Happy Friday everyone! Time for the penultimate episode of Dragon Ascending. Wow! What a wild ride it’s been. I hope you’ve had as much fun with it as I have. In this week’s instalment, Len pays a visit to old friends and discovers things are a changing. 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 is especially true as we draw nearer the end of the novel. 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 79: Old Friends, New Beginnings
They were all on Vodni Station longer than expected. The place felt like home, and it gave them an opportunity to get to know the rest of the family. Besides it was hard not to catch the excitement of a sudden exchange of people and goods between Vodni Station and the Taklamakan System, which had been happy to let the outpost extend its influence for everyone’s benefit. It had long been Ouroboros’s dream to do so, but she felt her hands were tied as long as there was a need to protect her brother. She and Kresho had done what they could to send business Sandstorm way and to help out in unobtrusive ways, but it wasn’t easy without coming out into the open and forming some kind of alliance. Within a few days the new alliance was already benefiting Sandstorm, now that the SNTs could work their seeming magic out in the open. It had always been Keen and Harker’s dream to make things better for humanoids. From the beginning that had been the mission of the SNTs. So with the combine science and tech of Vodni and New Pandora onboard Dubrovnik, they had installed a water molecularization plant in Sandstorm, the only one of the three outposts that didn’t already have one. In the process, they also upgraded the plants on Windward and Sunward. While it was their plan that the whole planetoid should benefit from SNT science and tech, they gave the majority of their attention to Sandstorm, which was the most impoverished and the one in most need.
In the past few months, the people of Sandstorm had become a part of the SNTs’ extended family, having put themselves at risk, as they had. As important as that was, what mattered even more was the fact that the small outpost had been a family to Lenore, another drain on their meager resources when they could just as easily not have revived her. But they had, to the last person, been the family she had lost, never knowing just how special she was, and yet, at the same time, she was special to them simply because of who she was. They had, in essence, rescued nurtured and loved Dragon’s beloved until she was old enough and ready to give him the wake-up call he needed. They had stood nose to nose against the Fallons with little more than what they could salvage. It was only after Kresho and Ouroboros sent deep geo-scanners to Tak Major, they realize that whatever it was at the core of their little sand heap, it wasn’t sand, and they might actually be sitting on a goldmine, having a renewable source of power fed by the intense heat of the system’s sun. It was exactly the kind of power Kresho could harvest, with no harm to the planetoid, for the Tri-axe replacement he and his scientific team had invented. They reckoned that in a few years, all the systems beyond the Rim could be free of the dependence on Tri-Axe, with the help of the Outer Rim Alliance. And suddenly, Tak Major became a hot commodity, though only a few trusted allies knew it just yet.
Tak Minor’s true scientific value had been mostly ignored by the Authority, interested in nothing more than using it to spy on the Rim Alliance. It had, in fact, been completely abandoned after Len left. Clearly there had been no intention of getting the last scientist, who had been executed aboard the Fidelio for betraying Len and her mother and Kresho to the Authority, off the planetoid when his five-year term expired. He had been on the Authority shit list anyway and the posting was the punishment he hoped to get out of by turning in the SNT scientists. When the Authority had not been able to use Vodni as a relay station for the little spy project after they lost the battle with the Alliance, they tried several other methods to relay their information, if there was any to be gathered, and decided it was not worth the cost to them. Their data nodes were automated and maintained through the last Authority scientist, hoping they would find a way to of relaying the information. They gave up the effort and just told the rest of the world the station was to be automated.
As it turned out Tak Minor was indeed a scientific marvel, and most of the data, which Len and her mother had collected and Len had memorized before she fled the planetoid, was outrageously exciting. Tak Minor’s erratic orbit had little to do with the pull of the sun, but no one knew just what it did have to do with. There was a new research station in the works as well as a team from Vodni Station and from Dubrovnik’s Pandora team to work there when it was finished. This station would be a proper research facility akin to what Pandora Base had been on Plague1 and, with Len’s data, long distance research from Vodni had already begun.
Though they kept it well hidden, Vodni Station was far wealthier and better protected from the Authority than Hammerfel Station, which was over twice its size. Vodni Station had an SNT ship with an aptitude for smuggling and making win-win deals, and it was run by a brilliant scientist who knew how to create, market and sell on the sly cutting-edge technology that had benefitted the Rim Alliance quietly. All of this together had made Vodni a quietly wealthy outpost. It was so far out that no one gave it a second thought, and after losing the battle for the station, the Authority was happy to fuck off and leave the survivors to save themselves, having no idea that the whole of the place had been rescued from total destruction by an errant SNT ship, whom they believed to have been long destroyed, along with one of the foremost SNT scientists in the galaxy. In a nutshell, it was the best-kept secret in the quadrant.
All the other SNTs had gone two days ago, but Len and Dragon had lingered. Since the takeover of the Fallon ships, she’d not been back down to Sandstorm, and she wouldn’t leave without saying good-bye. When Dragon ‘tranned her down, she was surprised to see just how quickly things were changing. The Dustbowl pretty much looked the same, but crews from Vodni Station had been working nearly round the clock in special environmental suits that protected them from both the heat and the cold. Bit by bit mountains of salvage, which had long ago been demoted to rubbish, were giving way to state of the art eco-builds, each with proper showers and actual running water.
Inside Tula and Vaness were behind the bar. “Wow! Something smells in here,” Len said as she came in through the new pressure door.
“It’s called clean,” Tula said, and then added with a bawdy laugh, “took us all awhile to get used to it. Can’t even remember the last time I’d had a proper shower.”
Vaness shook her head slowly. “Seems so decadent, so wasteful.”
“Yeah, well as long as we share quarters, Hon, don’t you even consider saving water by not bathing. I didn’t realize just how bad you smelled until I’d bathed.”
Vaness gave her the finger and then came around the bar to give Len a rib crushing hug. Vaness was a big woman. “How you doing, Girlie? ‘Zat SNT of yours making sure you’re getting laid enough?”
Tula giggled. “Hell, all you have to do is look at her, Nessie, to she’s walking bowlegged.”
“I like them,” Dragon said over the com system that had been put in place so the actual SNTs could communicate with the surface.
Tula gave another hearty laugh. “Well, Dragon Boy, I’m sure Nessie and I would both give you a freebie just to know what a little SNT cock feels like.”
“I would hardly call it a little SNT cock,” came the response that had both whores guffawing.
“That being the case,” Vaness replied, “maybe we’ll pay you. We’re business owners now, you know?” She nodded around the bar, which was comfortably busy.
“I shall take that under advisement if we are ever lacking for funds,” came the response.
Vaness came out from behind the bar and handed Len a beer, which she tasted. “Wow, that’s actually good.”
“Just don’t tell Arji,” Vaness replied, a blush of pleasure crawling up her cheeks.
“The secret ingredient is water,” Tula said, returning to pulling three more pints as Arji and Camille came from the back room along with Kresho — Arji hand in hand with Camille.
“Hell, I’d have used water if I’d had it,” came the ex-bar owner’s reply. Under the circumstances … well my brew was creative.” He broke away from Camille and swept Len up in a hug. “How you pissing, Girlie-Girl? Looks like ole Dragon is treating you right. He’d better be.” He glanced around the room and raised his voice slightly just to be sure ole Dragon heard.
“I see that she eats regularly, gets laid whenever she wants and pisses very well indeed.”
“Them sounds like wedding vows on this dirt ball.” Digby came through the pressure door and grabbed Len up for another hug, which was followed in quick succession by half a dozen other Sandstormers coming in to wish her a bon voyage.
“You won’t forget us, will you?” Jax said, her eyes uncharacteristically misty, though she swore if was only the scent of the high-falluting soap Kresho had delivered from Vodni, something that up until the water-system, had not been useful on Sandstorm.
“I would never forget my family,” Len replied, wiping her own eyes.
“See that you don’t,” Digby said.
Even after they came out into the pub, Kresho, Camille and Arji sat at the back table with their heads together, sipping their pints.
“What’s going on?” Len asked Tula nodding back to them.
“Kresho has a half a dozen contracts for them and the Janisha. Those two are gonna be well rewarded. They’re taking Jax and Clapper with them so they’ll have a full crew. If I understood right,” Tula was a great eaves dropper who never missed anything, “their first little expedition is out to Diga Prime. Big enough contracts they’ll need the full crew.”
“So, who is taking the Love Shack now that you two are pub owners and beer makers?” Len asked.
“Gonna be on a rotating schedule for now,” Vaness answered for her partner. “Ori and Kresho have several professionals, both chicks and blokes, who would be happy to trade out and spend a rotation here. They’ll be making a lot more dosh than we were now that the place is becoming all hoity-toity. That’s all right,” she said filling a pint and sliding it across the bar to Clyde. “Them professionals do their job right, all the punters’ll be here to drink up, before and after. We won’t suffer none, especially now with real water for the beer. Hell, we might even start stocking two kinds, and Camille and Arji are saving a little space to bring us back a shipment of good New Hibernian and maybe even a couple of crates of New Dalmatian Wine. We got a little deal going on their returns to Vodni.”
“And what will all this do to the salvage business?” She asked Fido, who gave her a one-armed hug and ordered her another pint.
“More traffic, more salvage. Ain’t nobody wants to pay full price when they can get used cheaper. Plus once the upgrades are all in place, we’ll have a way of sorting what we got and cataloging it a little better. Hell, ain’t a soul ever been able to figure out how all this shit got here in the asshole of the galaxy. I s’pose it’d be nice to know. Got some archeologists and metallurgists and chemists and what-not landing here, so things is changing. Guess I’ll hang around to see what happens.”
Strangely enough for a community of people who had vowed to the person that they’d leave Tak Major in a heartbeat if they had the chance, very few of them actually did.
“What about you, Girlie,” Digby asked. “Where you and ole Dragon off to?”
“We’ll be looking for my brother and Quetzalcoatl,” she answered.
“And we will find them,” Dragon said. “We will not stop until all of our family is once again united.”
Digby nodded as Fido came to his side. “Out here, family is everything.”
“Anywhere, family is everything,” Len said, and she felt the warm brush of Dragon next to her in quiet agreement.