Happy Holidays, everyone! I’m celebrating with the lovely Mr. Grace, in Tuscany this year! I hope whatever you celebrate, if you celebrate, is joyful and filled with love and new beginnings.
Once again it’s time for another episode of Dragon Ascending. Last week Arji told Kresho Len’s story. This week onboard the Compass, Kresho is informed of Ori’s dangerous plan. 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 47: A Dangerous Plan
On board, he replicated an electrolyte drink for his battered belly and settled into his chair on the bridge. Delaying a little longer, he took couple of sips that didn’t quite compete with whiskey when it came to liquid courage — as if even that would help under the circumstances. He’d never found anything strong enough to make dealing with Ori any easier. Fuck knew he had tried. With one hand resting on the control board and the other clenching the glass, he finally spoke. “Did you know Len was alive? Because I swear, if you kept it from me, Ori, if she suffered because of you,” he ran a sweaty palm over his face. “Goddamn it, she thinks I deserted her, left her there to die.”
“I did not know,” Ori’s voice came over the system. “I swear it, Kresho. I would have never left anyone to suffer there on that ball of ice had I been able to help, had I known.” Ori never showed emotion. He had, in all the time he’d known her, learned to read her moods to some degree, but still he was never certain. “If you’re lying to me, Ori, I-”
“I’m not lying! Why would I about a thing like that, when I had as much reason as you did to want her safe, maybe more. I swear to you.”
“She was there! Right there in the Dust Bowl tonight with Arji, and the look she gave me. Every time I close my eyes, I see that look.”
“How do you know for certain it was she. She was very young when last you saw her. If you found her mother dead when you returned to Taklamakan Minor, the odds of Lenore’s survival were very slim.”
“I all but interrogated poor Arji. Believe me, it’s Len. She’s alive, and she’s there in Sandstorm. I would have gone after her, but then goddamn Tenad Fallon beckoned and then you summoned me, and fuck, I don’t know which one of you I hate the most.”
“That’s not fair, Kresho. I didn’t know, or certainly finding Lenore would have taken priority over all else. And now that we know where she is, we’re exactly where we need to be to find her and bring her away while we deal with our little Fallon problem.”
He drank down the last of the electrolyte combo and set aside the glass. “Why did you call me back? Tell me.”
“I’ve been sweeping the upper atmosphere trying to spot any anomaly that might help us find a cloaked SNT ship. We both know that once SNTs cloak, they are damn near impossible to find on any kind of scanning device.”
“I’ve pulled up a small segment of the feed that took place at 19:07 Taklamakan system standard time.”
“All I see is space dust and a few obscured stars,” he said, watching the atomic clock tick off the nanoseconds.
“There!” the screen froze.
“I still don’t see anything, oh wait.” He blinked and rubbed his eyes. “Was that just a star in the shifting dust or…”
“That was a mol-tran from above the planetoid,” came the reply. “From that place in orbit, the only thing capable of ‘tranning to the surface is an SNT, and in this hemisphere the only places to transport are Sandstorm and somewhere in the middle of the desert.”
“Fury could transport one of his compliment through the de-mole barrier around the salvage yard in the Sea of Death with no problem at all,” Kresho said, rubbing his chin.
“Never mind where Fury could be transporting his compliments, the point is that he can, he does, and he’s done it more than once. This transport took place while you were in Sandstorm Outpost. More than likely one of his complement was in the Dust Bowl right under your nose. I’ve been looking back at the data. I’ve found two definite dual transports to the surface and back and another single, a transport out of the salvage yard through the de-mole and then back.” Before he could do more than offer a low whistle, she continued. “When the actual transports happen, that’s our window of opportunity. That’s when we can make our move and intercept.”
“Fuck me, Ori! You can’t be serious! You want to intercept the transport and kidnap fucking SNT1’s compliments? You’re a heartless bitch, you know that?”
“So you keep telling me. But you know as well as I do an SNT’s only real weakness is their compliment.”
“It’s a goddamned sure way to piss one off, I know that much.” Kresho stood and paced that small bridge. “Ori this is not a way to win friends and influence SNTs.”
“I don’t care about winning friends, Kresho. I care about seeing this plan through. I care about getting rid of two Fallons, and if an angry SNT will do the job, well I can live with that.”
“You may be able to. I’m not sure I can.” Bitterness tightened his chest and rose to his throat. “But then I am expendable, aren’t I?”
She made no reply, but he knew her well enough to know that she’d flinched, even if he hadn’t physically seen it. He dropped back into his chair and replicated a double New Hibernian, worst rot-gut he could get. He wasn’t looking for sipping whiskey right now. Then she dropped the bomb.
“I need you to find Lenore and get her away from that horrible place.”
“That horrible place may be better than what you have in mind,” he shot back.
This time he was positive if looks kill he’d be dead. He swallowed back the whiskey in one gulp, feeling the burn on his battered innards, and waited for it.
Her voice, when she spoke, even over the system, was colder than the surface of Tak Minor had ever been. “You have no idea what I have in mind. You never have, so stop pretending that you do.”
“Then what? What the hell do you want from me?”
“I want you to get Lenore back, but first, I need you to fuck Tenad Fallon.”
“Bloody hell, Ori! Now I’m your goddamned whore.”
“I don’t like it any better than you do, Kresho, but before we put our plan into motion, before we run the risk of something this dangerous, we need to know what she really wants. We need her to trust you enough to confide in you what she expects to accomplish and how in hell she expects to control an SNT ship so we can make sure that doesn’t happen. So we can make sure she doesn’t survive it. And don’t play the little innocent with me. I’ve seen the chemistry between the two of you. You both want to fuck each other senseless, and I’m doing nothing more than offering you that little extra push.”
“You don’t know what I want, either, Ori. Oh, but I forget, you never bloody cared anyway, did you?”
“Could we just stop with the dramatics and at least both accept that we are stuck with the Fallons until we can bring this little shit show to some conclusion, and I fully intend for that conclusion to be in our favor. Now are you going to stop being an asshole and help me, or are you just going to whine about the necessity of doing exactly what you’ve fantasized about doing since Tenad Fallon showed up at Vodni Station?” Then she added, “I don’t give a fuck how much you hurt her in the process, and she won’t either.”
“She kills the men she fucks, you do know that?”
“She needs you, Kresho. And she wants you. Besides, you know damn good and well I won’t let anything happen to you.”
He didn’t know that though, not really. Still, he did understand the wisdom of the plan. He blew out a breath and stood. “All right, but not tonight. I’ve already puked my guts in Arji’s back ally, I’m not fit for humanoid company and especially not for a Fallon’s.”
“I’m sorry.” Was that genuine sympathy in her voice. Replicate Ori 217 and drink it warm before you go to bed.”
“What is it?”
“It’s my cocktail for settling the stomach, replenishing electrolytes and inducing dreamless sleep. Have you forgotten?”
“I haven’t needed that for a long time.” He found himself smiling, even though back then there was fuck-all to smile about. “Hard to remember all your numbers and abbreviations for you magic formulas, Ori, but yes. That one I remember well. You should have been a doctor.”
“I should have been a lot of things,” she replied. “No doubt we both should have. Now get some rest. We have work to do.”