It’s Friday, which means it’s Fury day. In today’s episode, Fury and his crew return to Pandora Base for the answers Mac needs. If you’re enjoying Fury, please spread the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’m offering a new episode of Fury every Friday.
“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAllister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.
Piloting Fury Part 42: Pandora Base Revisited
The rendezvous with the Sumerians went even better than we’d hoped. We were able to sell both the whiskey and the oil for premium prices, then we celebrated. Fury created a celebratory meals and the three of us danced to ancient Terran rock and roll music. We ended up on the floor of the observation deck where there was room for the rough and tumble that quickly became a part of our lovemaking.
During the long flight back to Pandora Base, we fell into a routine that felt as though we had always been together. Fury said it was because we were always intended to be together. Who knew a ship could be such a romantic? As we drew nearer to Pandora Base, I became more and more nervous about what lay ahead. All my life I had wanted answers to questions, and never in my wildest dreams did I expect the answers I had gotten up until now. Nor had I expected that it would be Victor Keen waiting at Pandora Base who would give me the rest of those answers.
As we settled into orbit above Pandora Base, I was surprised when it was Keen who appeared on the view screen. “Welcome back. Hopefully you’ll have more hospitable conditions this time than you did last. Diana, I hear you did some damn fine piloting. Richard, I hear you did some damn fine sleeping.”
Manning offered a lazy smile. “Never miss an opportunity, that’s what I say.”
“Wise advice.” I didn’t miss that Keen held Manning in a scrutinizing gaze until Manning cleared his throat and looked away. “Glad you’re doing okay,” the professor said at last. Then, to my surprise, he turned his attention to the ship. “Fury I need you in space dock this time, if you don’t mind.”
“I didn’t even know Pandora Base had a space dock,” I said.
“You gotta remember, mol-tran’s illegal. Whatever shipments of supplies the Authority sent into Plague 1 had to dock to unload their cargo, which was then shuttled down. It was a job nobody really wanted. Nobody wanted to be reminded of how close they all were to the shackle. Eventually, they just stopped bothering with anything but automated drones, and even then the ones they sent weren’t much more than junk. If they arrived, Pandora Base got supplies, if they didn’t, no one was the wiser. Most arrived, actually, but not many returned.” Manning offered a wicked smile. “Keen and his crew have gotten to be experts at salvage, and they made friends with a lot of smugglers.” He laid a hand on his chest. “Plague 1 is a pretty safe for all of us, since no Authority ships have docked here for more than five years.
“Is it unusual,” I asked, when the docking crew contacted us for clearance. “Docking Fury, I mean.”
“Not unusual, no,” Manning said, then he added with an affectionate slap against a bulkhead, “Keen’s Fury’s father.”
“Didn’t see that coming,” I said.
“Neither did Fury’s mother,” Manning joked.
Fury gave Manning the mental equivalent of the middle finger and said to me, “I told you that I was birthed from sperm and egg just as you were.”
“Never could see the resemblance,” Manning said. “Personally I think it was really the milk man, you know what with Keen working long hours, leaving the missus at home alone. It happens.”
“I suppose it is possible,” Fury observed, and then he asked, “do you believe that perhaps this milk man had superior genetic makeup to that of Dr. Keen?”
“No, but perhaps he probably had a better developed sense of humor,” Manning replied with a twitch of a smile.
Fury made a rather rude sound with his vocal processors, and I found myself smiling at the degree of adolescent behavior that passed between these two, so incongruous with their tenderness toward each other and their stunning capacities for passion.
As I maneuvered Fury into space dock and eased back on the thrusters, my nerves must have been obvious in spite of my steady hand at the controls because Fury’s embrace was almost as obvious as the way Manning kept glancing over at me like he was afraid I might explode.
“Do not worry, Diana Mac, it will be all right,” Fury said. “You have been through the worst, and now the truth will be as a gift”
“He’s right,” Manning said. “Keen’s a good man. And he’s got answers you’ve waited most of your life for.”
While all that was true, I couldn’t help feeling like I should brace for impact.
I was surprised to find that when we opened the docking bay door, Keen was waiting. He gave Manning a one armed hug and a slap on the back, then offered me a polite smile.
“He nodded down to the bag in his hand that looked like a replica of something carried by an ancient Terran medical doctor. “Time for Fury’s check-up.”
“As you are well aware, Dr. Keen, I am self regulating and self-healing. There is little need for a check-up.”
Manning nudged me in the ribs with an elbow. “Typical father and son. Aren’t they just the cutest?”
“I think I can safely speak for both the doctor and myself when I say, Fuck you, Richard Manning,” Fury said with all the politeness and even timber we’d come to expect from him.
Keen raised an eyebrow at Manning. “Richard, you’re a bad influence.”
Manning just chuckled. “There are just parts of the boy’s training that a father can’t do. What can I say?”
“While I’m sure that’s true, there are modifications and upgrades that a reprobate smuggler can’t make, and that’s why I’m here. I have a new injection of modified nano cells that may make molecular adjustments easier and faster, and they may also help ease your condition, Richard.”
Whatever passed between them, it immediately became clear Manning did not want me in on, and he changed the subject. “Do you think Mac here can get a proper tour this time?”
“Ina should be here any second. She’s looking forward to doing the honors.”
“Wait a minute. I’m the pilot, shouldn’t I be in on this little upgrade?” I looked from one of them to the other and Manning’s jaw looked like it was made of iron.
“It’s not necessary, Diana.” Keen said without taking his eyes off Manning. “I’ll talk you through the upgrades if you want, but really there’s no need. You’ll know what they are immediately once you reconnect.”
“Go,” Manning said. “You’ll be bored if you stay, and I …” he forced a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “I could use a little male bonding time.”
“By all means,” I said, trying not to feel left out and fobbed off on Ina Stanislovski, who would have been my last choice of a tour guide. But it was clear, for whatever reason, Manning didn’t want me onboard while these modifications were being made, and Fury didn’t seem too keen on it either. Whatever was happening, it didn’t include me.
Just as things were getting uncomfortable, Stanislovski showed up and made it worse. She offered me a cool kiss on both cheeks like we were at some fancy tearoom in Britannia Epsilon. “Good to see you again, McAllister,” she lied.
“And you,” I lied back.
She may have spoken to me, but her focus was clearly on Manning before I could even make an attempt at small talk. “Richard, how are you?” She pulled him into an embrace that was way more than that of a casual acquaintance and, even though Fury had told me that she felt responsible for Manning and for him nearly dying once, I still couldn’t fight back the jealousy when Manning returned her embrace like she was a long lost lover. When I was just about to suggest they get a goddamned room, she pulled away and gave him the once-over, this time checking him with her professional eye.
“Jesus, Ina, I’m fine. Stop looking at me like I’m a fucking plague case.”
It didn’t stop her looking though, not until she was satisfied that he was fine, then she took a deep breath and offered me a smile that she clearly had to work at making stick. “Well shall we then, McAllister? I think you’re going to find Pandora Base fascinating.” While that might be true, I couldn’t help feeling that we both wished anyone else in the whole damn galaxy was giving me the grand tour other than Ina Stanislovski.
“Mac, wait.” As we turned to go, Manning scooped me into his arms and gave me a kiss that could have melted the planet’s ice with its heat. He fisted his fingers in my hair and made sure the only thing closer to me than his body was my think layer of clothing. “Don’t go too far,” he whispered against my mouth as he pulled away, “Fury and I’ll both be needing you back onboard in a few hours.” He’d made damn sure I knew what for. I was the only one who heard, and felt, Fury’s affirmation of that fact, and suddenly it wasn’t nearly so hard to leave the space dock with Ina Stanislovski.