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. Here we are in December, which means NaNoWriMo is over and I downed tools at the 92.5 mark, my largest word count ever for NaNoWriMo. Fledgling Nightmares is nearly done! I have three chapters left to go, so the characters are still taking me on a wild and wonderful ride, their favourite time to grab me by scruff of the neck and send me scurrying to the laptop seems to be early morning. I promise a sneak preview when the draft is finished. The Medusa Consortium world is full of surprises that may involve the expansion and reshaping of the whole Medusa universe.
In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 20th 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 Fury enjoy the calm after the storm and Manning rejoins the crew healthy and robust and ready for a little 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 20 Sleep Aids and Mysteries
“I do not want to disappoint you, Diana Mac.”
Plague One was little more than a vanishing white dot in the distance, and I was just about to make the hyper jump when Manning finally made it to the deck looking no worse for the wear. To my surprise, he brought me coffee. When I was finished, I had another sandwich and I pulled up Kandenski on the monitor. For a long time I stared at Keen’s information in the ships database, which was nothing more than a name and not even his own. But then the last thing Manning would want was to be associated with the notorious Victor Keen, and he certainly wouldn’t want the Authority getting any hint that Keen was still alive and that Plague One had been transformed.
“Your vital signs are those of exhaustion, Diana Mac,” Fury broke into my silent reverie. “I recommend sleep.”
“Recommendation duly noted,” I replied, and continued staring at the database.
After a few seconds, Fury responded, “Duly noted, but not acted upon?”
“I can’t sleep,” I replied.
“There are several reliable sleeping aids in medico.”
“I don’t like to medicate myself.”
“Perhaps warm milk then?”
I made a face. “Have you ever actually tasted warm milk, Fury?”
“I have not had that pleasure.”
I shivered at the thought. “Well, it’s vile, awful stuff.”
“Perhaps a non-Terran folk remedy then? Digan fire weed tea is said to induce slumber.”
“You suppose Manning would notice if I tapped into one of those kegs of New Hibernian gently aging in the cargo hold?”
“I do not advise such action, Diana Mac. Your systems have been compromised due to the stress levels endured during our efforts to escape the atmosphere of Plague One. There are no healing benefits to consuming alcoholic beverages. In fact to do so would compromise your bodily functions even more.”
I snorted a laugh. “My bodily functions. Right.”
“However,” Fury continued, “should you choose to ignore my advice, there is a complete selection of alcoholic beverages onboard, including New Hibernian whiskey.”
“Never mind,” I waved a dismissive hand “While I would love to partake, I’m still the one on duty until Manning is up and at ‘em, so best I stick to useless folk remedies.”
I stared at the name Kandenski on the viewing screen. Now that all of our lives weren’t at risk from the storm, my mind was racing, replaying over and over the things Keen had said to me, the things that were a world away from what I had always been told. He was right, I had a million questions, not the least of which was why Manning knew enough to think I should go to Plague One and meet Keen. Granted it wouldn’t have been that difficult to find out about me if he’d had a conversation with Captain Harker, and the truth was, as far as indentureds went, I was both tragic and infamous because of my father.
In the early days of my indenture, Fallon was forever having to shoo the reporters and papparaci away. He would give interviews about the poor little indentured he saw more as a daughter than a servant. He would remind them again how he had purchased my contract of indenture and great price to himself because he had known my father and did not want Aden McAllister’s only child to be sold into the hands of strangers. After all, it wasn’t my fault what happened, I was a victim … blah blah blah.
But he would never let them speak to me nor would he let them get close to me. For my own protection, he told everyone. I’d suffered enough, he said. Truth was, he didn’t want anyone seeing my bruises and the scars from being infected with the SNT virus multiple times. I don’t know why he bothered. I would have never talked. I wouldn’t dare. After all I was his indentured. No one would stop him from doing with me whatever he pleased. And he did.
“Fury, can you open a channel to Kandenski?” I asked at last.
“I cannot comply due to atmospheric conditions above the planet,” came the reply.
“Thanks anyway,” I said. I finished the sandwich and drank a cup of Digan fire weed tea, which I found nearly as vile as warm milk, and I told Fury so, a complaint he duly noted in the database of folk remedies and sleep aids.
Upon returning to the bridge, I slowed again in front of Manning’s door, trying not to think about the fact that he was locked in his quarters with Stanislovski, and I was locked on the outside. I was, I reminded myself, nothing more than an indentured, and it hurt worse to be invited in and then locked out again than it did to be excluded and not considered at all, though that was something I would have never expected of Manning.
In my own room, I undressed and settled onto the bed thinking myself too strung out to sleep. “Fury,” I managed before I drifted off. “Wake me when the storm passes.”
“Affirmative, Diana Mac,” came the quiet reply. It was the last thing I heard before I fell into a deep, blessedly dreamless, sleep.
It was the computer’s voice that woke me. I was disoriented, still not used to my new surroundings. For a moment my brain fought to place myself in time and space, and when everything came back to me, I practically catapulted out of the bed.
“Fury? Are we all right? The storm, has it passed?” I asked in a breathless gasp.
“We are all right, Diana Mac, and while the storm has not completely passed, it is dissipating rapidly. It has died down enough that Ina Stanislovski is requesting you return her to Pandora Base. I have opened a com link, and with your permission, we can begin the mol-tran.”
I stumbled from the bed and dressed. Just as I stepped into the hall, Stanislovski stepped out of Manning’s room.
“Is he all right?” I asked.
She nodded. “He’s sleeping comfortably.” I could read nothing out of the ordinary on her face. Doctor patient confidentiality, I told myself. While Stanislovski served as the first mate on the Svaldbard, she was also a trained medical doctor. If anyone should have spent the night with Manning in his room, it should have been her, but still I found myself fighting back thoughts of that locked door. “Can you Mol-tran me back to Pandora Base?”
On deck, we waited in awkward silence while Fury connected with the planet and a direct Mol-tran was arranged. There were a million questions I wanted to ask her all about Manning, though many of which I figured she wouldn’t answer anyway. We said uncomfortable good-byes and within seconds Stanislovski vanished from the ship to the planet below. I heaved a sigh of relief.
“Now then, Fury, how about that nice trip to Outer Kingston I’ve been promised. You don’t want to disappoint me, do you?”
I nodded my thanks and gulped it back, entering the last of the coordinates and giving Fury a stroke of appreciation when I was finished. I looked up to see Manning studying me as I downed the last of the coffee.
He offered a quirk of a smile. “I figure you’d be needing that after the rough night you had.”
“Not as rough as yours, I’m guessing.” I mentally kicked myself the second the words were out. If it were rough for any reason other than his illness, I didn’t want to know it. And I didn’t want him thinking the thought had crossed my mind. “We did okay, Fury and I,” I added quickly without looking up at him. “Strap in, I’m about to make the jump.”
Once the jump had been made, I unbuckled and turned to Manning resolved to face him like an adult. “How are you feeling?”
“Fine now,” he said. “I don’t remember much. I never do. Probably just as well from what Fury told me.”
“Glad he’s filled you in. If you want my colorful account, it’s in the log.” I nodded to the consol. “Now, I’m gonna need another one of these.” I held up the cup. “Like you said, it was a long night.” As I turned to leave the deck, Manning blocked me with an outstretched leg. “Mac, you’ve gotta know that if I’d been even semi-conscious, you couldn’t have kept me off this deck. Fury’s my ship, and it was one helluva a time for … that to happen. I’m sorry.”
“Good thing Stanislovski was there to be with you then, because there was no way I could have”
He flinched as though I had slapped him. “I don’t need anyone to be with me when it happens. I know what to do. I’d have been fine.” Color crawled up his throat and he avoided my gaze. “I … nearly died on her watch once. Oh, it was my fault. I was farther away from the ship than I should have been when it happened, and I knew it.” He waved a negating hand. “Don’t worry Mac, it doesn’t happen often, but this particular time she was there, and ever since she thinks I need mothering. You couldn’t have kept her away, just like you can’t keep her from those infected indentureds she brought onboard. Besides, after the boy’s death the other night, she was hyper-sensitive.”
He took my hand and turned my wrist so that the spot where the shackle was lay beneath the tips of his fingers. “And just so you know, what I don’t tell you has nothing to do with the fact that you wear this. You’re my pilot and my first mate. Fury would have spilled his guts if he’d thought for one minute I was in any real danger. He’s way more of a mother hen than Ina is. When it happens, all I really need is to get back to my ship and sleep it off, and then I promise you, I’m fine.” I opened my mouth to speak, but he shushed me and tugged me onto his lap with a wicked chuckle. “The fact that ace smuggler and lover extraordinaire, Richard Manning, has to haul his ass back to his bed for a nap occasionally would do nothing for my reputation. So can we agree to keep it our little secret?”
“All right.” I was finding it difficult to breathe as he ran a coffee scented thumb over my bottom lip and looked up at me from under heavy lids. The bastard was
distracting me from further questions. I knew that. And he knew it would work. For now. I wasn’t about to give up that easily.
“Good.” His breath was warm against my face, and damn if I didn’t feel like
something had gone wrong with the inertial dampers when he smoothed the hair away from my cheek. He gave my ponytail a tug and squeezed my shoulder. “Now go get some coffee, and have something to eat. Something healthy,” he called over his shoulder as I scrambled toward the door to put a little safer distance Manning and me. “Better yet, have Fury choose your breakfast. The damn ship could have a career as a chef in one of the restaurants on Riviera Beta 3 if he decided to fuck off and change careers.”