Dragon Ascending Part 51

Happy very cold Friday from the UK! Winter is definitely sinking its teeth in. I’m cuddling with a nice hot cuppa as I share another episode of Dragon Ascending.  Last week Ascent invaded more than just Len’s dreams.  This week, Kresho’s revelation to Tenad Fallon leaves her wanting more.  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!

If you missed the previous episode of Dragon Ascending follow the link for a catch-up. If you wish to start from the beginning, of Dragon Ascending. Follow the link.  

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 Part 51: Something for me?

“I hope you have something for me, Ivanovic. I could use some good news,” Tenad Fallon said, welcoming Kresho into her private suite. She gave him no chance to reply with anything but a nod. “I’ve been pulling my hair out, frustrated as hell. I know SNT1 is out there. I know it in my bones, and I’m betting he’s in synchronous orbit above the Sea of Death, and yet with all our tech and all the creative minds who work for me, so far, we’ve found nothing.”

She ran a hand through mussed hair, invitingly loose around her shoulders. It was longer that he’d thought. Her white blouse was untucked, and her feet were bare. The delicate skin beneath her green eyes looked bruised from lack of sleep. He knew the woman was tenacious and disciplined, quite possibly the only Fallon who was, but seeing her in that mode was way too endearing for his comfort. She motioned him into a large room that served as her office. Beyond one open door he could see her bed, large enough for an orgy. He turned his attention back to the office to find Camille scurrying about tidying, burdened with a large tray loaded down with empty teacups, several half-eaten plates of food, and half a dozen crumpled linen napkins, clearing away the detritus of what appeared to have been a long and fruitless night’s labor.

“Camille,” he nodded a greeting, which she returned, looking him in the eye. He liked that about her. He supposed it said something about Tenad Fallon that she let her get away with it, that she had chosen not to break the girl’s spirit. But he wasn’t willing to give a Fallon any benefit of the doubt. His experience had been that none of them deserved it.

“Name your poison.” Tenad said.

“Coffee, black.” While he seriously wanted to start in on the cheap New Hibernian and not stop until he couldn’t stand up, he needed all his wits for what Ori had sent him to do, for what he feared he might enjoy too much, and to his own detriment. That he had never seen her in such disarray and so vulnerable made him fear that enjoyment even more.

She gave Camille a nod and the girl disappeared into the other room. “Too early for booze?”

“Never,” he said. “The stuff’s like mother’s milk to me. Still, if I’m gonna be hole up with a Fallon for any length of time, best keep my wits.”

She threw back her head with a laugh that sounded like it belonged in a brothel, not coming from the richest woman in Authority space, daddy’s fortune or not. “I’d say you’ve done your homework well then, Ivanovic. I wouldn’t trust any of us any farther than the shove us out the nearest airlock.”

“Is that a warning?”

“I doubt you need to be warned. I’m just stating facts.”

“Arji tells me you picked up the tab for everyone at the Dust Bowl last night and paid him in water rations.”

She shrugged. “Water’s not hard for me to come by, and better for my Atlas account than credits, though I’m okay with either. I’d rather have the people of Sandstorm hating me less rather than more.”

“So that’s how you’ve managed to grow your own conglomerate so quickly?”

Camille returned with coffee and another tea for Tenad. While she poured, Tenad said. “Kindness appropriately applied at the right time in the right places is worth more than all the Triax in the Authority mines. It’s currency, sometimes the best currency.”

“Fuck if I’ve ever seen anyone so mercenary,” he said, thanking Camille for the coffee.

“Oh don’t be so modest, Ivanovic. I know full well you could write a few books on being mercenary yourself.”

“You do what you have to.” He spoke about his present situation as much as anything.

“Yes, you do.” She settled in at a small dining table and nodded for him to do the same. As he pulled out his chair, for the briefest of moments he caught a fleeting glimpse of the soft curve of her breast swelling below the open neck of her silk shirt, and when she shifted to pick up her teacup, he saw even further to the pale peach nipple unhampered by a bra, and he knew the task before him would be more difficult than he’d ever feared and far too easy. Hell, in her unassuming and disheveled state, she was, stiffening his cock. Maybe especially for those reasons. Quickly he settled into place his lower half tucked safely under the table out of sight.

“So what do you have for me?”

Fuck! Did the woman do that on purpose?

He pulled a computer tab out of his jacket and called up the images Ori had shown him and shoved it toward her.

As she pulled the tab to her, he noticed that her nails were badly bitten, and he liked her better for it. She scanned through the images once, twice. “Look, I don’t mean to be dense,” she started the third scan and her breath caught, nipples practically shoved their way through her shirt and bright color rose in her cheeks. “Oh. Oh! Holy Vanticana Fuck! How did you ever find this?”

“I worked with the SNT project, remember? Part of my job was to find vulnerabilities and correct them. That’s a transport you’re seeing there. And that means we know exactly where SNT1 is.”

She blinked. “But couldn’t it move around for safety sake?”

“He could, but he hasn’t. There have been four transports and all from the same location. He’s well-hidden and he’s exactly where he needs to be.”

“So, what’s he transporting?”

“Oh my sweet summer child,” he said. “Not what, who.”

She blinked then blinked again. “What? You mean humanoid transport? I mean I had heard rumors, even heard that the old man had them on his orca class, but I never actually believed them. Even our best technology in the Authority isn’t anyway near that good.

“A part of why mole-tran tech was made illegal in Authority space is because only SNTs had the kind of mole-tran that was dangerous to civic safety, or some such horseshit my father made up after he orchestrated the whole SNT disaster.” She grunted a bitter laugh. “After the death of several million humanoids was laid squarely at his feet, he decided maybe he’d better be a little afraid of the SNTs who might have survived the mess and might be gunning for him.”

“And that doesn’t scare you?” Kresho asked leaning over the small table holding that bright green gaze.

“Of course it does. It scares me shitless. But then lots of things do. And if SNTs are as bright and as logical as they’re supposed to be, they’ll know that I was away on the Rim when the whole disaster happened, and I had no idea about any of the old man’s plan. I seriously doubt any of his bastards did unless it would help play one against the other. I would have been happy for the SNTs to survive and thrive. I figured in time we’d come around to some sort of partnership that worked for us all anyway. But sadly, that was not to be.”

Kresho wasn’t sure he believed her, but he was pretty sure she believed herself. He finished his coffee in one and came around the table. As he leaned over her, there was a barely audible catch of her breath. He made a couple of quick swipes with his finger and she studied the screen in concentration “There are three other transports that I’ve found. That was the most recent one, the one that alerted me to the situation.” He leaned over her shoulder and magnified the frame. “Here.” He pointed to the spot.” Her hair smelled like she’d been outside in the sunshine, real sunshine. “This was the first transport I could find, two signals down to Sandstorm and back.”

“SNT1’s compliments then.”

“Has to be, unless Fury has someone else on board we don’t know about. This was the first one I could find” He swiped again. “And this one, this a single transport. Believe it or not this one is from inside the de-mole up and here, back to the surface.”

“Wow! I had no idea SNT’s could do that, transport through a de-mole barriers, I mean. I had no idea the kind of tech and the funding for that size and sophistication of a de-mole perimeter even existed. Did the other SNT do that, you think?”

“It’s possible, I suppose, but I can’t see why an SNT would waste energy putting a barrier around the whole damn salvage yard. That thing covers half the Sea of Death. And anyway De-moles are really not SNT style.”



“Well it certainly didn’t do any good against another SNT, did it?”

He grunted a laugh. “You don’t seriously think he was trying to keep SNTs away, do you?”

“No. I guess not.”

“Here, here’s another ‘tran through the de-mole.” He swiped the tab, “that one is down and back, and it’s a double transport.”

“SNT1’s two compliments maybe? Down to our SNT in hiding?”

“That would be my guess, yes. The last one, though,” he swiped back to it, “That one is into Sandstorm, as far as we can tell. It’s hard to say where with all the built-in blind-spots.”

“One of SNT1’s compliments, you think?”

“Probably, but here’s the thing, the transport times coincide with the times when you and I were both there. More than likely, they came into the Dust Bowl right under our noses. I doubt there’s anyplace else they would go, and certainly that’s the place they would come for information. I wouldn’t recognize either one of them. Would you?”

“One I would have recognized for sure. Diana McAllister. She was my father’s most prize possession, shackled for the -”

“For the debt of her father and the loss of Merlin,” he finished for her. “Fuck! How could I forget that? I only saw her as a child, and then only once. McAllister was very protective of her. He always had her either onboard Merlin with him or hidden away somewhere secret-like. And after the SNT disaster, after I fled, it was several years on before I learned what your piece of shit old man had done to her. Well bloody good for her!”

The woman offered him a quirk of a smile, plenty of smug in such a small gesture. “Apparently she was instrumental in my father’s much-celebrated demise.”

“Like I said, good for her!”

“All of his loving bastards would have had a party in her honor to celebrate if any of us could have stood being in the same room together.”

“And Gerando got the final laugh,” he said.

“Game’s not over yet, Ivanovic, now do you have a plan yet?”

“I just discovered SNT1’s location and the fact that he’s not moving around. I have some preliminary ideas. The rest will come.”

For a long moment she studied the tab in front of her, flipping back and forth to the four ‘trans, then she leveled that green gaze at him. “You do know what will happen to you if you cross me?” She glanced back to where Camille sat quietly on the floor in the corner. “I’ve had indentureds who crossed me, Ivanovic. They don’t live very long, though most of them live a lot longer than they would like. I won’t be kind to you.”

“Believe me, Fallon, if I thought there was a way to drop you in it, I would do it with great gladness and then when the deed was done, I’d dance at your funeral. I’m the only chance you have of gaining control of SNT1. I just want it done so I can get you the fuck out of my life. You want SNT1, I’m the only one with any chance of getting him and if I don’t get this plan right, then you won’t get the chance to shackle me. You’ll be dead just like your father. But if we take the little extra time to get it right, and you get control of SNT1, you can get command of whatever SNT is hidden in the Sea of Death. After that, I’m fucking off back to Vodni Station and waiting for the fireworks.”

She raised a russet eyebrow. “Fireworks?”

He folded his arms and sat back in the chair. “You seriously think Every SNT in the galaxy won’t be gunning for you?” He stroked his chin thoughtfully. “What was the final death count, by the way? Refresh my memory.”

“Three and a half million,” she said.

He poured himself another cup of coffee and gulped it, tepid or not, the bite helped him fight down the rage he felt at the loss of everything that had mattered to him for nearly fifteen years of his life. “Let me see then, the compliment of a standard Jaegar is what, somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty, maybe seventy people on one this size, I’m guessing. And that doesn’t take into account all the servants and indentureds and seconded crew you think you might come in handy for this little venture. That’s three Jaegers and one Dreadnaught. Those are more like a hundred and fifty, aren’t they?” He shrugged. I’m not really up on the numbers, but I’m guessing the SNTs will find that an acceptable loss when they come for you.” He stood and moved to her chair, leaning over her so that she was trapped nose to nose. “Or are you thinking that with SNT1 on your side, you’ll be able to talk them all around?”

Her lips were parted just enough that her breath was warm on his face, her chest rose and fell as though she had been running, and she sat up straighter in her chair, just enough that their lips nearly touched. “I can be very persuasive.” Her voice was barely a harsh whisper.

“Good luck with that.” He pulled away and turned toward the door.

“Where are you going?” She all but tipped over the chair in her efforts to stand.

“Back to my ship. I have work to do if we’re going to pull this off and save your pretty little Jaegers.”

“And if I want you to stay?” She moved like a predator on silent bare feet, fingers on the top button of her blouse.