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Dragon Ascending Part 16: Jubilee Reading Spree!

Happy Friday everyone! Welcome to day two of my Jubilee Reading Spree!  To celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with the rest of the UK, I’ve decided to give you four episodes of Dragon over the four days of the Jubilee holiday weekend. There’s still plenty of Victoria sponge cake and a cup of tea being served up in my imagination while we all join in the local street party. Whether you’re in the UK or not, life is too short not to celebrate, so grab up the indulgence of your choice and settle in for day two of the mini Dragon read-a-thon. As you remember, yesterday we joined Len, who is healing nicely and wondering why she is suddenly being ignored by Ascent-7. Today we return to the Tak Major outpost of Sandstorm where Mac and Manning are still trying to find Len. Do remember that every day through Sunday, there’ll be another new episode of Dragon Ascending, so tune in and enjoy.  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!

If you missed the previous episode of Dragon Ascending follow the link for a catch-up. If you wish to start from the beginning, of Dragon Ascending. Follow the link.  

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: 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 16: Find Her

“That’ll definitely put hair on your balls,” Manning said with a shiver.

“If you ain’t got any already, then this stuff’s just the ticket,” the bar-keep said with a congenial chuckle, then he turned to Mac, “begging your pardon, Ma’am.” Mac waved away his apology and took another sip. “Had some bad luck, I assume, if you’re hunting the scrap heaps here in the ass end for what you need,” the man said, then before either of them could answer he said, “if it’s wet ware you want, talk to Digby Sellers. I can set you up. He don’t meet with anyone unless it’s been prearranged.” The dismissive wave of his hand caused is stogie to flare bright and waft a trail of eye-watering smoke. “Oh he don’t deal in indentured or anything like that. Hell half the people out here got family back in Authority space that’s indentured. He wouldn’t survive long if anyone ever found him dealing in indentureds. If you need extra crew, he can hook you up. Plenty of people’d be happy to work off their passage out beyond the Rim. Told me once he’s always got a waiting list.” He scratched at a small paunch, the only thing on the man that wasn’t rake thin. “If you need someone to warm your bed, he can arrange that too, though looking at the two of you, I figure that’s ain’t a problem. He can even find you someone with some real skill on a long hauler if you need.” He wiped at the hopelessly filthy counter with an equally filthy cloth.

“Anything else you want, well ole Fido up the road there, he’s the most trustworthy of the lot here, knows his stock fairly well too, that’s as much as anyone can with the sands shifting all the time. If he has it, he can find it, not like most the fuckers here. They’ll send you out to find it yourself. Mind you,” he shook a leathery finger at them, “try to steal something from ‘em and they’ll catch you, take you out in a sand rover and leave you to roast alive, that is if they don’t drop you off at night. That ain’t no better. If an infestation don’t take you, there’s always glass vipers,” he shivered,” Nasty little piss lickers.” He leaned an elbow on the bar, and gave both of them a serious glance, making sure they understood the seriousness of their situation. “But the worst part about night in Tak Major is that the wind kicks up somethin’ wicked, whips the sand into a frenzy that’ll scour the skin right off you and then keep right on going. Bad winds grind down bones and all.” He shook his head and took a drag from his stogie.

“Sounds like the perfect holiday destination,” Mac said.

The man gave her a raised eyebrow and chuckled smoke out his nostrils. “We like to keep that little secret to ourselves, Ma’am. Don’t want all the damned tourists crowding out here messing up the place. Now then,” he took another puff, “if you tell me what you’re looking for, I can point you in the right direction.”

Mac wondered if he got a little kickback from recommendations, but you’d almost need someone’s help to find anything here, and to navigate without ending up disappeared in the sand somewhere.

“We’re looking for a young woman called Len.” Mac said.

The smile disappeared, and he squared his shoulders and took another drag and blew it out with a harsh huff. “You friends with the crew of the Dart? Those bastards come back here I will personally make sure they never piss again.”

“Trust me,” Manning leaned over the bar into his personal space and held his gaze, “those bastard won’t be coming back.”

 

 

The man took another drag, then looked from one of them to the other. “We all warned her not to go with those piss wasters. We told her just to wait, that another ship would come eventually, a more reliable one, but she wouldn’t hear of it, said she couldn’t wait. Well fuck me!” He snubbed out his smoke with such violence he nearly broke the flimsy ashtray. “I don’t know why in New Vaticana’s hell she wanted to go to the Sea of Death anyway. There’s nothing there. But she insisted there was. She never would say exactly what, but she damn near had a couple of punters here willing to take her out by sand rover figuring surely there must be something really valuable out there if she wanted to go back so damned bad. But in the end nobody really thought it was worth the risk. Too damn bad, really.”

“The crew of the Dart said they left her out in the Sea of Death and that they planned to come back for her,” Manning said.

“They were lying, unless they thought there was something in it for them,” Arji said. “If they left her there, then she was either dead when they dumped her off or she is by now. Damn shame, I was thinking to ask her to share my bed. I could use the help here, and she could have used a steady job, you know with regular meals and decent water rations. She deserved better.”

Mac thought the man must surely be old enough to be Len’s father. But in her ear, Fury responded, “Not as old as one might think. Besides that does not matter so much when one is struggling to survive.” She knew for a fact that was true. Her attention returned to the conversation at hand.

“What are the chances she survived,” she asked, shivering at the thought of the death she might have met out in the open.

“Slim,” came the reply as Arji lit another smoke and blew out a long breath. “If anyone could survive that hell hole, Len could though. She was tougher than a glass viper’s hide. A survivor, she was.” He smiled and looked out past them around the empty bar. “That woman, barely more than a little girl at the time, crammed herself into an environmental suite, boarded a drone supply transport making a drop-off at the science station on Tak Minor, reprogrammed the damn thing and fuck me if she didn’t survive the trip from there to Sandstorm. I have no idea how she managed to manipulate the guidance system. Them drones were sent every three months from one ass end to another, usually from Vodni Outpost. Some ship from the Rim would send supplies and Vodni would shove them into a drone and out they’d go to Tak Minor. You think this place is a shithole.” Arji shuddered, stood for a moment lost in thought, then poured himself a pint in a cracked stoneware mug. He sipped the swill like he was testing it to see if it was safe, and then said thoughtfully. “Fire or ice, that’s the Taklamakan System. Tak Minor is frozen solid. Chances of surviving outside in that deep freeze without an environmental suit are nil, or so I’m told. Anyway, Len knew she couldn’t survive the trip back to Vodni, or even to the other side of Tak Major to Windward or Sunward. Oh she’d done all her calculations just right so that if she rerouted the drone, then tucked herself in all decked out in an environmental suit and gave herself a hefty dose of deep sleep drug, she might just make it to Sandstorm. And she just barely did. Holy Vaticana Jesu on a cracker, she was damn lucky!” He bit his lip and swallowed back the rest of his pint. “It don’t seem right that after surviving against all odds in that shitter after her mother died, that she should bite it out in the Sea of Death.”

“But you said she might have survived out there. How?” As interested as Mac was in Len’s story, their priority was to find out if she was alive and then keep her that way. She figured Fury could do a little research on the woman and find out more than Arji knew.

“Well she’s a scavenger, isn’t she? While she was never very good at the scavenging bit, she could hole up in the most god-awful places, places that would have shriveled your pisser and dried you out like so much journey meat. She’d just burrow down into a salvage pile, find a sheltered place from the night and the winds and wait it out. She’d do the same with the Shimmer. I reckon if she survived the trip from Tak Minor, and her not much more than a kid, she has a knack for keeping herself alive. She carries this pack damn near as big as she is with a survival tent, one she’d scavenged somewhere, old and ratty, and I wouldn’t have trusted it out in the desert, but when she was caught out, she just hunkered down in it and survived. She survived. Don’t know how the fuck she did it, weighing no more than she does, I’m surprised the wind didn’t just blow her and the tent all away on the spot. If she’s like most of us, she’s drank a fair amount of her own piss run through filter packs, and knew every way imaginable, and some I never heard of, to eek out a little extra water and make what she had last. Like I said, if anybody can survive out there, Len can.”

Then he leaned over the bar again and gave them both the evil eye. “What the hell do you want with her anyway?”

“Nothing,” Manning said. “When we questioned the Dart’s crew a little more seriously than they’d have liked, they admitted that she’d been with them and …”

“They hurt her.”

“Yes,” Manning held his gaze. “We have her pack. All we want is to find her and bring her back safely, if she’s alive.”

“What’s in it for you.”

“Maybe another pint or two of you fine brew,” Manning said.

Argi did not smile at first, but his face softened so that the hard, leathery lines looked warmer somehow. “Find her, bring her back alive and I’ll give you the whole damn bar if you want.

 

 

Dragon Ascending Part 15: Jubilee Reading Spree

Happy Jubilee, everyone!  I know, today is not Friday, but to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with the rest of the UK, I’ve decided to give you four episodes of Dragon over the four days of the Jubilee Holiday Weekend. As I put the posts together, I am, in spirit at least, serving each of you a nice fat piece of Victoria sponge cake and a cup of tea. Whatever your indulgence of choice for this mini read-a-thon, settle in and enjoy. If you remember, last week we found Fury’s crew on Taklamakan Major still looking for the missing Len. Today we join Len, who is healing nicely and wondering why she is suddenly being ignored by Ascent-7. Do remember that tomorrow, and every day through Sunday, there’ll be another new episode of Dragon Ascending, so tune in and enjoy.  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!

If you missed the previous episode of Dragon Ascending follow the link for a catch-up. If you wish to start from the beginning, of Dragon Ascending. Follow the link.  

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: 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 15: The Silent Treatment

Len felt like she’d done nothing but sleep and eat for days. Surely it couldn’t have been that long, but there was no easy way to mark the passing of time without her PD, which she’d lost either on the Dart or in her scramble to safety. She was sure Ascent-7 would provide if she asked. He had provided clothes as promised, and once her stomach had settled and her appetite had fully returned, the meals became beautiful feasts that it was clear he had given thought to, but then she reminded herself thought for a computer didn’t take long.

If the coming of meals were timed to a normal galactic day, then she assumed it was three days since she regained consciousness. She’d not thought to ask how long she’s been with Ascent-7 before that, but certainly when she did regain consciousness her recovery was much farther along than she thought it should have been.

On the fourth day the need for more sleep was gone, replaced by her usual desire to explore. Her mother said she should be careful with that urge. While it was a good trait in a scientist, the Authority showed up when you least expected and as often as not, the desire to explore, to create to learn would end you with a shackle.

But Len wasn’t a scientist, and she really couldn’t imagine Ascent-7 being connected in any way with the Authority. Besides the de-mole perimeter made it impossible to get inside the salvage yard — except for the breach. That it existed and had gotten larger since her first visit to the Sea of Death worried her. While she believed herself safe inside the shelter Ascent-7 had created for her, she still couldn’t keep from wondering what the hell a de-mole perimeter was doing out here in the middle of the Sea of Death, as if that wasn’t barrier enough. But then it hadn’t stopped her, had it?

She began to wonder if somehow she had offended Ascent-7, which was stupid. Surely computers couldn’t be offended. Still, he hadn’t spoken to her for two days. She might have thought the rust and the temperature fluctuations had finally damaged his processors if the food and the creature comforts, as her mother had called them, hadn’t kept coming. But that thought raised a more disturbing issue. Certainly her rescue and maintenance had to take its toll on a system that must have been dormant for possibly years and was suddenly called upon by some basic command to protect humanoid life and provide for her. She wished she could get a glimpse of the ship that Ascent-7 belonged to. She had monitored any new salvage at a dozen of the larger dumps including the Sea of Death, and there had been nothing in the years she’d lived on Tak Major anywhere near the significance that a ship with such an advanced computer would have had. If there had been, it would have been bought from the yard nearly before it was dumped there. The Sea of Death salvage yard had no human presence, and she could not find record of it ever having one. That made no sense at all since it might have made some money for some yard manager. In all the years she had monitored the place there hadn’t been a new deposit in the Sea of Death that she could find. At least that was what all inventories of the place that she could get her hands on showed, which was part of the reason she wanted to check it out. If there had been time to explore on her first visit, she might have found out a little more, but it was only just before she had to rendezvous with the Sparrow for the return trip to Sandstorm that she actually found the salvage dump, and according to her PD, so much more enormous than she would have imagined. And there was the de-mole. When she found the hole in the defense, she couldn’t resist the temptation to at least peek inside. In the fading light, she found the remains of multiple junked ships and wreckages from other items she couldn’t easily identify. In a few minutes she’d found tech for an older molecular transport system. That alone would resupply her pack and buy her transport back to the Sea of Death for further exploration.

 

 

As for the de-mole perimeter, no other salvage yard had anything that sophisticated or that illegal. Why the hell would they? It should have been impenetrable, but that Ascent-7 had taken it upon himself to avenge her injuries in a chillingly human way called that theory into question. Clearly he had had no trouble breaching the barrier with some kind of weapon powerful enough to take down a ship in high orbit. Oh, she had a million questions she would love to ask him, but if he were angry with her, then there was no sense wasting her breath, especially when she didn’t really know what had offended him. Never mind that. The point was that while she couldn’t stay here forever, she also couldn’t leave any time soon. It was hard as hell to get here, and the effort had cost her way more than just credits. She sure as hell didn’t have any reason to hurry back to Sandstorm. Even if it wasn’t a boring pit, which it absolutely was. It was also damn near impossible to support herself there. She had no ties to the place. No one would miss her. At the moment all those reasons were irrelevant. She couldn’t get back anyway, not without transport. Windward and Sunward outposts were on the other side of the planetoid. So long as Ascent-7 didn’t kick her out and kept the food and water coming, she might as well take advantage and do what she came to do in the first place – explore. She supposed it was possible that if she could find components to get herself out, Ascent 7 could help her build some sort of transport.

So, on the fourth day after she had showered and dressed, she called to the computer. “Ascent-7, if it’s not night, I would like to explore a little, maybe get my bearings.”

When still no answer came, a knot clenched her belly. Surely he wouldn’t keep her prisoner. Could a shipboard computer be insane?

“Ascent-7?”

There was still no answer, but there was a hum of energy, and a small daypack appeared along with the usual protective desert clothing and a PD showing her that it was early galactic morning, the best time to explore and avoid the worst of the heat. The daypack contained food far nicer than any journey fare she’d ever had, and a generous supply of water, a luxury she had never been afforded before now. It was added weight she wouldn’t mind after so many times wondering if she would die of thirst because her ration wouldn’t hold out. She looked around her, strange that she still half expected to see him standing in the corner waiting for her. Then she dressed quickly, not wanting to lose the advantage of the morning. As soon as she was ready, the door slid open, as though he somehow knew, and she stepped out into what must have been an outer airlock of Ascent-7’s ship. She would make it a point to explore as much of the inside as she could when it was too hot to be out. The outer airlock slid open silently, and the blast of even the morning heat nearly took her breath. She had never been this long in cool comfort, which made the shock of it even more of a surprise. Quickly she covered her face and put on the protective goggles of much better quality than the scratched, damaged pair she had found in one of the salvage yards that surrounded Sandstorm. There was a crisp chirp from her PD and, she looked down to see the tracker was set to guide her back when the heat got too much. Strange the comfort she took in it, as though it were a personal message from Ascent-7, who maybe wasn’t mad enough at her to want to be rid of her.

“Thank you,” she said, then began the easy descent

 

 

Dragon Ascending Part 14: Brand New KDG Read

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!

If you missed the previous episode of Dragon Ascending follow the link for a catch-up. If you wish to start from the beginning, of Dragon Ascending. Follow the link.  

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.

 

 

 

Dragon Ascending Part 13: Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday everyone! Last week was all about our girl, Len. This week we get a good look at her through the eyes of her rescuer, who is determined not to get too close to 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!

If you missed the previous episode of Dragon Ascending follow the link for a catch-up. If you wish to start from the beginning, of Dragon Ascending. Follow the link.  

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 2 of the Sentient Ships 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 13: Too Close

I should not have come to her. I should not have responded when she called to me. I did not want to know her. I certainly did not want to know that her name was poetry, that beneath the filth and the blood and sweat and vomit was a delicate, vulnerable humanoid, who had missed too many meals and too seldom slept in comfort. Len, she called herself, she move me deeply. But as I have said, I am no doubt somewhat unbalanced from my own loss. I am more vulnerable to humanoids than I would choose to be. I could not have imagined how she would nearly destroy me when I thought she would die while I watched helplessly. Her very heart had stopped. The slow steady beating of her heart in peaceful sleep almost had not happened, so close she had come to death, much closer than she should have, than she would have if I could have accessed my data as I should have been able to. If I could have accessed myself as I should have been able. Instead I had been forced to resort to the auto-surgery so helpless was I. It was only when I remembered to access my own heart, my blood and inject her with it that her heart beat again, that she breathed again, and color returned to her cheeks and wounds began to heal as though I had simply willed it, as though she had simply acquiesced to my will.

The auto-surgery stood ready to inject her with immunosuppressants to keep her body from rejecting my biological and technological materials, so different from her own.

She did not.

How could it be that she did not reject my genetic materials? The mix of technology and biology alone was usually lethal without the injections. And yet she took what I offered up from my core into that fragile, broken flesh of hers, which to my surprise devoured it hungrily, and the affect was astounding, visible from moment to moment, as the gift from my body restored her health.

Her filthy, soiled clothing had been stripped away in order to clean and treat her wounds, most of which were healing from moment to moment. Deep insider her flesh, which had been so badly violated, the physical injuries were healing as well, but there were other wounds that would not so easily be healed, the emotional wounds, which she would never be shed of. Such wounds I understood well, and I understood the desire to keep them as far from the center of one’s core as possible.

As the woman healed before my very optic sensors, the auto-surgery continued to bathe and clean the filth from her. The process was not the traditional and welcomed cleansing of flesh that humanoids were so enamored of, though in truth an auto-surgical cleaning was much more effective, and it gave me pleasure to see her clean and in no further stress. For some time while she slept, I kept watch just in case the rejection of my genetic materials should be delayed in this one. My watch had not been necessary, for she remained secure within the auto-surgery’s emergency treatment space, and yet I remained. I should have removed myself long before she woke. The less contact I had with her the better. To her I would simply be the computer of a long dead ship. In truth I was little more, and even the computer was damaged.

I had not planned to respond when she woke up. I had not even planned to be present, but when she would not drink the water essential to facilitate her recovery, I intervened. And then I lingered for the pleasure of watching her drink and then eat, and when she called out to me, in my arrogance I found I wanted her to call my name. Though all I could remember was some sort of designation I did not fully understand, and yet I knew it was as close to a name as I had at the moment, Ascent7.

I should never have asked her name. Her name gave her dimension, depth. Her name took up space in my damaged inner workings, filling a place that was otherwise empty. And her presence in that place was uncomfortable. Oh how I had worked to purge that space so that there was nothing remaining for me to feel, and now I had let this woman in. And she would not be so easily dismissed.

 

 

She did not lie quietly when she woke the second time, rather she stretched long and deep and yawned and sighed, gathering the covering to her breasts as she pushed up on one elbow. Her thin stomach grumbled and she rested a slender hand upon it and looked around.

I instantly provided food, a more substantial stew and flat bread along with an electrolyte supplement that at least looked tasty. And water, of course. She needed lots of water.

She sighed her pleasure with a deep inhalation of the scents. “I’m starving,” she said, knotting the coverlet around her and coming to the table. I would have to see to clothing for her.

She drank the water, and then glanced around the chamber I had made for her as though she hoped to see me somewhere in the corner perhaps. “Thank you, Ascent7.”

I did not answer, stunned as I was that this woman from such a place as Taklamakan Major would have the manners to thank a computer, or even feel it necessary.

“I can’t remember ever eating so well,” she continued, unaware of my surprise. “I didn’t know that ships were trained in cookery.”

Still I did not reply, determined to minimize my contact with her. It was better that way.

She did not seem to mind my silence. She ate with deliberate pleasure. Even with food readily available to her she ate slowly, savoring each bite as though she were not certain of her next meal, as though I might actually withhold food from her. The bread, I noticed, she did not touch. “My mother used to be a pretty good cook. She taught me, but,” she shrugged and swallowed carefully, and I found myself fascinated with the rise and fall of the translucent muscles at her throat in the motion of ingesting food. “You can’t get many of the ingredients here, and even if you could, I can’t afford them. No one here can or they wouldn’t live on this shithole.” She tilted head at such an angle to suggest that she was lost in thought, and then she said, “at least no one bothers you here.” As she spoke, the expressive angles of her face became harsher, tighter. She blinked a couple of times as though the light suddenly hurt her eyes, then she laid down her spoon, though she was not nearly finished. “At least most of the time.”

“Those who hurt you will not bother you again.” This time I could not keep silent. This time I feared that she would feel my own rage as it passed over me.

Her thin shoulders stiffened and she stilled, the only movement was the flutter of her pulse in her fragile neck. “You know.”

“I treated your injuries, and they were … extensive. I was very angry.” Then I added quickly, “It was not my intention to violate your privacy, but your condition was urgent.”

“She bit her lip and twisted her fingers in the napkin on her lap. “Did you kill them?” Before I could replay she said, “because I wouldn’t mind if you had.”

I studied her for a moment, once again reminded of just how much more there was to this woman than I had at first given her credit for. It would appear that she was less fragile than I had earlier believed. “If they are dead, I have not confirmed, but they were falling from high orbit when my attention was drawn back to the your disturbing lack of respiration.”

To my surprise she laughed. “Well that’s all right then. Not a pleasant fall from high orbit.”

“No, indeed.”

She picked up her spoon and continued to eat, still not touching the bread.

“Is the bread not to your liking?”

“Oh, I’m sure it’s delicious,” came her reply, “but those bastards took my pack. All my rations are gone.”

“You are not at the mercy of the Taklamakan now.”

She smiled and looked around the room, once again attempting to locate the place from which I spoke. “Oh don’t be offended. Your hospitality has been above and beyond. I give you five stars. It’s just that … I don’t want to wear out my welcome.”

It surprised me that she could read me so easily. I was a collection of circuits and nanites mixed with a bit of human biology to create a Frankensteinian creature with no place in the galaxy. “It is impossible for me to be offended,” I lied, and was somewhat surprised that I had that ability within myself, the subterfuge I did not like in humanity.

“Good,” she responded. “No need to be. You’ve been wonderful.”

It disturbed me to find the thought of her departure not at all to my liking, for certainly she would leave. What was there in this place for her? “Nevertheless,” I said, vowing once again that when next the opportunity presented itself, I would sever all contact with her. “you may eat all that you like while you are here, for certainly you are in need of a more caloric diet.”

At that she laughed and ripped into the bread with an animal-like growl that suggested pleasure and not anger. And I was pleased.

“I will also see to your need for clothing, Len.”

“Thank you, Ascent. I haven’t had a new party dress in awhile.”

“Then you shall certainly need one for my annual gala soirée.”

Oh her laugh! Such a sound I could not recall hearing, such pleasure in sound had once been mine, I was sure, but I no longer recalled that time, nor did I try. “Afraid you’ll find I’m not a very good dancer.”

“Nor am I, so we shall do just fine together,” I replied.

Once again at the end of her meal, she saw to her elimination needs and then returned to bed. I was aware from trembling of her limbs, that she needed rest as much as she did food. She slept, and this time I did retreat as far from her as I could get, determined that I should sever the ties between us before it was too late to do so.

 

 

Dragon Ascending Part 12: Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone! I’m always a fan of Friday the 13. Such a perfectly amazing day should be celebrated, so hug a black cat or simply enjoy the fact that it’s Friday.

Since I’m sure you’ve all been wondering what happened to our mystery woman, I decided to reward you for your patience with an extra long instalment all about our girl. Last week, if you recall, we got a more intimate look at Fury’s stalker. But this week is all about the woman in the salvage yard. 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!

If you missed the previous episode of Dragon Ascending follow the link for a catch-up. If you wish to start from the beginning, of Dragon Ascending. Follow the link.  

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 2 of the Sentient Ships 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.

 

 

Len surely must be dead. It was a strange thought to have going through her head as she once again became aware of herself. For a long time she lay very still with her eyes closed, not sure she really wanted to see what an afterlife looked like. Scientifically there was no evidence for it. Her flesh would simply return to its original components given enough time. All life was carbon and to carbon it would return. Well at least all they knew of life. Since she didn’t feel her body, she didn’t think the thought was all that unusual. Still, if her mind was only a biochemical function of her body that made no sense either. She felt stupid at such irrational thoughts, but still she didn’t open her eyes. Instead she assessed pain she should have felt, but didn’t. Not quite trusting that there was no pain in the body she had been damn near certain was dying, she sifted through her most recent memories to puzzle out what had happened.

She remembered the unsavory crew of the Dart. She would never have chosen to traveled with them had there been another choice, but the Sparrow, the ship that she had chartered transport on the first time she went into the Sea of Death transported her back safely to the Sandstorm Outpost and then promptly left orbit for the Rim. She knew better than to take the Dart. She’d been warned, but she had to know more about this strange salvage dump with a de-mole perimeter, especially after discovering a breach in the fence, and a decent place to shelter without having to spend another night in the unreliable life shield tent.

She should have listened. She didn’t linger on the thought of what they had done to her. That wasn’t a place her mind needed to go, and certainly not one that would do her any good now.

Instead, she racked her brain for what had happened after they had kicked her out into the Sea of Death with night fast approaching, and without her pack. Somehow she’d made it to the salvage yard. Somehow she’d even found the breach in the de-mole. And she’d climbed to reach shelter. She had broken ribs. She remembered that. She’d wrapped them. She had climbed to shelter, but in the end she’d no choice but to jump for it. And… she missed. After that she remembered nothing. Then how the hell was she here, and where was here anyway?

She surveyed her body again, eyes still closed. Even if she wasn’t dead, the damage done would not be pretty to look at. If she wasn’t dead, then she surely would be soon enough, only it would be slower, more painful. She was pretty sure the Dart wouldn’t return for her, and even if they did, she wouldn’t trust what they might do to her next. Surely they would think her dead. If she were dead, well than that was easy enough, she supposed. But if she was alive, the problem of staying that way was going to really suck. No one in Sandstorm Outpost would have a way of getting to her in less than a week by sand rover, and they certainly wouldn’t waste resources they didn’t have. Besides, the Sea of Death was a huge place. She knew the rules. You go out beyond the protection of the outpost, you’re on your own. You make it back, bully for you, you don’t, that’s one less stupid person in the outpost.

She had no sand rover, she had no extra water. In fact, she had no water at all. What she’d had was in her pack back on the Dart. Oh, it just kept getting better and better, didn’t it? It was much nicer to be dead. She was pretty comfortable being dead. She wriggled a bit, only a little. Everything seemed to work, and then she remembered it. In the midst of her pain, there was one clear memory after her fall. She had opened her eyes into a blanket of darkness that was quiet and velvety, and in that darkness there had been someone looking down at her, someone she could not see. Truly she could see absolutely nothing, and yet she knew beyond knowing that she wasn’t alone. And then she opened her eyes.

She blinked in light that was subdued enough not to hurt her sleep dilated pupils. The air didn’t smell like blood and puke and sweat and worse things that she must surly be covered in by now. It would have taken a week worth of water rations to clean her wounds alone, not to mention the rest of her. She looked down at her body, naked, covered with some kind of light weight cloth that was nice against her skin. And her skin was clean, cleaner than it had been since she arrived on Tak Major, soaked in her own piss and smelling like a toilet. She sniffed and sniffed again. Not even the slightest hint of her own stink. Granted, she’d gotten used to it when she’d come to live on Tak Major. Everybody was dirty. Everybody stank. Olfactory fatigue had set in long ago. And her skin felt smooth, the perpetual coating of dust and grit she was also used to was gone. She pushed down the coverlet and ran a clean hand down the smooth skin of her belly.

Nope, she was definitely not dead. Her bladder was full. Everyone’s health in Tak Major was judged on how well they peed. It was a standard greeting, “Pissed today?” She sat up cautiously and scooted to the edge of what appeared to be an actual bed or something similar. There was no sign of her clothes, or what was left of them, and that was just as well, the thought of them now made her queasy. She snatched up the coverlet from the bed and wrapped it around her body.

 

 

She stood for a moment, on legs that certainly were a bit shaky, but they held her up, which was more than she expected. She looked around at a space that was positively pristine. It certainly couldn’t have existed in a salvage yard, and then the thought came to her, what a pity it would be to piss in the corner and mess it all up. Carefully setting one foot in front of the other, she tiptoed to what looked like a pressure door, hoping for a place less clean to do her business. To her surprise, the door opened for her automatically, leading into a room with a proper toilet and a shower, a fucking shower! And both were as pristine as the room she woke up in. She didn’t take too much time to contemplate as she dropped onto the seat and let go her stream.

Once the most basic of needs were taken care of she stood let the coverlet fall to the floor, examining herself as best she could. There should have been at least two broken ribs. She felt one snap when she jumped. But it only took a deep breath and a stroke down her torso to know for certain that nothing in that general area was broken. Her ribs were easy enough to feel when regular meals were not always a given. There were no bruises, no abrasions, no cuts on her hands. And peeing had been easy, like she’d drank all the water in her pack and then some. And there was no pain. After what had happened … She slammed the door shut on that thought. It couldn’t help now to dwell on it, and anyway, she hadn’t died, had she? She scooped up the coverlet, knotted it securely over her breasts and looked around. There was a sink too, and a glass sitting on the edge, like a drinking glass, the kinds you had to pay extra for at the Dustbowl bar, only Arji’s glasses were never this clean. Most people just brought their own personal cup, which might be dirty, but at least it was their own dirt. It was only the off-worlders who got scalped because they didn’t bring their own. She carefully picked up the glass and held it beneath the spigot, then nearly jumped out of her skin when actual water came out! At least she thought it was water. She held it up to her nose and sniffed cautiously. There was no scent, then she stuck the tip of her finger in it and tasted. It was not only clean, but it was cold. This wasn’t even possible, surely. How could any form of computer system or artificial intelligence have survived in the Taklamakan heat buried under tons of debris and scoured by the nightly sandstorms? She glanced around feeling a cascade of goose flesh climb her bare arms. She sat the glass down on the edge of the sink, not drinking it, no matter how much she wanted to, and found her voice, rough and a little more shaky than she’d hoped. “Ship?” She spoke in Galactic Standard, “What is your designation?”

There was a long pause, and just when she figured the ship was certainly too damaged to respond, a quiet male voice spoke. “My designation is Ascent-7.”

“That’s an interesting designation,” she said, completely unable to keep her voice from shaking.

“Nevertheless, I am designated Ascent-7.” Then to her surprise, the computer of the ship continued. “You may drink the water. It is safe, and you will need it to support your recovery.”

She glanced back at the glass, her mouth suddenly feeling like she had eaten half the Talkamakan. “What happened to you. Why are you here?” She asked. “How come you’ve not been plundered?”

“I do not remember,” Came the replay. “There is a de-mole perimeter which keeps this site from being plundered. It is safe to drink the water, and you must hydrate further to assist the healing process.”

This time she didn’t argue. She picked up the glass and drained it, and then had two more. Never, since her arrival on Tak Major had she been able to drink water with such abandon. She couldn’t have afforded it even if it had been available. Vaticana Jesu, she had not realized just how wonderful it tasted.

Much to her surprise, the computer asked, “what is your designation?”

“I’m Len,” she replied, having to clear her throat twice so she didn’t sound as rusted as most of the salvage yards. “Short for Lenore, you know? From the poem by Edgar Allen Poe? He was my uncle’s favorite ancient Terran writer. I personally found him a bit too gothic for my tastes.” She forced herself to shut up. What was the matter with her rattling on like a salvage sledge full of loose bolts?

“From Hell unto a high estate far up within the Heaven–
“From grief and groan, to a golden throne, beside the King of Heaven.”

“You know the poem?” She said, for an instant forgetting she spoke to a computer.

“It is in my database,” came the reply, “and I concur with your judgment that Poe is too gothic for my tastes. I much prefer Hawthorne and find his tales more subtle, though I suppose it is a matter of degree.” Before she could respond, the computer said. “There is food in your chamber. You are weakened. You must eat. And then you must rest if you are to recover.”

A delicious smell made her mouth water so hard that she neared drooled. Poe and Hawthorne was a discussion for later. Already feeling stronger, she returned to her room.

“It is only a nutritious soup, one that will be easy for you to keep down and for your body to utilize. I have tried to make it tasty. Once you have rested you may have more should you wish.”

“Thank you, Ascent-7, she said, settling in at a table that had not been there before. The computer made no response. The soup was thick and stew-like in texture, but mild and comforting in flavor. She ate slowly. That had become her habit as food was always scarce, but she did not want to vomit it either remembering the battered condition of her belly. The muscles were still very tender, and the first bite caused nausea to tug at her innards, but the instant she forced herself to swallow, she felt better. The next bite was easier and the one after that and the next until it was gone. But the effort of feeding herself was exhausting, and when she had finished the strange pink drink, with a slightly sweet flowery flavor, she returned to her bed, realizing she was still wrapped in the coverlet. There were no windows. She could not tell if it were day or night, but the ambient temperature of the room was such that she didn’t need anything more than the coverlet pulled over her. There were a million questions she wanted to ask Asent-7, and her mind was racing, but sleep took her nearly instantly and the questions would all have to wait.

 

 

 
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