Happy Friday my Lovelies, and time for another chapter of Fury. 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. Remember this is a work in progress, so please be gentle with me. Last week we left Rab and Gerando in detective mode. This week, while their sleuthing pays off, they get a surprise visit from a very unwelcome visitor arrives. Enjoy.
“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 30: An Unwelcome Visitor
Rab scratched his chin. “They would have had to jump like fucking jackrabbits to get far enough out of there and leave no trace to be followed.” He rubbed his belly. “Makes me green around the gills to even think about it. Anyway, how the hell do you know so goddamned much about the SNTs?”
If Rab didn’t know better, he could have sworn the kid blushed. “I know everything there is in the Authority data base about the SNTs and a few things that aren’t public knowledge.” He grunted a sour chuckle. “Even my father doesn’t know that I hacked him. I was obsessed with them. They’re the reason I wanted to be a pilot. I wanted to be compliment to an SNT. Woulda got me away from … shit. Then, you know … everything happened like it did.”
Rab looked up from his efforts at checking through the Ares’ computer scanners for something, anything. “Woulda never figured you for the compliment type. In your case, I doubt anyone would have blamed an SNT for offing its compliment.”
The kid gave him the finger with his good hand, then flinched again as the bone-knitting process got down to the more delicate work.
“If we had the exact time McAllister and Manning Mol-tranned out, we might be able to pick up something jumping an instant later.”
Junior made a one-handed effort to pull his device free from his pocket. “This won’t be exact, but pretty damn close. The old man messaged me, shit, it couldn’t have been a minute before I grabbed McAllister. I’d just had time to tell him to fuck off, I was busy. And then …” He fidgeted with his device, “ … he messaged me back. I felt the signal just as Manning appeared and grabbed McAllister away from me. I remember thinking it was something Manning had done to me. You know how it is in that split second when things don’t quite add up. By the time I connected the dots, they were gone” He pulled up the message and gave a bitter laugh as he read out loud.
Busy had better mean finding Diana McAllister.
“The sentimental old fart,” Rab grumbled. The kid handed his his device and Rab entered the time of the message into the search parameters of the Ares. “There it is. Gotta be.”
“Where? I don’t see anything.” Junior craned his neck and the both squinted.
“Right there. See. If you back up the scan, it’s there, it’s there, it’s there and then … it’s gone.”
And sure enough, it was. It was only a blip, a tiny blip that someone with vision not as good as Rab’s would have missed entirely. But it was there up until a split second after the message from daddy Fallon, and then it was gone. Just gone. “Had to have mol-tranned them from high orbit. That’s all I can figure, and the blip is so small, there’s no other explanation. Bloody hell! What else could possibly do that but an SNT?”
Over the next few hours they both buried themselves in research. Rab was surprised that sonny boy really was quit an expert on the SNTs. “We don’t want to approach your old man without enough evidence to keep him from thinking we’re just making excuses,” Rab said, getting what was definitely a crash course, more than he ever wanted to know about sentient ships.
“We give him the right information, he’ll believe it,” the kid said. He was stuffing his face with something he’d replicated that looked like dirty underwear, supposedly a delicacy from somewhere in the outer rim, sitting on the floor with several devices spread around him, all displaying different SNT articles. He added around a mouthful. “The old man kept a close eye on the project. He had spies on the inside. The scientists and technicians involved sure as fuck didn’t trust him. The SNT project was funded by the Free Universities and not one credit came from the conglomerates. No matter how much my father offered in financial backing, they wouldn’t take it. I have no idea where all the money came from. I didn’t think there were any universities left that could finance their own asses without conglomerate backing. But they insisted they didn’t want the conglomerates in control.” He laughed a bitter laugh that sprayed several of the devices with crumbs. “That meant no control for the old man. Well I’m sure you can imagine how much he liked that. But there wasn’t much he could do except stay close and bribe as many people on the inside as he could. He was actually friends with several of the scientists, including Adrian McAllister. They’d gone to school together or some shit.”
“Then you knew Diana Mac before she was your father’s indentured? That must have been awkward.”
“I didn’t actually.”
Could Rab hear sadness in his voice?
“Her father kept her a secret, kept her away from the SNT project as far as I know. No one knew about her until the year before her old man bonded with the Merlin, and all of a sudden he had a daughter who was to be by his side onboard the Merlin. I probably hated her as much for that as anything, even though I didn’t know her.” Junior was no longer looking at the devices in front of him, but staring back in time at memories that Rab would guess weren’t best pleasing. “When she became my father’s indentured, I wanted her to suffer. She’d gotten what I wanted most, the only thing I’d ever wanted in my whole life, and she was nothing more than the bastard daughter of a mad scientist. I was the son of Abriad Fallon. I had whole conglomerates at my disposal, and yet she got what I wanted. I wanted her to suffer. I wanted to be the one to make her suffer.” He closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Turned out I was an amateur compared to the old man. When it came to making someone suffer, he’d been practicing on his kids for years.”
What the hell could Rab say to that? He felt a sudden chill, even though the atmosphere in the Ares was Terran standard for humanoids.
“After the SNTs fell, everyone suspected it was conglomerate sabotage responsible for the infecting of the ships,” the kid said going back to pouring over the devices.
“Is that what you think? Rab asked.
He spoke without looking up from his efforts. “Wouldn’t doubt one bit that my fucking father was at the forefront of their downfall. The old man always has to be in control. When the Free Universities wouldn’t give it over, well, business opportunity missed, plunder and pillage and all that shit. I mean what’s the point in having power if you don’t use it, right? All you gotta do is kill a few million innocent people and point the finger in the right direction and people will start screaming for heads to roll.”
Rab couldn’t argue with that, though he wished ha could. Into their silent introspection an orca class ship burst onto the view screen as if out of nowhere and before they could do more than curse, the Ares was locked in a tractor beam, being draw into the open hold of the flying castle.
“Sonovabitch,”Junior cursed. “That’s the Apocalypse, my father’s bloody ship.”
“What the fuck? Your father flits around the galaxy in an orca class ship?”
“The fucker doesn’t feel safe staying in one place, and with good reason. The Apocalypse is a flying fortress. I’ve never seen it before. He doesn’t invite any of his spawn onboard. Doesn’t trust us not to slit his throat in his sleep, I suppose.”
“Well I sure as hell don’t trust him not to slit mine,” Rab said as the Ares, seeming tiny and insignificant, was swallowed up in the maw of the Apocalypse.
Junior’s laugh was so bitter that it made Rab’s skin crawl. “Oh he’d never do anything to either of us that elementary.
His kids, most of us anyway, we just want him dead. He, on the other hand, is more about making people suffer than snuffing them.”
The knot in Rab’s stomach had tightened to an icy fist, and he wasn’t sure he wasn’t going to puke. “What the hell is he doing clear out here?”
“Doing the job you two don’t seem to be able to manage,” came the voice of Abriad Fallon over the com, and they both jumped as though they’d been shot. The icy chuckle barely sounded human. “Careful, Gerando. Your sisters and brothers won’t be best pleased with you if you give away their plans for their old man.”
The kid tightened his jaw and the muscles along his sharp cheekbones spasmed, but he made no response. Fallon continued. “Once the Ares is onboard, I will expect the pleasure of your company on the captain’s bridge.”