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Piloting Fury Part 9: Brand New KDG Read

It’s Friday, and that means time for more Fury. We’re coming out of a rainy, windy week here at Grace Manor, but going into a long holiday weekend with the weather promising not to be dire. Result! I hope all is well with you wherever you are and that  you’re staying safe and reading lots of good stuff.

 

As we enter the 10th week of Piloting Fury, I hope you’re enjoying the read. If you are, please share the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’ll be offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Last week, it was business as usual as Diana Mac learns the ropes aboard Fury working with Manning. All is going well as they take on a load of illegal whiskey, and Mac quickly learns, there’s far more to Fury and Manning than meets the eye.

 

 

 

 

Piloting Fury

“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: We’re In Trouble

Manning pulled up a camera from the cargo bay and I watched as the empty space filled with whiskey barrels. New Hibernia Alpha was a densely wooded planet, and therefore the primo New Hibernian whiskey was still fermented in wooden barrels. A few seconds later a man appeared standing next to the shipment. The captain of the Torrington had a chest that made me think perhaps he had stashed a smaller version of one of the barrels inside his shirt. In one hand, he held his device with the manifest, and with the other he circumnavigated the shipment poking and prodding to make sure the force field that held it all in place was secure.

“All right, Mac.” Manning grabbed up his device and stood. “I’m going to go welcome Captain Gruber onboard. Best you stay put in case we need to make a quick getaway – not likely with Gruber. He’s a pretty straight shooter, but with you leaving the Dubrovnik in such a hurry, I reckon there’s still a bulletin out on you as an escapee.” He looked down at his chronometer. “You’ve got another thirty-three standard hours before they’ll give you up and figure if anyone does find you, they’ll send you off to the nearest plague planet at the Authority’s expense. Once everyone gives up the search, then I promise I’ll take you to the smuggler’s ball.”

He leaned down close and for a second, I actually thought he was going to kiss me. “I’ve got an implant right here that’ll allow you and Fury to keep an eye on me.” He bared the side of his throat. “When we get a minute, I’ll fit you with one too. That’ll give us both a voyeur’s eye view.” He gave me a wicked smile. “Could be entertaining on those long hauls beyond the Rim. Besides it’ll also allow us both to mol-tran out of any bad situation if we should ever need to.”

Everything onboard the Dubrovnik was always proper and by the book. It had to be to suit the conglomerate’s taxations tables and their personnel safety standards. Since the Authority was well into the pockets of the conglomerates, rules had to be followed so that everything looked legal and proper, but any indentured could tell you just how deceiving looks could be where the Authority was concerned. I had to admit, getting one over on them, even if it was nothing more than a few barrels of tax-free whiskey, did my heart good.

On screen, I watched as Manning took the lift to the cargo hold, but instead of stopping there, the door pinged and kept going. To my surprise it stopped a half deck below the hold I’d explored earlier, and Manning chuckled all warm and honey-like over the com. “False floor, Mac. You gotta have one if you’re gonna work in Authority space. Those bastards would tax you every time you took a dump if they could figure out how to manage it.”

He stepped out of the lift to find the dour Captain Gruber looking him up and down. “Manning,” he said with a nod of the head. “Got yourself a crew, I see.” He offered a grimace of a smile and a shoulder shrug up toward the monitor mounted above the lift. “She any good?”

“Fury, shut it down,” I said in little more than a whisper. Once I was certain my mug wasn’t plastered all over the view screen, I blew out a sharp breath. “So much for keeping me secret.”

“My apologies,” Fury’s computer purred into the silence. “Richard Manning had all of the screens on to keep watch over you earlier when you were exploring,”

“Bastard.” The little twitch of Manning’s mouth and the sparkle in his eyes told me he’d heard my comment. “If you liked that, you’d love the gesture I’m making right now, just for you,” I said in a voice that was all smiles and sugar. I could have sworn Fury’s computer chuckled.

“You can’t get good help these days,” Manning was saying to Gruber. “She doesn’t eat much, though, and she’s good for a game of cards if I get bored.”

“You are a dick,” I said between barely parted lips. To which he only smiled and kept right on talking to Gruber about the goods manifest.

Beyond the acknowledgment of my existence, Manning made no effort to introduce me, and Gruber didn’t ask. Considering that I was a fugitive, I figured it was better for me that way. From my vantage point on Fury’s bridge, I watched with interest as the two men circled the cargo and compared manifests. The whole transaction took less than one galactic hour. Just as the process was concluding, Manning sent me a message on his device to lay in coordinates for Outer Kingston. It was the perfect place to sell high-end smuggled whiskey. In fact Outer Kingston was the perfect place to sell or buy any type of contraband. I’d never been there while I worked onboard the Dubrovnik. There was no reason to go there when a conglomerate orca class freighter was always on above board, Authority sanctioned business.

“So, Fury, my lovely,” I said, keeping one eye on the proceedings in the cargo hold. “You’ve been to Outer Kingston before,” I pulled up the logged routes. “What do you think, since I’m new, will you take me on the tourist route?” I let out a low whistle as I studied the logs of trips to Outer Kingston. “Looks like you’ve gone just about every route that’s ever been taken, haven’t you?” In my head, I couldn’t help imagining the ship offering me a testosterone charged ‘I’ve been everywhere, hon,’ Manning-like smile, and I had to chuckle.

“Recommended routes?” I tapped the question into the Fury’s computer, and nearly jumped out of my skin when Manning said. “Take the Faribaldi Nebula route, Mac. You ever been?”

I turned to find him standing behind me. “Sorry, didn’t mean to sneak up on you. Just not used to having anyone onboard but me.”

“I’ve been inside the Nebula,” I said, “but it sure as hell wasn’t the tourist route.”

“Inside the nebula? That’s one dangerous place to hang out, if everything I’ve heard is true,” he said, dropping into the captain’s chair. “What the hell were you doing in the nebula?”

“Rescuing one of Fallon’s brats.”

“Seriously? What happened?”

“His oldest son fancied himself a pilot. Got his coordinates wrong and ended up in the Faribaldi. Daddy sent me to bring him back.”

“Fucking hell! It’d take more credits that there are in the Outer Rim to get me in there. Hope he rewarded you well for that.”

“A good dose of the SNT virus, actually.” I kept my eyes on the console, kept my words even. “His son claimed it was all my fault he was lost in the first place because I wouldn’t take him into the nebula.”

“Jesus! What kind of idiot would want to go into the nebula?”

“One with nothing better to do, I suppose.” The Torrington had just made the jump, and I was about to lay in the course around the outer nebular aurora when the com crackled to life.

“Fury, this is the Svalbard.” Just then a raven class freighter a good ten times bigger than the Fury hove into view out of hyperspace. “We’re in trouble,” came the voice over the intercom.

 

Piloting Fury Part 8: Brand New KGD Read

Its Friday, and that means Fury time again my Lovelies! Hadrian’s Wall was fantastic, and fascinating. We had good weather and great walks, but it’s good to be back home with all the smelly walking laundry done, everything unpacked and back into my usual writing routine.

 

I hope you’re all enjoying Piloting Fury. If you are, please share the word. We writers love to share our stories with as many people as possible. I’ll be offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Last week, Captain Harker aboard the Dubrovnik missed his best pilotDiana and was secretly wishing her all the best. This week, it’s business as usual as Diana Mac learns the ropes aboard Fury working with Manning.

 

 

 

Piloting Fury

“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.

 

 

Business as Usual Part 8

By the time Manning joined me on the deck, looking way too perky for someone who was hung over, I was already well on my way to a meaningful relationship with Fury, who was doing me real proud.

 

“I see you’ve been reading back through the logs,” Manning said, as he settled into the captain’s chair.

 

“For someone who’s been sleeping off a hangover, you’ve been busy.” I replied.

 

“I don’t miss much,” he said with a hint of a smile that made his grey eyes glisten like the Faribaldi nebula. “Besides knowing you like I do, Mac, I could have guessed as much.”

 

Before I could comment that we really didn’t know each other all that well, he changed the subject. “Clothes comfortable?”

 

“Perfect fit.”

 

“And no,” he said, before I could ask, “I didn’t give you a grope measure while you slept, though it was tempting.” He wriggled his sun-bleached eyebrows, and I wondered again how someone who spent the majority of his time in deep space looked like he’d just come off a beach holiday. “Fury’s replicator sized you when you sat your fine little ass in the pilot’s chair, with that and the help of the view screen, voila!”

 

“It’s definitely a step up,” I observed. “The damn uniforms on the Dubrovnik never fit right, but then indentureds didn’t have funds to get bespoke ones.”

 

“Trust me,” he said giving the console an affectionate pat, “everything onboard Fury is bespoke. All you have to do is ask. And the room? It’s okay?”

 

“It’s fine.” As glad as I was to have a room at all, I’d been indentured too long not to expect there’d be a price attached. “It does makes me wonder, though, what you expect in return.”

 

“It’s just space, Mac.” He pulled up the view screen, the fine muscles along his cheekbones tensing. “Don’t read too much into it. If you work for me, I want you to be comfortable. I figure if you’re happy, you’ll work better.”

 

“A carrot instead of a stick, then,” I said, stroking the soft fabric on the sleeve of my jumpsuit.”

 

Manning’s body stilled as though he’d suddenly frozen in his chair. As he turned to meet my gaze, his eyes blazed bright. “Deliberately infecting someone with the SNT virus and then curing them at the last minute, seriously Mac.” His voice was little more than a low growl. “You may hate me right now, but you’ve gotta know I wouldn’t do that to my worst enemy.”

 

I looked down at the place on my inner arm where the shackle was now all but invisible. “That may be true, but if I’m ever checked against the registration records, I’ll still end up with a lethal dose of the virus and a free ride to the nearest plague world.” I shivered at the thought.

 

He leaned in close, his gaze storm cloud dark. “If that ever happens, I’ll be shackled and sent to the nearest tri-ax penal colony.” He cradled his own arm against his chest in the way I’d done a million times, in the way I’d seen so many indentureds do. “You’re a gambler, Mac. You know everything has a cost.”

 

I studied him for a long moment, and he didn’t flinch. Then I let out a tight breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. “You did know how to manipulate the coding on my shackle to keep me from getting infected. I didn’t think you could. I didn’t think anyone could.”

 

“I can do a lot of things,” he said, his gaze still locked on mine, “and believe me, I know who the monsters really are.” Before the situation could get more uncomfortable, he changed the subject again. “Nice driving by the way. Through the Corset, I mean. But then I would have expected no less from an ace pilot. And nice thinking, tweaking the coordinates.  Don’t know why I didn’t think of making the rendezvou point with the Torrington behind the Drogheda Dust Cloud.”

 

“Wow, you really don’t miss much.”

 

“That’s how I’ve managed to stay one step ahead of the Authority’s thugs.”

 

“Smart man.” I forced a smile. “I wouldn’t recommend Authority hospitality.” I couldn’t help feeling a bit of satisfaction when he flinched at my comment.

 

For a moment we sat in silence watching the viewing screen as we approached the rendezvous point. At last he spoke. “I’d better check the manifests one more time. Gotta be sure what’s on them is what I actually get, otherwise I’m the one who gets cheated on the other end.”

 

“I’ve checked them already,” I said.

 

“Kissing my ass won’t do you any good, Mac.” Then he chuckled wickedly, “Though it sure as hell would do me some good.”

 

“I had time to kill,” I replied, angry at myself for the blush I couldn’t control. “If I really am your first mate, then I need to know what’s going on, just in case you’re … hung over again, and I need to take charge.”

 

He eyeballed me until I squirmed in my chair. This time there was no mischief and no playful lust in his eyes. “Good point. I reckon if I can’t trust you then who can I trust?” He tugged his bottom lip between his teeth, blew out a sharp breath and pulled a tablet from beneath the console. “Then perhaps you’d like to check out the real manifest, Madame First Mate.”

 

I folded my arms across my chest and blinked. “Oh I have checked the real one. You don’t really think I thought what you recorded in the logs was actually the deal on the table when you’re doing the exchange beyond the Corset?” Just then the Torrington flashed into view and settled next to us.

 

“Well, that’s a relief then, I don’t have to lie to you.” Manning said with a bright smile.

 

“You own me. You can’t honestly think I’d be stupid enough to betray something as benign as a less than above board whiskey transport.”

 

He laughed out loud. “Oh Mac, we’re gonna get along just fine. You’ll see.”

 

I ignored the ridiculous warm flush I felt around my ears as he flipped on the com button and a gravelly voice with the accent from the Inner Rim came on line.

 

“Ready to transport, Manning.”

 

“The hold’s all yours,” Manning replied, and I just gaped.

 

“You have mol-tran?” Molecular transport technology was illegal for planets under the Authority, punishable by confiscation of goods and ship and a prison sentence, which meant a shackle. The Authority took its right to tax everyone and everything very seriously. Mostly they feared the unauthorized transport and trade of Indentureds. But their excuse was that it wasn’t safe. Everything I’d heard about the accidents and horrors from the use of illegal mol-tran convinced me they might be right on this one. But then maybe that was just more Authority propaganda.

 

“Of course Fury has mol-tran,” Manning replied. “It would be stupid to deal in some of the more … sensitive trade items without it.”

 

“Then you trust Gruber just to transport the whole shipment right down into the Fury’s hold, wave toot-a-loo and be on his way?”

 

“Of course I don’t trust Gruber, and he doesn’t trust me either. No one trusts anyone in this business. There’s always an inspection, and the exchange of credits takes place in person when everyone is satisfied with the arrangements, just like with

Harker on the Dubrovnik.”

 

“Right,” I said, rolling my eyes. Manning just offered me a beatific smile that would have been right at home on a New Vaticana saints.

 

“Commencing transport,” came the disembodied voice on the other end of the com.

 

Piloting Fury Part 7: Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday my Lovelies! We’re actually away up in Cumbria walking some of Hadrian’s Wall this week — our first time away since lockdown began. It feels wonderful to be back in one of our favourite parts of the UK. It feels lovely just to be away.

I hope you’re all enjoying Piloting Fury. If you are, please share the word. We writers love to share our stories with as many people as possible. I’ll be offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Last week, Diana Mac did a bit of exploring around her new home. This week, Diana Mac is missed.

 

 

 

Piloting Fury

“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.

 

Turning a Blind Eye Part 7

Captain Evander Harker paced the bridge of the Dubrovnik, waiting for the shuttle to dock. The ship had been delayed in its departure due to a missing pilot. Oh he’d occasionally had crewmembers jump ship without giving notice, but they were usually unskilled labor and certainly they were never indentured. Of course there were others who could pilot the ship, though certainly none who were anywhere nearly as good at it as Diana McAllister.

“No sign of her, Captain,” came the message from the shuttle pilot. “If she’s on the space station, scans aren’t showing any evidence of her shackle. She’s long gone.”

Harker certainly hoped that was true. Leo Rab had reported to sickbay with a broken rib and a ruptured kidney last night. He claimed he was attacked behind the Nine Tails. But Harker knew better. He might have a reputation for being one of the few orca class captains working for Bright Star Conglomerate that was incorruptible, but that didn’t make him stupid. That made him cautious. It didn’t matter if you were a starship captain or a bum. Harker was always well aware that the boundary separating a free citizen from an indentured was thin and fluid. Diana McAllister was a perfect example of that. So he’d always been cautious. But he’d been a helluva lot more so since taking Mac onboard. She had made the Dubrovnik, and therefore Bright Star, a lot of money. But he had known from the beginning her being on the crew was only a temporary reprieve. That he wasn’t sure what had happened to her left a cold knot in the pit of his stomach. That Rab had gotten away from whatever altercation he’d been involved in with no more than a broken rib and a ruptured kidney left him hopeful. But then again, there was really little reason for Rab to remain aboard if McAllister was gone. Well he could tell himself that, but clearly Fallon senior still wanted him watched.

Harker paced back and forth on the deck one more time, knowing that there was no need to wait any longer, and hoping against hope that the best damn pilot in the galaxy could somehow make a successful escape. If any indentured he’d ever known deserved it, she did.


“Juarez, take us out of orbit,” he ordered the lieutenant now sitting uncomfortably in Diana Mac’s chair. Then he hit the com button. “All hands to stations.” With any luck they would be out of hailing range before Abriad Fallon checked in. In truth Harker was surprised that he hadn’t done it already. Surprised and worried. Conditions were picking up for one helluva radiation storm, giving him a genuine excuse for not contacting Fallon about Mac going AWOL. That would give the girl a little more grace, he thought, trying not to dwell on the very real possibility that she was already suffering in an alley somewhere, or worse yet, aboard Gerando Fallon’s ship. By now the virus would have become far more than a rash and in another forty-eight hours, there would be nothing anyone could do for her. The only other possibility was just too damn good to be true, and yet circumstances kept him hoping.

As he took his seat and buckled in, he knew that there was already nothing anyone could do for her if Fallon found her. He had no idea why the man wanted her so badly, and Vaticana Jesu knew he had done everything in his power to keep her away from the man. Now matters were out of his hands, but as long as Leo Rab remained onboard the Dubrovnik, he was still under Fallon’s scrutiny.

Once the Dubrovnik had cleared the Corset and the jump was made, and he couldn’t help noticing it was a little rougher than it would have been if McAllister had made it, he unbuckled and turned to Juarez. “You’re head pilot now, lieutenant, at least for the moment.” He supposed it was his own little streak of mean, his own way of dealing with all the goddamn helplessness he felt every day, but it did his heart good to see Juarez pale just a little bit as he gave a stiff necked nod and a breathless ‘yes sir.’

He returned to his quarters and grabbed a quick cup of coffee from the replicator before he settled in to inspect the manifests one last time for the cargo they’d be off-loading in Inner Rim City. But the words and numbers blurred in front of his eyes like some foreign language. He pushed back from his desk and commed Sickbay.

“How’s Rab?” he asked without preamble.

“Making a recovery,” came Dr. Flissy’s no-nonsense reply. “He’s off the duty roster for two, maybe three days, but he should be good to go by the time we hit Inner Rim City.”

“He still in sickbay then?”

“For a couple more hours, yes, then I’m releasing him with pain meds back to his quarters to sleep.”

“Good. I’ll be right down. I want a word with him.”

“Right captain.” Flissy didn’t ask why the ship’s captain was questioning Rab rather than the on-duty security staff, which was just as well because he really couldn’t give a good answer could he?

As he stepped into the corridor security chief, Ivan joined him. “A word, sir, if I might.”

“What is it, Ivan. I’m in a bit of a rush.”

The man matched his steps unflustered by his captain’s impatience. “Just thought you might like to know that Amos and Han saw Gerando Fallon in the Nine Tails last night eyeballing McAllister. If I were to venture a guess, he’s the reason our pilot is missing.”

Well hell, this was not what he wanted to hear, and yet it didn’t surprise him either. Even as it worried him, it left him hopeful.

“That’s a possibility,” Harker replied. He’d known Fallon would be there. That was the reason Fallon senior ordered him to make the unscheduled stop at NH372. He’d also known exactly what Gerando Fallon had been there for, which had forced him to act recklessly, but he was the only one who knew just how recklessly he had acted.

“Militia said that a hooker who worked from there turned up dead this morning. Last seen leaving with Fallon.”

No surprise there, Harker thought, as his stomach tightened still further. He’d feel better, he hoped, after he’d talked to Rab. “Thanks Ivan,” he said as he reached the lift. “Keep on it for me. She was a damn fine pilot. Could well be she saw him and ran. I would have. Could well be she’s holed up somewhere. I’ve got the militia looking with instructions to administer the antidote if they find her in time. Nothing else I can do at the moment, is there?” Nothing else but keep his fingers crossed and
hope.

Harker would be willing to bet that Gerando Fallon being at the Nine Tails last night had more than a little to do with the hooker’s death and Rab’s beating. Hell, the way he saw it, if Gerondo Fallon had gotten hold of Rab, then the man was lucky to be alive and in one piece. But if Fallon junior had been that upset, then Harker would also be willing to bet it was because McAllister had slipped through his fingers. Even the thought of Abriad Fallon’s eldest being that close to the girl made his skin crawl. The scuttlebutt was that some punter beat McAllister at poker last night. That was big news and it travelled fast. He also knew she had left with him. That was all he knew. That was all it was safe for him to know, and even that might be too damn much.

 

Piloting Fury Part 6: New KDG Read

Happy Friday my Lovelies! I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury. If you are, please share the word. Something entertaining to read in lockdown goes a long way for passing the time happily, and I’ll be offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Last week, Diana Mac reports for duty onboard the Fury and found the situation rather different than she expected. In Part 6, she does a bit of exploring around her new home.

 

 

 

Piloting Fury

“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.

 

Not What She Expected

I had to pick my dropped jaw up off the console before I could do anything else. The rat bastard had been onboard all the time and hadn’t bothered to get his ass out of bed. I had half a notion to go bang on his door until he answered it and then kick him in the balls. But what was the point? I was his and if he wanted to spend the next twenty years in bed with me serving him meals on a silver platter, there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.

My righteous anger lasted just until I got the all clear from the port master computer and released the docking clamps. Then just like always, I was a pilot through and through. I might well be indentured, but I was still a damn fine pilot and Fury, no matter what sex, was a damn fine ship to be piloting. I reversed out of a cramped little space that would have been a difficult maneuver for a ship half the Fury’s size, and I was in my element. The Dubrovnik was a good ship easy to pilot, but piloting Fury was like having really great sex. I’d never piloted such a responsive ship.

“Manning may be a bastard, but we’re gonna get along just fine,” I said, once we’d maneuvers clear of the busy space lanes and headed out toward the Corset. “Don’t you worry about a thing, Hon. I got you now. I’ll take good care of you.”

If captains were a superstitious lot, pilots were even more so, and on top of that we were soppy sentimentalists. The captain might be in charge, but every good pilot knows that the ship is hers in a way that’s far deeper, far more personal than it ever is for a captain. Indentured I might be and under dubious circumstances in both cases, but Fury was already mine. I felt it deep in my gut even more than I had with the Dubrovnik. But the Dubrovnik was more of a hive mind. Fury was willing and ready to go one on one with me, and he all but purred when I took the controls and guided him out through the heavy port traffic and into the main space lane away from Outer New Hibernia.

By the time I’d laid in the coordinates I found in the ship’s computer for our rendezvous with the Torrington, I was basking in the after glow, itching for the foreplay of maneuvering through the Dublin Corset, the bizarre asteroid belt that was Outer New Hibernia’s man made defense structure, and a piece of engineering nearly impossible for most pilots to maneuver without help from the station. While I wouldn’t have been allowed to attempt it on the Dubrovnik, Fury was as ready to dance as I was, and we tangoed our way right on out through the Corset with no help from the station, no help from anybody, thank you very much.

I’d all but forgotten about Manning until I passed his quarters on the way to the galley to make myself a coffee and have a sandwich. Having unsupervised use of a replicator was a luxury I planned to take full advantage of.

On a whim, I cupped my ear to the door. Aboard the Dubrovnik, the captain’s quarters and those of the senior officers were soundproof, and while technically I was a senior officer, as an indentured, I wasn’t afforded that luxury. Nor was I afforded the luxury of the not so soundproof crew quarters. At Abriad Fallon’s insistence, I was given little more than a rabbit hutch off the engine room, a reminder that I was still his and he could do with me what he wanted even onboard the Dubrovnik. I’d learned to sleep in a fetal position while listening to the growl of the engine, which I found far more pleasant than the fraternizing that went on in the thin-walled crew quarters, a constant reminder that I was not one of them. Treks to the edge of the Rim were long and boring, and fucking was the main way to pass time on a big freighter. Though for me, it was just one more reminder that consensual sex was something I couldn’t risk for myself or for a partner when I didn’t know who Fallon might have onboard to keep an eye on me. I could hear nothing coming from Manning’s quarters though. I figured he really was sleeping it off.

It was then that I noticed the door next to Manning’s now bore an imitation brass plate that read ‘First Mate Diana McAllister.’ It hadn’t been there before. Believe me an indentured wouldn’t miss something like that. I glanced back at Manning’s door and frowned. How had he managed that without me noticing him up and about? Rick Manning was impossible not to notice. Even his presence asleep dominated the whole ship, and yet while I was making love to Fury, he must have done this.

I opened the door, which was no longer locked, and cautiously stepped inside. With Manning I had no idea what to expect, but it sure as hell wasn’t this. While the space wasn’t big, it felt positively palatial to me. The bed was just the standard built-in space faring size, but to me, it was big enough to wallow in and long enough to accommodate all of my height. Hell, I would have ended up hunchbacked from sleeping in the little bit of space I had on the Dubrovnik. This was pure luxury. The recessed safety-shielded shelves above the bed displayed an ancient astrolabe and a small brass orrery, clearly old Terran. They were beautifully replicated and placed between a smattering of antique books. No doubt they were copies, but in this day and age even copies cost a fortune. To my delight, there was even a tiny window with a view of the void. Who the hell had a window these days? There was a desk and a chair, and there was a bathroom. I had my own private bathroom! The shower was actually big enough to turn around in. It even had a water replication feature. The place was like a fucking mansion. I had time before we rendezvoused with the Torrington, and I was still in my worse for wear dress. A peak into a small slide-out
closet showed that Manning had thought of that too.

No stodgy uniform for Fury’s crew. Instead I found several lightweight jumpsuits in varying colors designed for comfort as well as style. I could live with that. I stripped and stepped into the shower.

 

Piloting Fury Part 5: New KDG Free Read

Happy Friday my Lovelies! I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury. I you are, please share the word. Something entertaining to read in lockdown goes a long way for passing the time happily, and I’ll be offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Last week, Rab got to live, but it cost him big time. This week Diana Mac reports for duty onboard the Fury.

 

Piloting Fury

“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 5: Reporting for Duty

I reported to the Fury, as ordered, but Manning was nowhere to be found. That didn’t much please me. I wanted to be well out of New Hibernian space before the Dubrovnik got underway. I hoped like hell Manning had known what he was doing when he recalibrated my shackle. If he didn’t, there’d be no doubt when my arm broke out in blisters, and it would be downhill from there. I felt bad for leaving Captain Harker high and dry. He’d been good to me, and that was more than most indentureds could boast. If I hadn’t been so greedy, I’d have been a free woman by now, with at least enough credits to survive on until I found a ship in need of a pilot.

The situation didn’t suck nearly as bad as it could have. No one knew that better than I did. So, I figured since I was going to be bound to the Fury — at least until I could find a way free, I might as well get to know my way around.

The cargo bay was minuscule in comparison to that of the Dubrovnik, but the Dubrovnik was an orca class freighter, the biggest made. Still, Fury didn’t have to turn over the majority of the profits to an interstellar conglomerate. It was almost physical pain to think those profits could have all been mine.

The hold was clean and empty. Manning had just unloaded a mish mash of supplies for the spaceport, on which he’d turned a tidy profit. I knew that because he had bet those profits in our poker game only a few hours ago. Since NH372 was an isolated station, it paid well for the niceties of civilization. The place survived and thrived because it was the last outpost before the long trek to the Outer Rim and beyond.

I knew Manning was planning to take on a load of New Hibernian whiskey in space. I suspected that was because it wasn’t completely aboveboard. Lots of planets and stations on the edge of the Rim were taxed up to the teeth where luxury items were concerned, and smuggling was big business.

The small mess hall, like the rest of the ship, was clean and orderly. I wouldn’t have pegged Manning for such a neat nick. I was surprised to find a good supply of intergalactic specialties in the replicator. I hadn’t figured Manning for a foodie either. Having never had access to anything more than basic rations, I programmed in a bagel with cream cheese and ate it while standing, contemplating the strange textures and the tang of the cheese. I’d heard complaints from officers on Harker’s crew that most replicator favorites were more Old Terran nostalgia than actual knowledge of how those dishes were supposed to taste – not that an indentured had much experience with gourmet cuisine from any planet.

In spite of the fact that the majority of the ship was given over to cargo, there was a small, but well equipped gym and an observation deck. The captain’s quarters were locked. As if I’d bloody steal anything. The door next to it was also locked. I wondered if Manning was planning to house me in the cargo hold. My belly gave a tight little quiver at the possibility that he might just use me as his bed warmer. That sort of thing was strictly forbidden under the laws that governed the humane treatment of indentureds, though rules where indentureds were concerned were often and easily ignored. Back on deck, I plopped down in the pilot’s chair and examined the inside of my forearm for the millionth time. It was only slightly red from Manning’s minor surgery. Still no rash. But then we hadn’t left the station yet.

The same greedy fucks who thought it was a good idea to bring back indentured servitude as a way to pay off debt were the ones who had come up with a damn near foolproof method of keeping indentureds from escaping. They had engineered a virus, a small dose of which was injected into the sub dermal chip implanted in each indentured’s arm. What that meant was that if anyone attempted escape beyond the proximity detector programmed into the device, or if anyone tampered with the shackle, it would release the virus. While it wasn’t contagious to the general population, it guaranteed a slow, rotting death for the escapee. The advanced symptoms were similar to leprosy of the dark ages, though not at all related and far more painful. It all began with an angry rash around the shackle followed by a high bone-break sort of fever. Then it settled into the chest like viral pneumonia as the poor bastards’ lungs filled up and they all but drown in their own body fluids. By the time that past, at least enough that the blessing of a quick death was denied, the slow, painful loss of body parts began. If indentureds returned to their owners or were recaptured in time, they were injected with an antidote. If they missed that short window of opportunity, then the antidote was useless to them. Beyond that there was no cure, and the only recourse was one of the three plague worlds where the infected were sent to live out what remained of their miserable lives.

While I studied my shackle, I absently ran my fingers over the control panel, slightly warm to my touch. Suddenly the screen activated and Rick Manning smiled down at me from on high.

He was very much out of uniform. In fact the man was naked. At least he had enough professionalism to give me just an upper body shot. The fucker was sitting on the edge of a very rumpled bed. Had he really left me alone and scared shitless in a nasty back-alley room so he could shag the goddamned barmaid?

“Did you sleep well Mac?” He scrubbed a hand over his stubbled cheek and stifled a yawn.

“From the looks of things, not as well as you did,” I growled.

“Me?” He glanced back behind him at the empty bed, and I tried not to notice the way the muscles of his belly tensed when he laughed. “Oh yeah, It was one helluva sleep. I’m still a bit hung over, though, thanks to you.”

“You don’t look any worse for the wear,” I said, biting back a far less polite comment. I was now his indentured after all.

“Well you know me, stiff upper lip and all that. I never complain.” He waved an arm dismissively and continued. “I’m sorry not to be on deck to welcome you aboard.” He leaned forward and looked at me through storm grey eyes. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to have you on the crew. You’re gonna love piloting Fury. I promise it’ll be way more fun than the Dubrovnik. Truth is you’ll be much more at home with us. You’ll see. After all, we share something far more intimate than sex, Mac. We share the appreciation of a good ship.” His smile turned wicked. “The thought of your very fine bottom in the pilot’s chair, the thought of your expert hands all over that console commanding Fury’s every move, well that’ll ease my suffering immensely.

“Anyway, I figure you’ve done a bit of exploring on your own and helped yourself to breakfast, I hope. No skimping with rations on my ship.” He ran a hand through slightly shaggy bronze hair that looked like he might have spent time in the sun and the wind rather than in the dark, sterile, chill of space, then he puffed out a sigh and looked around. “It’s hard to know where to begin with Fury. You already know the ship’s been modified and modernized and tarted up more times than an Hanorian hooker.” He leaned forward, arms resting on muscular thighs, but at least he had the decency to keep the sheet draped over his lap. “Doesn’t matter though. Fury just keeps getting better and better.”

He snapped his fingers. “That reminds me. There’s something I need to tell you before I forget. Oh you’ll figure it out on your own, as intuitive as you are, but it’s really best we get it all out in the open right now so there won’t be any uncomfortable moments.” He stifled another yawn. “Don’t worry. It’s not bad or anything like that, but it’s still best to be forewarned.” He leaned still closer and I mirrored his posture, holding my breath, waiting for it with a fist tightening in my gut. He shot a glance around as though he was afraid someone might overhear. I wondered again if whatever bimbo he’d rogered all night was still in the room just beyond the range of his device. He drew a dramatic breath and ran the tip of his tongue across his upper lip in a gesture that could have been nerves, but could just as easily have been a come on. “Unlike most ships, Fury’s not a she. Fury is most definitely a he.”

I blinked, then blinked again. I tried to swallow back a laugh, but it came out an undignified snort. Indentured or not, I lost it. “Fury’s a he? Are you fucking serious? You’ve cheated me in poker, Shanghaied me into indefinite servitude and tampered with my shackle while drunk on your ass, then you couldn’t even be bothered to be here when I arrived. And the most important thing you can think of to tell me in your post coital hung over state is that the Fury is a boy?”

To his credit, he at least blushed a little bit, then he folded his arms across his chest as though he just realized he was naked. “A man, actually, Fury’s a man. Every ship has its quirks and every captain has his superstitions, so I’m gonna have to insist that you humor me on this.”

“Fine! You’re the boss. I’ll refer to the Fury as a Veletian hermaphrodite if that’ll please you. Now is there anything of importance you might want to fill me in on before I take … himout of space dock? I really don’t want to be here when Harker finds out he’s without a pilot.”

“Right, well unless you have questions, I’m sure you can figure it out. After all, you’re the best pilot I know. You’ll find the flight plan in the computer, and we rendezvous with the Torrington at 19:00.” He yawned again and stretched like a New Hibernian cave cat in the sun, a move that nearly caused the sheet to lose containment. “Knock yourself out.”

“Shouldn’t you get your ass over here then?”

“Oh, I’m already onboard,” he said. “I’ll be sleeping it off in the Captain’s cabin. Give me a shout an hour before we rendezvous with the Torrington.” He yawned again and the view screen went blank.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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