”
“Fuck you, Ori.”
“Not tonight, Kresho. More’s the pity, but we have work to do.”
“You betrayed me, and now the bitch is threatening our people.”
“Don’t you think our people would jump at the chance at some long overdue revenge on a Fallon, possibility even two?”
“Long range sensors have detected a dreadnaught class ship belonging to Jessup Tallon heading this way. It would appear the Fallon brats want to pick a fight with each other as well as with big brother, and you’re the only one who might get them a chance at taking a nice juicy SNT to boot.” This time she embraced him, pulled his face close to her impossibly warm lips and whispered so close to his ear that it was like she was inside his head. And her words were damn near enough to make him shoot his load, “or possibly even two.”
“What? Another SNT? You’re shitting me! In all the years we’ve been here we’ve not so much as heard a whisper of a rumor of anything remotely resembling an SNT in hiding, and now you’re telling me that not only is SNT1 Fury himself hanging out around Tak Major, but there’s a second SNT? Seriously, what is it a goddamned family reunion?”
“Not yet, but it might be the start of one,” she said. Taking his hand, she led him toward the room that only they knew about. “Now come on, Kresho. We have plans to make.” That usually meant she had a plan and he was her brute strength, but every once in awhile he held his own with her. Maybe this would be one of those times.