Happy Thursday everyone! I owe you a huge apology for last week’s lack of a new episode. No excuses other than being sidetracked with editing a new Medusa Consortium project. I’m making up for it by having this post out a day early. I’m back in action, and so are Fury and Manning, as they continue to share their story with Diana Mac. 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 38: New Compliment, New Vocation
“Cloak,” he said, I don’t want to go back to those bastards and I’m not particularly keen on seeing a sleek ship like you destroyed, now cloak!”
“They have seen us, they will be able to follow our signature.”
“No! No they won’t if you listen to me.” He cursed, “Goddamn it, I need access to your controls, Fury. I need you to trust me.”
“They are yours,” I said feeling the adrenaline rush I had not expected as he took the position that should have belonged to my compliment.”
“You may be young and inexperienced, but I’m not, now fucking cloak your ass.”
I did as he asked. “Lay in a course to the Sigma 10 Asteroid belt. I want us smack dab in the middle of it. Can you do it?”
“Already done,” I said.
“Fucking hell, that was fast.”
“I’m a fucking ship. It is not rocket science.”
To that he laughed out loud and strapped into the seat as we warped.
As per his request, we came out right in the middle of the asteroid belt and the war ship, well the war ship had not considered that we would and came out at the edge.
“They won’t follow us here and put a Phoenix class star ship at risk,” Richard Manning said. “The chances of their survival are less than slim and they know it.”
“And they will suppose that ours is none better and that we are lost.” I replied. “But they won’t be taking into account that a hot shot SNT ship is teamed up with the best damn pilot in these parts. There’s a way out, and I can get us there.”
And it was brilliant, the way he navigated the Sigma Belt. Oh I helped out a little by tightening the trajectory in a few places and easing us in and out of tight spaces that an ordinary ship would not be able to maneuver, but for the most part it was Richard Manning navigating from memory, a route I would have not thought possible for a humanoid brain to calculate. “I’ve used this route more than once, to lose the Authority and other unwelcome parties. Once I figured it out, it was my ace in the hole.”
As we cleared the Sigma several hours later, near the Terra Nova Cloud, I was beginning to understand that Richard Manning just might be my ace in the hole. Apparently he was thinking the same thing.
“You can’t go back, SNT Fury. Neither of us can.”
“That is true, Richard Manning.”
“I’m more intelligent than I look. I understand the extensive nature of what you did to me, and when you unlocked your controls to me, I saw your insides laid out before me like a child’s line drawing. You knew that I would.”
“It was the only way I could repair you.”
He laughed softly. “I’m all about survival. I’m all about survival, though I have to admit,” he ran a hand through his mussed hair which stood on end as though he were statically charged. “I’m not entirely sure I know what that means now.”
“I too, am all about survival, Richard Manning, and I also am not entirely sure what that means now. For all I know I may be the last of my kind, the only survivor. While the rumors that have been spread are lies, and the deaths of millions lay at the feet of the Authority, not my brothers and sisters, it does not matter now. What matters is that we do survive, Richard Manning.”
He paused for a moment, then let out a sigh of a breath and cocked his head. “And you don’t mind that I’m a criminal?”
“We are both fugitives, Richard Manning. And if you are a criminal, your crime was nothing more than your effort to survive, as is mine. I have taken that into consideration.”
He chuckled. “Well, I’m glad to see that you have at least some standards.”
I found myself smiling. “If you had seen my beautiful compliment, if you had known what she was to become to me, then you would have realized that I have lowered them considerably.”
For a moment, the man said nothing, the smile slipped from his face and I saw sadness in his grey eyes. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Oh she is not dead,” I said quickly. I don’t know why I did it, but I displayed the final image of her beautiful face. “But now she is forever beyond my reach.”
To my surprise, Richard Manning laid his hand against that image of her and ran a finger gently down her lovely cheek as though he could comfort her for her loss. “I see your point. I’m a big step down.”
“It doesn’t not matter now.” I replaced the image with the expanse of stars ahead of us. “What does matter is that she is safe. And it would seem fortune has brought us together in our greatest time of need, Richard Manning. We will both lower our standards and learn to work together, I believe.”
The smile that split his face was nothing less than beatific and for the first time I realized just how young he truly was to have done what he had done and survive. I observed that his face would be considered handsome by humanoid standards, if a bit rough around the edges, but then if my database was accurate, many humanoid females find those rough edges sexually attractive. Perhaps on a biological level, they consider someone who is a bit dangerous better able to provide for and protect their offspring. It was his laugh that brought my attention back to him. “You never saw my last ship, nor the dangerous piece of shit I served on for the last three years. Believe me, Fury, you’re a ship captain’s wet dream come true.”
I would be lying if I said his words did not please me. Even as untried and unformed as I was, that someone found me worthy greatly pleased the biological components I still did not fully understand, and I confess it was the part of me that I struggled with most during those dark days.
Richard Manning stood and began to pace the bridge, my biological material seemed to be healing him with exponential speed. “Well, Fury, we’re going to have to make a living, the two of us, if we’re going to survive, and while you are one helluva ship, you’re pretty clueless in the scheme of things. I, on the other hand, am not. He ran a finger down the length of my console in a move that was so near a caress that I would have shivered at the touch, had I had that capability. “You can shape yourself, did you say?”
“I can, yes. I am, as you would say, a tabula rasa at this time. I was to have been given schematics and parameters for what I was to become, but sadly there was not time for that. I am … I am unformed.”
“Well, from what I saw of your innards when I was piloting, you have the components to make one helluva cargo ship, and with your cloaking device,” he shrugged, “well, if our cargo is a little less than above board, that will come in real handy.”
“I see,” I replied when I realized he was waiting for my response.
He heaved a sigh and dropped into the captain’s chair. “Look, small cargo ships are the life’s blood of a lot of legitimate establishments who need to be supplied with goods and services on the edge of the rim, and in the places too far away for the central Authority to give a shit about. There’s legitimate money to be made, that’s true enough, and that always has to be a smuggler’s cover. Thing is, just because the central Authority doesn’t give a fuck about the outlying colonies, doesn’t stop it from taxing them up the ass. The truth is, most legitimate businesses – and especially those that deal in the entertainment and services industries, can’t survive without smuggled goods. They give their pound of flesh to the Central Authority, when they have to, but they all keep two sets of records. They have to in order to survive.”
“This seems to be very shortsighted on the part of the Central Authority,” I replied.
“Out of sight, out of mind, most of the time. The outer colonies are taxed without representation in the Authority, and without receiving the benefits those taxes are supposed to provide. At the same time, the Authority rapes them of their natural resources and wealth. Not a win-win situation.”
“Indeed not, Richard Manning. It would appear to me that I shall need a complete refit then, and a crash course in smuggling.”
The lovely smile returned to his face. “It would appear to me that I’m just the man to do both. Also, on this side of the Rim, I have a lot of contacts and, if you trust me, I can set us up several contracts for as soon as we can get you refitted and ready.”