Tag Archives: book one of the Sentient Ships series

Piloting Fury Part 13: A KDG Scifi Romance

Good morning, my lovelies. Welcome to another cheeky Monday read. Here’s this week’s episode of  Piloting Fury.  As I said, Fury is a little different from what you’ve come to expect from KDG. I’m revisiting this serial novel for multiple reasons, but mostly because I love Fury, and I hope you do too.

Last  week Rab found himself with the last partner in the world he’d ever want. This week, it looks like he’s going to be stuck with him.

Catch up here if you missed last week’s episode of Piloting Fury.

If you have just arrived and would like to start at the beginning of Piloting Fury, follow the link, and enjoy!

 

 

Piloting Fury Part 13: Into the Lion Cub’s Den

Good work, Leo. I need to discuss this with you and Gerando. Have him take you onboard the Ares.

Next to him, Junior was reading the same message on his own device. Fucking hell, the one place Rab did not want to be was smack dab in the middle of the lion cub’s den. But like it or not, that’s where he found himself.

The bullyboys grumbled about having to leave their entertainment, but one look from Junior silenced them. Rab hoped they didn’t decide to take out their disappointment on him.

Gerando Fallon took him straight to the bridge of the Ares, strutting about like he was king of the quadrant. He was the typical spoilt brat, showing off his little toy. Rab didn’t give a fuck if daddy bought him a whole damned planet. All he wanted was his freedom and a chance to start a new life as far away from Authority space as possible. If he never set foot on another goddamned starship again, well he could live with that just fine.

Gerando replicated something strongly alcoholic and motioned for his ass kissers to do the same. He didn’t offer Rab anything. At last, after a fair amount of belching and farting and sniggering Rab reckoned was meant for his benefit, the Ares’ computer forwarded an incoming subspace message.

To Rab’s surprise, the screen lit up, and he found himself eyeball to eyeball with Abriad Fallon. It was him, not Junior, who was under the man’s sharp gaze. Managing not to piss himself, Rab gave a nod of his head as greeting. Fallon nodded back. “Nice work, Leo Rab,” he said. It was always difficult to reconcile such a smooth, daddy-like voice with one of the most powerful, most dangerous men in the galaxy. But then some of the most dangerous animals seemed all bunny rabbit sweet even as they lured their victims to hideous deaths.

“Thank you, sir.”

While Junior made no sound, Rab feared he might need a round of radiation meds just to counteract the hate and resentment rolling off him. He noticed that while some of it was directed at him, at least as much was directed at his old man.

Once Abriad Fallon was sure he had their full attention – as if there was any doubt, he began to pace back and forth behind a dark wood table. Then he dropped the bomb. “The two of you are quite the team,” he said, including his son in his gaze now. “But quite frankly your hands are tied onboard the Dubrovnki, Leo. I no longer have need for your services there now that Diana McAllister is gone.”

Holy hell on a ham sandwich that wasn’t what Rab wanted to hear. Now he’d never been a wimp. He’d been in some deep shit in his time, and faced it nose to nose, but he honest to god thought he’d pass right out there on the deck of the Ares. He struggled to breathe struggled to pay attention to the rest of what Fallon was saying.

“As for your other duties, well, I’ve decided that Captain Harker’s crew could benefit from a good shaking up. He waved a hand that looked as though it had never seen a hard day’s work. “As of tonight, I’m moving you to the Ares and …”

“Father, that’s not fair!” Junior all but catapulted out of his chair. “If you’d just give me a chance I would …”

The man stopped pacing and the same raised hand silenced the kid and the color drained from his face. “I gave you a chance, and you nearly killed my best informant and then you did kill a notary, who was good at his job. The publican was not best pleased. It wasn’t easy to cover up your mess, boy. As I said, the two of you are a good team.”

 

 

If Junior was unhappy, Rab was beside himself. He didn’t figure he’d last ten minutes alone with the ass wipe and his lads. But fucking daddy Fallon had thought of everything. “During the time Leo Rab is onboard the Ares, I swear to you that if any harm comes to him, I won’t take the time to find out who caused it. I’ll simply slap shackles on all of your pals and send them off to the nearest mining colony. And I’ll be sending you right along with them, boy. Is that clear?”

New Vaticana Jesu, Rab thought the kid was going to puke. But he held his gorge, squared his shoulders and nodded.

“Good.” Daddy clasped his hands behind his back and began to pace again. For the first time Rab caught a view of the la-de-da study all done up like it came straight from Old Terran England, what with its leather sofas and glassed cases full of honest to god books. If it belonged to Fallon, Rab could guaran-fucking-tee that it was all the real deal. Hell, even a cheap-assed imitation of a room like that would cost more than Rab could make in several lifetimes.

In the background a servant poured a drink from a crystal decanter, then delivered it all careful and respectful-like to Fallon. Poor bugger was probably terrified. Rab sure as fuck would have been. Then he noticed the raw wound of an indentured’s shackle on the servant’s left arm, and for a second, Rab feared he might be the one about to puke. A raw shackle was a dead giveaway that the owner of the indentured used the SNT virus as punishment. But he already knew that about Fallon. The man bragged about it openly. While Rab had been indentured to a mean sonovabitch, the bloke had been scared shitless of the virus and found other ways to punish his indentureds. Only once had Rab been infected, and that was when his shackle malfunctioned. He’d been punished more times than he could remember, but no matter how creative and sadistic those methods were, they were still far better than being infected.

Fallon cleared his throat and ran a finger around the rim of his glass, and Rab’s attention jolted back to him. “Oh cheer up you two.” His face lit with the kind of smile that your old man might give you just before he whups your ass for crossing him. He reckoned Junior had seen that look often enough. “I have contacts who have connections with the Authority outposts near Outer Kingston. We’ll know within the hour if this Banshee Blake is the lucky buyer. And then it’s just a matter of making him an offer he can’t refuse. The Authorities will take back my property and send Manning to a triaxium penal colony. And the two of you will be free of each other. Leo,” he turned his full attention on Rab, who found himself unconsciously rubbing the place where his own shackle had been. “Once my property is safely onboard a Lightning Cruiser bound for Terra Nova Prime, you’ll find your account unfrozen and fat enough with credits to get you anywhere in the galaxy you want to go, to set you up in whatever business you choose to do. I’ll see you transported safely to the nearest space station. In the meantime,” he sipped his drink and heaved a contented sigh, “I would suggest you two get used to each other. Oh, and one more thing, Gerando. Make sure that Leo gets decent accommodation. I don’t want the brains of this operation suffering from lack of sleep because you’ve made him bed down in some corner. You’ve got room. I expect him to be fed well and housed well and be treated hospitably until the business between the two of you is concluded. Are we clear?”

“We’re clear,” the kid mumbled, but his white-knuckled fists said he wasn’t happy about it.

Fallon tossed back the rest of his drink and slapped the glass down on the table behind him. “I’ll update you when I hear back from the Authority sentinels for Outer Kingston. Enjoy the rest of your night.” The screen went blank, and both Rab and Gerando Fallon sat staring at it. Rab figured it would be hard to tell which one of them was the most miserable. As if he wasn’t already chin deep in the shitter, now he was caught between father and son, which only added to the major pain in his ass. He didn’t want to leave the Dubrovnik, but it was a done deal, wasn’t it? All he could do was hope for a quick and successful end to the hunt for Diana McAllister. Even as he thought it, he recalled the angry raw lesion on the arm of Fallon’s servant, and his mind rebelled at the idea of such a thing happening to the Dubrovnik’s pilot. Still, it wasn’t his problem, was it? Fallon could do whatever the fuck he wanted to his indentureds, just like anyone else could. He stroked the inside of his left forearm and cradled it close. His freedom had not been cheap, but up until the last few days, he’d at least thought he could afford it. He shoved aside his doubts. It was way too late for them now.

Piloting Fury Part 12: A KDG Scifi Romance

Good morning, my lovelies. Welcome to another cheeky Monday read. Here’s this week’s episode of  Piloting Fury.  As I said, Fury is a little different from what you’ve come to expect from KDG. I’m revisiting this serial novel for multiple reasons, but mostly because I love Fury, and I hope you do too.

Last  week  Mac learned that there is a cure for the Plague. This week Rab finds himself with the last partner in the world he’d ever want.

Catch up here if you missed last week’s episode of Piloting Fury.

If you have just arrived and would like to start at the beginning of Piloting Fury, follow the link, and enjoy!

 

 

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” 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 12: Not an Ideal Team

Rab wasn’t bad at this investigating shit, if he did say so himself. And even though the work all had to be done on his own time and on the sly, it sure beat the hell out of being indentured — a thing Fallon reminded him of often. He’d managed to play stupid when Harker questioned him concerning his unhappy encounter with Fallon’s brat. After all he’d had the hell kicked out of him. It wasn’t hard to believe that a man might take an ass whupping on a backwater space station and not know who’d done it. The stations and colonies on the edge of the Rim were noted for being rough. That’s why Harker tried to avoid them whenever he could. Being that the Dubrovnik was a big-assed fancy-shmancy conglomerate ship, it seldom put in at the more remote shitholes. The conglomerates always wanted everything to look all squeaky-clean and we-care-about-our- employees like. But Rab knew better. They all knew better.  Hell, Rab wasn’t the first of the Dubrovnik’s crew to get roughed up while on shore leave. He’d been damned lucky, truth be told. Harker lost an ensign just last year and in a place far more respectable than NH372. Young Turk, flirting with a woman. Turned out the bitch in question had a boyfriend, a real jealous boyfriend. Cut the poor kid’s throat from ear to ear. He bled out in nothing flat. So Rab’s story wasn’t much of a stretch. Whether Harker believed him, he couldn’t say. The boss man kept a good poker face. Working for the conglomerate, he couldn’t afford not to.

Over in the corner of the bar on Mining Colony Heceta 9 – the dive didn’t even have a name — Gerando Fallon sat with a woman on his lap all but fucking her right there at the table. Apparently she was on the menu. Rab knew for a fact that daddy had ordered sonny-boy to play nice and not draw attention to himself. But it still made Rab’s skin crawl to think of that turd ball even feeling up a Faribaldina crater slug, let alone a woman.

It wasn’t by chance they’d ended up in the same bar. Sadly, while Rab might have the makings of a good detective, Abriad Fallon had decided that a part of his job should now be babysitting his jizz waste of son. The two were all but joined at the hip until they found Diana McAllister. Hell, he’d thought he’d never have to look at Junior’s ugly face again after what had happened in New Hibernia. But feeling the sting of daddy’s wrath had sent the little cockroach scurrying to find a way to make right his fuck-up, and that led to an even bigger fuck-up. He cornered the poor unsuspecting notary who had notarized the bet between McAllister and some punter named Manning.

Well, the good folks of Rim stations take their gambling seriously, and the bets placed by clientele in any establishment are duly notarized, then kept secret on pain of death. And this notary’s death had, indeed, been painful. Before he died, he’d managed to destroy the DNA codes on his device and everything but the name Manning.

That was when dear ole dad had stepped in. He didn’t want the fucking fruit of his loins killing any more innocent people – mostly because the cover up cost him serious credits, but he also wanted to get to the bottom of what had happened to Diana McAllister. So like it or not, and neither of them liked it one little bit, they were a team, which meant Rab doing all the work and Junior spending his time whoring and drinking.

Rab had done a little detective work from his sick bed on the Dubrovnik and had discovered that there had, indeed, been a Richard Manning in port that night. Manning was the captain of a bucket of bolts called the Fury. Fury was a cargo ship, but you didn’t need much of a brain to know that small cargo ships stayed in business by smuggling, and this Richard Manning had a reputation for being damned good at it. Several people who knew him, or knew of him — as it turned out no one knew him all that well – claimed to have seen him with Diana McAllister at watering holes across the Inner Rim over the course of the last couple of years. Hell Rab had probably seen them together himself, but he didn’t pay much attention to who drank with who, since he knew damn good and well an indentured wasn’t about to jump ship. Or so he’d thought until McAllister had done just that.

Strange now that he’d had time to think about it, low-end cargo ships and smugglers seldom hung out with Orca class conglomerate freighters. They were more likely to hang out in the shitholes at the edge of the Rim where there was business a plenty to be had for their ilk. While Rab knew who Diana McAllister’s father had been and the debt she’d been saddled with, while he knew that a place as corrupt and the Authority had to have enemies, rebel fractions, he seriously couldn’t imagine any of them would have the power to take McAllister right from under Fallon’s nose. Nor could he imagine why they would do it, except maybe to make a statement. Hell, maybe this Manning bloke was working on his own and just wanted some company that looked nice and could pilot a ship. Big risk though. But then again, who wouldn’t want to spend time with Diana McAllister, if they could keep her from winning the clothes off their back.

That’s what landed Leo Rab at a nameless bar on Heceta 9, tossing back a few and blowing off some steam with as many of his crew mates as could get shore leave. The Dubrovnik was at the colony to pick up a large shipment of triaxium ore. And mining colonies, no matter where they were, always attracted the scum of the galaxy. It was perfect for Rab. He’d learned that Manning had made a dodgy purchase of New Hibernian whiskey from a man named Gruber. According to rumors, Gruber was one of the more straight shooting smugglers out there. The man had a partner on Heceta 9, who ran the business planet-side and made sure all the transactions were just enough above board for Gruber to look legit.

 

 

“Yeah I know Manning,” Gruber said, sipping on the same beer he’d been nursing since Rab came into the place. He’d approached the man and offered him a fresh pint. Gruber nodded his thanks, and Rab took that as permission to sit. “He captains the Fury,” he said sniffing at the beer like he thought Rab might have pissed in it. But then you couldn’t be too careful in Gruber’s line of work, could you? “Don’t know how the hell he keeps the wreck flying. He must be a damn good engineer as well.”

Rab pulled up the image of McAllister on his device. “Don’t suppose you happened to see this woman onboard the Fury?”

Gruber grabbed up the device and squinted at it. “So what if I have? I don’t want no trouble, and Manning, well Manning’s all right.”

“She’s my sister,” Rab lied. Aside from the fact there was no resemblance whatsoever, he couldn’t think of any other reason why he might be asking after her. “The folks are worried. Old man’s not in the best of health, ya know. I just want to know my sister’s all right.”

The bloke shrugged and handed back Rab’s device. “Got a sister of my own, and yours could do worse than running off with the likes of Manning. Sorry about your old man, though.”

Talk about dumb fucking luck. Who knew the sod had a soft spot for his sister.

Gruber finished off the dregs of his beer and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. “Didn’t get a good look at her. She was on the bridge, but that’s her. Maybe the bastard hired someone on to fly the damn ship while he’s busy fixing it, although,” he squinted harder, “Manning’s quite the ladies’ man. Your sister might have just gotten herself smitten.”

“Smitten. That don’t sound much like my sis, but hell, I suppose anything’s possible. The heart wants what the heart wants.” Strange, as long as he’d worked onboard the Dubrovnik with his only real reason for being there to keep an eye on McAllister and to see what Harker got up to, she really did feel sort of like a little sister – one he didn’t think he’d want to cross left to his own devices.

“Well, Manning’ll take good care of her if she’s on his ship. You don’t need to worry about that. Man’s got a good heart, even if he is bat shit crazy, but hell this far out, ain’t that many sane folks around is there?”

Wasn’t that the truth, Rab thought. “Don’t suppose you know who Manning’s selling the whiskey to?”

“Probably heading for Outer Kingston. That’s where I’d be heading if I had a load of New Hibernian I wanted to shed for a good profit. Woulda done just that ‘cept I had another contract pending.”

Rab’s heart sank. He was tied to the Dubrovnik as surely as if he was an indentured, and the Dubrovnik never ventured out that far. He hated like hell to think of Gerando Fallon getting his hands on McAllister before he did. He supposed the end result would be the same. Poor woman would be returned to Daddy Fallon, and Manning, if he survived, would be indentured and sent of to some penal colony for the rest of his life, which wouldn’t be long. Rab didn’t like to think about that. He didn’t like to dwell on the end result of all his detective work.

He tossed back his whiskey and ordered another one. “Don’t suppose you know who he might be selling to?”

“He didn’t tell me and I didn’t ask. None of my goddamned business once the stuff’s out of my hands and I got credits in my account.”

With no joy there, Rab tried a different approach. Another hour of asking around if anyone knew where he could unload a hefty shipment of New Hibernian on the QT, and he came up with a name he figured just might be their man, some Polyphemian named Banshee Blake. About as slimy as you could get, the scuttlebutt had it. But he paid well for New Hibernian. You just had to make sure the bastard didn’t take the goods and run. Polyphemians were notorious for that. Just one rung above thieving pirates, the whole damned lot. They’d sell their own mothers to the highest bidders. Blake was exactly the kind of scum they might be able to work with. But Rab wasn’t about to turn that information over to Junior.

He paid for his drink, and glanced around. Sonny boy was still parked in the corner with his head buried in the woman’s tits and his feet up on the table. He headed out back all nice and quiet like to run his plan by Fallon Senior. The man had the connections he’d need if they were to get to this Banshee Blake in time.

He found a quiet corner and was just about to send the message when a wave of alcohol on the air that made his eyes water told him that he wasn’t alone.

“What are you up to Rab?” Gerando Fallon sauntered up to him straightening his trousers. “You’re not trying to pull one over on me are you? What did you find out from Gruber?”

“What’d you do, kid, pull a fuck’n’run?” Before Junior could respond with more than just a growl, Rab fumbled with his own trousers. “I came out for a piss. Do you mind?”

Damned if the little gob shite didn’t pull out his cock and start pissing right next to him, while Rab had visions of working up a sweat kicking the bastard in the ass. “So, what did Gruber say?” Junior made a show of shaking it and tucking himself back in.

“He knows Manning.”

“Well we already fucking knew that, didn’t we? If that’s all you could squeeze out of him then maybe you better let me have a go.” He cracked his knuckles, and Rab would bet a galactic month’s wages that, if he looked, the motherfucker was getting a hard-on just thinking about beating poor old Gruber.”

“No need for that,” Rab said, tugging up the last reserves of his patience. “He sold Manning whiskey. Said he reckoned he’d sell it somewhere near Outer Kingston. I suppose you coulda have told me that too,” he said, suddenly feeling very tired.

“Coulda. An ass-kissing bastard like you wouldn’t know that, of course because the old man keeps you busy aboard the Dubrovnik.”

While daddy Fallon had ordered Junior not to kill Rab, he had conveniently overlooked the possibility that Rab might just kill the kid. Hell the old man would probably reward him for making the galaxy a more pleasant place.

Before he could get into a heartwarming fantasy of the best ways to take Junior out, the fucker grabbed Rab’s device right out of his hand and opened the message he’d been about to send. Rab braced himself figuring this was the part where the kid lost control and all bets were off.

“When were you gonna tell me this? When the fuck were you going to tell me this?” Spittle gathered in the corner of his mouth like a mad New Hibernian wolf dog and just as he drew back a fist, Rab took advantage of his generous alcohol consumption, ducked the punch, grabbed back his device and sent the message.

“I was going to tell you when I knew a little more about this Banshee Blake, and I thought with your father’s resources, he might be able to help us.”

The words were barely out of his mouth before a subspace came through from daddy.

 

Piloting Fury Part 11: A KDG Scifi Romance

Good morning, my lovelies. Welcome to another cheeky Monday read. Here’s this week’s episode of  Piloting Fury.  As I said, Fury is a little different from what you’ve come to expect from KDG. I’m revisiting this serial novel for multiple reasons, but mostly because I love Fury, and I hope you do too.

Last  week  Mac found out just how bad it really is. This week she learns that there is a cure for the Plague.

Catch up here if you missed last week’s episode of Piloting Fury.

If you have just arrived and would like to start at the beginning of Piloting Fury, follow the link, and enjoy!

 

 

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” 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 11: The Cure

“Yes, I do,” he said, taking the second first aid kit and moving into step beside me.

“These need immediate attention,” called the head medic. “There are ten others infected onboard, but we haven’t had time to treat any of them. Authority’s been on our ass since we left Freeport. I have no idea how they found out. We’ve had so many jumps that half the crew is puking, and the other half is too dizzy to stand. They’re getting injections for space sickness now. But at the moment it’s just us and the pilot. Afraid the transfer of the precious cargo is going to be a bit slower than expected,” the medic said. Then she threw her arms around Manning in a heartfelt hug that he returned in kind. “You okay Rick?” she asked, reaching up to stroke his cheek.

He caught her hand and pulled it down to his chest. “Fine, Ina. I’m fine.”

I couldn’t help but bristle just a little bit, embarrassed to admit that I’d gotten used to having Manning and Fury all to myself. I wasn’t keen on the touchy-feely rubbing up against each other that meant the two had a history. Before I could dwell on it, she pulled away and offered me her hand. “Ina Stanislovski, first mate. Some damn good piloting there, though you scared a good ten years off half the crew.”

“They’ll get over it.” I grudgingly took her hand without introducing myself. I was suddenly way more focused on the mess of fevered flesh occupying the four stretchers than I was on Stanislovski’s overly familiar greeting of Manning. “There’s nothing we can do for these people. You know that. They’re too far gone.” If there was anything that made me want to puke, made me want to pass out, made me want to run away screaming, it was seeing someone in the advanced stages of SNT, the point at which there was no return. I was always just one step away from that. All indentureds were, and we bloody well knew it. We had nightmares about it, and I carried way more into my nightmares than most.

The first mate looked from me to Manning and back again. “She doesn’t know?”

“It’s always been on a need to know basis, Ina, and up until now, there was no one else on Fury who needed to know. Besides,” he added. “It’s not my cargo.”

“It is now,” Stanislovski said. “The Authority will be on us the minute we leave the nebula. We leave everything on Fury, and they’ll just think we dumped cargo. They won’t be able to do more than slap us with a trumped-up fine. But if they catch us fully loaded, the indentureds will end up dead and the precious cargo will be confiscated. You know what that means.”

“Fuck me!” Manning said, but he was already grabbing the vial Stanislovski offered him and loading a syringe.

She handed me one, but I stepped back. “There’s nothing we can do for these people. They’re too far gone for the antidote.”

She shook the fisted vial at me. “Oh there’s a cure all right, but it only works if you use it.”

“She’s right, Mac. Just do as she says.” Manning was already injecting the first patient. “There’s a cure. Just not very many people know about it. And the people we definitely don’t want to know about it are the Authority, now move your ass.”

I injected my first patient fighting back tears – me who had given up my emotions the day the shackle went into my arm. But this, this was hope where there had been none, and I found myself smiling down into the face of a boy who looked barely to be in puberty. Clearly, he was terrified. He had already lost two fingers and his feet were bandaged. The end stages could go on for years and horrible years, and the only refuge was one of the plague planets. What the hell kind of debt must this lad’s family have incurred that it would pass on to a child? The obscenity of it all made my blood boil.

“She’s Aden McAllister’s daughter.” Stanislavski spoke to Manning without looking up from the patient she was tending.

Manning shot me a glance and gave a grunt and a nod.

“Not sure if you’re brave or stupid,” she replied.

“Not sure it’s any of your business,” I growled. I was liking the woman less by the moment.

“I needed a good pilot,” was all Manning said.

By the time Stanislavski set up a make-shift infirmary, it was hotter than hell in the cramped space of the hold, though Manning assured me that Fury had regulated the temperature for the comfort of the victims who shivered in the throes of the fever. We had injected the four on the stretchers and made them as comfortable as possible. The rest of the Svalbard’s crew was beginning to recover from space sickness, and they were bringing in the less critical victims.

I worked with a strange sense of anguish and hope. It was an unusual mix. Even when Captain Harker allowed me shore leave and the chance to win what little money I could through gambling, he knew damn good and well that I’d never live long enough to pay off my indenture. But this! This meant that if indentureds could escape, and if they could get to a place where the vaccine was available, they could take on a new identity, move out beyond the Rim and begin a whole new life. I couldn’t get my brain around it. I couldn’t think beyond the next injection, the bathing of a fevered brow, the holding of an emesis pan while someone still suffering the remnants of space sickness vomited. And next to me, Manning was doing exactly the same.

 

 

I had just finished the last injection and had checked to see that all of my patients were resting comfortably when I noticed crates baring the conglomerate label were being loaded onboard. Wiping my forehead, I moved to where Stanislavski stood. “What the fuck? You risked my ship for whiskey? That’s your precious cargo?”

My anger didn’t rattle her in the least, nor my pilot’s possessiveness of Fury. “Oh that’s not the precious cargo. But yes, that is whiskey. If anything, they need it on Plague One more than they do on the Rim.”

“Jesus! You were going to Plague One?” And for the first time since the wild ride had begun, I felt like I just might join the ranks of the space sick and lose my lunch.

She studied me for a moment, then took my left arm into her hand and looked down at where my shackle was nestled just below the skin. “You’ll have visited one of the plague planets, I presume? I can’t imagine Fallon not making sure every indentured of his gets the scenic tour.”

I nodded. “Plague Three, my first month under the shackle. He wanted to make sure I knew what would happen to me if I crossed him. He used the virus as a punishment,” I added swallowing bile.

“And yet you crossed him, and you survived.” Before I could comment, she gave my shoulder a squeeze, then rolled up her sleeve. There was only a white scar where her shackle had been. A white scare met that somehow an indentured had either won freedom or bought it. “My owner did the same. With me, he waited a bit too long.” The line along her jaw hardened, and the color rose in her cheeks, the color I recognized as anger. Only another indentured would recognize that look.

“Lucky for me, I was smuggled onto Plague One. I was among the first the serum was tested on.” She looked beyond me, and I knew she was looking into a nightmare past that could have so easily been my own. Then she turned her gaze back to me. “Half the Svalbard’s crew are free indentureds, so yes, we wouldn’t have minded flying right through the center of the Faribaldi if we’d had to. At least it would have been a clean death.” Then she added as an afterthought, nodding to the next load of crates being brought onboard the Fury, “The rest of the shipment is serum. Sadly it’s not nearly enough, but one day there will be. That’s worth the risk. One day maybe there won’t be a need for it.”

Up until today I could have never allowed myself even her modest optimism, and I still couldn’t. I knew better than anyone the odds against a few freed indentureds, and even I wouldn’t have taken that bet.

Our attention turned to a tall man with eyes like none I’d ever seen before. They were the color of Valinian opals.

Stanislovski spoke next to my ear. “Captain Bryar lost his eyes to the SNT virus. He sees with implants.” Then she stepped back and introduced me.

“Damn fine piloting, First Mate McAllister,” Bryar said, offering me an outstretched hand. “Damn fine piloting. I only wish there was time to celebrate over a proper meal in the captain’s quarters.” Then he turned his attention to Manning, who approached, running a sani-device over his hands.

“Can you do it?” Was all Bryar asked.

Manning nodded tight-lipped, then blew out a sharp breath. “If we make a quick turnaround and kick Fury into high gear, then we should be able to make the rendezvous in Outer Kingston with no trouble. Traveling to the edge of the Rim is never an exact science. Things go wrong. No one is on a precise schedule out that far. What about you, Bryar? Do you have a plan?”

“Well we can’t stay here forever, but wherever we come out now, they’ll be after us. Granted our hold will be empty and they’ll have nothing on us, but it’ll slow progress. It’ll really slow progress, and the next shipment is vital to Plague Two.”

“Where do you need to be?” I asked.

“Isle of Dogs. It’s where the serum components are kept. No one goes there so no one suspects.”

“I can get you there fast,” I said.

All eyes were suddenly on me.

He offered a gentle smile. “No offence McAllister, but I don’t think my crew could survive another jump like that last one.”

“What about a trip through a wormhole?”

“There are no wormholes in that area, at least none that have been charted,” Manning said, studying me like he’d never seen me before.

“That’s true,” I replied, “but McAllister One has never been charted.”

“McAllister One?” Both Bryar and Manning spoke at the same time. Stanislavski moved to flank her captain, arms folded across her chest.

Manning chuckled softly and scratched his head. “Mac, care to take us on a little tour in the chart room?”

As it turned out the chart room was a corner of the observation deck with a holo-image atlas of the known galaxy and download capabilities for individual devices. It didn’t take me long to pull up the image of an empty stretch of space not far from the Faribaldi. It looked to have nothing more interesting than a brown dwarf and a possible black hole. I knew for a fact it was no black hole.

“The McAllister One wormhole?” Manning said, a broad smile splitting his face.

“I named it after myself because I was the lucky indentured who got sent through in a probe to see if it went anywhere.”

“And, let me guess,” Manning said, “you told Fallon it didn’t.”

“I’d just been punished.” I kept my voice even, my face neutral. They didn’t need to know more, and I didn’t want to be reminded. “I figured I just about had enough life support in the probe to make it to the Isle of Dogs if I cut the tether. If I’d died in the probe, it wouldn’t have mattered. I was okay with that. I wasn’t okay with being infected and ending up on a plague planet slowly rotting to death. But if I had made it to the Isle of Dogs, well who knows, if I’d taken the risk I might have been a free woman by now.” I shot Manning a glance, but I didn’t linger. The look on his face was raw, and it had been a raw enough day already. “I lied to Fallon. I fudged the telemetry. Not that hard for me to do, actually, and I filed it away as something that might be helpful if I ever did find a way to escape. The next month I was transferred to the Dubrovnik.”

I enlarged the little sliver of space to maximum magnification. “No one will look for you there because there’s no reason to go there. It’ll take you half a chronometric day to get there, and then it’s just a fast ride through the wormhole – smooth as flushing a galacine toilet. You’ll be at the Isle of Dogs in time for Happy Hour. I can calculate the exact times, even lay in a course for you if you want,” I said.

Bryar studied me with those opal bright eyes. “It’s the life of my entire crew on the line, McAllister.”

“Like it was a couple of hours ago,” I observed nodding to the cargo hold below us. “We can lead you through if you want.” I spoke without thinking, I spoke out of turn, and I knew the minute I did it that I shouldn’t have. Manning’s amicable face became a storm cloud, and he looked like he could bite right through Fury’s hull. Unconsciously I grabbed protectively at my forearm.

“McAllister, you’re dismissed.” His voice was like polar ice, and his gaze followed the movement of my hand against my shackle. “Go down below and check on the cargo. Now.” He said before I could open my mouth to apologize.

With my heart slamming at the inside of my ribs, I did as he asked, kicking myself for opening my mouth at all. His battles were only mine in as much as they kept me alive. If the Svalbard was taken lock stock and barrel, what was that to me? Every Indentured had a hard luck story. If not, we wouldn’t be indentured to begin with. And the truth of the matter was that the only thing that ever really mattered at the end of the day was staying alive long enough, and keeping your wits long enough to either buy your way out or die in a way that didn’t involve the SNT virus.

 

Piloting Fury Part 10: A KDG Scifi Romance

Good morning, my lovelies. Welcome to another cheeky Monday read. Here’s this week’s episode of  Piloting Fury.  As I said, Fury is a little different from what you’ve come to expect from KDG. I’m revisiting this serial novel for multiple reasons, but mostly because I love Fury, and I hope you do too.

Last  week  Fury and his team got a distress call. This week they find out just how bad it really is.

Catch up here if you missed last week’s episode of Piloting Fury.

If you have just arrived and would like to start at the beginning of Piloting Fury, follow the link, and enjoy!

 

 

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” 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 10: Contraband

“Bloody hell! So you brought it to me?” Manning growled.

“We need to jump again, but we’ve got sensitive cargo. We have to make a transfer. You know the consequences if we don’t.”

“I just took on a load. I’m full.” Manning fisted his hands on the console.

“It’s precious cargo,” came the crackle of a reply. “A full supply. Badly needed.”

“Fuck!” Manning ran a hand over his stubble. “We can’t do it here with the Authority on your ass, now can we?”

Instinct is a part of what makes a good pilot, and I was keying in the coordinates almost without thinking.

“What the hell?” Manning said, looking over my shoulder.

“You said you trusted me. Well, now’s the time to prove it.” I shouldered him away and spoke into the com. “Sending coordinates, Svalbard. Make the jump and we’ll meet you there.”

“You’ve got to be joking,” came the response.

“Do you hear me laughing? Do it! Now!”

And just like that the Svalbard was gone a split second before an Authority Jaeger Class burst onto the scene.

“They’ll be on our ass now,” Manning said as he strapped in.

“I’m counting on it. All right darlin’” I whispered to Fury, “let’s party. It’s gonna be one helluva ride.” I just managed to get myself belted before Fury vanished, and us right along with. I heard Manning shouting something like yeehaw as the G-force all but pushed my stomach out through my backbone, but the adrenaline rush I felt as the ship responded almost before I could ask for it made everything else feel irrelevant.

We came out into the constant bombardment that was the twisted swirl of asteroids at the far edge of the Faribaldi Nebula. It was affectionately known as the French Braid. For ships that had miscalculated and came up short in their attempts to bypass of the nebula, well let’s just say more than a little of the Braid’s debris was all that remained of them. But the Braid was exactly where I wanted us to be. Just as I expected, Fury was happy to share power. The Jaeger jumped in and jumped right back out once they saw what they were up against and what they’d be risking in that expensive piece of Authority kit. Whether they got out before they took a hit, I had no idea, nor did I care. I did know that doing a double jump that fast would have half the crew puking. I figured that would slow them down a bit. And even if it didn’t, it made me feel better.

“Jesus Christ, Mac! The Svalbard will never survive this. Jacobs is a good pilot, but not that good,” Manning managed between gritted teeth.

“I didn’t give them these coordinates.” I said, my innards still settling back into their right places, only to be shaken about in the dodge and bump of debris. “I figured Fury and I could get the Authority off their ass and have a bit of fun in the process.”

“Fuck me, you are one twisted puppy, woman.” Manning laughed, white knuckling the arms of his chair as we tossed and tumbled in the intimate menage between pilot and vessel and the bitch of a nebula.

“I reckon I’m in good company then.” It almost felt like Fury was chuckling too, but then that could have just been the judder of the wild ride. Before Manning could respond, I added, “I want a share.”

“What?” He gasped, and I swear he closed his eyed and gritted his teeth as I dodged an asteroid the shape of a fist but the size of the Dubrovnik.

“I want a share of the profits from this little venture. I want a share from this precious cargo, in fact I want a share from everything here on out.”

“Sonovabitch! You’re actually blackmailing me?” His laughter seemed incongruous given that the chances of surviving the Braid were slim, but then the Fury and I were already a proper team. I knew together we would beat the odds.

“I want the chance to buy back my indenture, and the funds I’d saved were automatically deleted when I went AWOL from the Dubrovnik.”

I dodged hard left. He cursed and held tight to the chair arms, and fuck if he didn’t laugh even harder. “Well, you got ‘nads, Mac, I’ll say that for you. All right. Ten percent.”

“Twenty-Five.” I countered.

“Fifteen.” Then he added quickly. “Fucking hell, do you have any idea what a turn-on it is bargaining with you in the middle of the Braid?”

I did, actually. “Twenty,” I haggled, “or you might find I’m suffering just a little bit from last night’s whiskey myself.”

He held me in a hard stare, which I ignored, my full attention on the bounce and sway and twist that Fury and I maneuvered like he could read my mind. “I got nothing to lose,” I added.

“I don’t believe that for a minute, Mac, but all right. Twenty it is. Twenty percent of the profits. Done.”

Banking hard left and dropping fast to miss a big one, Fury and I danced our way to the outer edge of the Braid. We came up tight on another large asteroid, which we circumnavigated all neat and easy-like popping out at the far side of the nebula to nose in up close and personal right beside the Svalbard.

“Goddamn, you really are the best pilot in the galaxy,” Manning said, running a hand though his hair, and struggling to his feet.

“Was there ever any doubt?” I said, feeling pretty damn cocky.

“Not even a little bit, though I hadn’t realized you were so mercenary, or so fucking crazy.” Then he lost his balance and went down on one knee, a little green around the gills.

“Don’t you dare puke on the bridge of my ship, you hung-over bastard,” I warned.

“Wouldn’t dream of it, Madame First Mate” he said, forcing his way to his feet and swallowing hard. It was coming out of hyperspace too fast that caused the disorientation and the space sickness. I stayed in my seat until my stomach settled back where it belonged.

He swallowed a couple more times and took a deep breath. Then he looked me up and down. “Now how are you at supervising the transfer of cargo?”

“Don’t know. Never done it before, but then I’ve never had a twenty percent share in the profits either. Pretty sure that’ll inspire me to do a fine job. Wait a minute, aren’t you going to use the mol-tran?” I asked.

“No can do, sweet cheeks. Not on this cargo.”

“Volatile, is it?”

“Let’s just say it’s sensitive, and besides, I don’t like to use the mol-tran unless I’m in a huge hurry. I think we’re relatively safe from interfering eyes here, wouldn’t you say?”

“You got that right.”

“Well, come on,” he said. “You’ve not finished earning that twenty-percent yet, so get your ass down to the cargo hold’s airlock.

I undid my harness and carefully stood up. A part of what made a good pilot was being damn near immune to space sickness and being smart enough to never look the bitch in the eye. I placed a kiss against my palm and gave the console a pat. “You were brilliant, Hon. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.” I couldn’t keep from smiling at the thought of the steamy little session Fury and I had just had. If this was getting to know you sex, then let the good times roll! Being indentured on the Fury might turn out to be way more fun than I’d ever expected.

 

 

I caught up with Manning at the lift, still basking in the afterglow of fun and profit. “You’re an ace pilot,” He said without looking at me, “but how are you on a sick bay? Some pilots ralf their guts at the first sight of blood.”

“It takes more than blood and guts to make me squeamish, Manning. I’m an indentured, remember? I’m expendable.” He flinched at my words, and I couldn’t say I was sorry about that. “I’ve seen stuff, been sent into the middle of stuff that would curl you hair.” Though that hadn’t happened after Captain Harker took over supervision of my indenture. He knew the value of a good pilot and sent out the less skilled indentureds if there was a dangerous situation to cope with. “I know a thing or two,” I said. “Why? Are you needing a hang over cure, something to take away that green tinge around the cheek?”

“Oh no, I’m fine.” He offered a bright and shining smile. “Can you give injections?”

“Of course I can. Everyone onboard any orca class starship has to be trained in basic first aid and radiation leak protocols– even us lowly indentured. Why?”

“Because some of our cargo will be unable to do it for themselves.”

“For themselves? Wait a minute, what kind of cargo are we talking about here?”

Just then the airlock opened and four Svalbard medics pushing air stretchers moved through like their asses were on fire. I grabbed the first aid kit from the cabinet and all but swaggered toward them, until I got my first glance at their patients, and then I froze. “What the fuck, Manning? You brought SNT infected indentured onboard the Fury? Do you have any idea what’ll happen if the Authorities find out?”

“Bloody hell! So you brought it to me?” Manning growled.

“We need to jump again, but we’ve got sensitive cargo. We have to make a transfer. You know the consequences if we don’t.”

“I just took on a load. I’m full.” Manning fisted his hands on the console.

“It’s precious cargo,” came the crackle of a reply. “A full supply. Badly needed.”

“Fuck!” Manning ran a hand over his stubble. “We can’t do it here with the Authority on your ass, now can we?”

Instinct is a part of what makes a good pilot, and I was keying in the coordinates almost without thinking.

“What the hell?” Manning said, looking over my shoulder.

“You said you trusted me. Well, now’s the time to prove it.” I shouldered him away and spoke into the com. “Sending coordinates, Svalbard. Make the jump and we’ll meet you there.”

“You’ve got to be joking,” came the response.

“Do you hear me laughing? Do it! Now!”

And just like that the Svalbard was gone a split second before an Authority Jaeger Class burst onto the scene.

“They’ll be on our ass now,” Manning said as he strapped in.

“I’m counting on it. All right darlin’” I whispered to Fury, “let’s party. It’s gonna be one helluva ride.” I just managed to get myself belted before Fury vanished, and us right along with. I heard Manning shouting something like yeehaw as the G-force all but pushed my stomach out through my backbone, but the adrenaline rush I felt as the ship responded almost before I could ask for it made everything else feel irrelevant.

We came out into the constant bombardment that was the twisted swirl of asteroids at the far edge of the Faribaldi Nebula. It was affectionately known as the French Braid. For ships that had miscalculated and came up short in their attempts to bypass of the nebula, well let’s just say more than a little of the Braid’s debris was all that remained of them. But the Braid was exactly where I wanted us to be. Just as I expected, Fury was happy to share power. The Jaeger jumped in and jumped right back out once they saw what they were up against and what they’d be risking in that expensive piece of Authority kit. Whether they got out before they took a hit, I had no idea, nor did I care. I did know that doing a double jump that fast would have half the crew puking. I figured that would slow them down a bit. And even if it didn’t, it made me feel better.

“Jesus Christ, Mac! The Svalbard will never survive this. Jacobs is a good pilot, but not that good,” Manning managed between gritted teeth.

“I didn’t give them these coordinates.” I said, my innards still settling back into their right places, only to be shaken about in the dodge and bump of debris. “I figured Fury and I could get the Authority off their ass and have a bit of fun in the process.”

“Fuck me, you are one twisted puppy, woman.” Manning laughed, white knuckling the arms of his chair as we tossed and tumbled in the intimate menage between pilot and vessel and the bitch of a nebula.

“I reckon I’m in good company then.” It almost felt like Fury was chuckling too, but then that could have just been the judder of the wild ride. Before Manning could respond, I added, “I want a share.”

“What?” He gasped, and I swear he closed his eyed and gritted his teeth as I dodged an asteroid the shape of a fist but the size of the Dubrovnik.

“I want a share of the profits from this little venture. I want a share from this precious cargo, in fact I want a share from everything here on out.”

“Sonovabitch! You’re actually blackmailing me?” His laughter seemed incongruous given that the chances of surviving the Braid were slim, but then the Fury and I were already a proper team. I knew together we would beat the odds.

“I want the chance to buy back my indenture, and the funds I’d saved were automatically deleted when I went AWOL from the Dubrovnik.”

I dodged hard left. He cursed and held tight to the chair arms, and fuck if he didn’t laugh even harder. “Well, you got ‘nads, Mac, I’ll say that for you. All right. Ten percent.”

“Twenty-Five.” I countered.

“Fifteen.” Then he added quickly. “Fucking hell, do you have any idea what a turn-on it is bargaining with you in the middle of the Braid?”

I did, actually. “Twenty,” I haggled, “or you might find I’m suffering just a little bit from last night’s whiskey myself.”

He held me in a hard stare, which I ignored, my full attention on the bounce and sway and twist that Fury and I maneuvered like he could read my mind. “I got nothing to lose,” I added.

“I don’t believe that for a minute, Mac, but all right. Twenty it is. Twenty percent of the profits. Done.”

Banking hard left and dropping fast to miss a big one, Fury and I danced our way to the outer edge of the Braid. We came up tight on another large asteroid, which we circumnavigated all neat and easy-like popping out at the far side of the nebula to nose in up close and personal right beside the Svalbard.

“Goddamn, you really are the best pilot in the galaxy,” Manning said, running a hand though his hair, and struggling to his feet.

“Was there ever any doubt?” I said, feeling pretty damn cocky.

“Not even a little bit, though I hadn’t realized you were so mercenary, or so fucking crazy.” Then he lost his balance and went down on one knee, a little green around the gills.

“Don’t you dare puke on the bridge of my ship, you hung-over bastard,” I warned.

“Wouldn’t dream of it, Madame First Mate” he said, forcing his way to his feet and swallowing hard. It was coming out of hyperspace too fast that caused the disorientation and the space sickness. I stayed in my seat until my stomach settled back where it belonged.

He swallowed a couple more times and took a deep breath. Then he looked me up and down. “Now how are you at supervising the transfer of cargo?”

“Don’t know. Never done it before, but then I’ve never had a twenty percent share in the profits either. Pretty sure that’ll inspire me to do a fine job. Wait a minute, aren’t you going to use the mol-tran?” I asked.

“No can do, sweet cheeks. Not on this cargo.”

“Volatile, is it?”

“Let’s just say it’s sensitive, and besides, I don’t like to use the mol-tran unless I’m in a huge hurry. I think we’re relatively safe from interfering eyes here, wouldn’t you say?”

“You got that right.”

“Well, come on,” he said. “You’ve not finished earning that twenty-percent yet, so get your ass down to the cargo hold’s airlock.

I undid my harness and carefully stood up. A part of what made a good pilot was being damn near immune to space sickness and being smart enough to never look the bitch in the eye. I placed a kiss against my palm and gave the console a pat. “You were brilliant, Hon. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.” I couldn’t keep from smiling at the thought of the steamy little session Fury and I had just had. If this was getting to know you sex, then let the good times roll! Being indentured on the Fury might turn out to be way more fun than I’d ever expected.

I caught up with Manning at the lift, still basking in the afterglow of fun and profit. “You’re an ace pilot,” He said without looking at me, “but how are you on a sick bay? Some pilots ralf their guts at the first sight of blood.”

“It takes more than blood and guts to make me squeamish, Manning. I’m an indentured, remember? I’m expendable.” He flinched at my words, and I couldn’t say I was sorry about that. “I’ve seen stuff, been sent into the middle of stuff that would curl you hair.” Though that hadn’t happened after Captain Harker took over supervision of my indenture. He knew the value of a good pilot and sent out the less skilled indentureds if there was a dangerous situation to cope with. “I know a thing or two,” I said. “Why? Are you needing a hang over cure, something to take away that green tinge around the cheek?”

“Oh no, I’m fine.” He offered a bright and shining smile. “Can you give injections?”

“Of course I can. Everyone onboard any orca class starship has to be trained in basic first aid and radiation leak protocols– even us lowly indentured. Why?”

“Because some of our cargo will be unable to do it for themselves.”

“For themselves? Wait a minute, what kind of cargo are we talking about here?”

Just then the airlock opened and four Svalbard medics pushing air stretchers moved through like their asses were on fire. I grabbed the first aid kit from the cabinet and all but swaggered toward them, until I got my first glance at their patients, and then I froze. “What the fuck, Manning? You brought SNT infected indentured onboard the Fury? Do you have any idea what’ll happen if the Authorities find out?”

 

Piloting Fury Part 9: A KDG Scifi Romance

Good morning, my lovelies. Welcome to another cheeky Monday read. Here’s this week’s slightly delayed episode of  Piloting Fury.  As I said, Fury is a little different from what you’ve come to expect from KDG. I’m revisiting this serial novel for multiple reasons, but mostly because I love Fury, and I hope you do too.

Last  week  Manning welcomed his new first mate. This week Fury and his team get a distress call.

Catch up here if you missed last week’s episode of Piloting Fury.

If you have just arrived and would like to start at the beginning of Piloting Fury, follow the link, and enjoy!

 

 

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” 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 9: The Fariabaldi Nebula Route

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.