Happy Friday everyone! Time for another episode of Dragon Ascending in which Len gets a message from beyond the grave. 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. This one is particularly long in order not to break the flow of events. 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 74: Truths from the Grave
Silence fell in the room and Kresho, like a starving mongrel, lapped up the warmth of Ori’s closeness, the comfort he knew she saw as nothing more than practical, only ever offered when necessary. Still right now he’d take all the comfort he could get. He let out a slow breath and said softly. “When I was finally able to return, I found Janesha’s body. Of you, Len, there was not a trace. I thought … I thought I had failed both of you.” He looked up into her eyes. “And you were my one mission above all else. I promised your mother that I would protect you and your gift.”
Len wiped at her eyes, having forgotten all about her efforts at a stiff upper lip. “What gift? I have no gift. I don’t even have a proper education.” To this both Dragon and Ori bristled.
“She does not know? You do not know?” Ori asked. There was a long moment of that static charge that Kresho had long ago come to know as tension in an SNT. In this case two SNTs.
“How could she,” came Dragon’s response, “when I only just discovered it myself. I would have never kept such a thing from her.”
“What thing? Kept what from me?” Len asked.
At last Ori spoke. “I believe you know Diana McAllister’s story, the story of her conception and how she came to be?”
“She told me, yes.”
Ori drew a long, unnecessary breath. “Well, Lenore Felish, it would not be wrong to say that she is your sister.”
They had adjourned to a galley which Dragon seemed to have patterned after Fury’s. He insisted they all needed sustenance and Ouroboros had heartily agreed, though Len had only eaten a few bites of the chocolate pudding, also from Fury’s recipe, to keep Dragon from nagging. She noticed Van, Kresho, wasn’t doing much better and Ouroboros was at least as good as Dragon at mother-henning. And then his SNT said to him out loud. “Shall I not give it to her, Kresho? It will explain far better than either of us ever could.”
“Give me what?” Len asked, noting how uncomfortable Kresho was.
“I believe it is a data chip that contains a message from your dear mother,” Dragon intervened. “I imagine it will be identical to the one I retrieved from the computer system in the science station.”
“She told me that she also planned to save an encrypted copy for you there, just in case,” Kresho said. “She was afraid something would happen to her and you’d never know about yourself.”
“I checked everything before I left,” Len said. I couldn’t take anything with me when weight was such an issue in the drone, so I committed all the files on her computer pad to memory, all of them,” she said biting her bottom lip to keep it from trembling, “even that horrible recipe for seaweed soup. But I didn’t find anything unusual. I didn’t really expect to. Mama never kept secrets from me. Or so I thought.”
“This one she kept only for your own protection,” Kresho said, “and honestly, she had every reason to believe I would be back for the two of you within a few months, a year at the most.” The pain in his voice cut Len’s heart. She knew how much her mother had loved Van, how much she had loved him.
For a long moment Len stared down at her hands clenched around the warm cup of English Breakfast tea Dragon had replicated for her, feeling only the cold of that awful place and the isolation she had felt after her mother’s murder. And then Dragon whispered in her ear. “You are not alone now, my love, and I will keep you warm, and our family will make sure you are never again isolated.”
“If you would like,” Kresho said, worry in his eyes, “we can leave you alone to listen to it in privacy.”
“No! No,” she said, finding her control once again. “I don’t want to be alone. You two know me better than I seem to know myself, and I,” she took a deep breath, “I need my family around me.”
She didn’t miss the misting of Kresho’s eyes, nor the flood of relief she felt from both him and Ori. She reminded herself that Kresho was also an SNT compliment, a compliment to Dragon and Fury’s sister, and that made him family again. She was happy for that. She’d missed him.
“I’ve missed you too,” came his thoughts down the sub processor link, “I’ve missed you so very much.” It was then that she felt Fury, Mac and Manning adding their warmth and encouragement. She took a deep breath, then reached over and took Kresho’s hand. ‘Okay. I’m ready.”
The room was suddenly awash in her mother’s voice, and she closed her eyes as though she lie in the darkness of their enviro-tent at the station listening to her mother talk to her on one of their late night chats.
“Lenore, what I’m about to tell you, only four people in the world know, and two of those may be dead.” The woman laughed softly. “If all goes according to planned, then I am sharing this with you on your fifteenth birthday and you won’t ever need this message. If not, then I may very well be dead too when you find this, but if that’s the case, you already know that your first priority is to get the hell off this ice ball and find your uncle and Quetzalcoatl. If they’re still alive, they’ll tell you everything. If they aren’t, then what I’m about to say won’t matter much to you anyway.
“Len, darling, you grew in my womb and as close to my heart as you would have if you had been conceived by me and the father you never knew. You have been and always will be my daughter, I don’t know who your father was. An egg was fertilized in the SNT laboratories, in fact there were many of them. They were to become SNTs just like Fury, the shining future we all hoped for. That’s what you were to become, my darling, or so we all believed at first. But Fury’s was the only embryo that grew into that potentiality. Many of the others did not survive even through early gestation, and when it was discovered that only Fury was viable to become an SNT, most of the other embryos remaining, and there were only a few by then, already showing signs of permanent damage, were destroyed.
“Two, however were perfect, healthy, beautiful, both female, but both with no possibility of becoming SNTs. They were not destroyed, my love. The older of the two, I don’t know what happened to, though I have my suspicions.”
Len felt Fury and Manning’s surge of love for Mac. They all knew exactly who that older embryo had grown into.
“The second embryo, Van helped me to steal and to implant inside my own womb, the daughter I wanted, longed for, but would most likely never have. At the time Van and I weren’t yet lovers, but neither of us could stand to see the destruction of what was still very much SNT, very much humanoid and still carried the potential we could not yet imagine.
“And my darling, we were not mistaken. You’re beyond anything we could have hoped for. What we discovered is that you had an affinity, a connection to SNT ships, all of the ships. What no one knew is that the embryos who would not develop into SNTs would develop into the perfect compliments, compatible in ways a normal humanoid could never be, no need for transfusions, no need for immune-suppressant treatments, and somehow completely in tune and in sync with SNT tech even without an actual bonding.
“It was as much for you as it was for us that Van and I ran, Lenore, because we knew what you were, what you would become. We knew that the hope of any surviving SNTS might very well rest in you.
“No matter what happens, my darling, no matter how hard it is, you must survive, you must hold on and get to the Rim. The future of all SNTs relies on you, so full of hope, so full of unrealized potential. I know this is a heavy burden to lay on you, but I know you. I had you close to my heart and knew you even then. You will rise to whatever you have to do because you always have, and you always will. Stay alive and stay safe, Lenore, my beautiful daughter. I love you to the Rift and beyond.”
The message ended there, and for a long moment no one moved, no one said anything. Then Len reached out and cupped Van’s cheek, sending a silent wave of thanks down the sub-con to him. Dragon enfolded her in his arms and held her close from behind her chair. At last she spoke softly. “I’m like Mac.”
“I always wanted a sister.” She could hear the emotion in Mac’s voice from where Len knew she and Manning were still bundled close to Fury’s heart.
“Looks like we’re just in time for the family reunion,” came a voice over the sub com that Len didn’t recognize.
“Indeed, Captain Harker,” Fury said. “And our family is significantly larger, as you can tell.”
“We’ll be at Vodni Station in three days,” came the message, “and we just got a deep space from Griffin. They will be here shortly after. Keen has some tech to share and he insists on meeting the rest of the family. Gerando and Stanislavski inform me that they have some news they’d rather share in person as well, so we’ll see you all soon.”
“How did you manage to get here from so far out?” Manning asked.
“The McAllister Wormhole, of course. We never would have made it otherwise,” Harker replied.
“Then we shall look forward to a family reunion at Vodni Station in three days,” Fury said.
“Well that will certainly make it easier for me,” Ouroboros said.
“Because it’s your home?” Len asked, at last digging into her pudding with gusto.”
“I suppose you could say that,” came the reply. “It is me. I am Vodni Station.”
Kresho, who had been chowing down right along with Len swallowed and laid his spoon down. “During the battle with the Authority, the station was badly damaged, nearly destroyed. The Authority was happy to let the whole population of the station die as it went down in flames, Ori wasn’t.”
“The station was quickly losing atmosphere and there was no way of repairing the breach to the core, so it was Ori’s idea to jettison the whole thing and take it’s place, in essence join with and become Vodni Station.”
Manning let out a long whistle. “Wow! I didn’t see that coming.”
“And the Compass?” Len said.
“It is my way to move about when I am needed beyond the station,” she said. “The Compass is like a matrix in which I can pour at least a part of my consciousness while still continuing to function as the station. It has allowed me the mobility I sacrificed in order to join with Vodni Station.”
“And your compliment then runs the station.” Dragon said. “That is a very good arrangement.”
Something about it made Kresho uncomfortable, and while he said nothing, Len could sense it. “It works,” he said, instead. “I have good people on my team, and the job keeps me out of trouble.” The smile he offered didn’t quite reach his eyes. “The station has grown since Ori took over. While we try to keep a low profile to avoid drawing too much attention from the Authority, we’ve been building up our long-range defensive capability, and we’ve become a pretty impressive scientific research center in our own right.”