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Piloting Fury: Part 17 Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday everyone! Time for more Fury. Let’s all escape to deep space for a little relief from the stress of our own space. I don’t know about you lovelies, but a good rollicking read is the best sanity saver.  As I mentioned last week, I’m self-medicating with NaNoWriMo. for a writer writing a new novel is as much of a sanity saving escape as a good read. I do confess, however, to suffering from sleep deprivation while my characters keep me up late and get me up early for lots of caffeine and an extra hour or two of writing. In the worlds I create, I am god. 🙂 The new Medusa Consortium novel is coming along nicely, and it’s great to be back with Magda and the gang.

I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 17th week. If you are, 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. Today Mac and Manning arrive on Plague One and meet someone from Mac’s nightmare past. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!

 

 

“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” McAlister 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 17: Plague One Surprise

For the briefest of moments, I simply didn’t exist, and then I blinked back into my own skin freezing my ass off in the middle of a blizzard. Manning still held onto me, which was just as well because I wasn’t entirely sure without him as anchor I wouldn’t just blow away in the storm. He guided me right into a solid wall of ice. I caught my breath with a gasp of surprise as he pulled me through the illusion and into an airlock, which was opened from the inside by a one-armed man in clothing replicated to resemble the Old Terran mid-20thcentury. His t-shirt was covered in splashes of color along with the words ‘Make Love Not War’ superimposed over the peace symbol so popular in that time. One sleeve was empty, neatly folded over and pinned the to shoulder of the shirt. A gnarled twist of puckered scars climbed out of the neck of the t-shirt and up around the side of his face to disappear in the shoulder-length scraggle of graying brown hair. I recognized the results of late stage SNT, but the loss of an arm and the scarring belonged to a man who seemed absolutely healthy otherwise. I could only assume that he was another survivor who had been treated with the vaccine.

“Richard, good to see you again.” With a very pronounced limp, the man shambled forward and gave Manning a one-armed hug, which Manning returned with gusto.

“Vic. Been awhile.” He pulled away and turned to me. “This is Diana –”

“Diana McAllister.” The man turned fever-bright brown eyes on me and offered a beatific smile. He extended his hand. “Aden McAllister’s little girl,” he said. “You have your father’s eyes.”

My knees would have given beneath me if it hadn’t been for Manning’s arm slipping supportively around my waist. “You knew my father.”

“I knew him, and I knew the Merlin.” He gave my hand a hard squeeze and held my gaze. “I bonded them.”

“Jesus!” I pulled away so quickly that I nearly knocked Manning off balance. “Vic? You’re Victor Keen? You did that to him. It was your fault.”

Keen looked from Manning to me and back again, and stepped away, color climbing his scarred throat. “You haven’t told her?”

“We weren’t planning on making this stop, Vic, and I wasn’t exactly expecting you to be the greeting party.

“What the hell are you doing here?” I stepped forward ready to punch the bastard, crippled or not, but Manning pulled me back. “Haven’t you done enough damage?”

“Professor Keen is here because he’s an indentured, just like everyone else.”

“Not like everyone else,” the man said, his face darkening and his shoulders drooping noticeably. “Tell her the truth, Richard. Not like everyone else at all.”

“You tell her the truth, Vic. It’s your truth to tell, but,” Manning gave a glance around, “this is not the discussion to have in the airlock. Please, Mac,” he turned to me. “I promise you’ll get the whole story but not out here.” He grabbed me by the shoulder and gave Keen an apologetic looked. I wanted to kick him in the balls for it, but he might have suspected as much. He reeled me in close enough that I could do no damage and spoke next to my ear. “You’re about to do something you’ll seriously regret. Wait for the facts. That’s all I’m asking.”

I squared my shoulder and gave a jerk of my head that would have to do for
agreement. I wanted to hear the bastard’s story. Oh yes, I wanted to hear every bloody detail, and then I wanted to rip his other fucking arm off and let him bleed out. I knew what he had done. I knew every goddamn detail – way more than most, because the Merlin was the only SNT whose humanoid compliment fathered a child, who just happened to be onboard when the world fell apart.

The SNT15s were designed to fly deep space missions with a compliment of only one humanoid. There were just fifteen of them ever made. They were powerful, outrageously fast and versatile ships that would give any pilot wet dreams. In spite of having only a crew of one, they were stripped down and streamlined to have lots of cargo space to carry heavy equipment for colonization, supplies, even humanoids if necessary. In fact everything to begin a new colony, along with the colonists themselves could comfortably be transported on one properly outfitted SNT. They were all equipped with cloaking technology and a full array of weapons – weapons to be used only for defensive purposes, weapons that were controlled by the ship, not the pilot, effectively doing away with human error.

The thing about the SNTs was that they were more than just metal alloys and computer components.They were organic at their core, and they were sentient. They were programmed to see long-range outcomes that would eventually lead to peace rather than escalation. Because the SNT project was overseen by the few remaining Free Universities and funded privately with no aid or ties to the conglomerates, the general population of the Consortium of Planets saw the SNTs as the dawn of a new age. The ships, with their bonded humanoid compliment, had the power to end conflicts, negotiate treaties beneficial to all parties and use their resources for further exploration and colonization to everyone’s benefit. They offered a galaxy reeling beneath the weight of petty wars, conglomerate greed and indentured servitude a new beginning. That was the dream, but all too quickly it became the Consortium’s worst nightmare, one that the shackle in my left arm assured I could never walk away from.

These past two days had forced everything I’d spent years trying to suppress back to
the surface, and now here I stood on Plague One, the hellhole of the galaxy with the man responsible for the whole SNT debacle.

Manning and Keen spoke quietly among themselves, and I ignored them, lost in my own thoughts. I remembered only too well how the age of the SNTs ended. Victor Keen and his team had biologically bonded fifteen humanoids — all of whom had volunteered for the irreversible procedure that integrated their brains and central nervous systems into the sentient ships. The procedure effectively and permanently tetheredthe ship to its humanoid component.

My father was not only one of the volunteers, my father was the SNT fleet commander, and no one was more proud that I was. I understood the opportunity. I understood that he, and me by association, were on the cutting edge of science and the evolution of a better society, a society that eventually would have no need for indentureds. Hell, as a child, I used to fantasize about growing up to be bonded to a ship of my own in a future generation of SNTs.

In that brave new beginning, Keen’s science didn’t take into account the psychological factors of that integration. If a mentally unstable humanoid can be dangerous, imagine how much more so a heavily armed star ship with a mind of its own? My father had died as a result, and I would have died too, should have died, except for a quirk of fate that left me both orphaned and indentured to a monster.

The first ship to go rogue was the Peregrine. It suffocated its human cargo of refugees from the conflicts on the New American outposts, blew its pilot out the airlock and destroyed four colonies and a space station on the Inner Rim before it was disintegrated by the Dubrovnik’s protective mol-canons. The modified canons were a gamble that an SNT would not anticipate an attack from a freighter.

My father died when the Merlin was blown to bits by the Alvarez, an Authority warship that should have been easy for the Merlin to defeat. But my father and the Merlin chose not to fight back. I was the only survivor. That was when Keen’s flawed science first came to light. Somehow, and no one ever figured out just how, the SNTs were extremely susceptible to the virus engineered for the shackles of indentureds. Somehow they had become infected. The virus destroyed the part of the ships biotechnical brain programmed to protect humanoid life. The end result was mass destruction on a scale no one could have imagined.

It was all because of the virus. That was what the Authority scientists had told everyone after the destruction of the Peregrine. Several of the ships were decommissioned without incident, several more were destroyed in boarder skirmishes on the edge of the Rim. After two more incidents and countless deaths, the rest of the SNTs were destroyed or decommissioned and taken secretly to remote space docks where they’d been either impounded or taken apart. That was not an easy task. The biological brains at the heart of the ships had a very powerful survival instinct. No one actually knew how many had been destroyed or rendered harmless. What I knew was that visions of those ships and the horrors they caused still haunted my nightmares.

I had been so pulled into the memories of a past that I was unaware of our surroundings until I realized I was sweating inside the parka and that the world had suddenly gotten brighter as we stepped through the airlock into what felt like bright sunlight.

“Welcome to Pandora Base,” Keen said, and in spite of his distress at what had just passed between us, he couldn’t hide his pride in the place that, while not exactly a paradise, wasn’t far from it. I could do nothing but stand and gape. “Plague One doesn’t exist anymore. Hasn’t for a long time now,” Keen hurried on to say, probably figuring to take advantage of my good graces.

“What about the SNT victims?” I asked.

“The ones on Pandora Base have all been cured,” and then his face darkened. “The ones who survived the horrible early years, that is. A new generation has been born here, a generation that would have been born into indentured servitude had the Authority gotten wind of what was going on here. So we prefer it if people still believe we’re Dante’s vision of Hell.”

“And this is your penance?” I asked.

He flinched, then squared his shoulders. “In part, I suppose.”

“If all the indentureds on Plague One have been cured, then why did we just deliver serum?” I questioned.

“You brought with you a dozen SNT survivors, also,” Keen said. “We’re a refuge, the safe place to which ships like the Svalbard can bring survivors, the place they can get treatment, so we keep a supply on hand. As for the whiskey,” he offered a tentative smile, “well while we’re very self-sufficient, we’ve not managed to increase the size of the biosphere to include luxury items like grains for fermentation. At least not yet. Follow me.” He nodded down what looked like the main street of a town straight from Old Terran middle America of the 1960s. “I know you’re on a tight schedule, but you’ve got time for meal before you head for Outer Kingston.” He turned to me. “And your explanation, Diana. The truth.”

 

 

Piloting Fury: Part 16 Brand New KDG Read

After a two-week hiatus, I’m back! It’s Friday and that means time for more Fury. As if Covid wasn’t enough of a reason to seek distraction, we can add a harrowing election week, with more nail biting to come. Bring on a little escapism, I say! And I’m happy to provide. As is my usual November habit, I’m self-medicating with NaNoWriMo, always a wonderful distraction for a writer. I’m working on a new Medusa Consortium novel while editing another. Yes, writers are, indeed, self-entertaining.

I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 16th week. If you are, please share the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’ll be offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. In this episode, Manning tries to convince Mac that visiting a plague planet is a good idea. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!

 

 

“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” McAlister 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 16: Some Persuasion Necessary

The Svalbard departed at 0:600 with coordinates laid in for the Isle of Dogs through the McAllister Wormhole. The Fury set course for Plague One, with me dreading it as though I were going to my own execution. It was the first and the most desolate of the plague planets, one that was all but forgotten now. It had been ignored long enough that there were no more consciences in need of salving and no more drains from the Authority’s coffers for the conservatives to rant about. As far as anyone knew, there was no funding to cut. It was barely habitable when the Authority had first begun to use it. The transport of infected to Plague One had stopped years ago due to overcrowding of the parts that werehabitable. There had been an outcry from the collective guilty consciences of the general population when a film had been smuggled out revealing just how bad conditions were on Plague One. The place chosen to be the new plague planet was practically a paradise by comparison, but too small and too remote to be of any real value in the interstellar real estate grab.

A plan had been made for the mass relocation of the indentureds on Plague One, but of course it didn’t pass the vote of the Central Aggregate. The costs were prohibitive, and besides these people were criminals anyway in the eyes of the law. Money was never allocated. The heated debate became lukewarm, the film became yesterday’s news, and everyone turned a blind eye.

By the time I was born, automated freighters sent supplies periodically, and no one, not even infected indentureds went there. They were all sent to Plague Two and Plague Three and all three had minimal contact with the rest of the Authority. There had been efforts to make Plague Two and Three self-sufficient, but most people knew that just meant no one wanted to bother any longer. In fact, rumour even had it, by the time I was born, that there was no one left alive on Plague One. And yet that was our destination. Even the Fury felt sad beneath my fingertips as I laid in the coordinates. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, stroking the console gently.

I looked up to find Manning watching me. “If I wasn’t already well and truly convinced you were a pilot, I am now,” he said with a quirk of a smile.

“Most pilots their ship far better company than its crew,” I replied, grabbing up my device to check out the quickest routes away from Plague One once we were finished there.

He only nodded and scratched at the stubble on his chin. “Can’t argue much with that. Fury’s always been good company. Have you eaten?”

“I’m not hungry.” I spoke between barely parted lips and pretended to be focused on my device.

“I don’t care. You’re weakened from the experiences of the last day, and I know your stomach is empty.” I blushed at the reminder that the man had seen me hurling my guts. He continued. “Mac, you know the virus isn’t contagious, but there are plenty of other reasons I need you strong.”

“I can’t.” I stood hoping to escape to the map room before he could badger me further. But he grabbed my arm.

“That’s an order, not a request.”

“I can’t,” I repeated, more urgently. “Not after the dream. I can never keep anything down after that, and not after this.” I nodded to the console where I’d just input the route to Plague One.”

When I tried to pull away, he held me. “You have to eat. I need you strong. Now come on.” He all but dragged me to the galley, where he nodded me to the table and programmed the replicator. “You like chocolate don’t you, Mac?”

I made a non-committal grunt, just as the smell of coffee hit the back of my sinuses and the abused muscles deep in my belly tensed for it. But to my surprise, it actually smelled good, and I drew in a deep breath. He sat the cup in front of me. “The warmth is always comforting. Just hold it and smell it for a few seconds. It always helps me.” I did as he ordered.

“What, is this part of your hangover cure?”

He didn’t respond, but I noticed the tightness in his shoulders, the way he flinched at my words. “The dream. You have it often?” He asked as he settled in next to me with a bowl of chocolate pudding.

“Not any more, I don’t. Not since I was transferred to the Dubrovnik. I suppose considering everything that’s happened and with the Svalbard and all it brought back … things.”

“You wanna talk about it?”

“They couldn’t eat.” I hadn’t intended to say anything but the words were out before I could stop them, and the lump in my throat brought with it the threat of tears. “Some of the people with advanced SNT couldn’t eat. I saw them on Plague 3. Fallon made sure I did.”

“I’m sorry, Mac.” Manning held me in a sympathetic gaze.

“I couldn’t eat either.” I looked down into the warm black coffee. “After he took me back home. I … for over a week I couldn’t … I couldn’t eat. I tried. Really I did. And then, Fallon had me taken to the infirmary and they force fed me. They did that every time it happened, the dream, I mean.” The room swam before my eyes and I cursed myself. I didn’t want Manning of all people seeing me like this.

“Fuck,” he whispered in a harsh breath. He shoved back the chair with such force that he nearly upset it, and he began pacing the room. I clutched the cup tighter and watched him, feeling small and miserable.

Then he plopped down beside me again. “Mac, I’m not Fallon. You need to know that right up front.” He ran a trembling hand through his hair and looked around the galley as though he were expecting to find answers maybe over by the replicator. “What happened with the Svalbard, that was unexpected. I never intended to expose you to that. I never intended to make this difficult for you. But things happen, Mac. Shitty things. If anybody knows that you do. He took the cup from me and sat it on the table sloshing it across the pristine surface. “Listen to me,” he cupped my face in his hands. “I’m not Fallon, and you’re not staying behind on a Plague Planet. I’m responsible for your care and well-being, and I take that seriously, Mac, do you hear me. I take that seriously.” He pushed the hair away from my face. “We all get lost in the past sometimes, and it’s never a good place to be, and things like this, like with the Svaldbard, well they just serve to remind us that it is the past. We’re here, now, and moving forward. Stay in the present, Mac. Stay with me and Fury, and you’ll be okay. You’ll be just fine.” He released me and dipped up a huge spoonful of pudding, half of which ended up on the table before he made it to my mouth. I opened for it. I ate it, and it was good.

“It’ll be okay.” He said after I’d eaten a few more bites. “I promise it’ll be okay, Mac. Just stay right here with me and Fury and it’ll be okay.”

It took less than three chronographic hours to get to Plague One. We had seen that all our passengers were fed and cared for, and indeed, all of the SNT victims were massively improved. I pulled out of hyperspace with my stomach in a double knot. Not wanting to be alone with my thoughts, I was busy making small-talk to Fury when Manning joined me on the deck swathed in a heavy parka. He held out its twin for me.

“You’ll need this until we get to Pandora Base. It’s colder than a witch’s tit out there. But at least you won’t need life support. The atmosphere is massively improved.”

The air on Plague One had been unbreatheable back in the early days because of the burning of the dead. He added quickly, “there are very few dead these days, Mac.”

“Rick, we’re all ready,” came Stanislovski’s voice over the com.

Still holding my gaze, he answered. “How many mol-trans outs?”

“Just one. Pandora Base has upgraded since you were last here. The mol-tran can take passengers and the cargo, no worries.”

“Plague One has mol-tran tech?” I managed after a few fish gasps.

“Have had for a long time now. Technically they don’t belong to the Authority because the Authority believes there’s no one left alive here. You’d be amazed what a blessing that’s been.”

“That means we don’t have to go down. That means we can just leave once everyone’s been mol-tranned out.” I nodded down to the computer. “There’s a major planet-wide storm about to hit, and Fury doesn’t want to be in the upper atmosphere when it does.”

“Don’t worry. We won’t get caught.” He held the parka out for me to slide into. “But there are things I have to take care of, Mac, and things that you’ll need to see. Things that might ease your discomfort considerably.”

“All clear,” came the reply on the com. Then there was a squawk and a wheeze and all was silent.

I back stepped. “I don’t need to see anything, honest I don’t. I’m okay with just waiting here with Fury, you know, getting better acquainted.”

In one quick movement, Manning swathed me in the parka until I had no choice but
to shove my arm through the holes as he zipped me in and pulled up the hood. With my heart racing faster that Fury’s hyper jump engines, I stood facing him, not able to meet his gaze.

“Mac,” he lifted my chin on the crook of his finger. “You need to go down.” He brushed my lower lip with the tip of his thumb and I was suddenly dangerously close to tears. “It’ll be okay. I promise.” Holding my hand tightly, he opened the com. “Pandora base, two to mol-tran.” Then he pulled me into a tight embrace. “It’ll be fine,” he whispered again before the deck of the Fury vanished.

 

 

Piloting Fury Part 9: Brand New KDG Read

It’s Friday, and that means time for more Fury. We’re coming out of a rainy, windy week here at Grace Manor, but going into a long holiday weekend with the weather promising not to be dire. Result! I hope all is well with you wherever you are and that  you’re staying safe and reading lots of good stuff.

 

As we enter the 10th week of Piloting Fury, I hope you’re enjoying the read. If you are, please share the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’ll be offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Last week, it was business as usual as Diana Mac learns the ropes aboard Fury working with Manning. All is going well as they take on a load of illegal whiskey, and Mac quickly learns, there’s far more to Fury and Manning than meets the eye.

 

 

 

 

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” McAlister 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: We’re In Trouble

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.

 

Piloting Fury Part 8: Brand New KGD Read

Its Friday, and that means Fury time again my Lovelies! Hadrian’s Wall was fantastic, and fascinating. We had good weather and great walks, but it’s good to be back home with all the smelly walking laundry done, everything unpacked and back into my usual writing routine.

 

I hope you’re all enjoying Piloting Fury. If you are, please share the word. We writers love to share our stories with as many people as possible. I’ll be offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Last week, Captain Harker aboard the Dubrovnik missed his best pilotDiana and was secretly wishing her all the best. This week, it’s business as usual as Diana Mac learns the ropes aboard Fury working with Manning.

 

 

 

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” McAlister 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.

 

 

Business as Usual Part 8

By the time Manning joined me on the deck, looking way too perky for someone who was hung over, I was already well on my way to a meaningful relationship with Fury, who was doing me real proud.

 

“I see you’ve been reading back through the logs,” Manning said, as he settled into the captain’s chair.

 

“For someone who’s been sleeping off a hangover, you’ve been busy.” I replied.

 

“I don’t miss much,” he said with a hint of a smile that made his grey eyes glisten like the Faribaldi nebula. “Besides knowing you like I do, Mac, I could have guessed as much.”

 

Before I could comment that we really didn’t know each other all that well, he changed the subject. “Clothes comfortable?”

 

“Perfect fit.”

 

“And no,” he said, before I could ask, “I didn’t give you a grope measure while you slept, though it was tempting.” He wriggled his sun-bleached eyebrows, and I wondered again how someone who spent the majority of his time in deep space looked like he’d just come off a beach holiday. “Fury’s replicator sized you when you sat your fine little ass in the pilot’s chair, with that and the help of the view screen, voila!”

 

“It’s definitely a step up,” I observed. “The damn uniforms on the Dubrovnik never fit right, but then indentureds didn’t have funds to get bespoke ones.”

 

“Trust me,” he said giving the console an affectionate pat, “everything onboard Fury is bespoke. All you have to do is ask. And the room? It’s okay?”

 

“It’s fine.” As glad as I was to have a room at all, I’d been indentured too long not to expect there’d be a price attached. “It does makes me wonder, though, what you expect in return.”

 

“It’s just space, Mac.” He pulled up the view screen, the fine muscles along his cheekbones tensing. “Don’t read too much into it. If you work for me, I want you to be comfortable. I figure if you’re happy, you’ll work better.”

 

“A carrot instead of a stick, then,” I said, stroking the soft fabric on the sleeve of my jumpsuit.”

 

Manning’s body stilled as though he’d suddenly frozen in his chair. As he turned to meet my gaze, his eyes blazed bright. “Deliberately infecting someone with the SNT virus and then curing them at the last minute, seriously Mac.” His voice was little more than a low growl. “You may hate me right now, but you’ve gotta know I wouldn’t do that to my worst enemy.”

 

I looked down at the place on my inner arm where the shackle was now all but invisible. “That may be true, but if I’m ever checked against the registration records, I’ll still end up with a lethal dose of the virus and a free ride to the nearest plague world.” I shivered at the thought.

 

He leaned in close, his gaze storm cloud dark. “If that ever happens, I’ll be shackled and sent to the nearest tri-ax penal colony.” He cradled his own arm against his chest in the way I’d done a million times, in the way I’d seen so many indentureds do. “You’re a gambler, Mac. You know everything has a cost.”

 

I studied him for a long moment, and he didn’t flinch. Then I let out a tight breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. “You did know how to manipulate the coding on my shackle to keep me from getting infected. I didn’t think you could. I didn’t think anyone could.”

 

“I can do a lot of things,” he said, his gaze still locked on mine, “and believe me, I know who the monsters really are.” Before the situation could get more uncomfortable, he changed the subject again. “Nice driving by the way. Through the Corset, I mean. But then I would have expected no less from an ace pilot. And nice thinking, tweaking the coordinates.  Don’t know why I didn’t think of making the rendezvou point with the Torrington behind the Drogheda Dust Cloud.”

 

“Wow, you really don’t miss much.”

 

“That’s how I’ve managed to stay one step ahead of the Authority’s thugs.”

 

“Smart man.” I forced a smile. “I wouldn’t recommend Authority hospitality.” I couldn’t help feeling a bit of satisfaction when he flinched at my comment.

 

For a moment we sat in silence watching the viewing screen as we approached the rendezvous point. At last he spoke. “I’d better check the manifests one more time. Gotta be sure what’s on them is what I actually get, otherwise I’m the one who gets cheated on the other end.”

 

“I’ve checked them already,” I said.

 

“Kissing my ass won’t do you any good, Mac.” Then he chuckled wickedly, “Though it sure as hell would do me some good.”

 

“I had time to kill,” I replied, angry at myself for the blush I couldn’t control. “If I really am your first mate, then I need to know what’s going on, just in case you’re … hung over again, and I need to take charge.”

 

He eyeballed me until I squirmed in my chair. This time there was no mischief and no playful lust in his eyes. “Good point. I reckon if I can’t trust you then who can I trust?” He tugged his bottom lip between his teeth, blew out a sharp breath and pulled a tablet from beneath the console. “Then perhaps you’d like to check out the real manifest, Madame First Mate.”

 

I folded my arms across my chest and blinked. “Oh I have checked the real one. You don’t really think I thought what you recorded in the logs was actually the deal on the table when you’re doing the exchange beyond the Corset?” Just then the Torrington flashed into view and settled next to us.

 

“Well, that’s a relief then, I don’t have to lie to you.” Manning said with a bright smile.

 

“You own me. You can’t honestly think I’d be stupid enough to betray something as benign as a less than above board whiskey transport.”

 

He laughed out loud. “Oh Mac, we’re gonna get along just fine. You’ll see.”

 

I ignored the ridiculous warm flush I felt around my ears as he flipped on the com button and a gravelly voice with the accent from the Inner Rim came on line.

 

“Ready to transport, Manning.”

 

“The hold’s all yours,” Manning replied, and I just gaped.

 

“You have mol-tran?” Molecular transport technology was illegal for planets under the Authority, punishable by confiscation of goods and ship and a prison sentence, which meant a shackle. The Authority took its right to tax everyone and everything very seriously. Mostly they feared the unauthorized transport and trade of Indentureds. But their excuse was that it wasn’t safe. Everything I’d heard about the accidents and horrors from the use of illegal mol-tran convinced me they might be right on this one. But then maybe that was just more Authority propaganda.

 

“Of course Fury has mol-tran,” Manning replied. “It would be stupid to deal in some of the more … sensitive trade items without it.”

 

“Then you trust Gruber just to transport the whole shipment right down into the Fury’s hold, wave toot-a-loo and be on his way?”

 

“Of course I don’t trust Gruber, and he doesn’t trust me either. No one trusts anyone in this business. There’s always an inspection, and the exchange of credits takes place in person when everyone is satisfied with the arrangements, just like with

Harker on the Dubrovnik.”

 

“Right,” I said, rolling my eyes. Manning just offered me a beatific smile that would have been right at home on a New Vaticana saints.

 

“Commencing transport,” came the disembodied voice on the other end of the com.

 

Piloting Fury: New from KDG

Sorry for the long delay in getting a new post out. My only excuse is that I have no excuse. I hope you enjoyed The Bus Route as much as I enjoyed writing it and sharing it. Writing and sharing my work is always the best part of doing what I do, so I have decided to share some new, never before seen KDG stuff on my blog, first of all because it’s a bit experimental and out of the KDG norm, and second of all simply because I want to be able to share some of it before I put it out to the larger world.

Piloting Fury is a project very near and dear to my heart, with a rewrite now in progress. Having said that, today is day one of July’s Camp NaNoWriMo, and I found myself inspired and prodded strongly by my Muse and her big stick to write the next book in what is a Space opera, of sorts, with plenty of political intrigue, plenty of sex, plenty of space travel — a lot of which is done in sentient ships. Piloting Fury is the first novel in that series. At this Camp NaNoWriMo, I will be working on book two, Dragon Ascending. Enjoy the first half of the first chapter, and if you’re very good, I’ll have the rest of the chapter up soon (or if I’m very good 🙂 ) From there, we’ll see where Fury leads us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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” McAlister 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.

 

Chapter 1: The Bet

“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” Rick Manning was more than a little bit drunk. He had to be to make that sort of bet with me. Everyone knows you don’t gamble with Diana Mac unless you want to lose. I never lost – ever! What gambling I managed in spaceports was my sole income, and I horded it all obsessively. Every credit of it went toward paying off the contract of my indenture. Nope! I never lost because I couldn’t afford to. And yet here I stood on the small but efficient deck of the Fury, reporting to Rick Scumbag Manning, and the prick was nowhere to be found. “Probably sleeping it off in some whore’s bed,” I growled under my breath.

“You cheated, you bastard,” I said out loud. Even if he heard me, what the hell was he gonna do, dock my wages, throw me in the brig? “I know you cheated, I just don’t know how you did it,” I said to the console which, in spite of my anger at Manning, already had me intrigued. I confess, vivid visions of strangling Rick Manning with a New Hibernian cryo-whip couldn’t hold my imagination quite like the console of a good ship – even one I was now indentured to for who the hell knew how many galactic years. I’m serious when I say I’m the best pilot in the galaxy. It’s not bragging if it’s true. I’ve never met the ship I couldn’t fly. Not that I got that many opportunities indentured to the Dubrovnik, but Captain Harker had raked in the credits more than once by betting on me in an impromptu race of some sort. Of course the ship was never my own, and that made the bet even more interesting. No one ever saw it coming.

In spite of my crap situation, I couldn’t help admiring the clean lines and the efficient arrangement of the Fury’s controls. While the ship might look like a rusty tub on the outside, Manning had known to put his money where it mattered. I was already jonesing to see what the ship could do, and the truth was that the Fury was one helluva ship despite the rusty tub appearance. I doubted if Manning even knew what the original make was. If the entire ship wasn’t glued together with spit and high tensile repair tape, I’d be surprised. But leave it to Manning to win, steal, smuggle and finagled some of the best, state of the art components in the galaxy. I only knew that because he and I got drunk together on Diga Prime waiting out a lava storm one night in a bar. The man was as proud of his ship as he was his cock and, while I’d made it a point not to check out the latter, I’d wanted to check out the Fury for a long time. Just not like this.

I flopped down in the pilot’s seat, which strangely enough felt as though it molded to fit my butt. I knew for a fact that Manning’s ass needed a little more space than mine, and so did his broad shoulders. I’d admired those shoulders and that ass in more than a few spaceports where we’d pitched up together. At this moment, though, I loathed the whole damn package with a loathing hotter than the fiery pits of Diga Vulcanus. I envisioned kicking that very fine ass out the airlock somewhere in the Outer Rim. But thanks to the mess the cheating rat bastard had gotten me into, I couldn’t even do that.

It had been such a sure thing. I was sitting pretty, wasn’t I? The newly healed incision on my forearm itched like crazy, and while it was already all but invisible, it guaranteed I was as bound to the Fury as if Manning had roped me and tied me to the pilot’s chair. I should have known. I should have suspected something, but I was too busy patting myself on the back for my good fortune, too greedy for more.

I should have suspected something when Manning lost a small fortune to me in game after game of Sandirian poker. At the time, the man wasn’t yet too drunk to make intelligent decisions, and I knew for a fact he wasn’t a gambling addict. I’d heard about addicts who had gambled away far larger fortunes than the one Manning had dropped, which was just enough to buy back my indenture with a nice little nest egg to tide me over until I could find other work. Nope, Manning was a lightweight when it came to gambling losses. A minor satrap was legendary for gambling away a whole planetoid out at the edge of the Orion Nebula. I just figured it was a cock thing with Manning. I recognized the signs. The dress I wore had worked its magic just like it always did with lonely, horny punters in spaceport hoping to get laid. Men or women – it didn’t really matter. If they gave me that look and offered to buy me a drink, I knew I had them. They all just assumed because I was sitting alone, shuffling a deck of cards, I was as lonely and as in need of entertainment as they were.

And then there was Rick Manning. He’d been doing his best for the past several galactic years to get me in bed. By now it had become a game between us. He flirted, and I let it roll right on over me. I liked the banter. I liked the fact that we had intelligent, often witty conversations, as well as a lot of laughs in between his flirtatious, but harmless, advances. It was what we did, the two of us. So why should I think anything was particularly different about last night? Yes, he showed up at my table before I could reel in some sucker willing to lose his shirt. And yes, when I tried to shoo him away, he offered to play a few hands with me as a warm-up – he said, and then he’d leave me to find another victim. It was a win-win. I could skin Manning of a few credits before he decided to give it up, and then get serious with someone who didn’t know me.

But he didn’t give it up. He just kept losing, and betting and losing again. Fuck me if the man didn’t lose everything he had, all of his life savings, right down to the last credit. I know this because the Notary kept asking if he was sure and reminding him that all notarized bets were legally binding. Still all he could do was chuckle.

“It’s your hair, Mac,” he said as he motioned over the notary yet again to transfer more credits to the indentured sub-account Captain Harker had set up for me. “When you wear that dress and let your hair down like that, of course a man’s gonna lose. And you, you little minx, that’s what you’re counting on, isn’t it?”

“I need the credits, Manning.” I leaned across the table and rubbed my fingers together under his nose in a gimme gesture. “Indentured here, remember? But if it’ll help,” I grabbed up the band that had secured the battered deck of cards and pulled my hair back in it. “The dress I can’t do anything about. The butler hasn’t brought my holiday wardrobe down from the Dubrovnik yet,” I joked.

“Helluva place to go on holiday,” he said, glancing around the Nine Tails. Then he leaned over the table and offered a smile that would have shamed the Suns of Valoxia. “Tell you what, one more hand and I’ll bet my jacket.” If you win, you can cover up a little bit and maybe give me an even chance. And if you lose,” he looked me up and down.

“I won’t,” I replied shoving the deck of cards across the table to him.

He took them and began to shuffle, his eyes locked on mine. “If you lose, then I get your clothes. All of them.”

“It’s just as well I’m gonna win then because you wouldn’t look good in this dress. Teal’s just not your color.”

He only chuckled as he dealt the cards.

In no time at all I was bundled up in a vintage flight jacket that Manning swore up and down was a real Terran relic he’d won in a poker game he’d apparently done much better in than he was doing in this one. He slugged back another New Hibernian whiskey and the barmaid, who bent so he got a good view down her bustier, brought him another one. I laid down enough credits to pay for my drinks and stood. “Gotta go, Manning. You’ve got nothing left I can win off of you, and I sure as hell don’t want the clothes off your back.”

“Not so fast, Mac.” His words weren’t exactly slurred, but getting pretty close. He blocked my exit with an extended leg, nodded back to my chair, and with a shrug of his shoulder sent the barmaid scurrying for another whiskey for me. “You can’t leave till I’ve had a chance to win back all my shit.”

“I can, and I will,” I said, stepping over his leg, but even half drunk, Manning was fast. He lifted his thigh, effectively high-centering me and ending me up in his lap. He curled thick fingers around a my makeshift pony tale and reeled me in. I remember thinking it strange that he smelled more like a man who’d been enjoying the great outdoors in the Parks of the Beledine than someone three sheets to the wind on cheap-assed whiskey. I even remember not minding his flirtations at the time, but then why would I when I was a free woman at last, one with a very nice jacket, even if it was considerably too big.

“I do have something I can bet.” His breath was warm against my ear, and I felt the buzz of my own generous alcohol consumption that made me think I just might take him up on what I figured he was about to offer me. It would be a nice addition to the drunken celebration of my freedom. After all, an indentured didn’t have a lot of free time for sex. When I did have the time, I was trying to win a few more credits toward my freedom.

“Oh that,” I nodded down to his lap and gave a little laugh. “I figure I can have that without wagering for it.”

The chuckle he returned sounded positively animal, and his lips quirked into a crooked smile. “While I can think of nothing I would enjoy more than a good shag in the sheets with you, Mac, that wouldn’t win me back my shit now would it?”

I was about to say that since he had nothing to offer I saw no point. I was about to walk out the door of the bar free and clear, go straight to Captain Harker, pay off the contract of my indenture and see what it felt like to sleep and wake up as a free woman. That’s what I should have done, in retrospect. But then Manning dropped the bomb.

“One more hand, Mac. Just one. Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.”

Fuck me! If he hadn’t been holding me, I would have fallen right onto the floor. Now I’m not a woman who’s often speechless, though as an indentured, I know when to keep my mouth shut. But this time, all I could do was make a couple of fish gasps. He gave me that look I was sure had gotten more than a few women into his bed. It had probably worked just as well getting him out of trouble with the authorities when his cargo was less than copasetic.

“What do you say, Mac? You up for it? I’m betting the Fury along with the next three contracts I have to fill.” He shrugged. “If I don’t have a ship, I can’t fill the contracts, right? Come on. Give me at least one more chance.”

“Your ship? You want to bet the Fury?” I stumbled off his lap all but falling on my ass before I made it back to my chair. He was already motioning the notary over.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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