Last week after a long silence, I rolled out the first instalment of Piloting Fury.
Fury is a new, never before seen KDG novel, 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. As I said last week, for the July’s Camp NaNoWriMo, I am working on 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, book two, Dragon Ascending is well underway. Enjoy the second half of the first chapter, since a little birdie told me you were all, indeed, very good. (and so was I 🙂 ) From here, we’ll see where Fury leads us.
“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.
Your Ass is Mine
“What does this mean, her ass is yours?” The notary asked, with a strong New Hibernian accent. “You know I need specifics.”
“He wants me to fuck him, if I lose,” I clarified. Me arrogant? Huh! I could already picture myself easing the powerful bulk of the Fury out of dock and seeing what the ship could do in open space.
There were three other tables demanding the attention of the notary, and the fact that such a big wager had to be witnessed wasn’t making them or him very happy. “Well I can hardly write that down, can I?”
Manning rolled his eyes and grabbed the notary’s device using the touch pad to type in whatever was a good euphemism for the thing I was certain wasn’t going to happen. I was so sure of myself, so positive that the Fury was already mine that I didn’t bother to look at what he wrote. I just placed my thumb against the DNA reader on the keypad and the notary grunted his approval, nodding to the barmaid who brought over a sealed pack of cards. Manning settled her onto his lap – for luck, he said, as he shuffled the cards, considerably longer than necessary. But then I could be patient when I would be walking away with the price of my freedom plus change and a bright shiny starship of my very own. I certainly wasn’t worried about Manning. He was a respectable pilot – not as good as I am, but not bad either, and he was one cunning sonovabitch. He’d land on his feet no matter what happened.
When he dealt me three tens, I figured I was in like Flynn. The vacuous barmaid was too busy playing with Manning’s bronze curls to give anything away. And really, while she might meet him after hours and commiserate with a good fuck, she wasn’t at all interested in the outcome. Looking back, I should have thought that strange. I should have thought the whole situation strange, that a man was about to bet his fucking starship to a woman who had a reputation for never losing. Looking back, I should have thought of a lot of things, but all I could think about was that in one glorious night, I would gain my freedom and a starship with contracts pending.
I sure as hell wasn’t thinking about Rick Manning pulling a straight flush. But that’s exactly what the bastard did. Winner takes it all.
“You cheated,” I said. But no one heard me over the squealing of the barmaid who all but bounced up and down on his lap, before nearly sticking her tongue down his throat in a congratulatory kiss. It ended in a yelp as he shoved her off, stood and offered me his hand. “Diana McAllister, I believe your ass is mine.”
The notary shoved his pad in our faces and we both offered our thumbs, which made the bet final and binding as well as transferring the details to the station archives where it would be conveniently noted and disappeared before the Authority could get wind of it. Stations this remote were not fans of the Authority, and they all played by their own rules. I said nothing. I only offered my thumb. The new Hibernians didn’t take kindly to people reneging on a notarized bet. In fact it was punishable by death at the bar owner’s discretion, in which case the winnings from the bet became the property of the bar owner. So I followed Manning out of the bar, hand in hand still trying to figure out what the hell had happened.
Even then I was consoling myself with the fact that I was no worse off than I had been before. The thought of fucking Rick Manning wasn’t entirely loathsome to me, and after all the whiskey he’d put away, I figured he’d pass out long before we got down to doing the deed. If not, there were rumors that he was good in the sack. Probably rumors he’d started, I figured. I wouldn’t put it past the bastard.
He led me down a darkened passage to a rented room above the bar. I’d expected something a little more upscale, but I was still too stunned to make any snide comments. It didn’t matter if he’d cheated, it didn’t matter that I’d lost my freedom, and a starship even before I had them. It was a done deal, so if he wanted to fuck my brains out, it had all been notarized. It was the humiliation that bothered me as much as anything. At least at that point.
He entered the code. The door slid open, and he nodded me inside. My first surprise was when he turned on the lights before motioning me to the bed. Well, maybe he liked to see what he was doing in the sack. “Lie down,” he said quietly, making no attempt to feel me up or kiss me.
I did as he said. I stripped out of the bomber jacket, but if he wanted anything else off, he’d have to do it himself. To my surprise, he didn’t come immediately to join me, but rummaged through a compact duffle bag on the floor. When he did finally come to the bed, he set a small leather case on the nightstand and pulled off his belt. I braced myself. But instead of getting down to it, he looped the belt around my forearm just above my subdural shackle and cinched it up tight enough the outline of the chip shown below the surface of my skin. “This will only hurt for a few minutes, then it’ll all be over,” he said. Before I could even begin to struggle, he laid a heavy hand on my chest. “I’d recommend you lie still. I’ve never done this before.”
“What are you doing? What the fuck are you doing?” I fought back panic.
He offered me a beatific smile. “Don’t worry, Mac. I got this.” As he brought out the laser scalpel, I all but froze.
“Fucking hell, Manning, you know what happens when a shackle’s tampered with.”
“You belong to me now, Mac,” he said, making a tiny incision that stung like fire and then two more in quick succession until the shackle was laid bare.
“What the hell are you talking about?” I held dead still hissing the words between my teeth, expecting at any minute for my arm to break out in a rash of blisters. “I belong to Captain Harker and the Dubrovnik.” Or at least I had been assigned to him for that last few years. Who I really belonged to, I never admitted unless I had no choice. Though I suspected Manning knew. He didn’t miss much.
“Not anymore you don’t.” He pulled a pair of micro-view goggles from the leather case and shoved them onto his face. Then he grabbed a couple of very delicate-looking tools I recognized from when my shackle had been recalibrated my first day onboard the Dubrovnik.
“Manning, you’ll get me infected! You’ll get me sent off to a plague planet!”
“Don’t you worry about a thing, Mac. Just hold still for me, and everything’ll be fine.”
He didn’t have to tell me twice. I didn’t move. I didn’t breathe. I all but willed my heart not to beat until at last he heaved a sigh and gently laid the skin back over the shackle. Then he covered it with a layer of Dermanew. That done, he removed the belt and admired his handy work. Then his hands started shaking, and I was afraid for a second, one or maybe both of us might throw up.
I stared at my arm, waiting for the telltale rash to break out. When it didn’t I looked up at him. “What the hell did you do?”
“You didn’t read the notary contract, did you?”
“I wasn’t planning to lose,” I said between gritted teeth.
“What I did was reprogram your shackle to Fury, to me, more specifically. You’re now indentured to me for an indeterminate time. I reckon it’ll take you longer to pay it off on the Fury than it would have on the Dubrovnik, since smaller ships have smaller incomes, but I promise you’ll have a lot more fun. Besides, I’ve been wanting to hire on a first mate for awhile now, and I really wanted a good pilot.”
“But what about the Dubrovnik. I can’t just jump ship.”
“Of course you can. Now.” He nodded down to the shackle. “I wouldn’t advise trying to jump ship on Fury though. You can sleep here tonight, and tomorrow at 0800, report to Fury.” He stood, suddenly a little unsure on his feet, and stumbled toward the door. Then he turned back and offered me a smile that faltered just a little
around the edges. His face had gone pale as though he’d just realized what he’d done. “The room is locked from the inside, just to keep the riff raff away, but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what will happen if you try to leave. As for the Dubrovnik, well we’ll be long gone before everyone even finishes boarding the Dubrovnik. Now get some sleep. We have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow.”