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Piloting Fury Part 23: Brand New KDG Read

HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE! And here’s another episode of Fury to help you celebrate.  While Mac and Manning may not be celebrating Christmas at the moment, they are definitely plotting and planning. Mr. Grace and I are celebrating a lockdown Christmas as everyone is in the UK right now, keeping in touch with our friends and family on social media, which is more important for all of us in our isolated lives right now.  Hope you’re all doing the same, staying safe and finding different ways to celebrate in these Covid times.

I’m not taking much of a break. I’m still writing and planning away on the expanding Medusa’s Consortium series. Still working on the timelines of the last two novels. I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 23nd week. If you are, 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. Today, Mac, Manning and Fury are caught in a dangerous place. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!

 

 

“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” McAlister 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 23: Looking the Part

“Damn, Fury, have you been looking at Manning’s porn stash?” I asked as I turned in front of the holo-mirror to get the over-all effect of the clinging off the shoulder dress. The fabric had a prism effect as I moved in the light. It showed off my legs and hugged my curves as only bespoke clothing could.

“Richard Manning does not have a porn stash,” came a reply I could have sworn was just a wee bit huffy. “I have only complied with your request that the costume be appealing to Banshee Blake and show off your anatomy in a way that would attract one of the opposite sex.”

A deep, drawn out wolf-whistle came from the open door of my cabin, and I turned to find Manning leaning up against the wall looking me up and down. “If I were Blake, I’d sure as hell want to play with you.”

“Playing with you is what got me into trouble in the first place,” I said to his reflection in the mirror. “And I don’t believe for one minute that you don’t have a porn stash. Shameful really, getting Fury to lie for you.”

“In the first place, Fury doesn’t lie, and in the second,” he said coming into the room and walking around me for the full 360 inspection, “how can you possibly call all the fun and adventure we’ve had so far trouble? I’m wounded to the core.”

I flipped him the finger. Sometimes the ancient gestures were still the best. He only chuckled. “And another thing, Manning, knocking is the polite thing to do before entering someone else’s quarters.”

“The door was open,” he said.

He was right. It was. I’d returned to my room only planning to insert the subdural tracking device into my neck like Manning had instructed. I hadn’t expected Fury to have the dress ready so quickly. I’d slipped into it in the bathroom and came out to see the full effect in front of the holo-mirror.

“And the implant?” Manning ask, all humor gone from his voice

I looked down at the device I still held. “Haven’t quite gotten there yet.”

He stepped up close and personal and took it from me. His warm knuckles brushed
my earlobe as he raked my hair aside. “I’ve discovered that if you’re right-handed, the images you project will be clearer and more stable if the implant is on the left, just next to your carotid. There’s a sweet spot,” he ran his fingertips lightly down the side of my throat, and my pulse jumped, a response to which he flashed a knowing smile. “Right there,” he pressed gently. “Less interference from the pulse, which can make the image jumpy under stress.” In a move that I could have damn near mistaken for foreplay, Manning eased the device into position and, with a slight sharp sting, inserted it. My breath caught, and so did his. The smirk that turned into a wicked smile said he knew exactly what I was feeling. The smug bastard. “There,” he purred. “Exactly there.”

For a moment, we stood eye to eye, and everything in me went warm and soft, like the afterglow I felt when I’d pilot a good ship through a rough patch, only more so. But warm and soft was not what I needed right now. I was just about to step back when Manning said, “you’ll have to wear this up so my view won’t be obscured.” He reached around me and stroked the length of my hair. I’d defiantly grown it out after I joined the Dubrovnik crew. Fallon kept me closely shorn because when I was young and underfed, as he preferred me, there were times when he used me as a boy. Though my near bald head might have aided his sick fantasies, it also meant one less thing for him to grab onto and one less way for him to hurt me.

But Manning, Jesus, Manning’s hands tangled in my hair made me want to move closer and snuggle down against his chest while he caressed and touched, while he curled tresses around his fingers and lifted them away from my neck. Fuck, I actually embarrassed myself by moaning, as he scooped the weight of it off my nape and the heat of his breath bathed my bare throat and shoulder.

“Fury,” his voice was barely more than a whisper, “can you replicate a couple of Terran combs to hold Mac’s hair up?”

“I don’t know how to put …” I lost my train of thought as he walked me backward, his body all but flush with mine. He reached around me to where two beautifully formed mother of pearl combs appeared almost instantaneously on the shelf near the mirror.

“Don’t worry, Mac. I got this.”

I found the breath to speak as he caressed and arranged my locks. “You’ve done this before?”

“No, but I’ve taken them out,” he said with a filthy grin.

“Of course, you have. I should have known.”

He must have felt the stiffening of my spine at his words, his smile softened and his gaze held. “I’m kidding, Mac. I’m as clueless as you are, but I’m sure between the three of us, we can figure it out.”

And then we were all talking at once as Manning pulled and tugged and arranged while Furry advised, and I joked about having never had anyone do my hair before. It wasn’t one of the perks of being an indentured.

“Perhaps I shall become a chef on the Riviera and Richard Manning shall open an exclusive hair salon there,” Fury said.

“And Mac here will play poker with our customers and win all their money,” Manning added.

When we were finished, both humanoid and ship made satisfied oohs and awes at the end result, just like I could easily imagine an exclusive hairdresser doing. “Now then, let’s check the connection.” Manning pulled a small black case from his pocket. Inside was the single contact lens that was his visual connection to my implant.
There was also a micro device beneath the skin just below his right ear so he could hear. He blinked a couple of times as he settled the lens into place and then gave a slight nod of his head. “Say something Mac.”

I offered him my best smile and spoke in the voice I usually used with my marks. “I still say you have a porn stash.”

His lips quirked in a smile that had mischief written all over it. “Care to bet on that?”

“Not really. You’d just cheat anyway, and with you and Fury tag-teaming, what chance does a poor girl have.”

 

 

Piloting Fury: Part 22 Brand New KDG Read

It’s Fury Friday!  We left Mac and Manning and Fury in a right mess. Wherever they are, trouble is bound to find them. Time for another escape to deep space for a rollicking read. Mr. Grace and I just celebrated our anniversary on Tuesday, lockdown style, with a wonderful surprise of wine, chocolate and flowers sent to us by our gorgeous and thoughtful nieces in Kentucky. In the evening we enjoyed a live music stream with friends from all over the world with Gavin Thomas’s Songs from the Summer House. If you love good music, you can join us at the Summer House Tuesday and Saturday nights from wherever you are in the world. 8:00 PM GMT.

Meantime, while I’m still writing and planning away on the expanding Medusa’s Consortium series,  I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 22nd week. If you are, 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. Today, Mac, Manning and Fury are caught in a dangerous place. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!

 

 

“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” McAlister 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 22 He Won’t Even Know What Hit Him

My gut twisted into a double knot. “Mol-tran him back, now.” Manning was already dematerializing from Blake’s ship before the words were out of my mouth while Blake bellowed a string of curses in several different languages.

“Blake is powering to jump,” Fury said as calmly as though he were telling me the weather.

“Fuck! He’s hanging us out to dry.”

I heard the bastard say something about sending us coordinates to finish the transaction. Manning’s lock I got, but somehow Blake had managed to shield the whiskey. Manning ended up sprawled ass over teacup on the deck cursing profusely, and Blake jumped. We, on the other hand, were well and truly trapped.

“I can’t jump from here, and they’ll have a visual in ten seconds,” I shouted as Manning strapped himself in, but he wasn’t listening to me.

“Fury, cloak,” was all he said just as the three Authority hunters came into view and then cruised right on by us at troll speed. I held my breath, hands pressed flat and sweating on the console, ready to ease out and make the jump, if we all survived that long. I would be plague bate if we were caught, but I’d made the decision ages ago when I first joined the crew of the Dubrovnik, I’d throw myself out the airlock before I’d let Fallon take me again. Nobody had cloak technology, not since the SNTs. It was highly illegal. It would be a plague planet punishment for Manning too if we were caught, or at the very least a shackle and a one-way trip to the triaxium mines. I said nothing. I barely breathed. I’d been so damn careful all these years, so afraid of what my punishment might be, so afraid that Fallon would toy with my shackle just a little too long, and I would end up dying by inches on some plague worlds. No one would ever know what had actually happened on board the Merlin. And my father would never be avenged. For one horrible second, I thought I would vomit on the console, and then I felt Fury rise up around me like a bird of prey on the glove aching to mount the sky and fly. For a moment I felt the embrace, and I looked up to find Manning’s stormy eyes locked on mine. In an instant everything that went before was over and my life was ahead of me. And from a split second I went from being sure I would vomit, feeling horrible gut-wrenching fear of the shackle to feeling free, an experience I’d never expected to have again.

“Can you jump while cloaked?” I asked Fury.

“I can, Diana Mac. Shall I?”

Manning was already entering the coordinates. He nodded he was ready and just as the backend of the last hunter past us, I made the jump with a bellow that would have put Banshee Blake to shame. But we’d barley made it before Manning was entering coordinates again and my stomach slammed against my backbone as we came out. “What the fuck?”

“We’re on the dark side of Outer Kingston,” he said without looking up at me. “If I know Blake, the bastard’ll be patting himself on the back for getting us in trouble with the authorities and getting off with one hundred thousand credits worth of New Hibernian. And doing his best to drink the profits.” He waved a hand in my direction. “Oh he has no intention of sending us rendezvous coordinates. He reckons we’ll be in enough trouble he’ll be safe for at least a year or so, and if he sees me again, all he’ll have to do is claim he had to dump the cargo and share in the bad luck.”

“So you know where he’s going then?”

“I know where the whiskey’s going because I tagged it. I always tag my cargo, and then when the deal goes down according to planned, the tag disintegrates. If the deal gets fucked for whatever reason, I at least have some recourse. There.” He pointed to a red blip on the grid of the space dock of Outer Kingston Prime. “Gotcha, you fucker,” He jabbed a finger at the monitor.

“Now what?” I asked.

“Well,” Manning drug his teeth over his lower lip and rubbed his chin. “We won’t be able to beam out the whiskey. It’ll be well shielded. In fact, it’ll be all but invisible, and if we turn the authorities on him, we’ll never see any of those hundred thousand credits.”

I undid my harness and stood on legs still none too steady from that last quick and dirty jump, then I began to pace. “I don’t suppose you’d know what watering hole he hangs out in?”

“It wouldn’t be that hard to find.” Manning watched me pace. “What do you have in mind?”

“Fury, you’re a fabulous ship, and you make a mean breakfast, but how are you as a seamstress?”

“Is your apparel not satisfactory, Diana Mac?” the ship asked.

Manning broke into a wicked chuckle. “Not for what she has in mind, Fury.”

“I need a sexy dress that might make a lonely smuggler like Banshee Blake want to buy me a drink and maybe pass a little time with a friendly game of poker while he admires my well-displayed cleavage.”

“I see,” Fury said. “How soon do you need it?”

“Just let me make a few inquiries,” Manning said. “I have a lot of friends in Outer Kingston, and since you’ve never been, and that fat bastard doesn’t know you’re working for me, he won’t even know what hit him.”

 

Piloting Fury Part 21: Brand New KDG Read

It’s Fury Friday! It’s time to see what Mac and Manning and Fury are up to. Wherever they are, trouble is not far behind them. Time for another escape to deep space for a rollicking read.  My NaNoWriMo project, Fledgling Nightmares is finished! Doing a happy dance with wine in hand here at Grace Manor. I promise a sneak preview as soon as I can clean one up for you. This week I’ve been working on timelines for the Medusa universe, fitting everything together and making it seamless. I still have work to do to make the last two books sync timeline wise, but it’s a lot of fun.

In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 21th week. If you are, 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. Today, Mac gets a hard lesson in smuggling. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!

 

 

“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” McAlister 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 21 We Have Company

We skipped the scenic route to Outer Kingston in favor of the most direct, the one that involved three rough jumps and a slingshot move around a gas giant. It was a route that no one had tried before and frankly I was surprised when Manning gave me the go ahead. He said he’d rather be there a little early, never being sure of what Banshee Blake would do. “I trust the bastard about as far as I can drop-kick his fat ass through the nearest airlock,” Manning had said. He added that Blake had to have a special captain’s chair in his ship that would accommodate his size.

We came out of hyper and all but coasted to the rendezvous point with time to spare thanks to some seriously fancy flying, if I do say so myself. I could tell by the smile on Manning’s chops that he thought so too. He chuckled and ran a hand over his stubbled chin. “I think we just took the record for fastest trip from the Remote Inner Edge to New Kingston,” he said with a chuckle. “The McAllister Sling Shot, that’s what I figure they’ll be calling it one day.”

Sadly we both knew it couldn’t be made public, since we’d just paid an illegal visit to a plague planet carrying major contraband, and all that done with a Shanghaied indentured pilot. But I still had every plan to bask in the afterglow until Blake showed up.

“Nothing to do now but sit tight and wait.” Manning disappeared and returned shortly with a bottle of New Hibernian and two glasses. “Under the circumstances, I think a toast might be in order.” He handed me a glass and lifted his. “To the McAllister Sling Shot.”

I returned the toast.

He downed his in a single go. New Hibernian was more of a gulping whiskey, even the good stuff. It would get you there fast, and almost but not quite burn your taste buds off in the process. I followed suit.

He pushed the glass aside and stretched out his hand. “Let me see your device,” he said.

I gave it over and raised a curious brow as he typed something in it.

“There!” He handed it back to me. “As far as our little run to Pandora Base, well, nothing from nothing is nothing, but you’re welcome to half of that.” Before I could say anything, he nodded down to the pad.

“That’s the code to your Atlas account. It’s empty now, but while you’ve been doing the flying, I’ve arranged everything so that, as we said, twenty percent of all profits will automatically go into your account. Numbered only, for your protection, of course. Plus the folks at Atlas don’t give a shit that you’re indentured. Once we conclude the deal with Blake, the credits will be deposited. If you continue to prove yourself, I’ll up your percentage to twenty-five and from there,” he quirked his head and winked, “well from there we’ll see.”

I stared at the open account page until it became nothing more than an abstract jumble. “Does that mean you’re giving me the opportunity to buy back my indenture?” I managed around the excited hammering of my own heart.

“That means I’m giving you the opportunity to do whatever you want, whatever you’re capable of.” He held my gaze. “Naturally I’d prefer that whatever you do, you do it here with me and Fury.” Then he offered a blinding smile. “With a pilot like you who can gamble like you do, who can think on her feet like you do, I figure you’re my ace in the hole.”

Before I could offer more than a shocked thank you, Fury said. “There is an urgent incoming transmission from Banshee Blake.”

Fury patched it through. “Authority’s on my ass,” Blake’s voice was a nasal sharply accented tenor that boomed through the com like an out of tune French horn, like we were all deaf, or soon would be if we had to listen to him long. I guessed that’s how he got the name Banshee.

“Rendezvous point’s been compromised. Sending new coordinates.”

“Fury send a text only confirmation,” Manning said without switching on his com link. “I don’t know this place,” he added studying the coordinates Blake had sent. We both watched as a 3D image came up, closed in on our destination and then magnified it.

“It is a high orbit space station, abandoned five standard years ago as unsafe and too expensive to repair,” Fury’s computer said, as we studied the details.

“This is not like Blake,” Manning said. “He prefers open space for a quick getaway. That makes it easier for him to grab the cargo and run if he gets an opportunity.”

“I don’t like it,” I said.

“I don’t either. But then I never like doing business with Blake.”

“Then why do you?” I asked.

“Well, the deals are usually sweet and the profits high if you can manage them without him scalping you alive.”

“Fingers crossed then.” I entered the coordinates and stroked Fury’s console for luck. “I could use the credits. I’m broke.”

The space station was huge, and I wondered how the hell the giant hunk of junk had remained in orbit once it was left derelict. I also wondered why it hadn’t been dismantled. It had been used for the docking port for all ships coming and going to Outer Kingston until the new, larger, more streamline one had been built on the other side of the planet. Outer Kingston was the last and most remote port of call before the long trek to the Outer Rim. It was not really a part of anything, only a single rocky planet orbiting a small yellow sun, a planet that was almost entirely water other than the few small islands that served as hideouts for smugglers and ports of call for ships in and out of the Outer Rim. There had been a few efforts to make some of the more picturesque islands into holiday destinations, but the planet was just too far from the so-called civilized center of The Consortium of Planets. That meant most of those islands had devolved into illegal casinos and brothels, surviving and thriving just beyond the edge of Authority scrutiny. Though technically it belonged to the Consortium, it was too far out for any real Authority control, and that made the place a mecca of smuggling and illegal activity. We made our way in and out of the docking bays of the derelict space station until we found the rendezvous point. It was way too claustrophobic for my liking. I couldn’t keep from wondering just what else went on in a place that had trouble written all over it.

“It’s a good place for a sting,” I said.

“Too good,” Manning grunted, just as Blake’s ship appeared from a blind spot around the curve of the station.

“Wait a minute,” I said, “the man just came out of nowhere. That’s not possible. Something’s going on. We should have been aware of his approach.”

“Manning, let’s make this quick. I’m feeling a little twitchy after the week I’ve had.”

Manning kept the mic off. He laid a hand on my shoulder. “I need you to stay on deck and stay ready, Mac. We’ll Molt-tran the whiskey and me over at the same time, but separately. You know how to do that?” He waved a hand. “Fury does. Keep a lock on me and on the whiskey, but if worse comes to worse, we cut our losses and live to fight another day. I’ll need you to get us out of here fast. You got it.” I nodded.

He opened the mic. “On my way. Meet me in the belly with your manifest.”

“Shields dropped,” came Blake’s nasal flugelhorn response.

“I don’t like this,” I said to Fury, as I keyed in the mol-tran and watched first the whiskey and then Manning dematerialize before my eyes. “I don’t like this at all.”

“I am not terribly pleased at the situation myself,” Fury commented. “Banshee Blake is to be trusted less than most of our disreputable colleagues.”

Ourcolleagues?” I commented as Manning’s visual implant came online and I felt a whole lot better clapping eyeballs on him. “How much is he paying you?”

“Not nearly enough.” Fury replied, and in spite of the tense situation, I laughed. But the laugh died in my throat when Fury quickly added. “We have company, Diana Mac, three Authority jaegers converging fast off starboard.

 

Piloting Fury: Part 20 Brand New KDG Read

It’s Fury Friday! It’s time to see what Mac and Manning and Fury are up to. Wherever they are, trouble is not far behind them. Time for another escape to deep space for a rollicking read.  Here we are in December, which means  NaNoWriMo  is over and I downed tools at the 92.5 mark, my largest word count ever for NaNoWriMo. Fledgling Nightmares is nearly done! I have three chapters left to go, so the characters are still taking me on a wild and wonderful ride, their favourite time to grab me by scruff of the neck and send me scurrying to the laptop seems to be early morning. I promise a sneak preview when the draft is finished.  The Medusa Consortium world is full of surprises that may involve the expansion and reshaping of the whole Medusa universe.

In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 20th week. If you are, 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. Today, Mac and Fury enjoy the calm after the storm and Manning rejoins the crew healthy and robust and ready for a little smuggling. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!

 

 

“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” McAlister 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 20 Sleep Aids and Mysteries

“I do not want to disappoint you, Diana Mac.”

Plague One was little more than a vanishing white dot in the distance, and I was just about to make the hyper jump when Manning finally made it to the deck looking no worse for the wear. To my surprise, he brought me coffee. When I was finished, I had another sandwich and I pulled up Kandenski on the monitor. For a long time I stared at Keen’s information in the ships database, which was nothing more than a name and not even his own. But then the last thing Manning would want was to be associated with the notorious Victor Keen, and he certainly wouldn’t want the Authority getting any hint that Keen was still alive and that Plague One had been transformed.

“Your vital signs are those of exhaustion, Diana Mac,” Fury broke into my silent reverie. “I recommend sleep.”

“Recommendation duly noted,” I replied, and continued staring at the database.

After a few seconds, Fury responded, “Duly noted, but not acted upon?”

“I can’t sleep,” I replied.

“There are several reliable sleeping aids in medico.”

“I don’t like to medicate myself.”

“Perhaps warm milk then?”

I made a face. “Have you ever actually tasted warm milk, Fury?”

“I have not had that pleasure.”

I shivered at the thought. “Well, it’s vile, awful stuff.”

“Perhaps a non-Terran folk remedy then? Digan fire weed tea is said to induce slumber.”

“You suppose Manning would notice if I tapped into one of those kegs of New Hibernian gently aging in the cargo hold?”

“I do not advise such action, Diana Mac. Your systems have been compromised due to the stress levels endured during our efforts to escape the atmosphere of Plague One. There are no healing benefits to consuming alcoholic beverages. In fact to do so would compromise your bodily functions even more.”

I snorted a laugh. “My bodily functions. Right.”

“However,” Fury continued, “should you choose to ignore my advice, there is a complete selection of alcoholic beverages onboard, including New Hibernian whiskey.”

“Never mind,” I waved a dismissive hand “While I would love to partake, I’m still the one on duty until Manning is up and at ‘em, so best I stick to useless folk remedies.”

I stared at the name Kandenski on the viewing screen. Now that all of our lives weren’t at risk from the storm, my mind was racing, replaying over and over the things Keen had said to me, the things that were a world away from what I had always been told. He was right, I had a million questions, not the least of which was why Manning knew enough to think I should go to Plague One and meet Keen. Granted it wouldn’t have been that difficult to find out about me if he’d had a conversation with Captain Harker, and the truth was, as far as indentureds went, I was both tragic and infamous because of my father.

In the early days of my indenture, Fallon was forever having to shoo the reporters and papparaci away. He would give interviews about the poor little indentured he saw more as a daughter than a servant. He would remind them again how he had purchased my contract of indenture and great price to himself because he had known my father and did not want Aden McAllister’s only child to be sold into the hands of strangers. After all, it wasn’t my fault what happened, I was a victim … blah blah blah.

But he would never let them speak to me nor would he let them get close to me. For my own protection, he told everyone. I’d suffered enough, he said. Truth was, he didn’t want anyone seeing my bruises and the scars from being infected with the SNT virus multiple times. I don’t know why he bothered. I would have never talked. I wouldn’t dare. After all I was his indentured. No one would stop him from doing with me whatever he pleased. And he did.

“Fury, can you open a channel to Kandenski?” I asked at last.

“I cannot comply due to atmospheric conditions above the planet,” came the reply.

“Thanks anyway,” I said. I finished the sandwich and drank a cup of Digan fire weed tea, which I found nearly as vile as warm milk, and I told Fury so, a complaint he duly noted in the database of folk remedies and sleep aids.

Upon returning to the bridge, I slowed again in front of Manning’s door, trying not to think about the fact that he was locked in his quarters with Stanislovski, and I was locked on the outside. I was, I reminded myself, nothing more than an indentured, and it hurt worse to be invited in and then locked out again than it did to be excluded and not considered at all, though that was something I would have never expected of Manning.

In my own room, I undressed and settled onto the bed thinking myself too strung out to sleep. “Fury,” I managed before I drifted off. “Wake me when the storm passes.”

“Affirmative, Diana Mac,” came the quiet reply. It was the last thing I heard before I fell into a deep, blessedly dreamless, sleep.

“Diana Mac.”

It was the computer’s voice that woke me. I was disoriented, still not used to my new surroundings. For a moment my brain fought to place myself in time and space, and when everything came back to me, I practically catapulted out of the bed.

“Fury? Are we all right? The storm, has it passed?” I asked in a breathless gasp.

“We are all right, Diana Mac, and while the storm has not completely passed, it is dissipating rapidly. It has died down enough that Ina Stanislovski is requesting you return her to Pandora Base. I have opened a com link, and with your permission, we can begin the mol-tran.”

I stumbled from the bed and dressed. Just as I stepped into the hall, Stanislovski stepped out of Manning’s room.

“Is he all right?” I asked.

She nodded. “He’s sleeping comfortably.” I could read nothing out of the ordinary on her face. Doctor patient confidentiality, I told myself.  While Stanislovski served as the first mate on the Svaldbard, she was also a trained medical doctor. If anyone should have spent the night with Manning in his room, it should have been her, but still I found myself fighting back thoughts of that locked door. “Can you Mol-tran me back to Pandora Base?”

On deck, we waited in awkward silence while Fury connected with the planet and a direct Mol-tran was arranged. There were a million questions I wanted to ask her all about Manning, though many of which I figured she wouldn’t answer anyway. We said uncomfortable good-byes and within seconds Stanislovski vanished from the ship to the planet below. I heaved a sigh of relief.

“Now then, Fury, how about that nice trip to Outer Kingston I’ve been promised. You don’t want to disappoint me, do you?”

 

I nodded my thanks and gulped it back, entering the last of the coordinates and giving Fury a stroke of appreciation when I was finished. I looked up to see Manning studying me as I downed the last of the coffee.

He offered a quirk of a smile. “I figure you’d be needing that after the rough night you had.”

“Not as rough as yours, I’m guessing.” I mentally kicked myself the second the words were out. If it were rough for any reason other than his illness, I didn’t want to know it. And I didn’t want him thinking the thought had crossed my mind. “We did okay, Fury and I,” I added quickly without looking up at him. “Strap in, I’m about to make the jump.”

Once the jump had been made, I unbuckled and turned to Manning resolved to face him like an adult. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine now,” he said. “I don’t remember much. I never do. Probably just as well from what Fury told me.”

“Glad he’s filled you in. If you want my colorful account, it’s in the log.” I nodded to the consol. “Now, I’m gonna need another one of these.” I held up the cup. “Like you said, it was a long night.” As I turned to leave the deck, Manning blocked me with an outstretched leg. “Mac, you’ve gotta know that if I’d been even semi-conscious, you couldn’t have kept me off this deck. Fury’s my ship, and it was one helluva a time for … that to happen. I’m sorry.”

“Good thing Stanislovski was there to be with you then, because there was no way I could have”

He flinched as though I had slapped him. “I don’t need anyone to be with me when it happens. I know what to do. I’d have been fine.” Color crawled up his throat and he avoided my gaze. “I …  nearly died on her watch once. Oh, it was my fault. I was farther away from the ship than I should have been when it happened, and I knew it.” He waved a negating hand. “Don’t worry Mac, it doesn’t happen often, but this particular time she was there, and ever since she thinks I need mothering. You couldn’t have kept her away, just like you can’t keep her from those infected indentureds she brought onboard. Besides, after the boy’s death the other night, she was hyper-sensitive.”

He took my hand and turned my wrist so that the spot where the shackle was lay beneath the tips of his fingers. “And just so you know, what I don’t tell you has nothing to do with the fact that you wear this. You’re my pilot and my first mate. Fury would have spilled his guts if he’d thought for one minute I was in any real danger. He’s way more of a mother hen than Ina is. When it happens, all I really need is to get back to my ship and sleep it off, and then I promise you, I’m fine.” I opened my mouth to speak, but he shushed me and tugged me onto his lap with a wicked chuckle. “The fact that ace smuggler and lover extraordinaire, Richard Manning, has to haul his ass back to his bed for a nap occasionally would do nothing for my reputation. So can we agree to keep it our little secret?”

“All right.” I was finding it difficult to breathe as he ran a coffee scented thumb over my bottom lip and looked up at me from under heavy lids. The bastard was
distracting me from further questions. I knew that. And he knew it would work. For now. I wasn’t about to give up that easily.

“Good.” His breath was warm against my face, and damn if I didn’t feel like
something had gone wrong with the inertial dampers when he smoothed the hair away from my cheek. He gave my ponytail a tug and squeezed my shoulder. “Now go get some coffee, and have something to eat. Something healthy,” he called over his shoulder as I scrambled toward the door to put a little safer distance Manning and me. “Better yet, have Fury choose your breakfast. The damn ship could have a career as a chef in one of the restaurants on Riviera Beta 3 if he decided to fuck off and change careers.”

 

Piloting Fury: Part 19 Brand New KDG Read

I hope those of you who celebrate it had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. For those of you who are taking advantage of Black Friday, please stay safe. But today’s not just Black Friday for shoppers, it’s Fury Friday for readers. It’s time for another escape to deep space for a rollicking read.  In a NaNoWriMo  update, with ten days to go, I just passed the 78K mark. My characters are taking me on a wild and wonderful ride leading to some late night and early morning unexpected writing adventures. The new Medusa Consortium novel is full of surprises form the readers, and certainly for me as I write it. What fun!

I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 19th week. If you are, 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. Today, Today Mac and Fury ride the storm out while Stanislovski treats Manning for some mysterious illness. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!

 

 

“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” McAlister 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 19: Riding the Storm Out

As it turned out, the ride was way rougher than I’d anticipated. We’d had even less warning than the Pandora Base computer had predicted. When it became clear I wouldn’t be able to fly straight out, nor was I able to jump, I had no choice but to ride out the storm, seeking with Fury’s telemetry, the levels where the winds were less fierce, and that wasn’t saying much. For the next four hours, I had little time to think about what was going on in Manning’s quarters. There were no updates from Stanislovski on his condition. I figured they were as busy trying to keep from being battered to death while Fury bucked and twisted, as I was. It took all my focus, and then some, just to keep the winds from tearing us apart. “I got you,” I spoke under my breath. “Hang on Fury, work with me, just work with me. Don’t worry. I got you.”

“Diana Mac, I am not programed to worry,” came the calm response from the ship’s computer.

“Wish I could say the same. Any suggestions?”

“Hang on, Diana Mac. I got you.” Came the response, and I gave what couldn’t have been less than a maniacal laugh.

“But you were programed with a sense of humor, I see.”

“Not a very fucking good one, as Richard Manning often reminds me.”

“Well, what the hell does Manning know anyway,” I managed before we hit an eddie that all but spun us a three-sixty, and I cursed and fought the wave feeling like Fury really was working with me, anticipating my efforts, like a lover, I thought. Not that I’d ever had one – a lover that is. Not that I’d ever had a ship of my own either. But then again, Fury wasn’t really mine.

“Diana Mac, sensors indicate a calmer airstream three thousand meters lower.”

“I’m on it! Thanks Pal,” I said.

There was a strange sound from the com that sounded almost like a chuckle. I certainly hoped it wasn’t a malfunction because I sure as hell had no time to fix the computer. “You all right?” I ask.

“Five by five … Pal.”

I smiled, gritted my teeth and fought to bring us down to the altitude Fury recommended, which, while it wasn’t spinning us about like a mad centrifuge, was bone jarring and teeth rattling at best.

“Can you set broken bones?” I managed as the ship juddered and bounced.

“My auto surgery is programmed for general orthopedic damage to humanoids. Are you broken, Diana Mac?”

“No. I’m fine,” I managed correcting hard left. Then I chuckled, “My sense of humor’s not very fucking good either.”

For the next hour, I didn’t speak, and neither did Fury, though I felt the ship working with me as clearly as I felt the movement of my own hands across the consol. It was as though the ship were anticipating my every move. I’d had moments like that onboard the Dubrovnik, moments of connection, moments when I was so in tune with the ship that it felt as though my very skin had dissolved and whatever boundary separated ship from pilot temporarily disappeared. But it was only ever momentary, and never really very personal. Lots of pilots felt that connection on those occasions when the situation demanded the most from the pilot and the ship. But the components that were always working in the equation of me piloting the Dubrovnik, the failsafe barriers and safety protocols separating ship from pilot didn’t exist with the Fury. Somehow I had more control, and that seemed to, in some strange way, give the ship more control as well. With Fury, I realized, we were always skin-to-skin.

“I recommend supplement AR 1.” Fury’s computer interrupted my ruminations.

“For what? What’s supplement AR1?” I asked, taking us up again to a higher level that was no less turbulent, but brought us closer to our goal of escaping the upper atmosphere.

“It will help you feel less tired, more energetic. It is Richard Manning’s own formula.”

“What does the AR stand for, I asked?”

“Adrenalin Rush.”

I laughed and risked taking the ship up a little higher still. “Oh that sounds delightful. But maybe later. I think we’re almost free.”

“Sensors indicate that we are, indeed almost free of the planet’s atmosphere.”

“What do you think? Shall we risk an attempt to break the bitch?”

“The odds are fifty-fifty, Diana Mac. Worth the gamble.”

I laughed and nosed us up a little more. “Has Manning been playing poker with you, because he cheated, you know?”

“Of course he cheated.” Came the reply. “I did warn him that he would lose, if he attempted such an illogical wager against you.”

“Oh?” The ship began to judder hard, and I gritted my teeth, forced the nose up another few meters and leveled off again. “So he ignored you?”

“He did not ignore me, Diana Mac. He took my advice.”

“You told him to cheat?”

For a moment there was silence as the ship bucked and shimmied, and I feared I’d have to bring us back down again. “Goddamn it! I’m sick of this shit, and I’m starving, Fury let’s get the fuck out of this mess.”

“Don’t worry, Diana Mac. I got you,” came the reply.

We took a bloody battering, but together we kept our nose up and didn’t retreat, until finally, after what felt like an eternity, we pulled free of the planet’s exosphere with a sudden burst of acceleration that had my stomach in my throat and my brain about to pop out my eyeballs. I think I might have let out some very undignified war whoop, and then we were free. The Fury settled like a seabird on calm water, and I ran a hand, suddenly none too steady, across my sweaty forehead.

“We did it,” I managed once I was sure all my innards were back in their proper place.

“Fucking A,” came the response that had me laughing out loud.

“You’ve spent too much time around Manning,” I said.

I had read that Plague One was noted for it’s horrendous planet-wide storms, and from the beginning the plague colonies had been built below ground. No one could have survived on the surface in a full blown planet-wide, and what made the storms even worse was that the only safe distance was beyond high orbit.

Once we were out of harm’s way, too exhausted to move, I just sat and looked back at the planet, ghost white against the black of deep space, it’s own sun little more than a distant yellow speck. The entire atmosphere was a mesmerizing jumble of massive hurricane swirls. Goose bumps rose along my spine and I laid a hand on the console. “We did good,” I spoke softly to Fury. “We’re still alive. We did real good.”

“Real good, indeed,” came the response.

“So,” I said gazing down at Plague One still in the throes of the storm. “You advised Manning to cheat me at poker?”

“I did. Yes.”

“Mind telling me why?”

There was a long pause, and I half expected the ship’s computer to ask me to rephrase the question. But at last Fury answered. “I needed a decent pilot.”

I smiled in spite of myself. “Well you got the best now, but that’s a helluva way to get you one.”

“Indeed.”

I let my mind swirled with the clouds, as I slumped deeper into the pilot’s chair nearly falling asleep before my stomach growled. Then I undid my restraints and stumbled to the galley. I stopped at Manning’s door and lifted a hand to knock, but then thought better of it.

By the time I reached the galley and replicated a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of coffee, I was wondering if Manning was even still alive. Surely Stanislovski would have commed me if his situation had worsened. Not that I could have done anything. What if they were both dead? I mean the storm was seriously rough going. If they hadn’t been able to strap in in time, anything might have happened. I took a bite of my sandwich and scalded my mouth on the coffee.

“Fury, can you tell me Manning’s condition,” I asked. Then I shot a glance over my shoulder just in case the man was watching, as he’d been known to do.

“Richard Manning is resting comfortably,” Fury’s computer replied.

“And Ina Stanislovski?”

“Ina Stanislovski is resting comfortably. Their vital signs are normal, and Richard Manning is fully recovered from his incident.”

Relief left me feeling like my bones had turned soft. I glanced over my shoulder again. “Fury, can you tell me what Manning’s condition is?”

“I cannot,” came the response.

“Cannot or will not?”

“You must ask Richard Manning.”

“Do you knowwhat Richard Manning suffers from?”

“Of course I do. He is my captain.”

“But you’re not authorized to tell me.”

“I am not.”

“Bloody bastard.” I didn’t bother to speak quietly. I didn’t care if he heard me. “I’m his goddamn pilot. Doesn’t he think I have a right to know if he suffers from some debilitating disease that leaves me alone and in charge at the absolute worst possible time?” Then I tried another approach. “Has he had this condition long?”

“All of his life.”

Then it hit me like an orca class freighter. “Is that why he made the bet with me? Is he no longer able to captain you alone?”

“His condition is stable, and he is quite capable of performing his duties to me. You were brought onboard for other reasons.”

“What other reasons?”

“Because I needed a pilot,” came the reply.

“You’re not very fucking good at lying either, Fury.” I shoved half my sandwich into my mouth, and chewed angrily. “Stupid me. I’m just the fucking indentured. You’re probably not authorized to tell me anything. I’m just an expendable tool.”

“We are all expendable tools, Diana Mac. I do not understand your anger.”

“Never mind. It doesn’t matter. It’s not important.” Since there was nothing I could do about being kept in the dark where Manning’s condition was concerned, I pulled up the Pilot’s log and entered as much detail about the storm as I could remember, checking back over the computer records of the past four hours. The only sound in the galley was the soft hum of the life support systems.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
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