It’s Friday, which means it’s once again time for more Fury. If you remember, in the last instalment, Captain Evander and the Dubrovnik showed up at Pandora Base just in time to help evacuate. All that remains before Fury’s intrepid crew is the bonding between the ship, Mac and Manning, and Manning might just be getting cold feet. Or is he? If you’re enjoying Fury, please spread the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’m offering a new episode of Fury every Friday.
“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAllister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.
Piloting Fury Part 56: The Heart of SNT1
We were not alone and yet it felt as though we were. Stanislavsky remained onboard with Fallon, who still needed to be monitored, and Rab would not leave Fallon. It came as a big surprise to me, that the two had somehow bonded so. I could hardly think of two people less companionable. The human cargo bay had been isolated so that no one within could feel what would be going on without, and we would not sense the presence of those within either.
Manning held my hand and guided me back into the elevator that led away from the lower cargo bay. I had expected us to go up to the bridge, but instead Fury surprised me by stopping at a place somewhere in between.
“Where are we,” I asked.
“I have taken you to my heart,” Fury responded. “It is the place to which I should have taken you in the beginning, but I was afraid.”
“I would have never denied you, Fury. If I had taken you to my heart you’d have known that. But I guess I was afraid too.”
“And you are afraid now,” he commented, “as am I.”
“Yes,” I forced a weak laugh. “Can’t you tell?”
“Well that makes three of us then,” Manning said. The words were barely out of his mouth when the elevator door slid silently open. I don’t know what I expected but it wasn’t what was there. We stepped out onto a platform that hung above nothingness, and in the center of that deep shaft of emptiness was a bright spiral that appeared to be the same quicksilver substance with which Stanislavsky had injected Fallon. It coiled and danced and rose and fell like a restless ocean.
I gasped and all but fell back against Manning in the wave of vertigo that nearly overwhelmed me. He pulled me close with a gasp of his own and leaned heavily against the closed elevator door, his breath coming in desperate gasps.
“You’ve not been here?” I managed, fighting to keep my stomach in its proper place.
“No.” He spoke between barely parted lips, swallowing hard, his eyes pinched shut tightly.
“Do not be afraid,” Fury said. “You are safe here, both of you are, because you are both my heart.”
“I thought Manning would have been here when you bonded,” I managed, still battling my racing pulse, in spite of Fury’s promise.
“Richard Manning has not been to this place, Diana Mac, for I could not properly bond with him when he was untrained and unprepared to do his part.”
“I’m no more trained than he was,” I said.
“But you are.” It was Manning who responded. “It’s in your DNA. Plus you’ve lived onboard an SNT. You learned way more than you know.”
Fury waited in comforting silence, enfolding us in his presence until we could both stand and focus without dizziness or nausea, then he moved back enough that we could take in the panorama and the space that was far greater that what could have been contained in such a small cargo ship.
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour,” Fury quoted William Blake, a quote my father had used so often when he tried to describe to me the connection between an SNT and a compliment.
“What you see is what I have grown into, what I have become during my short life, “ he said, with what sounded like a sigh. “It is what I would now revert to if my purpose for being were suddenly no more. In such a state I would remain dormant until such time as I was needed again. I think I might remain such even for eternity if there was no further need for me, and if nothing destroyed my essence as happened to my brothers and sisters. Though,” he added, “I do not know if their essence was such as mine, since they were not conceived as I was.
“I did not know this when Richard Manning and I met or perhaps I would have reverted to such a state. I am glad for my ignorance, for I would have never known the pleasure of his company, nor the delight of being united, at long last, with my compliment. I have learned a great deal in my short life, and until I learned of Apocalypse, I have had no one like me with which to share it.”
“Why did you never share this with me,” Manning said, his voice tetchy from secrets kept.
“What would have been gained by my sharing?” Fury responded. “Besides I was … uncomfortable in the sharing, for I was so aware of my otherness, and I did not want to frighten you by making that otherness even more evident.” Then he added quickly, “You must understand I am, in my essence, a humanoid male, as are you, and I do not always share my inner workings with ease.”
“So what do we do,” I asked, fearing the response in spite of Fury’s promise that we were safe in his heart. Was anyone’s heart really a safe place for anyone else?
“You must penetrate me.” He spoke the words as though he were almost as uncertain as I was.
“Penetrate you?” Manning said. His grip on my hand had become tight enough to be almost painful. “What exactly does that mean?”
“It means that you must enter my heart, become a part of it, as I become a part of the two of you. Richard Manning, with Diana Mac’s bonding, I will now at last be able to bond fully with you as well and the two of you with each other. I do not believe that even Victor Keen is aware of this fact. It is something I have known at my core since Diana Mac first stepped onboard, though I do not know why.”
“It might have been nice for me to know that.” Manning said.
“Yes, it might have been,” Fury replied.
“But how do we do that,” I asked, “penetrate you, I mean.”
“Here is my heart,” he replied. “All that separates you from it is the catwalk, which is only there for your psychological reassurance.”
“You mean we have to jump?” Manning said, “into … that?”
“That is my heart, Richard Manning. It is the same heart that has nurtured you and protected you from the beginning, and until this moment, you have not found it loathsome.”
“It isn’t loathsome. Damn it, Fury, don’t be so defensive. You said don’t be afraid, well I am, goddamn it! I’m sorry, but I am. I mean I’m about to throw myself into the core of an SNT, not just any SNT, but SNT 1. I’m scared shitless.”
To see Manning so vulnerable frightened me almost as much as what Fury was asking of us. My two men loved each other as much as they loved me, and I knew this, but here we all were paralyzed by fear. I couldn’t bear their fear and my own, so I took a deep breath – as deep as I could manage when I was on the verge of hyperventilation. Then, I took a mincing step forward, and the rail that kept us separated from the abyss vanished. Suddenly the tiny catwalk was all that separated us from the core of SNT1. All that separated us from Fury’s heart. I took another step forward and pulled Manning with me. He resisted, struggling to breathe.
“Richard Manning, you must breathe deeply or you will lose consciousness,” Fury said.
“Please, Manning,” I managed around my own effort to breathe. “Please.”
He pulled back slightly one last time, and cursed under his breath, then he moved forward, enfolded me into a crushing embrace, and we stepped together into the abyss that was Fury’s heart.