Tag Archives: Piloting Fury

Piloting Fury Part 9: A KDG Scifi Romance

Good morning, my lovelies. Welcome to another cheeky Monday read. Here’s this week’s slightly delayed episode of  Piloting Fury.  As I said, Fury is a little different from what you’ve come to expect from KDG. I’m revisiting this serial novel for multiple reasons, but mostly because I love Fury, and I hope you do too.

Last  week  Manning welcomed his new first mate. This week Fury and his team get a distress call.

Catch up here if you missed last week’s episode of Piloting Fury.

If you have just arrived and would like to start at the beginning of Piloting Fury, follow the link, and enjoy!

 

 

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” McAllister 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 9: The Fariabaldi Nebula Route

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: KDG Scifi Romance

Good morning, my lovelies. Time for another cheeky Monday read. Here’s this week’s slightly delayed episode of  Piloting Fury.  As I said, Fury is a little different from what you’ve come to expect from KDG. I’m revisiting this serial novel for multiple reasons, but mostly because I love Fury, and I hope you do too.

Last  week aboard the Dubrovnik, Captain Harker  hoped for the best when Mac didn’t show up for her shift. This week  Manning welcomes his new first mate.

Catch up here if you missed last week’s episode of Piloting Fury.

If you have just arrived and would like to start at the beginning of Piloting Fury, follow the link, and enjoy!

 

 

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” McAllister 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 8: Business as Usual

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 Part 7: KDG Scifi Romance

Good morning, my lovelies. Time for another cheeky Monday read that’s cheekily late this week because I’ve been away. BUT I promise next Monday’s will be on time. So here’s this week’s slightly delayed episode of  Piloting Fury.  As I said, Fury is a little different from what you’ve come to expect from KDG. I’m revisiting this serial novel for multiple reasons, but mostly because I love Fury, and I hope you do too.

Last  week Mac discovered that Manning had been expecting her. This week aboard the Dubrovnik, Captain Harker  hopes for the best when Mac doesn’t show up for her shift.

Catch up here if you missed last week’s episode of Piloting Fury.

If you have just arrived and would like to start at the beginning of Piloting Fury, follow the link, and enjoy!

 

 

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” McAllister 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 7: Turning a Blind Eye

Captain Evander Harker paced the bridge of the Dubrovnik waiting for the shuttle to dock. The ship had been delayed in its departure due to a missing pilot. Oh he’d occasionally had crew members jump ship without giving notice, but they were usually unskilled labor and certainly they were never indentured. Of course there were others who could pilot the ship, though certainly none who were anywhere nearly as good at it as Diana McAllister.

“No sign of her, Captain,” came the message from the shuttle pilot. “If she’s on the space station, scans aren’t showing any evidence of her shackle. She’s long gone.”

Harker certainly hoped that was true. Leo Rab had reported to sickbay with a broken rib and a ruptured kidney last night. He claimed he was attacked behind the Nine Tails. But Harker knew better. He might have a reputation for being one of the few orca class captains working for Bright Star Conglomerate that was incorruptible, but that didn’t make him stupid. That made him cautious. It didn’t matter if you were a starship captain or a bum. Harker was always well aware that the boundary separating a free citizen from an indentured was thin and fluid. Diana McAllister was a perfect example of that. So he’d always been cautious. But he’d been a helluva lot more so since taking Mac onboard. She had made the Dubrovnik, and therefore Bright Star, a lot of money. But he had known from the beginning her being on the crew was only a temporary reprieve. That he wasn’t sure what had happened to her left a cold knot in the pit of his stomach. That Rab had gotten away from whatever altercation he’d been involved in with no more than a broken rib and a ruptured kidney left him hopeful. But then again, there was really little reason for Rab to remain aboard if McAllister was gone. Well he could tell himself that, but clearly Fallon senior still wanted him watched.

Harker paced back and forth on the deck one more time, knowing that there was no need to wait any longer, and hoping against hope that the best damn pilot in the galaxy could somehow make a successful escape. If any indentured he’d ever known deserved it, she did.

“Juarez, take us out of orbit,” he ordered the lieutenant now sitting uncomfortably in Diana Mac’s chair. Then he hit the com button. “All hands to stations.” With any luck they would be out of hailing range before Abriad Fallon checked in. In truth Harker was surprised that he hadn’t done it already. Surprised and worried. Conditions were picking up for one helluva radiation storm, giving him a genuine excuse for not contacting Fallon about Mac going AWOL. That would give the girl a little more grace, he thought, trying not to dwell on the very real possibility that she was already suffering in an alley somewhere, or worse yet, aboard Gerando Fallon’s ship. By now the virus would have become far more than a rash and in another forty-eight hours, there would be nothing anyone could do for her. The only other possibility was just too damn good to be true, and yet circumstances kept him hoping.

As he took his seat and buckled in, he knew that there was already nothing anyone could do for her if Fallon found her. He had no idea why the man wanted her so badly, and Vaticana Jesu knew he had done everything in his power to keep her away from the man. Now matters were out of his hands, but as long as Leo Rab remained onboard the Dubrovnik, he was still under Fallon’s scrutiny.

Once the Dubrovnik had cleared the Corset and the jump was made, and he couldn’t help noticing it was a little rougher than it would have been if McAllister had made it, he unbuckled and turned to Juarez. “You’re head pilot now, lieutenant, at least for the moment.” He supposed it was his own little streak of mean, his own way of dealing with all the goddamn helplessness he felt every day, but it did his heart good to see Juarez pale just a little bit as he gave a stiff necked nod and a breathless ‘yes sir.’

 

 

He returned to his quarters and grabbed a quick cup of coffee from the replicator before he settled in to inspect the manifests one last time for the cargo they’d be off-loading in Inner Rim City. But the words and numbers blurred in front of his eyes like some foreign language. He pushed back from his desk and commed Sickbay.

“How’s Rab?” he asked without preamble.

“Making a recovery,” came Dr. Flissy’s no-nonsense reply. “He’s off the duty roster for two, maybe three days, but he should be good to go by the time we hit Inner Rim City.”

“He still in sickbay then?”

“For a couple more hours, yes, then I’m releasing him with pain meds back to his quarters to sleep.”

“Good. I’ll be right down. I want a word with him.”

“Right captain.” Flissy didn’t ask why the ship’s captain was questioning Rab rather than the on-duty security staff, which was just as well because he really couldn’t give a good answer could he?

As he stepped into the corridor security chief, Ivan joined him. “A word, sir, if I might.”

“What is it, Ivan. I’m in a bit of a rush.”

The man matched his steps unflustered by his captain’s impatience. “Just thought you might like to know that Amos and Han saw Gerando Fallon in the Nine Tails last night eyeballing McAllister. If I were to venture a guess, he’s the reason our pilot is missing.”

Well hell, this was not what he wanted to hear, and yet it didn’t surprise him either. Even as it worried him, it left him hopeful.

“That’s a possibility,” Harker replied. He’d known Fallon would be there. That was the reason Fallon senior ordered him to make the unscheduled stop at NH372. He’d also known exactly what Gerando Fallon had been there for, which had forced him to act recklessly, but he was the only one who knew just how recklessly he had acted.

“Militia said that a hooker who worked from there turned up dead this morning. Last seen leaving with Fallon.”

No surprise there, Harker thought, as his stomach tightened still further. He’d feel better, he hoped, after he’d talked to Rab. “Thanks Ivan,” he said as he reached the lift. “Keep on it for me. She was a damn fine pilot. Could well be she saw him and ran. I would have. Could well be she’s holed up somewhere. I’ve got the militia looking with instructions to administer the antidote if they find her in time. Nothing else I can do at the moment, is there?” Nothing else but keep his fingers crossed and hope.

Harker would be willing to bet that Gerando Fallon being at the Nine Tails last night had more than a little to do with the hooker’s death and Rab’s beating. Hell, the way he saw it, if Gerondo Fallon had gotten hold of Rab, then the man was lucky to be alive and in one piece. But if Fallon junior had been that upset, then Harker would also be willing to bet it was because McAllister had slipped through his fingers. Even the thought of Abriad Fallon’s eldest being that close to the girl made his skin crawl. The scuttlebutt was that some punter beat McAllister at poker last night. That was big news and it travelled fast. He also knew she had left with him. That was all he knew. That was all it was safe for him to know, and even that might be too damn much.

Piloting Fury: A KDG Scifi Romance

With the completion of Mr. Sands, I promise not to leave you bereft of those cheeky little Monday reads. This time the serial I’m sharing with you is novel length, and a little different from what you’ve come to expect from KDG. I’m revisiting Piloting Fury for multiple reasons, but mostly because I love it, and I hope you do too.

Enjoy the first half of the first chapter, and if you’re very good (or if I’m very good ) I’ll have the rest of the chapter up next week. 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.

Dragon Ascending Part 80: Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday everyone! And a monumental Friday it is! For eighty weeks you’ve followed Dragon and Len’s adventure in the Dust Cloud Crossroad, and while it’s time for their story to end, the adventure goes on, as I’m sure you’ll see in the final episode of Dragon Ascending. I think it’s quite possible that KD had at least as much of an adventure writing Dragon Ascending as our main cast of characters, though thankfully not nearly as dangerous. I hope it’s been an adventure for you too and that you’ve had as much fun as I have. Will there be another novel from the Sentient Ships series? Well, certainly there’s one in my head. We shall see. As always, I love it when you share my work with your reading friends, so feel free. In the meantime, enjoy!

If you missed the previous episode of Dragon Ascending follow the link for a catch-up. If you wish to start from the beginning, of Dragon Ascending. Follow the link.  

For those of you who would like to read the complete novel, Piloting Fury, book one of the Sentient Ships series, follow the link to the first instalment.

 

Dragon Ascending: Book 2 of the Sentient Ship Series

On a desolate junkyard of a planetoid, scavenger Lenore Felish, disturbs something slumbering in a remote salvage dump and uncovers secrets of a tragic past and of the surprising role she must play in the terrifying present she now faces.

Robbed of her inheritance after her tyrannical father’s death, Tenad Fallon is out for revenge on her half-brothers, one who happens to be the sentient ship, Fury. Fury, with his human companions, Richard Manning and Diana McAllister, has his own agenda – finding the lost sentient ships and ending the scourge of indentured servitude in Authority space.

 

 

 

Dragon Ascending Epilogue: You have a Different Fate

Through the observation shield in his office, Kresho watched Dragon make the jump, wishing he’d had more time to better know the woman Len had grown into, but glad that she had found love, had found her rightful place. He and Ori had persuaded Len and Dragon to take Gert with them, a task the woman was a little too excited about in his opinion, but Len wasn’t a pilot, nor did she have the kind of experience troubleshooting that Gert did, and the two women got along surprisingly well. Besides she and Dragon both hoped to build a working crew. They planned to take onboard escaped and free indentured and help them begin a new life beyond the Rim, all that while they searched for Len’s uncle and Quetzalcoatl.

Ori spoke, as they watched her brother vanish. “Humanoids need humanoid companionship. It has been good for us both to be surrounded by so many humanoids, Kresho, though perhaps we were surrounded by too many before we had the chance to enjoy each other as a bonded pair.” He felt her caress of the nape of his neck, and he lifted his arm to accommodate her construct as she slid in tight against his body.

“Then we’ll have to make up for it, won’t we?” He said, turning to kiss the top of her ear. “Does it bother you that Tenad Fallon is here?” The woman was now in a secured room close to the infirmary under full time care. They both visited her every day since they brought her onboard Vodni Station, though she was unaware of their presence.

“Of course it doesn’t. It’s only that I wished I had handled the situation better. I feel responsible for her present condition to some degree.”

“Jesu Vati, Ori, how can you be responsible for the fucked-up mind of a Fallon?”

When she didn’t reply, when he felt her searching for the right words, it was as though the lights had suddenly come on. How could he not have seen it before? “You had me go to her because you wanted her.”

“I wanted us to be happy, and when I learned that Fury had two compliments, I thought perhaps if you had someone human then maybe things would be better. I didn’t think she would escalate the situation like she did.”

Kresho thought about that for a minute and then dropped into his chair. “Perhaps,” he said slowly, “perhaps the reason she pushed for the bonding with Fury is because she wanted something more.”

His com pinged. “Ivanovic, you’d better get down to the infirmary.” The security guard assigned to Tenad’s room was breathing hard, and Kresho could hear the scuffle in the background.

“On my way.”

Even from down the corridor, they could hear the noise, and there was a trail of blood leading into the infirmary. The two security guards always posted at Tenad’s room were not outside, but in the room struggling to restrain Tenad while Doctor Candice, tried to sedate her.

With very little effort, Tenad shoved the doctor on her ass and pushed past the guards to lunge at him, already in mid-sentence, the first words she had spoken since the fiasco of her bonding. “Ivanovic, I have to go. You have to let me go. She needs me to find her. I have to go now!”

Kresho motioned the doc away, and the guards stood back knowing that Ori wouldn’t let anything happen to him. With some effort, he turned her back to settle her on her bed. “Go where, Tenad? Who needs you?

She pounded the side of her head with her open palm. “Here. I can see them here. She won’t leave me alone. I have to go. I have to.” She pulled in a massive breath, her eyes misted and she looked right through him. “There’s a veil, a fog, I can’t get through it, but she’s there. I have to find her.”

 

 

“Find who? Where must you go, Tenad Fallon?” Ori asked.

“Fury … when we were together.” She pounded the side of her head again. “I saw them, I shouldn’t have been able to, but I did. Like I was there. Like I was them. Like they were me. He did this to me. He did this!”

“Who? Who did what? Fury?”

“No, no, no! Not Fury. Never Fury. He would never…” She gave Kresho a shake. “You’re the scientist. Tell me how that can be. You and the SNT you belong to, listen to me, there are others. I don’t know how many, but they will come. The Authority. They will come. The Independent University wasn’t the only one experimenting. They were us. He used us. We didn’t know how many of us there were. My father kept most of us secret from each other. Then I bonded with Fury, and I could see.” Tears streaked her face. “I could see, and now I’m the only one who can, and I can’t get them out of here.” She pounded her temple again, “I have to go. I have to find them. They’re angry, so angry. They will never let it end here. They will never set me free now that they know. Fury did this to me. Fury did this to me! She pounded her temple hard enough that Kresho grabbed her hands.

For a long moment she sat only staring into space. Then she drew another deep breath. “You have to let me go. I know where they are. We need them, I know them. Oh Fury, I can see them. I know them. You could have helped them, and now I’m nobody, I’m nothing, but I’m all there is. I have to go. I’m all there is.” Tenad gave one last convulsive gasp and then her eyes were once again empty. Doctor Candice shooed Kresho away and examined her.

“Well?” Kresho said, when she made no reply.

“It’s like nothing happened. Her brain patterns are consistent with the catatonic state she’s been in since she tried to bond with SNT1. I can’t explain what happened, only that she suddenly sat up, agitated, demanding to see you, and when Pelton tried to sedate her, well,” she shook her head. “He’s over in the infirmary with a broken nose and a dislocated shoulder.”

“What?”

“She forced a bond with an SNT,” the doctor said. “We don’t know the side effects of that, but we do know that the bonded compliments are stronger, more agile, in tune with the functions and needs of their ship, and they’re often very intuitive. If she can ever properly access it, she may have a deep bond to memories, events that only SNT1 would know. But that, whatever just happened, that had nothing to do with SNT1.”

“If she can ever regain consciousness, she will be unique in the galaxy,” Ori said, “and possibly even more frightening than she already was. We must discuss this with Fury.”

 

Tenad dreamed. She dreamed all the time now. It had become her existence. It always seemed like only a thin membrane separated her from the people moving around her, from the events that had changed the politics of the Dust Cloud Crossroads irrevocably. Even when she screamed out to them, tried to reach them, she couldn’t.

In the good dreams she watched her brother and Griffin make love to their pregnant compliment. She watched Dubrovnik interface with Professor Keen and his scientists in exciting research. She sensed the ship’s proud closeness with its double compliment. She watched Dragon make love to his new compliment, felt his pleasure in creating safe and comfortable places for his crew, and she watched Fury and his compliment still celebrating their reunion weeks after their return to him, as though she had never been there at all. How could she have dismissed Vodni Station so lightly? Tonight Kresho and his SNT were making passionate love, not rough like when he’d fucked her, but neither was it gentle. They couldn’t get enough of each other, and there was … love, there was love. She wondered what that might feel like, and she ached with loneliness. She couldn’t pull herself away from their love, their tenderness. Sometimes the camaraderie, the playfulness of the ships with their compliments was worse than her own nightmares because she was always only watching, never participating, always an outsider, one who none of them cared about. Sometimes she would almost prefer that they loathed her than that they did not pay her any mind at all. Lonely. She was desperately lonely, and she lived with the pain of it every time she was pulled into the dream that was the life she would never have.

“You don’t belong here, Tenad Fallon.” The woman’s voice she’d heard before in her fevered dreams, even before she bonded with Fury. She always walked on a craggy peak veiled in black. The air was thin. The wind was icy.

“I don’t belong anywhere.” Tenad tried to turn her face to the wall, but she was only dreaming, and there was no turning away. “It would have been better if I died.”

The veiled woman cackled with laughter. “Do you seriously think your survival was luck, girl? You gambled, and you got more than you bargained for.”

“I didn’t gamble. I considered every factor.” Tenad tried to hold the gaze of the woman before her, but it was impossible through the sway and lift of the veil in the howling wind.

“Your whole existence has been a gamble, Tenad Fallon.” Her words were a harsh, dry chuckle, as though she thought all of this was funny. “You’re not yet finished. You’re not your father, and you are not your brother. You were the best kept secret, the secret unlocked by your own ambition. And now your fate is thrust upon you. And you will rise to meet it, or you will die.”

And just like that the woman on the crag vanished, and Tenad Fallon woke up.

 

The End