Happy Friday, everyone! Time for another episode of Dragon Ascending. Last week no one was happy about Len ‘tranning back to Sandstorm. This week we see what she finds there. 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 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 43: Damn Tourists!
Fury ‘tranned Len down in a blind spot just behind the Dust Bowl. She knew where all the blind spots were, as most of the residents did. Those were places where contraband would be safe from prying scans. They were all heavily shielded parts of the wrecked ships that had literally been used to build Sandstorm. Many of those blind spots were shielded by bits of ships that could have been sold off for a tidy profit. But everyone here understood they didn’t have a lot of protection of their own, and what little they could get was worth the loss of a few water credits. Everyone also understood that nothing would get you sent on a one-way trip into the Sea of Death in your underwear faster than tampering with the blind spots.
Fury had fitted her with every piece of SNT tech he could load on her to keep her safe and to be able to ‘tran her back in a hurry if need be. And the amazing thing was that none of it was visible to the naked eye. Still, when she pushed open the shield door of the Dust Bowl and stepped into the biggest crowd she had ever seen, she felt more than a little exposed. Jax was pulling pints as fast as her arms could pump them up and Arji stood behind the bar looking angry and hassled. He was yelling at some Fallon uniform, who was a couple dozen centimeters taller than he was, but that never slowed the man down much. She’d forgotten how his voice carried when he was angry. “Look I don’t give a goddamn glass viper’s fuck what your high in the heel boss told you, I ain’t got no more room in my fucking bar, and that’s that. She wants to shuttle down another dozen grunts, then they’re gonna stand outside when the wind gets up and the sandstorms set in. I’m just bloody well fine with that. Fewer of you Authority lot stinking up my bar, the better.” She couldn’t keep from smiling. The man always did have big balls.
Carefully she made her way through the crowd, keeping an eye on Arji, trying to subtly catch his attention, but she wasn’t quite carefully enough. She bumped into a woman carrying two pints, and before she could apologize, she looked up to realize the woman was a small, wiry indentured, who had suddenly lost all the color in her pale face as the drinks hit the floor and shattered. She followed the girl’s glance back to see what had to be fucking Tenad Fallon sitting like the queen of the universe at the table in the far corner, leaning over chatting practically head-to-head with some stranger she didn’t recognize. Probably someone who couldn’t wait to kiss her butt if it would get him off this sand dune.
Lenore felt a little pale herself. She hadn’t seen an indentured since she left Authority space. And while any indentured would be treated with kindness here, their holders would be loathed. She had no doubt the Sandstormers would slit their throats, or worse, leave them to the Shimmer and the Wind, if they had any hope at all of freeing the indentured. They didn’t. And if their contract holders felt they were abused in any way because of said indentured, well, shit rolls downhill.
“That bitch got your clamp?” They both looked up to see Digby standing over them, eyes gentle like Lenore hadn’t seen them too many times. The man might have been the hardest hard ass in Sandstorm, and one who could afford to leave if he wanted to. He hadn’t. He’d always been civil to Len, but she had always treated him with respect.
The girl nodded, fearlessly meeting his eyes, a thing most indentureds that belonged to a Fallon were far too timid to do.
“Glad you’re back, Girlie. How’re you pissing?” he said to Len, giving her a pat on the back that nearly knocked her off her feet. Almost everyone in Sandstorm had called her Girlie when she arrived so unceremoniously all those years ago. The affectionate moniker had stuck. “Arji’ll be glad to see you.” Then he turned his attention back to the indentured. “Don’t you worry none about this mess. It happens. Hell, most of us would gladly dump ole Arji’s swill on the floor if there was anythin’ else ‘round here to drink. I’ll clean it up, and this ‘un’ll take you back to the bar and get you sorted right up with a couple more.” He glared back over at Tenad Fallon. “‘th any luck, it’ll give the bitch a bad case of the shits. It does that with off-worlders ever once in a while. Specially them that’s a little high in the heel.”
The girl fought to keep back a smile at the thought, but in the end, she let it flash, only briefly, but it seemed all the brighter for it.
“Dig,” Len leaned close to be heard in his ear above the din. “I need you to keep quiet about me being back. And keep your eyes open.”
He gave her a quick nod that would have been barely noticeable to most, but she was used to the subtle unspoken conversation that went on between the salvage dealers.
As she and the indentured elbowed their way back toward the bar and Dig bent to pick up the broken glass, the girl looked up at Len and said. “She won’t hurt me.”
“Taned Fallon. She won’t punish me for it.”
Len didn’t even try not to laugh. “What? She’s kind to you then?”
“I’m a tool to her, nothing more. Most of the time she treats me like she does her med-bot. She gives orders, I do them and the rest of the time she ignores me. It’s like I’m not even there. I like it just fine that way” She bit her lip. “I’ve seen what she does to others.”
“Vaticana Jesu,” Len cursed. “Would hate to think what she does to her friends.”
“She has no friends,” the girl said.
“Who’s the man she’s with? Do you know?”
“You mean the bloke who runs Vodni Station?”
The girl nodded.
“Do you know what they’re doing here?” She felt guilty about using an indentured, but there was too much at risk for her not to use every resource.
“I do, yes.”
“Girlie-Girl! How the hell’re you pissing?” Suddenly Len found herself locked in a bear hug, her face pressed to Arji’s, who planted a big fat kiss right on her lips. That was the last thing on this sand heap she expected. And Ascent would have a Fury’s eye view of the whole thing. She definitely did not need that. He pulled away and looked down at her with a wide smile. “I told everyone you’d find a way back. Didn’t I tell you Jax?” He called over to the bar maid, who offered her a nod of her head and the quirk of the corner of her mouth that could either be a smile or the lip equivalent of the middle finger. Since she had no reason to dislike Len, she took it for a smile.
He started to motion over a couple of locals she knew standing at the bar, but she stopped him with a shake of her head, placing a finger to her lips to silence him. “I need you to keep quiet about my visit, and I need your help.” Ascent growled in her implant something about Arji taking liberties, and mentally she rolled her eyes. No one else said anything. She wondered if Fury was the jealous type.
He nodded, looking around the room. “A fucking takeover this is. No room for our own. That ain’t right.” Then his face softened as he saw the indentured standing next to her. “You all right Camille?”
The girl looked him in the eye and nodded.
“I ran into her, spilled two pints and broke the glasses. You can put those on my tab, and can you have Jax fix her up? On me too.”
He nodded to the barmaid and raised two fingers. “On the Fallon tab, and an extra one or two for you too, if you still got the stomach for it.”
They watched as Camilla inched her way down the bar to pick up the new pints Jax handed her. “How much do you know?” Len asked.
“A bit,” he replied. “The bastards and their ass lickers barely got into orbit before they were dropping out of the sky by the shuttle-loads, lining up at the goddamned door.” Tula and Vaness are turning a good few credits, though. Hell the line outside their door’s damn near as long as mine. Those two’ll be walking bow-legged for a month. Though I reckon we’ll all have fatter pockets for it, but at what price, I wanna know.” Out-worlders thought Arji’s curtained off room was for whores, but Tula and Vaness had a gutted-out sparrow class back behind the Dust Bowl where they lived and did their business. They’d fixed it up really nice considering the limited resources. They’d tried to talk Len into going in with them, an easier living, they said. And maybe it was, but she was an explorer, and she’d rather eat less and be a little thirsty and at least halfway enjoy what she did. Though there had been times she’d been sorely tempted. Arji jerked his head and motioned her across the bar to the curtained room. “Let’s find us a little more privacy. Jax,” he called over to the barmaid. “Com Clapper to get his ass out front and cover for me a few minutes. And you never saw Girlie Girl, here, got that?” She was already shouting into her PD to be heard over the noise and gave them both a nod before they turned to go.