Piloting Fury Part 44: Brand New KGD Read
It’s Friday, which means it’s Fury time again. AND! It’s Vaccination Day at Grace Manor! That’s right, both Mr. Grace and I are now fully vaccinated. We received our second jabs this morning, and there is much rejoicing. So much in fact that Fury is just a little late getting out to you today. I hope you can forgive my exuberance. Today’s episode finds Stanislavski giving Mac a tour of Pandora Base, in which she reveals a bit more than the perfectly replicated Main Street. 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 44: The Tour in Which Much is Revealed
“It’s bigger than I expected and smaller.”
Stanislovski had taken me to the clock tower on the replica of a courthouse overlooking the twentieth century Main Street of Pandora Base. From there we had the best view of the entire area that was designed so that people who almost never went out into the dangerous atmosphere above ground could at least get the feeling they were in the sunshine. The edge of the living area had been disguised beautifully with holo-projections so that the rock walls appeared to be cornfields and parks and tree-lined streets. There was nothing claustrophobic about Pandora Base.
“This is all the space that can be spared at the moment,” the woman replied. “There aren’t enough workers to expand the common area, and the majority of the space excavated is needed for growing food and keeping the space livable. At least at the moment population is stable with new survivors coming in and children being born. And of course a lot of people migrate to the Rim first chance they get. The practicality of increasing the size of a place that will never be more hospitable when we have to keep what we’re doing secret is questionable. On the other hand we can do here what we can’t on either of the other two plague planets for that very reason. The Authority doesn’t see and it doesn’t care. While both the other plague planets are more hospitable, they’re also way too visible. Pity.
“And there are other issues to consider. Well over half the population of Terra Nova Prime is indentured. These days people are born in debt. There are rumors that in parts of Terra Omega, they’re actually breeding indentureds to increase the workforce.”
I felt a sudden wave of nausea at the thought, and looked down at my own empty shackle. “Isn’t that forbidden in the codes?” I felt stupid the moment I asked it. The codes created when indentured servitude was voted into law as a way of paying off debt were blatantly ignored now. No one would dare protest for fear they would be the next to end up with a shackle implanted in their arm. Them or their family. There was always hidden debt to be trumped up and used against a person if necessary. “Never mind,” I said when Stanislovski gave me the raised eyebrow.
She moved around the stone balcony that circled the clock tower and I followed taking in the 360 view. “More and more indentureds are running the risk of escape due to abysmal conditions and no recourse. More and more are ending up on Plague Two and Three, and that means the ones we can get off, the ones we can smuggle or intercept are coming here. If the numbers increase too rapidly, we run the risk of overcrowding and an overload to the life support systems, certainly to hydroponics.” She waved a negating hand. “Oh those things can be dealt with. We’ll find a way. We always have. But what we may not be able to deal with is that the increased numbers may draw attention to us, and that could be devastating. We’re not prepared to fight a battle here on Pandora Base. Our defenses are just that, defenses, and while they are strong enough to give the majority of our people a chance to escape, assuming we had the ships and the opportunity, they are not strong enough to hold off a full-blown attack from the Authority. Pandora Base would be lost and the antidote would be discovered.”
“Do you have an evacuation plan?” I asked.
“Not much of a one, and it all depends on us having ships available to get people off. We’d need at least a dozen ships. One Orca could do it, but there aren’t too many of those these days that don’t have their noses buried up the conglomerates’ asses.”
“Fury might be able to recreate himself as an Orca, but we need him for other more important tasks right now.”
I stopped dead in my tracks and she nearly ran into me, as we descended the stairs from the clock tower. “Of course I know about Fury. I’m one of the few who does. Fury is Dr. Keen’s crowning glory, and a damn good little ship.”
I couldn’t help it, I felt betrayed and more than a little jealous that she knew about Fury, that she had a past with the two men in my life, that she might know secrets I didn’t
“What’s the matter with Manning,” I blurted out.
For a moment, I thought she wasn’t going to answer me. We opened the door and stepped out into the warm sunshine and she looked up and closed her eyes as though she were basking in the light of a real star. She took a deep breath and said. “Nothing is the matter with Manning. It’s just that his situation is complicated. Because of the extenuating circumstances of his bonding, his tether is shorter than it was intended to be. That’s all.”
She guided me into an old fashioned coffee shop and nodded to a table near the window. “Vaticana Jesu, didn’t they tell you about tethers and compliments when you bonded with Fury?”
“What do you mean when I bonded with Fury? Fury’s already bonded to Manning. I’m just … I’m just the pilot.” I couldn’t help it, I blushed.
For a long moment she stared at me as though I had just sprouted another head. Then she took a deep breath. I could see she was choosing her words carefully, which made the already tight fist in my stomach clench even tighter. “I saw the way Manning kissed you.” Now it was her turn to blush, “and I sensed Fury’s longing. Neither of them can wait to have you back, and you’re telling me you haven’t bonded yet?”
The waiter came to take our order and Stanislovski shooed him away with a flutter of her hand, her gaze still locked on my. “McAllister, what the hell’s going on? I’m not your enemy, you know.”
“I didn’t think that you were.”
“Oh I think that’s exactly what you think, but there are a few things you need to know, a few things that I hope will help you understand why Richard and Fury mean so much to me.”
Before I could say anything, she dropped the bomb.
“I wanted to be the Fury’s compliment once we realized that he still existed, that he was very much alive and well and thriving with Richard’s help. We all got drunk together one night – well Richard and I, Fury just hung out with us on the observation deck. It was then that they told me how they came to know each other and why Richard’s situation was … unique. After what happened, after what happened with Richard, I felt that maybe I could finally fulfill the roll I was trained for. I felt that they needed me. I mean I could have helped Richard, could have been there for both of them. I was trained for it. I was compatible. That’s why I was shackled,” she said holding up her arm absently. “Pretty much everyone associated with the SNT project was shackled, and especially the back-up compliments. We were considered most dangerous because the rogue SNTs might come looking for us, they might need to replace their compliments. When I was freed, when I found out Fury’s situation, I volunteered. I offered myself to be bonded, but …” the muscles of her throat rose and fell and she blinked hard, then squared her shoulders. “but he refused me.” For a moment she sat in silence, on hand resting against her chest. “Nothing ever hurt like that, to be rejected by the only one with whom I could fulfil my purpose.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, and I really was, after hearing Fury’s story, I could only imagine her pain.
She shook her head. “Don’t be. I guess maybe he felt Richard was enough, since he never expected to have his intended compliment. Who knows, maybe he felt guilty. It’s hard to say with an SNT mind like his. He’s not only far more intelligent, but he’s also far more sensitive, though I suppose you know that by now.”
“He loves Richard,” I said. “I suppose you know that by now.”
“And Richard loves him, yes, I know that by now. And they both love you.” She shot me a smile that was timid and brave.
“Why are you telling me this?” I asked, not wanting to discuss my love life with her when I wasn’t entirely certain of what it even meant yet.
“I guess I wanted you to know that I’m no threat.” She forced a laugh. “I wish like hell I was, believe me. A compliment living her life without a ship, well the research says we can do it and we can survive. We can, I have.” She held my gaze. “But there’s not a single day that goes by when I don’t have to battle the emptiness, when I don’t want to run back to Fury and beg him to take me, beg him to make me whole. You’re a compliment, created to be his compliment. Surly you understand this.”
“Hold it, hold it. What the fuck are you talking about I’m a compliment. I’m a pilot whose lived most of my life as indentured. I’ve never had any plans of being a compliment and I was never tested.”
She blinked, then blinked again. “Vatican jesu! You don’t know, do you?”
“Know what? Stanislovski what the hell is it I’m supposed to know?”
She ran a hand through her short dark hair, and it stood on end as though she’d just been electrocuted. “Jesus, Diana! Oh fuck! Fury hasn’t told you.” She stood nearly knocking the chair over. “Look, this is not mine to tell. I would have never …” She glanced at the door as though she was considering making a break for it.
I grabbed her arm. “Well whatever the hell it is that you would never, your sure as hell had better because I don’t like playing games.”