Happy Friday, everyone! Time for another episode of Dragon Ascending. Last week week Kresho got a peek into the Fallon family dynamics. Meanwhile, back on Tak Major, Fury and his crew try to help Ascent get his memories back. 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 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 40: Blocking Memories
“I have never had sex with a man before,” Ascent said. Len had begun to recognize his moods, his emotions. He was nervous with Fury’s compliment Richard Manning running the diagnostic of his hearts blood. The man’s hands were competent, strong and very gentle in their touch. She knew that it moved Ascent to be treated so. It moved her. She smiled at his shyness, reminding her of herself with him the first time.
“Well mate, you were with two the other night and you held up your part of the bargain admirably, I can vouch.” Manning didn’t seem nearly as nervous about it as Ascent did, but Ascent definitely had that pleased, very male, attitude at the compliment on his sexual prowess.
“Ascent, what is the last thing you remember before you became aware of Lenore Falish’s presence?” Fury asked. All channels were now being kept open all the time. Diana Mac, or Mac as she went by most of the time, was with Fury and Manning was here. Len stood watching him, feeling Ascent’s presence as though he stood right behind her resting a hand on her shoulder
“I remember coming through flame alone, feeling as though my heart were suddenly no longer there. I remember settling into sand and metal and beginning the shut-down sequence, wanting only to sleep, wanting never to wake up again.”
“I recall that feeling, Ascent. That was most definitely my plan before Richard Manning came into my life.”
“I do remember that the de-mole barrier around this salvage yard was not there when I settled. I would have remembered such a thing, I am sure.”
“I would guess someone was either trying to keep you in or trying to keep others away from you,” Manning said. “But if that’s the case who the hell could put up that many kilometers of de-mole fence and not draw any attention? Even as remote as this place is, that’s the kind of thing that definitely gets noticed.”
“Then someone knows Ascent’s here.” Len shivered at the thought and leaned back into Ascent’s comfort.
“I saw only sand and metal. There was nothing else, and I saw that this was a place I could rest undisturbed.”
“It would appear that was not the case after all,” Fury observed.
“Surely it couldn’t have been the Authority,” Mac said.
“Sandstorm gets a visit from an Authority ship maybe once every five galactic years, if that,” Len said. “It’s always someone setting down with ship troubles, and they never stay longer than absolutely necessary. Sandstorm’s not a very hospitable place when it comes to Authority visitors. There’s no other reason for an Authority ship to come here. There’s nothing to be gained. Technically Tak Major is a part of the Outer Rim Free Alliance, though ships from there don’t come here much more often than the Authority’s do. Most of our supplies are off-loaded to a space station and then sent in from there, as often as not on drone ships. Most often they come from Vodni Station or Hammer Fall, on the other side of the sector. Vodni is slightly closer, but not as big. Otherwise all we get are desperate salvage vessels, and even those only a few a year.”
“Then how the hell did all that salvaged space junk get here,” Manning asked.
“Taklamakan Major was not always such an inhospitable place,” Fury said. “The erratic orbit caused a major climate shift a hundred and fifty galactic years ago, and while it was never more than a desert planetoid, it was a good salvage dump, with a healthy trade going on between salvage vessels. The shift caused the temperatures to rise, and the winds to become deadly at night. The population shrunk to the three remaining outposts and they shrunk to only those who could not easily get off.”
“I do not remember any of that information,” Ascent said. “I did not care for anything other than the place was remote and no one would disturb my slumber.”
“I’m going to probe the memory nodes in your prefrontal cortex,” Manning said. “That might help to stimulate enough memory to cause a cascade that will bring it all back.”
This time Ascent’s grip on Len’s shoulder was almost painful. “I am not certain I desire a cascade, Richard Manning. It cannot be pleasant.” Sensing his discomfort, Len offered an embrace, which earned her the ships equivalent of returning in kind.
“It will not be pleasant,” Fury answered, “I cannot imagine any SNT still living who would not wish never to revisit those memories of loss and deception, but there are many reasons that you need to remember, Ascent. First of all, and perhaps foremost, we must try to learn who set up the de-mole perimeter. The Authority would have had neither the technology, nor the resources to do such a thing in such a remote location. Then the only logical assumption is that the barrier was placed by another SNT, set more than likely to protect you from those who might come with ulterior motives.”
“But who?” Which one?” Manning asked. “This is so far from the last recorded locations of any of the SNT ships.”
“Ascent, your compliment suspected that the Authority would sabotage the SNT mission,” Len said. “That’s why she chose to take you to a remote part of space. I remember that now from your nightmare. Though she never said what remote part of the galaxy you were sent to, but you were here with her in the dream,” she said. “I remember now.”
“Dreams are not always literal,” Fury commented. “My database shows no deep space missions anywhere near the Taklamakan System.” He added, “any journeys an SNT would have made here would have been off program.”
“I do not remember any of my dreams,” Ascent said. “I am somehow conscious that they are not all nightmares and that I would happily linger in those that aren’t. But it is little more than a feeling of contentment, I suppose. As for the nightmares, I only remember fire, pain and loss, and that I am unable to wake up from it.” Then he added. “I have only dreamed at all since my awakening.”
“You would not dream in your deep sleep,” Fury commented.
“Fury,” Mac said, “were there other SNTs and their compliments who feared sabotage from the Authority?”
“SNTs are, by nature, very optimistic, and in most cases, I believe the scientists and the compliments felt that the SNT technology was unassailable by the conglomerates, but surely there had to have been concerns. The Authority’s pervious behavior suggests they were not to be trusted, especially that they would allow control to such technology to anyone else but the conglomerates.”
“You believed your compliment was being paranoid,” Len said, “and then …” She bit back her words she was about to say, wishing suddenly that she’d kept her mouth shut.
“And then what?” Manning asked.
“How long will what you’re doing take, Manning?” She asked, trying to change the subject.
It was Ascent who spoke. “Lenore, you do not have to protect me. What you have to say may be helpful. And then what?”
“And then you became infected.”
It felt as though everyone, including both ships, held their breath. The feel of dry static surged over Ascent’s heart space, and at last he spoke. “Then it is possible that I may have done horrible things. It is possible that my bonded is dead because of me, and I do not know if there are others dead at my doing.”
While Len would have softened her response, trying to be gentle with him, Fury simply replied. “It is possible, Ascent, for many of our brothers and sisters did things they would have never done if not for the Authority’s egregious sabotage.”
“Then perhaps that is why I do not remember what happened.”
“You don’t remember what happened because you’re somehow blocking the memories,” Manning said.
“What?” Len and Mac said at the same time.
Manning looked up from his efforts. “I’ve been doing everything I know to stimulate your prefrontal cortex, Ascent, and you keep kicking me out. The de-mole is nothing compared to the protective perimeter you’ve placed around your memory. I’ve never seen anything like it. Maybe if Keen were here, he’d know what to do, but I’m stymied.”
“I have already put out a deep space signal to Professor Keen on Dubrovnik,” Fury said. “We should be hearing back any time now.”
“Is there anyone else who might have blocked those memories?” Len asked.
“There is not,” Fury said. While there are parts of an SNT’s technology that can be upgraded, changed, or modified, the brain and heart of an SNT are organic. The virus might have caused damage, but if that is the case, then a simple infusion of my blood, my nanites, would instantly begin a repair, and that we have already tried.”
“Is it possible there might be a delayed reaction, or maybe even some sort of rejection of your biological soup, Fury?” Mac asked.
“I have never heard of such a thing, and since each SNT already contain my cloned biological soup, as you call it, Mac, I am only aiding my family, all compatible to me,” He said.
Ascent spoke very quietly. “Then what I have blocked must be truly horrible.”
“It would be best not to speculate,” Fury said. “Since we do not know which of the surviving SNTs you are. We do know that you are not one that we believed to have survived, and we do not have records of any SNTs ever being in this sector. Therefore we must learn who you are, and only then will we be able to piece together what drove you to this place. If perhaps you received the message I sent out in my efforts to escape, in my efforts to save Richard Manning’s life, your compliment would have known how to cure you of the virus. I do not know if you or if any of my brothers and sisters received that message. That is the anguish I will live with until we are all once again united.”
“There was no sign of infection in your brain when we scanned it,” Manning said. “I would say somehow you were cured. If your compliment didn’t get the message, then she figured out some other method of beating the virus.”
“She said you must live to fight another day,” Mac said. “I remember that part of the nightmare you shared. She said it was the only way. I don’t remember much but that I remember now.”
“I remember that too,” Manning said.
So did Len.
“Please,” Ascent broke in. “Please I do not want to continue. She sacrificed herself, and I could not save her, and I cannot bare it, please.”
“We are not alone.” Fury spoke into the charged moment. “Three Jaegers, a Dreadnaught and a Kestrel class.”
“Fuck me!” Mac said. “Don’t those bastards ever give up, and now it’s a damned family reunion come along with their plus one.”
“Goddamned Fallons,” Manning hissed.
“They will be in high orbit in five minutes,” Fury said.