It’s Friday, and that means time for more Fury. A cheerful hello from Grace Manor. I hope all is well with you Lovelies and that much good reading is happing
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.
“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.
“Bloody hell! So you brought it to me?” Manning burst.
“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?”