Dragon Ascending Part6: Brand New KDG Read
Happy Friday everyone! Today’s episode of Dragon Ascending is a longer bonus read to reintroduce you to some old friends and make a few connections. Last week we left our derelict ship trying to safe the life of the mysterious desert woman. This week, in his efforts to outrun authority hunter ships, Fury senses something on Taklamakan Major very much out of place. 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!
Dragon Ascending: Book 2 of the Sentient Ship Series
On a desolate junkyard of a planetoid, scavenger Lenore Felik, 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 6: Something that Should Not be There
Diana Mac sensed Fury’s drop in speed more than felt it, and so did Manning, who struggled up from sleep next to her. Both felt the lack of Fury’s immediate warmth. Being an SNT ship, he was quite literally everywhere, and yet he usually shared their bed with a presence as nearly physical to them as their own, and both of his humanoid complements felt his absence when he withdrew. That was a part of the bond they shared.
As they felt his absence he felt their wakefulness, and they sensed something more than a random fluctuation in his normal functioning around them. It could only be defined in human terms as excitement laced liberally with tension.
“There is something in this sector.” He said before they could ask. “Something that should not be here.”
“Something like what?” Manning asked slipping into his trousers and heading for the deck, with Mac not far behind him. Being connected as they all were, they could have simply accessed his thoughts. But Fury had stressed to them early in their relationship the importance of compliments and their ship maintaining boundaries for the sake of sanity. He had said it so matter of factly, as though sanity were something that came and went like body odor or bad breath. Mac smiled at the thought. Perhaps that was the case with sentient ships. The data was still out she supposed, and if it were true, then they could be heading into either a wild goose chase or a shit storm.
On the deck, they looked out to find pretty much empty space, minus the dust. There was a fuck ton of dust in this sector for some reason. The only thing not completely obscured by the dust was a medium sized yellow star, and even it looked pale and anemic through the haze.
“I am certain I felt someone.”
“What someone?” Manning rubbed sleep from his eyes and squinted at the view screen. “You mean like an SNT? Out here?”
“I experienced a flash of power, of anguish, like nothing I have felt since the time of my own painful birth. It happened so quickly, even by SNT standards, and then it vanished.”
Mac was already checking the sensor logs. “I don’t see anything here.” She said.
“You would not.” Fury observed. “It was over too quickly. Nevertheless, I am certain.”
“So what you felt was an SNT in distress?” Manning turned and headed up to the map room and Mac followed. The three had only been together as a triad for a few months, but they were fully bonded and they worked as one unit. “Let’s see what we have in this area.” He pulled up the 3D map, “other than a whole lot of nothing.”
Mac squinted at the image until she saw nothing but spots. There were dozens of medium sized asteroids orbiting the star they had seen from the view screen. For some reason the perfect star for the evolution of rocky planets and human life had never managed more than two planetoids and a sporadic lacing of asteroids orbiting around it creating a series of thin rings of dust and ice for several astronomical units.
“Both planetoids are habitable, though just barely,” Manning observed. Taklamakan Minor is little more than a block of ice. The only permanent structure is a science station. The data says it was automated after the last attendant died. It’s operated now by a loose organization of scientist from the Outer Rim Alliance. At the moment, it’s visited once every galactic year-ish.”
“Taklamakan Major, on the other hand is a desert. According to data, it’s only real use is as one giant salvage yard. There are three small outposts on it. Fuck knows why. “Sunward, Windward and Sandstorm, all placed strategically on the edges of the most frequented salvage yards. Except for Sandstorm, it’s right smack dab in the middle of the biggest salvage dump. It’s called Sandstorm because it shifts periodically. Well every night, actually. Something in the gravitation and the prevailing winds results in hellacious sandstorms every night It’s the most isolated of the three outposts, in the opposite hemisphere from the other two.
“The only reason ships come here is to sell salvage or because they’re caught out on a long haul and need replacement parts. The whole place belongs to the Outer Rim Alliance. A bastard stepchild kind of place. Almost no association with the Authority.”
“That makes it a holiday destination in my book,” Mac said, as she scrolled down through the database.”
“Sounds delightful,” Manning commented with a chuckle.
“I will pack our bags immediately.” Fury said. “We are long overdue for a vacation.” Fury claimed to need work on his sense of humor, but Mac often thought on the long hauls when they saw no one but each other, it was his sense of humor that kept the enormity of the task set before them in perspective. The responsibility had fallen on them to follow what slim leads they could find on the whereabouts of SNTs that might or might not still exist, while remaining as unobtrusive as possible. That task was made all the more difficult when said SNTs definitely would not want to be found if they did still exist. They understood only too well that you did your best not to be discovered when the Authority would hunt you down and destroy you if they knew you existed.
When Mac was shanghaied onto Fury, she had not known that he was an SNT, SNT1, in fact, the pinnacle of sentient ship technology, and as far as they all knew, the last survivor of the sixteen sentient ships that had been bonded to humanoid compliments and sent out to make life better for all species everywhere. They had been funded by the Free Universities, who refused any involvement of the Authority. They were ultimately designed to put an end to the Authority scourge of indentured servitude.
Their mistake was in assuming that the Authority and the Conglomerates wanted to do away with indentured servitude. People were now born into the debts of their families and even some areas of the Authority were breeding indentureds. The wealth of the Authority and its conglomerates was built on the backs of indentured workers, and it was not ready to give that up.
Somehow Abriad Fallon and his cronies managed to engineer a virus derived from the one that was contained in its inactive form in every indentured’s shackle to reassure they could never escape without dying a long and horrific death. They then sabotaged the sentient ships with reengineered virus designed to infected the brains of the SNTs. Two went berserk and killed millions before the rest of the fleet discovered what had been done. Of the fifteen, nine were destroyed, literally disintegrated. Three gave themselves up and were decommissioned, their compliments either killed or indentured and sent away to hard labor in the triaxium mines. Those ships were hidden away in remote Authority space docks. The fate of three others was unknown. Some were believed to have escaped beyond the Outer Rim.
Fury was not among these fifteen. His birth was far more complicated and much more advanced scientifically. He was to be the flagship of the next generation of SNTs until the world fell apart. Then he barely escaped as a fugitive, the only one who knew the truth.
Fury was no longer alone, though. Due to circumstances Mac could have never imagined, he now had three brothers, though one was Gerando Fallon, Abriad’s eldest son. Mac still battled to get her head around those details. He was the only humanoid among Fury’s siblings and was now bonded in a strange sort of way to Griffon and Commander Ina Stanislavsky. With help from Fury’s core material, the third ship in his new family, The renegade Dubrovnik, had been reborn as an SNT ship as well. Yes, Fury had three brothers and they were all fugitives at the moment. Though Fury was a damn rich one, thanks to quick thinking on Gerando’s part that meant Fury inherited a huge fortune from their monster of a father, Abriad Fallon, which he managed to liquidate into accounts beyond the Rim before the rest of Abriad’s monster brood could contest the will and find ways to prevent it’s execution.
Yes, they were all fugitives, but not without their purpose. Finding the SNTs was now the three ships’ mission, well two of them at least. Dubrovnik was a flying fortress born of an orca class freighter the size of a small city. It was home to the scientists, researchers and residents from Plague 1. Plague 1 had been one of the two Plague planets, where those indentureds who were suffering from the virus were sent to live out their miserable lives. It just so happened that it was on Plague 1 that the cure had been discovered for the virus that made every indentured’s subdural shackle a living nightmare. Fury was to seek out the SNT ships from beyond the Outer Rim, and Griffon was to seek out the SNTs that might be hidden away in forgotten space docs in Authority space.
“Taklamakan Major would be an excellent place for an SNT to hide,” Fury commented. “While it is only loosely claimed as a part of the Rim Alliance, it is too far away to gain the Authority’s attention. And certainly it has nothing of interest for them. It is a very long way from almost anywhere.
From what we can tell, there are two, possibly three, ships that might be hiding out beyond the Rim and three in Authority doc yards we know of. Raven and Quetzalcoatl we know for sure escaped beyond the Rim, though we do not know what happened after their escape. Possibly Ourobos escaped as well. We know nothing of her.” Fury always listed the ships as if Mac and Manning didn’t already know, as if they hadn’t gone over that list a hundred times. And yet each time he did, it was as though they listened to the reading of a sacred family tree because to Fury, that was exactly what they were, and both Mac and Manning knew better than anyone else just how much family meant to Fury.
Fury continued. “Apollo, Aurora, Valkyrie have been decommissioned and are hidden in remote dock yards spread throughout Authority space. Merlin, Phoenix, Orion, Archangel, Calypso, Nautilus, Hebe, Terrebonne and Dragon were destroyed.”
They all knew the assumed fates of all the SNT ships in the aftermath of the virus outbreak onboard, but none knew better than Mac, except for Fury. For Fury repeating all of their names and their fates was a naming of his dead and of those missing in action. They were his family, family lost to him before any of them had a chance to fulfill the bright destiny for which they had been created, and Fury mourned their loss, just as Mac still mourned the loss of her father and his SNT, Merlin. To speak those names out loud was to honor their memory, was to promise every effort of reunion with those who survived.
“There should be no SNT ships hiding on Taklamakan Major,” Manning said.
“While we are beyond Authority space, in a sector that no one would have much reason to visit, this is far from where any of my family disappeared,” Fury said.
The truth was they were now fairly well off their own course for traveling to the areas of the Outer Rim where it was most likely that Quetzalcoatl, Raven and Ouroboros had gone into hiding. As expected the Authority, and especially the worst of the Fallon clan, did not take kindly to Fury’s inheriting the family fortune, nor to the loss of possible SNT tech from right under their noses. Oh, none of them mourned their father’s loss. They were all a bunch of rabid dogs waiting to devour each other at first opportunity. Tenad Fallon, daddy’s eldest daughter, was taking the loss of the Fallon fortune very personally, and it had only been in the last two galactic days that they had shaken her Authority Jaegers. But perhaps this was exactly where they needed to be.
“There’s a ship on long range scanners coming in fast.”