It’s Fury Friday! It’s time to see what Mac and Manning and Fury are up to. Wherever they are, trouble is not far behind them. Time for another escape to deep space for a rollicking read. My NaNoWriMo project, Fledgling Nightmares is finished! Doing a happy dance with wine in hand here at Grace Manor. I promise a sneak preview as soon as I can clean one up for you. This week I’ve been working on timelines for the Medusa universe, fitting everything together and making it seamless. I still have work to do to make the last two books sync timeline wise, but it’s a lot of fun.
In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 21th 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 gets a hard lesson in smuggling. 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: Part 21 We Have Company
We skipped the scenic route to Outer Kingston in favor of the most direct, the one that involved three rough jumps and a slingshot move around a gas giant. It was a route that no one had tried before and frankly I was surprised when Manning gave me the go ahead. He said he’d rather be there a little early, never being sure of what Banshee Blake would do. “I trust the bastard about as far as I can drop-kick his fat ass through the nearest airlock,” Manning had said. He added that Blake had to have a special captain’s chair in his ship that would accommodate his size.
We came out of hyper and all but coasted to the rendezvous point with time to spare thanks to some seriously fancy flying, if I do say so myself. I could tell by the smile on Manning’s chops that he thought so too. He chuckled and ran a hand over his stubbled chin. “I think we just took the record for fastest trip from the Remote Inner Edge to New Kingston,” he said with a chuckle. “The McAllister Sling Shot, that’s what I figure they’ll be calling it one day.”
Sadly we both knew it couldn’t be made public, since we’d just paid an illegal visit to a plague planet carrying major contraband, and all that done with a Shanghaied indentured pilot. But I still had every plan to bask in the afterglow until Blake showed up.
“Nothing to do now but sit tight and wait.” Manning disappeared and returned shortly with a bottle of New Hibernian and two glasses. “Under the circumstances, I think a toast might be in order.” He handed me a glass and lifted his. “To the McAllister Sling Shot.”
I returned the toast.
He downed his in a single go. New Hibernian was more of a gulping whiskey, even the good stuff. It would get you there fast, and almost but not quite burn your taste buds off in the process. I followed suit.
He pushed the glass aside and stretched out his hand. “Let me see your device,” he said.
I gave it over and raised a curious brow as he typed something in it.
“There!” He handed it back to me. “As far as our little run to Pandora Base, well, nothing from nothing is nothing, but you’re welcome to half of that.” Before I could say anything, he nodded down to the pad.
“That’s the code to your Atlas account. It’s empty now, but while you’ve been doing the flying, I’ve arranged everything so that, as we said, twenty percent of all profits will automatically go into your account. Numbered only, for your protection, of course. Plus the folks at Atlas don’t give a shit that you’re indentured. Once we conclude the deal with Blake, the credits will be deposited. If you continue to prove yourself, I’ll up your percentage to twenty-five and from there,” he quirked his head and winked, “well from there we’ll see.”
I stared at the open account page until it became nothing more than an abstract jumble. “Does that mean you’re giving me the opportunity to buy back my indenture?” I managed around the excited hammering of my own heart.
“That means I’m giving you the opportunity to do whatever you want, whatever you’re capable of.” He held my gaze. “Naturally I’d prefer that whatever you do, you do it here with me and Fury.” Then he offered a blinding smile. “With a pilot like you who can gamble like you do, who can think on her feet like you do, I figure you’re my ace in the hole.”
Before I could offer more than a shocked thank you, Fury said. “There is an urgent incoming transmission from Banshee Blake.”
Fury patched it through. “Authority’s on my ass,” Blake’s voice was a nasal sharply accented tenor that boomed through the com like an out of tune French horn, like we were all deaf, or soon would be if we had to listen to him long. I guessed that’s how he got the name Banshee.
“Rendezvous point’s been compromised. Sending new coordinates.”
“Fury send a text only confirmation,” Manning said without switching on his com link. “I don’t know this place,” he added studying the coordinates Blake had sent. We both watched as a 3D image came up, closed in on our destination and then magnified it.
“It is a high orbit space station, abandoned five standard years ago as unsafe and too expensive to repair,” Fury’s computer said, as we studied the details.
“This is not like Blake,” Manning said. “He prefers open space for a quick getaway. That makes it easier for him to grab the cargo and run if he gets an opportunity.”
“I don’t like it,” I said.
“I don’t either. But then I never like doing business with Blake.”
“Then why do you?” I asked.
“Well, the deals are usually sweet and the profits high if you can manage them without him scalping you alive.”
“Fingers crossed then.” I entered the coordinates and stroked Fury’s console for luck. “I could use the credits. I’m broke.”
The space station was huge, and I wondered how the hell the giant hunk of junk had remained in orbit once it was left derelict. I also wondered why it hadn’t been dismantled. It had been used for the docking port for all ships coming and going to Outer Kingston until the new, larger, more streamline one had been built on the other side of the planet. Outer Kingston was the last and most remote port of call before the long trek to the Outer Rim. It was not really a part of anything, only a single rocky planet orbiting a small yellow sun, a planet that was almost entirely water other than the few small islands that served as hideouts for smugglers and ports of call for ships in and out of the Outer Rim. There had been a few efforts to make some of the more picturesque islands into holiday destinations, but the planet was just too far from the so-called civilized center of The Consortium of Planets. That meant most of those islands had devolved into illegal casinos and brothels, surviving and thriving just beyond the edge of Authority scrutiny. Though technically it belonged to the Consortium, it was too far out for any real Authority control, and that made the place a mecca of smuggling and illegal activity. We made our way in and out of the docking bays of the derelict space station until we found the rendezvous point. It was way too claustrophobic for my liking. I couldn’t keep from wondering just what else went on in a place that had trouble written all over it.
“It’s a good place for a sting,” I said.
“Too good,” Manning grunted, just as Blake’s ship appeared from a blind spot around the curve of the station.
“Wait a minute,” I said, “the man just came out of nowhere. That’s not possible. Something’s going on. We should have been aware of his approach.”
“Manning, let’s make this quick. I’m feeling a little twitchy after the week I’ve had.”
Manning kept the mic off. He laid a hand on my shoulder. “I need you to stay on deck and stay ready, Mac. We’ll Molt-tran the whiskey and me over at the same time, but separately. You know how to do that?” He waved a hand. “Fury does. Keep a lock on me and on the whiskey, but if worse comes to worse, we cut our losses and live to fight another day. I’ll need you to get us out of here fast. You got it.” I nodded.
He opened the mic. “On my way. Meet me in the belly with your manifest.”
“Shields dropped,” came Blake’s nasal flugelhorn response.
“I don’t like this,” I said to Fury, as I keyed in the mol-tran and watched first the whiskey and then Manning dematerialize before my eyes. “I don’t like this at all.”
“I am not terribly pleased at the situation myself,” Fury commented. “Banshee Blake is to be trusted less than most of our disreputable colleagues.”
“Ourcolleagues?” I commented as Manning’s visual implant came online and I felt a whole lot better clapping eyeballs on him. “How much is he paying you?”
“Not nearly enough.” Fury replied, and in spite of the tense situation, I laughed. But the laugh died in my throat when Fury quickly added. “We have company, Diana Mac, three Authority jaegers converging fast off starboard.