Happy Thursday everyone! Fury is a day early this week because I’m out of pocket tomorrow enjoying the glorious spring weather. And to make up for missing a week, you get a double episode today as Fury and Manning, 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 39: I’m a Nobody
“Will the Authority not pursue you when they learn you have escaped and are doing business again?” I asked.
“I’m a nobody, not important, and they’ll figure if I escaped, I’ll die of the virus anyway. To them I’m already dead.” I could not miss the bitterness in his voice, and I made my first effort to move my consciousness toward him, to comfort him. He tensed, then let out a little sigh and relaxed.
“I believe to them, I am also already dead,” I said. Then I added, more than a little excited about a future that was not at all what I expected, but at least hopeful. “Once you have given me the parameters you will need for a cargo ship, the refitting will not take me long. I have but to think it to make it so.”
“Fucking hell,” he said with a low whistle. “Great trick if you can do it.”
“I assure you, I can do it. When shall we begin?”
“No time like the present,” he said, rubbing his hands together. “Oh, there is one very important thing, Fury.”
“What is it, Richard Manning.”
“You’re going to have to make yourself look a whole lot less pretty. I need you to look old and battered and like I put you together with wire and a glue gun, can you do that?”
“Of course I can do that,” I said. “I am not attached to the way I look. I did not expect to remain as I am.”
“Good. Then with your insides meeting my parameters and your outsides looking like something that is barely space worthy, I think we’ll do just fine.”
That evening, I replicated another ancient Terran dish called tacos, which Manning ate with relish, washed down with a Terran drink called Margaritas. It was a celebration, he said, and so it was. It was a new beginning I had not anticipated, and while we were both awake and my decks echoed with his curses and his strange sense of humor, we both did well. But while Manning could not go without rest – especially not in his state of recovery, I did not sleep. For a few hours I worked with the schematics he had given me, creating below deck a cargo bay with another cargo bay hidden underneath for less than aboveboard goods, upgrading the shield and downgrading my outward appearance. I wished to surprise Richard Manning when he woke up.
My attention was on making my outer hull look as though it had been through several meteor storms when I heard him cry out in his sleep. While his vital signs were within the normal range, it was obvious he was in REM dream state and his dreams were not pleasant. I went to him without thinking. While I had avoided going into the chamber I had set aside for him, as much for his privacy as for the fact that it was to have belonged to my compliment, I entered now, and I was moved as I had never been moved before.
He lay naked with the coverings thrown off his body, which glistened with the perspiration of his stressful dreams, and he fought valiantly with whatever demon it was that had invaded his unconscious world. While I had seen him naked many times during his healing process, I had never seen him so vulnerable, nor had I realized just how nearly healed he now was.
He cried out again, loud enough that it would have startled another humanoid. It was then that I discovered I had the ability to do more than replicate molecules. With what, at the time, was little more than my ability to imagine what his caress had felt like against my console, I created such a caress and touched him gently on the shoulder.
“Richard Manning, wake up. You are having a bad dream.”
He came into the waking world with a shriek of terror, shoving himself into a seated position on the bed. His pulse was much too fast, and I found that I could create an embrace of sort, as I had seen represented among humanoids as an act of comfort, as an act of affection, as I had often imagined doing with my compliment. In truth Richard Manning was my compliment now, and seeing that his needs were met was paramount.
I had not expected tears when he woke up from the nightmare. I knew enough about the strange codes of manliness most humanoid males lived by to understand that the shedding of tears was not an acceptable show of manhood, that he might be embarrassed by the act. But I also understood that that this humanoid had been shaken to the core by what demons had confronted him in the world of his dreams. And I was feeling quite vulnerable myself under our shared circumstances.
“I’m sorry,” he managed between gasps for breath. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you.”
“You cannot disturb me, Richard Manning. You are the only humanoid onboard. You will always be my central concern.”
“That doesn’t make me particularly comfortable,” he said.
“You will get used to it.”
“Not that I’m sorry for you waking me up right now, believe me.” When he had calmed a little, and I sensed his unease at my closeness and I pulled my physicality back enough to eliminate his discomfort. “I am always at your service.”
For a time, he sat in silence, his hands resting on his thighs, but in that way of humanoids, I could see the tension, feel the slight acceleration of pulse that informed me, he wished to speak, but was not quite sure he should. “Richard Manning, you may always speak freely with me. If you wish to talk about your dream, I will listen. It is not as though I will divulge to anyone your secrets.”
At that, he offered a hiccup of a chuckle. “No, I suppose not.”
I replicated a glass of water for him and waited quietly while he drank it in thirsty gulps.
At last he spoke. “When the Authority arrested me, I wasn’t alone on the Bourdieu. My cargo was humanoid, a dozen fugitives escaping the shackle. Friends of theirs smuggled them off Terra Nova Prime on the night before they were taken. Three families with small children, and two promising young bioengineers. I was transporting them to the outer rim and to freedom. They were hiding in the cargo bay. When I smuggled people, I had a plan for if we were ever boarded. There was a space we’d created that was sensor proof. If we were boarded it would always appear that there was only one person onboard the ship. I always set the Bourdieu on a laid in course for the safest spot, just in case I was arrested. Up until that time it had never happened. The ship always looked empty, and while I might get a fine for some trumped up infraction, it was the most the Authority could charge me with, which I paid off, thumbed my nose at their backsides and delivered my cargo safely to their destinations. Of course as a smuggler, the odds are never in your favor if you get boarded. You learn to stack the deck. I knew that and my passengers all knew that. Whatever risk they were taking with me were risks they all took willingly, and with good reasons.” He paused for a moment, swallowing hard, his shoulders tense, his breathing harsh and uneven. I feared he might be about to vomit, but instead the tears returned to his eyes. “Fritz, the bastard who betrayed us thought he’d get the ship. Instead, he was lucky to get off without ending up in a shackle. The Authority Hunters, they didn’t give the ship to anyone. They didn’t even tractor it back to spaceport. They just blew it up. Fifteen people onboard in the hold, and the bloody fuckers knew it. They knew it. All I could do was watch.”
This time when I moved to embrace him, he did not push me away, and I formed the molecular structure as close to a humanoid hand as I could and stroked his back, making sure that I had enough of a physical form for him to hold on to and to rest his body against. “I am very sorry for your loss, Richard Manning. There has been so very much loss, and far too little hope. But you are free now, and you are with me. We will press on, as we must, in spite of our losses.”
He gave a slight nod against me and pulled closer to me. For what seemed like an age, and that to me, one who can measure the passage of space time in nanoseconds, we held each other. But it was long enough for me to perceive that his pain, though deeper than anything I could reach to heal, was manifesting itself in the humanoid way I myself felt but did not fully understand, in the desire to be intimate.
That I understood that desire, that I anticipated it and responded to it so quickly still astounds me, in that I had no experience of humanoid intimacy other than what I could call up in my database. But when Richard Manning sought me out with his lips, I was ready, my molecules forming and shaping to his needs, which were so deeply my own. I could barely comprehend that the press of his kiss, the exploration of his tongue, the movement of his hands over the shape of me that formed instantaneously at his body’s desire, were indeed my own desires, what I would have done with my compliment once we had gotten to know each other. I reminded myself once again, as he guided the hand I had formed down to his erect penis, that this humanoid, this wounded and damaged humanoid who needed almost as desperately as I did, was indeed now my compliment. It would be to him that I would give myself for the first time, for every time, as long and as often as he had desire for me – as we had desire for each other.
“Fury, I need you,” he whispered as he pulled away from my mouth just enough for his teeth to rake over the lips I had not known I could create, the lips I had not known could feel such electrifying sensations.
“And I need you, Richard Manning. I very much need you.” With that I guided his hand down to my own physical need, the biology of me, heavy and hard and more ready than I could have ever imagined, ready to explore this physical side of my nature. Richard Manning was willing and able and intuitive, as he guided me, for the first time, in the pleasures of the flesh and the intimate act that would, with time, bring healing for both of us.
“Fury, are you familiar with the ancient Terran term, TMI.” It was the sound of Manning’s voice that made me aware that I was floating in that space between wakefulness and sleep. Manning reached over me and slapped Fury on the flank.
“I am indeed familiar with the term, Richard Manning.” Fury reached to return the favor, pausing to kiss my neck. “But our Diana Mac knows us both intimately, and all she need do is look, and all will be revealed.”
“I wouldn’t do that. Not without permission,” I said.
“Permission is not needed amongst us, at least it should not be, and something passed between him and Manning that was lost to me because after such a dream, all three of us were in dire need of a cold shower if we didn’t take care of each other. And lying sandwiched between too such virile males, I was soon rendered speechless and probably would have forgotten my own name, let alone the need to pursue the intimacy issue between the three of us. After that, the sleep was dreamless.