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Piloting Fury Part 47: Brand New KDG Read

It’s Friday, which means it’s Fury time again.  Mr Grace and I are enjoying a lovely week of holiday in glorious Cumbria with lots of walking and lots of relaxing in the local pubs. But I haven’t forgotten today’s episode of Fury, which finds Rab and Gerando in a really, really bad place. 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 47: Infected!

Rab woke parched and drenched in his own sweat. He was buckled into a seat in the control room of the Ares and Gerando Fallon was strapped in next to him. He was thrashing about like he was having bad dreams. Well bloody hell, why wouldn’t he be after all the fun and excitement aboard the Apocalypse? Rab was damn glad he couldn’t remember if he dreamed. “Wake up kid.” His throat felt like he’d swallowed a goddamned Cairovian sandstorm. “Hey! Fallon! Hey, you’re dreaming.” It was as he reached across to give the kid a shake that he saw it, the thing of his own nightmares, the small raw patch on the inside of his left forearm, the faint outline of the incision still visible beneath the skin, but as upsetting as that was, it was nothing compared to the beginnings of a blistered rash around the outer edge of the incision.

“Vaticana fucking Christu! Fallon! Goddamn it, Gerando, wake up! We’re in deep shit.” In the kid’s thrashings about, the infected incision on his arm became visible too. “I hate that goddamned fuck of an old man of yours,” Rab roared as the memories of their last audience with Abriad Fallon came rushing back. His throat didn’t like that one bit.

The kid woke with a violent jerk, and Rab could already see the fever in his eyes. Jesu! How long had they been unconscious? “Your fucking father shackled us and infected us.”

Before Gerando could do more than stare at his own arm in horror, the ship’s console came to life with an incoming message from the old shite gob. His image filling the screen added to Rab’s sudden urge to puke. The goddamned sonovabitch wore a smug smile plastered across his face that Rab would have loved to melt off with a mol-pistol, or better yet, tear it off with his bare hands. “Good. I am so glad to see the two of you are awake.”

“What have you done? What the fuck have you done?” The kid roared, shoving his way out of the belt and leaning forward over the console frantically searching for their location.

“Oh don’t bother, boy.” Fallon said with a wave of his hand. “I’m more than happy to tell you where you are. You’re onboard the Ares, as I’m sure you figured out already, and you’re on your way to Plague 1, or as they call it these days, Pandora Base.”

 

 

“What the –”

He raised a hand and the kid shut up as though he’d been gagged. “I told you that you both had a key role to play in this mission. But I’m not so stupid that I was not aware of your – shall we say – lack of enthusiasm. Now, Gerando, I know that you’ve always been half in love with Diana McAllister, and you didn’t much like it that I did with her whatever I wanted and you couldn’t.” The kid’s face went crimson and, and Rab felt for him.

“And you, Leo Rab, well you’ve worked with the woman for, how many years now aboard the Dubrovnik? A soft life you had there, I’d say, compared to the triax mine I pulled you out of. Oh, I know that everyone onboard the Dubrovnik respected McAllister, and some more than others. How do I know that she didn’t endear you to her like she did Harker and the rest of the crew? How do I know that you didn’t just get soft and spineless aboard the Dubrovnik? You see,” he said, pacing in front of them in the same library he had slipped them the mickey in. “How can I possibly be sure either of you are up to the task without a little incentive.” He nodded to their arms and smiled beneficently.

He waved a dismissive hand. “Oh I really don’t need you – either of you. With the firepower the Apocalypse carries, I could simply go in guns blazing, mol-tran out McAllister, take the Fury by force and blow the whole base off the planet. But in this case, I opted for finesse rather than brute force. You see, there’s technology on Pandora Base that I want. That being the case, the two of you are useful. I know that bleeding heart, Keen. And I know he won’t turn away infected indentureds, no matter who they are, and they sure won’t expect a cloaked orca class gun ship coming in right behind the Ares while the shields are down.” He looked down at his antique chronometer and smiled. “Oh I’ve timed it all just perfectly, my lads. I know the top speed at which the Ares can arrive at Plague 1, and I know just how long you two have been infected. There’s no real rush, you’re far past the point at which I can administer the antidote. If you want to live, and if you want to recover from the virus, then you go and beg help from Plague 1. If you don’t succeed, you die. If you do succeed, well, you might just stand a chance of recovery before I take over the base and take back what’s mine. After that,” He shrugged. “Well after that I don’t give a shit what the two of you get up to together out in the big wide galaxy.” He rubbed his hands together. “Oh I love a good challenge, don’t you?” The screen went blank. The com went dead.

 

 

Piloting Fury Part 46: Brand New KDG Read

It’s Friday, which means it’s Fury time again.  In today’s episode Mac learns more from Professor Keen about her two boys. 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 46: Testosterone and Secrets

Both my boys, I thought. How could anyone consider them to be my boys when they didn’t trust me enough to tell me something as basic as me being born to compliment Fury, something that they both knew was an important part of the past I knew nothing about.

Keen squared his shoulders and blew out a heavy sigh. “Why the dumb oaf would think it would matter to you is beyond me, but he does have more than his fair share of testosterone, I’m afraid. They both do, Diana. You need to remember that. Fury may look like a battered freighter, but his heart, his mind is just as humanoid male and just as driven by his urges and hormones as Richard’s is.”

“You got that right,” I managed around my heart that had lodged itself somewhere in my throat. “And I’ve had so much experience with men and relationships that I should have known this.”

“Of course you haven’t, and that’s why none of you has a clue what to do now that you have found each other. That’s why I’m telling you.”

I downed my tepid cappuccino in a single gulp without tasting it and nodded to him, folding my arms across my chest. “I’m listening.”

“The tether is the tie that binds bonded compliments to their ship. It quite literally is like an umbilical cord that feeds the ship’s life and strength into the compliment’s physical body and the reverse is true as well. The compliment’s physicality and organic nature in return infuses the ship. It’s very much a give and take. Because the ship is sentient and because that sentience is based on humanoid genetics, carbon based organisms, this interchange not only can happen, but it’s essential to the SNT system. It is even more essential to Fury because he was created from a joined sperm and egg, while the other SNT ships were cloned.

“In most bondings, the tether is, for practical purposes, long and loose, meaning that the compliment may be away from his or her ship for an extended period of time, might even survive permanent separation, if necessary, though that theory was, obviously, never tested. When Fury bonded with Richard, he had no way of knowing this. In so many ways, you have to consider that Fury was born before he was ready. He was sent out into the world untested and untrained. He was, as you know, our last hope. That meant that his understanding of what was supposed to happen in a bonding was limited. Since the circumstances were most definitely extenuating, and due to Fury’s lack of understanding of a bonding, the tether created was short, meaning that Manning can only safely be away from Fury for a few days at most. Less if his physical or emotional reserves are taxed, as they were when he rescued you. What he did, the surgery he performed on your shackle to neutralize it was exacting and difficult. Fury had no antidote onboard at the time because their last cargo had been infected indentureds. And even for Fury it takes a while to synthesize it. When Richard found out that Fallon had sent his son to take you back to Terra Nova Prime, there was no time to spare. Richard had to perform the delicate task of neutralizing your shackle, this after a rough ride and a tight turnaround. Mind you, I don’t have to tell you that by this time Fury’s love for you and need of you had become Richard’s as well. He was terrified he’d do something wrong.”

“Fuck!” Suddenly I was shaking all over. “I thought he left me alone in that horrible room to go back to the barmaid. I thought …”

 

 

“He left you alone in the Nine Tails’ safe room, Diana. Every bar worth its salt has one — at least on the Rim. It’s a place shielded from all scans and probes and with a force field around it that makes it almost invisible. And when you left the next morning, presuming you were alone. Well you weren’t. You were well guarded until you were safe onboard the Fury. Diana,” he squeezed my hand, “Richard had to return to the Fury or risk death. Under such circumstance all he can do, the only thing that will help is if he literally sleeps and regenerates in Fury. It’s best if he’s home in his own bed inside Fury every night. That way he’s always at full strength. What happened when he was here was a combination of the energy it had taken him to get you safely onboard the Fury and away. His regeneration between your arrival onboard and the disaster with the Svalbard was too little and the situation too stressful. That was why he collapsed here.”

“Jesu,” I whispered. “Why didn’t he tell me? I would have understood. I would have understood better than thinking he’d rather be holed up with Stanislavski than helping me get Fury through the storm.”

“Diana, there’s no place he would have rather been than beside you on Fury’s bridge. But he absolutely couldn’t. Even then it took Ina to make sure he didn’t try to go to you anyway. That would have done no one any good in his condition. Ina knew you couldn’t do what you had to do to get Fury to safety if you had to take care of Manning as well. He knew it too, and he hated it. He sees it as his weakness. He didn’t want you to know.”

“Stupid fool! Why would he think I wouldn’t understand? Of course I would have understood. Even Fury wouldn’t tell me what the problem was. What?” I asked when I noticed him studying me as if I was somehow missing the bigger picture.

“Diana, there’s a lot more to it than the need to regenerate inside Fury. You see, Fury literally brought Richard back to life. It’s Fury’s energy, fury’s essence that sustains Richard. The short tether is way more than just an umbilical chord for Richard, it is a lifeline. It is short because his life is literally Fury’s.”

“Wait a minute.” I suddenly felt as though the floor beneath me was tilting. “Are you trying to tell me that Manning is …”

“Dead. Yes. Richard Manning, at least the Richard Manning that Fury rescued all those years ago, died of his extensive injuries. The matrix you see and know and have clearly grown fond of is one created by Fury to contain Richard’s essence.” His face broke into a beatific smile. “I had no idea that Fury was capable of such a thing, and at the time, he didn’t realize what he was doing. What he knew was that this man had gone to extraordinary lengths to free himself from bondage and Fury simply refused to let his efforts be in vane. Oh I promise you, all of what you see and interact with, all of the man who clearly adores you, is as real and as alive and breathing as you and I are, and is as much Richard Manning as the flesh that died all those years ago was – more so in fact because the Richard Manning who now serves as Fury’s compliment has grown and evolved and is a much better human being for his experiences. That he has not told you, I suspect is because he fears your reaction.”

“Goddamn him!” I sniffed back tears. “Goddamn both of them. What the hell do they take me for – an idiot? A monster?”

“Of course you’re not a monster. Diana, listen to me.” Keen reached for me, but I shoved my chair back and stood.

“I’ve gotta go.” I turned and fled with Keen calling after me.

 

 

 

Piloting Fury Part 45: Brand New KDG Read

It’s Friday, which means it’s Fury time again.  Today’s episode finds Mac confronting Professor Keen about the truth Fury and Manning have kept from her. 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 45: Confrontations and Secrets Revealed

Just then Professor Keen walked through the door, and I thought Stanislavski was going to pass out from relief. She pulled away from my less than gentle grip and all but ran to the professor. I, on the other hand, was not about to pass out, not about to be budged until I knew what the fuck was going on.

Keen glanced at Stanislavski and then me, and the look on his face darkened. He offered Stanislavski a buss on the cheek and she said her good-byes, knowing goddamn good and well that the only reason she was escaping was because I figured Keen had more answers than she did, and he wasn’t getting away until he gave it up. But before she left, she glanced at me and then turned her attention to the Keen. “They haven’t bonded,” she said.

“Yes, I know,” Keen replied.

Then she offered me a worried little look that made my stomach clench, and she left. “Is she always that much of a snitch?” I asked, feeling even less magnanimous toward the woman at the moment that I usually did.

“She has reason to be, in this case,” he said, offering me a sympathetic smile, and my insides knotted still tighter.

“Reason to be? What reason? You wanna tell me what the fuck is going on?” I barely managed to wait until the woman was out the door. “What the hell is Stanislovski talking about, me being bonded? I’m a fucking pilot. Nothing more.”

This time when the waiter approached cautiously as though he feared I might use my laser beam stare on him, Keen politely ordered two cappuccinos and offered the poor man an apologetic smile. Before I could launch back into what the fuck mode, he asked, “Diana, how much do you know about your birth?”

“I know that my father was widowed when I was barely more than an infant. I lived onboard a ship with him from, well for all my life until the Merlin, except for time spent with an aunt.”

“And he never talked about your mother, did he?”

“No,” I replied, realizing that this was the first time I had ever even thought about the mother I never knew. “I … he never mentioned her.”

“Don’t you think that’s rather strange?”

I could manage nothing but a shrug of my shoulders. For some reason, I felt as though I’d just been shoved out an airlock into empty space.

“Diana, you were born to be Fury’s compliment.”

And now I was sure I was in free fall, but before I could do more than open my mouth, he continued. “As Fury told you most of the early SNT experiments with fertilized humanoid eggs failed in the early weeks after fertilization. His was the only viable fetus that took to the nano technology and thrived in the hybridization that followed. There was, however, one other that survived, a humanoid female of your father’s sperm and an unknown doner. When it became clear that you weren’t suited to become an SNT, your fetal material was slated for termination, but your father wouldn’t allow it. I helped him make sure you were safe and hidden away until your birth.”

For a moment the world spun around me and shifted in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I wanted to run. I wanted to wake up safe and loved aboard Fury. I wanted to believe that at least some part of my mess of a life had been normal, and now that had been taken away from me. “So you’re telling me I’m a failed SNT experiment?” I managed, barely finding the breath for the words.

“Of course that’s not what I’m telling you. What you became is no less astonishing and marvelous than what Fury became. What you became is so much more than just a pilot. What you were born to be was the perfect compliment for Fury. Even your father knew this in his heart of hearts, which is why he raised you and spent so much time with you onboard starships. However, he also wanted the choice you made to be your own. Sadly, due to the circumstances, you never got that opportunity and neither did Fury.”

I felt as though I’d been gut punched and then had my heart ripped out. “Then why hasn’t Fury told me? Why hasn’t he come clean? Does he not want me?” I felt stupid the second I said it. I sounded childish and ridiculous. It had never mattered to me before if anyone had ever wanted me. Hell, I’d kept every man who’d looked at me with interest at arm’s length, including Manning, whom I had always been attracted to, and now I was upset because Fury hadn’t been honest with me about my past.

 

 

“Don’t be daft! Of course he wants you.” Keen took my hand in his rather calloused one, a strong grip that cracked knuckles. “He’s lived for you, and so has Manning from the moment Fury told him about you. They both want you. They both need you and, in fact, the ship I created Fury to be won’t be complete until you’re a part of that matrix. Manning was never your replacement. Manning was Fury’s salvation in his loneliness, and from that their bond has grown.”

I found myself painfully close to tears, as I listened.

The waiter brought two cappuccinos and we sat quietly until he’d left.

Keen picked up the spoon and toyed with the foam, then he took a deep breath and spoke. “One thing you must understand about Fury, he’s not programmed. His heart is his own in a way that was not the case with the other SNTs. Fury has a deep capacity to connect, to relate and to love, and with that, the capacity for guilt and jealousy and all of the other emotions that humanoids deal with on a daily basis. Fury is as much humanoid as he is technological.

“Once his commitment was made to Manning, once they were bonded, that bond could never be broken except in death. However, your place remained empty. It might have been less of a trauma for Fury over the years had he not partially bonded with you when he rescued you from the Merlin. It was the first time he saw you, and that the bonding would be so strong and so instantaneous on his part, I had not foreseen. I mean everyone has heard of love at first sight, but it really doesn’t happen very often. Quite literally, Diana, Fury has loved you since he first saw you. You were never meant to be just a pilot. You were meant to be an SNT Pilot, more specifically the pilot for SNT1, you were created especially as his compliment. You were created for him and he has felt the need for you and the absence of you every day since he was raised to consciousness.”

“If that’s the case, then why didn’t he tell me? We’ve had time. We’ve been together for almost a month now and we’ve been … together, the three of us.”

“You know Fury’s heart. He’s laid as much bare to you as he had the courage to. Fury’s afraid of rejection, just like you are, just like we all are. But it’s more than that.” He pushed the tepid coffee aside and leaned over the table toward me. “You see when he bonded with Richard, things didn’t quite go according to planned. Fury was so young, and so inexperienced and so totally alone. There were complications. Fury fears he’ll not be able to bond with you without such complications. I’ve reassured him that won’t be the case, and if the two of you bond here, I’ll be here, if for no other reason, so that he feels more secure.”

“But those complications. They were due to Manning’s condition, weren’t they? And the fact that Manning wasn’t Fury’s intended compliment. I mean from what Fury told me, it was nothing short of a miracle that they were able to make a bond when Manning was neither his intended nor was he trained to it. Stanislavski said something about a short tether. I don’t know what that means, and neither Manning nor Fury mentioned it to me.”

For a moment Keen studied me as though I were a problem to be solved until I squirmed under his scrutiny. “Richard has not broached this subject with you, what happened the last time you were here?”

“No. No he hasn’t.” I felt a blush climbing my neck. I don’t know why. For the past couple of hours I’d been in the presence of people who knew both Manning and Fury better that I did, and I couldn’t help it, I was more than a little defensive that everyone seemed so surprised by my ignorance. “He doesn’t seem to want to talk about it, and I didn’t push.”

“Well then, he won’t be happy with me, but you need to know. You need to know about both of your boys if we’re going to get through this situation intact.”

 

 

 

 

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.”

“His tether?”

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.”

 

 

 

 

Piloting Fury Part 42: Brand New KDG Read

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.

 

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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