Happy Friday the 13th, everyone! I’m always a fan of Friday the 13. Such a perfectly amazing day should be celebrated, so hug a black cat or simply enjoy the fact that it’s Friday.
Since I’m sure you’ve all been wondering what happened to our mystery woman, I decided to reward you for your patience with an extra long instalment all about our girl. Last week, if you recall, we got a more intimate look at Fury’s stalker. But this week is all about the woman in the salvage yard. I hope you’re enjoying Dragon Ascending, the sequel to Piloting Fury, as much as I’m enjoying sharing it with you. As always, I love it when you share my work with your reading friends, so feel free. In the meantime, enjoy!
For those of you who would like to read the complete novel, Piloting Fury, book one of the Sentient Ships series, follow the link to the first instalment.
Dragon Ascending: Part 2 of the Sentient Ships Series
On a desolate junkyard of a planetoid, scavenger Lenore Felik, disturbs something slumbering in a remote salvage dump and uncovers secrets of a tragic past and of the surprising role she must play in the terrifying present she now faces.
Robbed of her inheritance after her tyrannical father’s death, Tenad Fallon is out for revenge on her half-brothers, one who happens to be the sentient ship, Fury. Fury, with his human companions, Richard Manning and Diana McAllister, has his own agenda – finding the lost sentient ships and ending the scourge of indentured servitude in Authority space.
Len surely must be dead. It was a strange thought to have going through her head as she once again became aware of herself. For a long time she lay very still with her eyes closed, not sure she really wanted to see what an afterlife looked like. Scientifically there was no evidence for it. Her flesh would simply return to its original components given enough time. All life was carbon and to carbon it would return. Well at least all they knew of life. Since she didn’t feel her body, she didn’t think the thought was all that unusual. Still, if her mind was only a biochemical function of her body that made no sense either. She felt stupid at such irrational thoughts, but still she didn’t open her eyes. Instead she assessed pain she should have felt, but didn’t. Not quite trusting that there was no pain in the body she had been damn near certain was dying, she sifted through her most recent memories to puzzle out what had happened.
She remembered the unsavory crew of the Dart. She would never have chosen to traveled with them had there been another choice, but the Sparrow, the ship that she had chartered transport on the first time she went into the Sea of Death transported her back safely to the Sandstorm Outpost and then promptly left orbit for the Rim. She knew better than to take the Dart. She’d been warned, but she had to know more about this strange salvage dump with a de-mole perimeter, especially after discovering a breach in the fence, and a decent place to shelter without having to spend another night in the unreliable life shield tent.
She should have listened. She didn’t linger on the thought of what they had done to her. That wasn’t a place her mind needed to go, and certainly not one that would do her any good now.
Instead, she racked her brain for what had happened after they had kicked her out into the Sea of Death with night fast approaching, and without her pack. Somehow she’d made it to the salvage yard. Somehow she’d even found the breach in the de-mole. And she’d climbed to reach shelter. She had broken ribs. She remembered that. She’d wrapped them. She had climbed to shelter, but in the end she’d no choice but to jump for it. And… she missed. After that she remembered nothing. Then how the hell was she here, and where was here anyway?
She surveyed her body again, eyes still closed. Even if she wasn’t dead, the damage done would not be pretty to look at. If she wasn’t dead, then she surely would be soon enough, only it would be slower, more painful. She was pretty sure the Dart wouldn’t return for her, and even if they did, she wouldn’t trust what they might do to her next. Surely they would think her dead. If she were dead, well than that was easy enough, she supposed. But if she was alive, the problem of staying that way was going to really suck. No one in Sandstorm Outpost would have a way of getting to her in less than a week by sand rover, and they certainly wouldn’t waste resources they didn’t have. Besides, the Sea of Death was a huge place. She knew the rules. You go out beyond the protection of the outpost, you’re on your own. You make it back, bully for you, you don’t, that’s one less stupid person in the outpost.
She had no sand rover, she had no extra water. In fact, she had no water at all. What she’d had was in her pack back on the Dart. Oh, it just kept getting better and better, didn’t it? It was much nicer to be dead. She was pretty comfortable being dead. She wriggled a bit, only a little. Everything seemed to work, and then she remembered it. In the midst of her pain, there was one clear memory after her fall. She had opened her eyes into a blanket of darkness that was quiet and velvety, and in that darkness there had been someone looking down at her, someone she could not see. Truly she could see absolutely nothing, and yet she knew beyond knowing that she wasn’t alone. And then she opened her eyes.
She blinked in light that was subdued enough not to hurt her sleep dilated pupils. The air didn’t smell like blood and puke and sweat and worse things that she must surly be covered in by now. It would have taken a week worth of water rations to clean her wounds alone, not to mention the rest of her. She looked down at her body, naked, covered with some kind of light weight cloth that was nice against her skin. And her skin was clean, cleaner than it had been since she arrived on Tak Major, soaked in her own piss and smelling like a toilet. She sniffed and sniffed again. Not even the slightest hint of her own stink. Granted, she’d gotten used to it when she’d come to live on Tak Major. Everybody was dirty. Everybody stank. Olfactory fatigue had set in long ago. And her skin felt smooth, the perpetual coating of dust and grit she was also used to was gone. She pushed down the coverlet and ran a clean hand down the smooth skin of her belly.
Nope, she was definitely not dead. Her bladder was full. Everyone’s health in Tak Major was judged on how well they peed. It was a standard greeting, “Pissed today?” She sat up cautiously and scooted to the edge of what appeared to be an actual bed or something similar. There was no sign of her clothes, or what was left of them, and that was just as well, the thought of them now made her queasy. She snatched up the coverlet from the bed and wrapped it around her body.
She stood for a moment, on legs that certainly were a bit shaky, but they held her up, which was more than she expected. She looked around at a space that was positively pristine. It certainly couldn’t have existed in a salvage yard, and then the thought came to her, what a pity it would be to piss in the corner and mess it all up. Carefully setting one foot in front of the other, she tiptoed to what looked like a pressure door, hoping for a place less clean to do her business. To her surprise, the door opened for her automatically, leading into a room with a proper toilet and a shower, a fucking shower! And both were as pristine as the room she woke up in. She didn’t take too much time to contemplate as she dropped onto the seat and let go her stream.
Once the most basic of needs were taken care of she stood let the coverlet fall to the floor, examining herself as best she could. There should have been at least two broken ribs. She felt one snap when she jumped. But it only took a deep breath and a stroke down her torso to know for certain that nothing in that general area was broken. Her ribs were easy enough to feel when regular meals were not always a given. There were no bruises, no abrasions, no cuts on her hands. And peeing had been easy, like she’d drank all the water in her pack and then some. And there was no pain. After what had happened … She slammed the door shut on that thought. It couldn’t help now to dwell on it, and anyway, she hadn’t died, had she? She scooped up the coverlet, knotted it securely over her breasts and looked around. There was a sink too, and a glass sitting on the edge, like a drinking glass, the kinds you had to pay extra for at the Dustbowl bar, only Arji’s glasses were never this clean. Most people just brought their own personal cup, which might be dirty, but at least it was their own dirt. It was only the off-worlders who got scalped because they didn’t bring their own. She carefully picked up the glass and held it beneath the spigot, then nearly jumped out of her skin when actual water came out! At least she thought it was water. She held it up to her nose and sniffed cautiously. There was no scent, then she stuck the tip of her finger in it and tasted. It was not only clean, but it was cold. This wasn’t even possible, surely. How could any form of computer system or artificial intelligence have survived in the Taklamakan heat buried under tons of debris and scoured by the nightly sandstorms? She glanced around feeling a cascade of goose flesh climb her bare arms. She sat the glass down on the edge of the sink, not drinking it, no matter how much she wanted to, and found her voice, rough and a little more shaky than she’d hoped. “Ship?” She spoke in Galactic Standard, “What is your designation?”
There was a long pause, and just when she figured the ship was certainly too damaged to respond, a quiet male voice spoke. “My designation is Ascent-7.”
“That’s an interesting designation,” she said, completely unable to keep her voice from shaking.
“Nevertheless, I am designated Ascent-7.” Then to her surprise, the computer of the ship continued. “You may drink the water. It is safe, and you will need it to support your recovery.”
She glanced back at the glass, her mouth suddenly feeling like she had eaten half the Talkamakan. “What happened to you. Why are you here?” She asked. “How come you’ve not been plundered?”
“I do not remember,” Came the replay. “There is a de-mole perimeter which keeps this site from being plundered. It is safe to drink the water, and you must hydrate further to assist the healing process.”
This time she didn’t argue. She picked up the glass and drained it, and then had two more. Never, since her arrival on Tak Major had she been able to drink water with such abandon. She couldn’t have afforded it even if it had been available. Vaticana Jesu, she had not realized just how wonderful it tasted.
Much to her surprise, the computer asked, “what is your designation?”
“I’m Len,” she replied, having to clear her throat twice so she didn’t sound as rusted as most of the salvage yards. “Short for Lenore, you know? From the poem by Edgar Allen Poe? He was my uncle’s favorite ancient Terran writer. I personally found him a bit too gothic for my tastes.” She forced herself to shut up. What was the matter with her rattling on like a salvage sledge full of loose bolts?
“From Hell unto a high estate far up within the Heaven–
“From grief and groan, to a golden throne, beside the King of Heaven.”
“You know the poem?” She said, for an instant forgetting she spoke to a computer.
“It is in my database,” came the reply, “and I concur with your judgment that Poe is too gothic for my tastes. I much prefer Hawthorne and find his tales more subtle, though I suppose it is a matter of degree.” Before she could respond, the computer said. “There is food in your chamber. You are weakened. You must eat. And then you must rest if you are to recover.”
A delicious smell made her mouth water so hard that she neared drooled. Poe and Hawthorne was a discussion for later. Already feeling stronger, she returned to her room.
“It is only a nutritious soup, one that will be easy for you to keep down and for your body to utilize. I have tried to make it tasty. Once you have rested you may have more should you wish.”
“Thank you, Ascent-7, she said, settling in at a table that had not been there before. The computer made no response. The soup was thick and stew-like in texture, but mild and comforting in flavor. She ate slowly. That had become her habit as food was always scarce, but she did not want to vomit it either remembering the battered condition of her belly. The muscles were still very tender, and the first bite caused nausea to tug at her innards, but the instant she forced herself to swallow, she felt better. The next bite was easier and the one after that and the next until it was gone. But the effort of feeding herself was exhausting, and when she had finished the strange pink drink, with a slightly sweet flowery flavor, she returned to her bed, realizing she was still wrapped in the coverlet. There were no windows. She could not tell if it were day or night, but the ambient temperature of the room was such that she didn’t need anything more than the coverlet pulled over her. There were a million questions she wanted to ask Asent-7, and her mind was racing, but sleep took her nearly instantly and the questions would all have to wait.