Happy Friday everyone! Last week we got a good look at Len through the eyes of her rescuer, who is determined not to get too close to her. This week we find Fury’s crew on Taklamakan Major still looking for her. 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: Part two 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 14: Scavengers
“The girl’s a scavenger, and not a very good one. Don’t know how she survives on the credits she earns at it.” The filthy man behind a makeshift desk of some kind of fabricated plastic meant to look like wood picked at his ear absently. “I slip her an extra credit or two whenever I can. Proud little thing, though. She won’t let me get away with it if she catches me, and she’s a smart one.”
“He is telling the truth,” Fury spoke inside their heads.
The man continued, looking at whatever it was he had excavated from his ear, “I warned her not to trust the crew of the Dart even to point her to her own ass. No one around here trusts them.”
“But she went and she hasn’t returned.” Manning said.
“If the bastards on the Dart did what she paid them for, credits she couldn’t really afford, then she won’t be home for at least another four days. There are times I go for weeks without seeing her.” He nodded out the filthy reinforced window to the endless heap of junk beyond. “There’s plenty of places around here for a scavenger to scrounge. And that one, she gets sidetracked. Every little thing fascinates her. Too much curiosity by half Len has.” He wiped his excavation finger on his trousers and shifted in a creaky chair. “Hell for all I know she took me at my word and didn’t go with those piss lickers after all. I saw the Dart dust off, but didn’t know if she was on it or not.”
“He is trying to protect her,” Fury said. “He does not know you, so he cannot know if he can trust you.”
The man continued, “All I know is that she was hell bent on getting out to the Sea of Death, fuck knows why. But she could just as easily be somewhere in the salvage heaps trying to make a living, like the rest of us. ”
“She went with them,” Mac said.
“Well shit.” He leaned back in his chair slowly shaking his head. “Then something’s happened to her?”
“We questioned the crew of the Dart,” Manning said, cracking his knuckles to make it evident exactly how that questioning had gone.
“The man’s rugged face cracked a wicked leathery smile. I hope the spunk bags never take another proper piss again.” Then he said. “Ya might talk with Arji over at the Dust Bowl. He usually sees everythin’ that happens. He … well he has a soft spot for her.”
They thanked the man and slipped him a couple credits, which Fury informed them was just politeness on Taklamakan Major, then they left his shop.
“Like a damned inferno out here,” Manning said as they stepped outside into the early evening, and checked their PDs for directions Fury had placed there for them. The place was an absolute maze of rubbish and salvage. It smelled of heat and rust and dust.
“It is much cooler than it would have been had you ‘tranned during the heat of the day,” Fury commented. “I understand the locals call it the Shimmer, and it is such that even a little time out in it could be fatal to those who have not acclimated, and even they venture out as little as possible.”
“And what about these scavengers,” Mac asked, “when do they work? They must have to be out in the heat in order to get to anything but the edges of this dumps.”
“They burrow into tunnels they create for themselves amidst the salvage, and hide in the shade it offers.”
“I would think that would be like stepping out of a fire into the oven,” Manning commented.
“They are very resilient,” Fury replied. “Nevertheless, please hurry,” he added. “I do not like you out in such heat even now.”
“Not too keen on it myself,” Manning said. “Jesu Vaticanus, why don’t they build underground?”
“They cannot,” came the reply. “The whole planetoid is nothing but shifting sand with a solid nickel core, but too far beneath the surface to tunnel to. What has been built is built upon rubbish, and has to be periodically rebuilt in the event of a bad sandstorm.”
“It’s a wonder our girl survived as long as she did. It’s a wonder anyone does,” Mac said. “At least the Dust Bowl isn’t far.”
They pushed through a pressure door designed to keep the worst of the heat and grit outside and into the recycled stale, but much cooler air of the only bar in Sandstorm, and it was just barely that. It sported a bar that looked to be built of the salvage material from the nearest dump, as much rust as metal from what Mac could tell. There was a scattering of tables made of the same and a curtained off room to one side, more than likely for hook-ups. For a small fee, no doubt. There might possibly be a whore or two. There almost always was no matter how remote the outpost.
You pissed today?” The man behind the bar waited expectantly for details.
“Yup, you?” Manning said with only a slight twitch of a smile at the corner of his mouth.
“Not yet. One of those days. Feel like my bladder’s full of sand,” replied the leathery man of indeterminate age behind the bar. “Should spend more credits on water rations and less on smokes, I s’pose.” He nodded to a rolled up stogie of some non-determinant brown substance smouldering away on the rim of a small plate. It looked more looked more like a desiccated clod worm and smelled more like burning garbage than something one would take pleasure in inhaling.
Inside their ears Fury commented that it was a good greeting, that the functionality of kidneys and bladder voiding in a place that always rationed water was essential information and a courtesy to one’s neighbors. Although, he added, the man really should quit with the smokes and drink more water.
“None of their business and TMI if you ask me,” Manning mumbled in response when the man turned his attention to Mac’s bladder, giving her a serious eyeballing, but then he’d eyeballed Manning the same way. Probably you couldn’t be too picky in a place like this, she thought.
“I certainly find such information about the two of you vital in monitoring your health,” came the ships slightly offended response.” Both of his humanoid complement cringed at information they knew but didn’t want to think about, and certainly didn’t want to discuss over their sub-neural coms.
“A pint?” The man asked glancing back and forth between the two. He didn’t ask of what. There was only one choice. When they both nodded, he picked up two dodgy looking glasses. “S’pose you didn’t bring your own?”
When they both gave confused nods, he said, “Cost you extra – me furnishing the glass. Most folks ‘round here bring their own.” He glanced down at the glasses and shrugged. “These ain’t the cleanest, true enough, but it don’t matter much. The hooch’ll kill anythin’ what might make you sick.”
“I am not reassured,” Fury observed. He was sometimes overprotective of his compliment.
As the man drew up the pints that, after their discussion of bodily functions, looked disturbingly like urine, Mac found herself hoping the place had a good waste water filtration system. “Guaranteed to make you piss.” The man set their drinks down on the bar and wiped his hands on a dirty bar towel. Mac noted everything on Taklamakan Major was dirty.
“Bottoms up,” Manning said, and slugged back half the pint in a single go, but then he always did have a high tolerance for bad booze and a cast iron stomach, Mac recalled as she lifted her own glass in salute and sipped at it more cautiously. It was vile, all right, but she’d had worse too. “That’ll put hair on your balls,” Manning said with a shiver.