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Dragon Ascending Part 21: Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday, everyone! Time for another episode of Dragon Ascending.  Last week we  met Kresho Ivanovic, who was unhappily preparing to meet with Tenad Fallon on Vodni Station. This week we discover that neither was what the other expected as the dance between enemies begins. I hope you’re enjoying Dragon Ascending, the sequel to Piloting Fury, as much as I’m enjoying sharing it with you. 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 Ships Series

On a desolate junkyard of a planetoid, scavenger Lenore Felik, 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 Part 21: Not What He Expected

As he approached, she turned to face him, bright green eyes curious, but not angry at his slight, not impatient. “Tenal Fallon, you’re a long way from the Authority’s Teat.” He prided himself in being charming.

She offered him a lazy smile, accessing his threat level while holding his gaze. So the military training might be more than just a fashion statement. He wondered how much training she’d had. “Kresho Eyvanovak, the Authority has very big teats And it’s Tenad,” she replied.

“Mmm, to match their very big twats, I would imagine, and it’s Ivanovic.” He nodded to her ribs. “I can escort you to medico if you’re med bot’s not working.” Ah. There it was. Not exactly a flinch but a slight twinge of a nerve being tweaked the wrong way. No one else would have noticed, but Kresho never missed anything.

“Thank you, but there’s nothing wrong with my med bot. I find a little pain from time to time is good for the soul.”

“Giving or receiving,” he asked.

Her smile became a soft purr of a chuckle. “That depends on the circumstances.”

“Well you are a Fallon, so I suppose you give as good as you get.”

Another almost flinch.

Kresho studied her longer than would have been considered polite, but then nothing about their first encounter was polite. But she simply stood quietly as though she had all the time in the world, until he took in a slow, hard put-upon breath and said. “You’re at the ass end of the galaxy, in the middle of nowhere with three hot rod jaegers. I don’t give a shit what you’re doing. Hell out here we all mind our own business, but I do give a shit that you’re here on my station. Since you’re not here for the holiday climate, I can only assume you need to resupply.”

The smile that she offered and the mischievous glint in those green eyes wrong footed him for a split second. Fallons were never to be trusted, and especially not if they flirted. “There! You see, we barely met and already we’re on the same page.”

“It’ll cost you.”

She shrugged. “As you say I’m far from the Authority’s teat. And unlike most of the Fallon brood, I’m filthy rich in my own right.”

“It’ll cost you a lot.”

“I’ve got a lot,” she replied.

He wondered what was so important to her that she had scurried all the way out beyond the ends of nowhere and didn’t even attempt to haggle.

“Also, my crew is sorely in need of some shore leave.”

“That can be arranged. My com officers will liaise with your ships to make arrangements. They behave themselves or they end up in the brig with a nice fat fine.”

“They’ll be on their best behavior.”

“Also I wouldn’t mind a break from the confines of my shop either.”

“Same rules apply to you.”

“Then I’ll do my best to stay out of trouble.”

“You’re in luck, the VIP suite is unoccupied at the moment. There’s a replicator, no room service.”

“I’ll be bringing my indentured,” she said.

This time all civility slipped away. “No you won’t, not if you want to resupply at my station, and not if you want your crew to survive this little visit.”

This time she studied him as though he amused her, and that made him want to shove her out the nearest airlock. He did not drop his gaze from those green eyes, but the ice in his gut made him wonder what was behind that look. At last she tilted her head and gave a quirk of a smile as though he were some interesting specimen under a microscope. “I have three fully equipped jaegers outside your station, Mr. Ivanovic, all state of the art and then some, one is a planet buster. You might reconsider threatening me and my crew.”

 

 

“I know exactly what you have, Ms. Fallon, and I know that you wouldn’t be here if your arsenal was in any kind of condition for whatever you’re up to. I also know Vodni Station is the only out post for a very, very long way.”

“I could just take what I want.”

He took a step closer into her personal space and heard, her breath hitch from the pain of having to step back. “You could do that if it were here for you to take.” When she blinked her confusion, he continued. “I’m not a stupid man, Ms. Fallon, to leave myself wide open to the likes of you. Surely you don’t think the Authority is the only place with hunter and dreadnaught class ships to you? And do you really think I would leave myself and my station vulnerable to any such threat. I said no indentureds on my station, and I meant it. Unless you’re willing to leave them here to be released.”

She raised her brow at that.

“No indentureds and no more discussion. If you need the help of an indentured so desperately, then I suggest you stay onboard your ship at night.”

Instead of threats and ultimatums, she simply replied, “very well. I’ll stay onboard the Virago.” And then she changed the subject as though they had only disagreed on some minor negotiation, not a human slave. “I’ll have my second in command send over the list of what we need, and if you could get me an estimate the sooner the better so I can make the credit transfer. I don’t intend to stay longer than necessary.”

“I don’t intend to delay you in the least. You’ll have the estimate before beddy-bye time tonight.”

Again she wrong-footed him by turning to look out the view port. “Mr. Ivanovic, are you also a salvage dealer now?”

Over the woman’s shoulder, he caught the view of the Lizzie Ann tractoring a battered sparrow class ship into docking bay B just as a sub-dural message from Gert came in. “Chief, we got an unexpected visitor. The Lizzie got a distress call and, well, you better get down to the dock.”

He tapped the side of his throat in silent acknowledgement and turned to Tenad Fallon. “If you’ll excuse me, I have to go.”

This time she offered him an uncharacteristic pout. “What no tour for a VIP?”

“I’ll have Anders there show you around. I’m sure he’d be delighted.”

“So my guard doubles as a tour guide. How convenient,” she said.

“We’re a small station. Everyone has to multitask here.”

“And I imagine you, as the boss of this place wear a lot of hats.”

“Naa,” he said. “I have one job and that’s dealing with all the shit no one else wants to deal with.”

“Sounds like you could use a vacation,” she said looking him up and down.

“No rest for the wicked,” he replied, returning the favor. Then he excused himself as another message from Gert came in. He left her tapping in a message on her PD in front of Anders, who stood stone faced and unimpressed in front of her. Anders was a man of certain taste, and she wasn’t it. In fact, Anders wasn’t a man at all. That’s why he was so good at what he did. And he was very good at multitasking, Anders was.

Kresho counted silently to himself and made it to seven before another

message of his subdural. This one was not from Gert.

“Tenad Fallon’s people have been ordered to find out about the ship the Lizzie Ann is tractoring,”

“That didn’t take her long,” he responded. Then he spoke to Gert. “Let prying eyes pry. And put out the word to our people to pump Fallon’s crew for all the information they can get. Tell Savvy at the Tavern to give ‘em the good stuff.”

Gert responded with just a tap. She knew the drill.

 

 

Dragon Ascending Part 20: Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday, everyone! Time for another episode of Dragon Ascending.  Last week we found out what happened to our girl, Len. This week we meet Kresho Ivanovic, who is unhappily preparing to meet with Tenad Fallon on Vodni Station. I hope you’re enjoying Dragon Ascending, the sequel to Piloting Fury, as much as I’m enjoying sharing it with you. 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 Felik, 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 Part 20: Vodni Station

If there was one thing Kresho Ivanovic did not need, it was a fucking Fallon on Vodni Station. Unless he could have the pleasure of blowing the bastard out the airlock, and they were all literally bastards, thanks to their daddy’s predilections. The thought gave him a warm fuzzy right next to his heart. He had kept Tenad Fallon, Abriad – good riddance to a nasty shit stain – Fallon’s eldest daughter, waiting in the hall for nearly an hour while he tried to sort shipping manifests for a New Hibernian freighters off-loading whiskey and taking on a shipment of medical supplies with a destination he preferred not to know about. Not his business, and both he and his second in command, Gert, were good at keeping the logs all clean and nice-like.

Gert leaned over his shoulder now watching the ship being loaded on dock A. “How long you gonna keep the bitch waiting?” She asked in her gravelly voice that fit her scary-assed look and her equally scary-assed reputation.

“I’m hoping she shoves her way through the door and give you a chance to haul her privileged butt off to the brig for a few hours.”

Her face broke into a broad smile that looked even broader, if lopsided, with the scar at the outer edge of her upper lip stretched pale against her dark skin. “Ah Chief, you’re just too damned good to me.” She cracked her knuckles with a low chuckle, no doubt fantasizing about what she could do to the Fallon brat with a few hours alone in the brig. Hell, he’d happily pay to watch that little party. They could record it and sell it on for good credits, he’d bet. He couldn’t think of anyone who wouldn’t consider seeing a Fallon’s ass kicked fine, wholesome entertainment.

“Guards are taking bets on how long you can keep her out there before she storms the door,” Gert said. “Got the loading dock crew in on it too. Somebody’s gonna have a fat pay out.”

Kresho looked down at his PD. “Well as much as I’d like to oblige, I’ve got a load of sensitive cargo coming in from Authority space, and if she’s here to resupply, like she claims, she might just decide to confiscate the whole lot, and there goes your New Year’s bonus. I need her sorted and distracted when the Lizzie Ann unloads.”

“Shall I distract her for you?” There was another crack of her knuckles.

“Now that would warm the cockles of my heart, for sure. Sadly, I need you to deal with the cargo, and the crew. They like you for some reason.”

She shook her head. “No accounting for taste, I guess.” Then she frowned. “Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age.”

“If that ever happens, I’ll retire your ass to Outer Kingston where you can have nubile Kingsians serving you Margaritas and feeding you dates.”

 

 

She smiled at the thought. “Something to look forward to.”

He heaved himself up from his desk and cursed under his breath as though the effort caused him pain. “Time to go face the music. Sooner I get it over with, the sooner we can be rid of the Fallon dick-spurt and her souped up jaegers. I don’t want that much firepower so close to Vodni. It’s not a recipe for happy feelings among the residents.”

“Goddamnit it’s a kick in the teeth keeping everyone happy around here. I’m beginning to feel like a ball licking politician. When did we sign up for this shit?”

Kresho gave his chin a thoughtful scratch. “Got the job by default, as I recall, since neither of us is fit to live anywhere else.”

“‘Cept me. I’m fit to live on Outer Kingston with nubile Kingsians catering to my every whim.”

“Not today you’re not. You got a bonus to earn, you lazy bitch.”

Gerd’s well-muscled shoulders slumped just a little and she literally growled. “So you’re going to give daddy’s little jizz gob what she wants?”

“Nope. I’m gonna see that daddy’s little jizz gob gets what she wants as long as she pays double for it. Shit’s expensive out here,” he said with a shrug of one shoulder.

Her response was a chuckle that didn’t sound much different from her growl, and certainly no less threatening.

Outside his office, Kresho was surprised Tenad Fallon wasn’t pacing in front of the door. Anders, who had been assigned to keep a close eye on her, nodded down the hall. The woman he saw was not what Kresho had expected. She was tall, maybe as tall as he was. She could have been easily mistaken for a guard, straight back, square shoulders black coveralls unrelieved with any color or jewelry. There was no effort made to show off a figure that even the comfortably roomy coveralls did not hide. She wore her red hair clubbed back in a military style many of his female guards preferred. If she were impatient or put off by what she had to know was a blatant and deliberate slight on his part, she showed no hint of it.

It was as he drew nearer he realized she was injured. Ribs, he figured. Oh no one else would notice, she hid what had to be a great deal of pain very well, but he was always aware of body language. In his position and with his connections, it was essential. He would have felt guilty about not offering an injured person a place to sit while she waited, but then she was a Fallon. Any extra pain a Fallon had to endure did not pluck at his heartstrings even a little bit. More than likely she deserved every ache and pain, and he secretly hoped there were a lot of them.

 

 

Dragon Ascending Part 19: Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you enjoyed the Dragon Jubilee Reading Spree. After four back-to-back episodes of Dragon Ascending over the four days of the Jubilee holiday weekend, we are now back to our usual Dragon schedule again. Last week Mac, Manning and Fury found Len, but getting her back was another matter. This week we find out what happened to our girl. I hope you’re enjoying Dragon Ascending, the sequel to Piloting Fury, as much as I’m enjoying sharing it with you. 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 Felik, 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 Part 19: Embrace

Len fell long enough that her stomach threatened to climb out her throat and the sensation of free fall was almost there, then instantly replace by tight enveloping darkness and a hissed “shush” in her ear. “We are being scanned,” Ascent-7 whispered so close it felt as though it were in her head.

“The Dart?”

“No.”

It was only when Ascent answered that Len realized she hadn’t spoken the words.

“They will not find us here,” his response was also a thought. Len knew there was nano chip technology that could link ships and their most important crew sub-vocally, but this, this was far beyond that tech. This was instant thought communication. It didn’t exist. Ascent-7 sure as hell was no salvaged wreck. For the first time it entered her mind that whoever was out there wasn’t looking for her at all. And then she truly was terrified.

“You must relax, Lenore. We are safe here,” Came the comforting voice in her head. “You are trembling, and your pulse rate is too fast.”

Oh! Oh, there were all sorts of responses she would like to make to that little remark, but she decided instead to try to keep her thoughts to herself. Vaticana Jesu! Could he read her thoughts? When she could breathe again and was sure she wouldn’t pass out, she became aware of her surroundings, the ones she could not see, but she sure as hell could feel. Those surroundings were most definitely male. Her heart rate spiked again. “Am I your prisoner?” She asked – whispered this time.

“You are not,” came his reply in her head. “Now be quiet please. We are in danger.” If it were possible, he wrapped himself still more tightly around her, almost as if by doing so he could calm her. And she clung to him too, arms wrapped tightly around his neck, fear flooding her nerve endings, fear that she had never lived terribly far from since she had escaped Authority space with her mother. Fear kept you alive, and sometimes, sometimes even that was not enough.

Ascent held her securely tucked against his chest, a broad strong chest she could feel every detail of, and it was bare. Warm skin against her cheek? That wasn’t even possible. She listened for the beating of a heart, but she could hear little above the hammer fall of her own. Perhaps he was humanoid, perhaps there was a humanoid living out here hidden away in the wreckage, then why hadn’t he shown himself if that were true.

She was aware that long haul ships especially the smaller ones, quite often provided for the sexual needs of their crew with pleasure tech, not that she’d ever had the experience. The only long haul ship she’d ever been on was the one that had whisked her and her mother away from their home in Authority space when she was just a child. She would not have been aware or interested in such things then. All she recalled well was that her uncle was missing and presumed dead and because of that they’d had to run. Mostly she knew about the pleasure tech able to shape itself into humanoid form for the pleasuring of small crews on deep space missions because the functioning parts of that pleasure tech were worth a fortune in the salvage yards and most often snapped up immediately. After her mother’s death, when she came to live on Tak Major, she fantasize about being lucky enough to find a functioning device in the salvage yards that had been overlooked, which would have made her well off enough financially to catch a transport off this rock to somewhere decent beyond the Rim. Even as valuable as they were, those systems were crude. They were functional and clunky, not that anyone minded when their only other companionship was another smelly crewmate or two, or possibly not even that.

But this, blessed baby Jesu! In the dark, Ascent-7 felt completely humanoid, completely male and … really happy to see her. Flashes of her violation reminded her too vividly of what could happen when men had been too long without companionship. Ascent-7 was so much stronger than any humanoid, and no doubt badly damaged or he wouldn’t be here in the salvage yard. Her skin sheened in cold sweat and she tensed.

 

 

“I will not harm you,” came the response in her head. “Please do not worry. You are safe with me.” The embrace relaxed a little and the erection dissipated slightly. “It is only that I have not embraced a humanoid in a very long time.” The erection vanished completely, and there was an ache of sadness that somehow Len knew belonged to the computer, even though she felt it somewhere deep below her heart. She didn’t know how a computer could feel anything. Surely it was only mirroring human emotions, emotions that could have even been her own really. Before the Dart, she’d had no humanoid embrace since her mother’s death. Her friends in Sandstorm had protected her from the worst of the rusters who came in for salvage. Though in truth she’d had little desire to get close to anyone after her mother’s death, and living on her own and spending most of her time beneath the salvage heaps, there was no one to get close to. What happened on the Dart was not anything she’d ever want to repeat, but this, what Ascent felt like around her, this was something totally different. She understood his pain, and his closeness she welcomed.

This time it was she who tightened the embrace. “I’m sorry,” she whispered very softly against his ear, misjudging the distance and brushing her lips against that warm spiral curve.

His breath caught, surely breath he did not have. “As am I,” came the equally soft whisper of warm lips against her ear.

She wasn’t sure how long they remained in the embrace, the pleasure of human closeness. The erection slowly returned, but he made no advances, and she could not ignore the aching hardness of her nipples beneath her clothing and the clench below her belly that made her want to move still closer, to shift and squirm and wrap herself around him as he had her. Instead, she indulged the embrace, relishing his nearness, marveling at what it felt like to have maleness engulf her in safety, even to perhaps desire her a little, or at least the comfort of her body. It was a long time before she felt solid footing beneath her feet and Ascent-7 spoke out loud this time. “They have gone. They are no longer scanning the salvage yard.” Utility lighting came on just enough to illuminate a corridor that was not a part of Len’s short context with the computer. The embrace disappeared, though she sensed as she recovered her balance, that should she stumble, Ascent would not allow her to fall. “Come,” he said, and the path ahead of her illuminated still further revealing pristine white walls with a metallic sheen. “You must rehydrate and eat, then you may have a shower.”

“I have questions.” She followed him down the corridor. “Lots of questions.”

“I shall give you what answers I may,” came the reply, “Once you have refreshed yourself and rested.”

“Do you know who it was scanning us?” She asked as they stepped into a lift.

“I do not. I feel that I should, but I do not. I feel strongly that we must not reveal ourselves.”

“They’re after you, not me.” It wasn’t a question. It was a fact. She was no one anyone would ever look for, and that was just the way she planned to keep it.

“Perhaps.” The doors of the lift closed around her and her stomach dropped at the speed of the ascent.

“You’re a big ship?”

“My size is irrelevant,” came the reply. Silence returned and for a moment she was afraid he would once again give her the silent treatment. When the elevator stopped, they turned at a junction that almost instantly brought them to the open door of her chamber. The smell coming from inside was exquisite and she realized for the first time since she had broke and run just how hungry she was. This time the drink in the glass was bright orange. It was accompanied by a pitcher of water. “What is it?”

“Only another variation in the electrolyte formula I have been serving you. This one will boost any nutrients and minerals you have lost from your flight in the Shimmer, since clearly you did not partake liberally of the water I provided.”

“Sorry,” she said, downing the contents of the glass in thirsty gulps. “I’m not used to having any spare water.”

“You could have sustained severe damage from the heat.”

She smiled as she dug into a pasta dish she could not identify, but it was divine. “You don’t need to baby me,” she said around a mouthful, which she chased with a glass of water.

“I do not wish to have you damaged again after you were so difficult to repair in the first place.”

“Ascent,” she sat down the glass and wiped sweaty palms on her trousers. “Ascent, how badly damaged was I? I mean I remember falling before I blacked out. I couldn’t make the leap. The only other thing I remember after that was waking up in the darkness and knowing someone was there. I thought perhaps the Religiosers were right and maybe there was an afterlife. I thought I was dead.”

“You were dead, Lenore,” came the reply, “and I could not remember how to fix you.

He said something after that, but she heard nothing over the beating of wings in her ears and her struggle to breathe.

 

 

Dragon Ascending Part 18: Jubilee Reading Spree

Welcome to the final day of the Dragon Jubilee Reading Spree!  To celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with the rest of the UK, I’ve decided to give you four back-to-back episodes of Dragon Ascending over the four days of the Jubilee holiday weekend. Today’s the big final bash and the final day of our Jubilee Reading Spree, but don’t worry, Dragon will be back next Friday in the usual slot, because there’s still lots more tale to tell. Remember, wherever you are, never miss a chance to celebrate, and never NEVER miss a chance to enjoy a good read. Grab up the indulgence of your choice and settle in for the final day of the mini Dragon read-a-thon. Yesterday  we left Len exploring the salvage dump. Today Mac and Manning are back aboard Fury doing their own exploration of the place.  I hope you’re enjoying Dragon Ascending, the sequel to Piloting Fury, as much as I’m enjoying sharing it with you. 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 Ships Series

On a desolate junkyard of a planetoid, scavenger Lenore Felik, 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.

 

 

 

“The climate on Taklamakan Minor is very much like that of Plague 1 outside the shelter,” Fury informed them, “but apparently because of its location and its erratic orbit, there are some phenomena unique to the planetoid that are of scientific interest. Janesha Felik, along with her daughter Lenore, were the last humanoids to occupy Taklamakan Minor before the science station was automated. According to the records, both she and Lenore died in an accident outside the station. The incident happened shortly after the yearly manned vessel visited. In fact the station was automated because of the psychological stress of being so isolated. There were rumors that it was a possible homicide/suicide, but there was no evidence. When the manned ship returned a year later, they could not find either of the bodies, only Lenore’s last automated distress beacon, so they assumed both had died. Lenore’s call came only shortly after the previous manned ship left, or so the records say. It should have picked up the message and been able to return for her. The Akhenaten claimed there was no sign of either body when they arrived and that it never received the signal. I find that strange.” Fury said.

“I find it strange she survived at all under the circumstances,” Mac commented.

“The urge to survive is a powerful drive, Diana Mac,” Fury said. No one knew that better than the three of them.

They maintained high orbit over Tak Major until they were once again on the Sandstorm side of the planetoid. “We are now above the Sea of Death,” Fury said, and Mac strapped in at the controls, Manning did the same. Mac took them down into a lower orbit so they could scan the Salvage yard.

“We should be right above it,” Mac said. “Fury, I’m not seeing anything. I suppose it might be buried under the sand.”

“That would not matter,” Fury replied. “I should be able to scan it and send back telemetry easily enough, even from a higher orbit.”

“Then what?” Manning squinted at the readings.

“I am being blocked,” came the ship’s response.

“The fuck?”

“SNT tech.” Mac felt her pulse ratchet at the thought. She knew that it was in her own gut. Fury was the only one of the original sixteen SNTs she had ever met, and after what had been done to them, she couldn’t imagine any of them welcoming an intrusion.

“No one but another SNT could see through the cloak.”

“Wait a minute, your sibling is cloaking the whole damn salvage dump?” She said.

“It is not that difficult when one doesn’t wish to be found.” Fury informed them. “But do not worry, I can penetrate it once I have learned the algorithm.”

“How long will that take,” Manning asked, still squinting at the screen as though he expected by doing so he could do the same. Mac guessed in a way he could. So could she, if Fury chose to open the function of his mind and give them a peek. But they had learned early on that they didn’t need to be privy to everything, nor was it healthy.

“Ah! Very clever sibling,” Fury said, as though he were talking about a precocious child. “Done!” And the entire screen was instantly filled with the salvage yard.

“Holy shit!” Manning exclaimed with a long drawn-out whistle. The dump stretched for kilometers and kilometers in every direction. Even from orbit they could see it.

“Indeed,” Fury responded. “There is a de-mole barrier.”

“Around what?” Manning asked, pulling up a closer view on the screen. And then he let out another long whistle, this time expletive free.

 

 

“Around all of it. I do believe that my dear sibling does not want visitors.”

“Vaticana Jesu, Fury! And you could do that? I mean the dump goes on forever.”

“Of course I could do that, Richard Manning. I suppose it would mean shifting power a bit and shutting down some non-essential functions. Do you not recall me telling you that there is a state of dormancy, deep sleep, if you will, that an SNT can enter when there is no longer a reason to function?”

They both nodded. “But even in such a state one would not want to be left vulnerable. One would adapt a method of protection that best suited the need. In this case there has been a cloak thrown up above a de-mole barrier. Though I cannot imagine anyone coming here.”

“Apparently this Len did,” Mac said. “And this is not the kind of trip you’d make from Sandstorm without a damn good reason. It would have cost a Jaeger’s worth of credits.”

“Well it certainly would be a great place to hide if you didn’t want to be found,” Manning observed. “But surely your sibling would know that another SNT could uncover the hiding place.”

“Of course. Perhaps there was a regroup code written in at an unconscious level in the earlier SNTs. I do not know, but certainly professor Keen and the scientists who helped bring SNT’s into the world would have known that the Authority and the conglomerates would do everything in their power to control SNT tech. It would make sense that there would have been a plan. Though it is not in my database for I was not meant to be born for several more years and it must not have been programmed yet.”

“So how do you leave your calling card for another SNT?” Manning asked.

“I believe I have already done so,” Fury said, “Simply by entering orbit.” Before either of them could ask any more questions, he said. “I am picking up a humanoid life form within the perimeter.”

“Fuck me! Then she did survive,” Manning said. “That woman is like a cat with nine lives. Bring up her image on the screen. Let’s see our sand cat.”

“Popish baby Jesu, is she actually running?” Mac exclaimed. “In this heat? Is she crazy?”

“She is running, from us,” Fury affirmed, “though she cannot possibly see us or even be aware of our presence this high.”

“Nor can she possibly run that fast!” Mac brought the image up closer and squinted. “Wait a minute, look how she’s dressed?”

“For the desert, so what? Oh!” Manning said.

“The clothes are clean! And they’re new. This woman is little more than a street urchin grown up from all the stories we’ve been hearing,” Mac said.

“She has been clothed by an SNT,” Fury observed.

“Explains the speed too, since we know she was injured.” Mac said. “Fury can you get a lock on her and ‘tran her aboard?”

“I will need a moment to counter the de-mole around her.”

“Do it!” The words were barely out of his mouth before the woman simply vanished. “Did you get her?”

“I did not,” came the reply. “But my sibling did.”

 

 

Dragon Ascending Part 17: Jubilee Reading Spree!

Welcome to day three of the Dragon Jubilee Reading Spree!  To celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with the rest of the UK, I’ve decided to give you four back-to-back episodes of Dragon Ascending over the four days of the Jubilee holiday weekend. There’s still plenty of celebration left to enjoy, so eat some Coronation chicken, pop open some fizz and drink it from your 70th Jubilee souvenir cup. Whether you’re in the UK or not, never miss a chance to celebrate, and there’s no better celebration I know than a good read. Grab up the indulgence of your choice and settle in for day three of the mini Dragon read-a-thon. As you remember, yesterday we left Mac and Manning on Sandstorm still searching for Len. Meanwhile, today we find Len exploring the salvage dump. Do remember that every day through Sunday, there’ll be another new episode of Dragon Ascending, so tune in and enjoy.  I hope you’re enjoying Dragon Ascending, the sequel to Piloting Fury, as much as I’m enjoying sharing it with you. 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 Felik, 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 Part 17: Not Alone!

Once on the ground, Len looked up to see the airlock much as it had been when she had arrived convinced she sought only shelter where she could die in peace. Looking at it now, there was no way she could have made the leap from where she had perched that evening. Ascent-7 had somehow caught her as she fell. She shivered. How could that even be possible? And yet, according to him, his ship still had enough functionality to shoot down a starling class freighter from high orbit. As she looked up at the airlock above, the heat waves around it lazily shimmered, then convulsed and in its place was nothing more than a mountain of wreckage and metallic debris. The ship’s outer airlock was impossible to perceive. All that remained was the small red blip on her PD. “Thank you,” she said again. As she turned to face the kilometers and kilometers of space junk, there was another chirp of the PD and she glanced down to see a second blip on the monitor nearly on top of the first, a representation of herself. A quick study of the graphic of the area showed an outline that glowed red, which she recognized according to the scale as the de-mole perimeter. Upon it there was no evidence of a breach. She stood for a moment more studying her location and remembering what she could about her desperate arrival. She had not come straight from the perimeter breach to D7’s airlock, not wanting to make it easy for any predators, which might have followed the trail of blood. She had entered the breach and then turned immediately left. She remembered her PD had shown her the outline of the de-mole, so she had it with her at that point. There was no way of knowing how far she had come. She was not in any kind of state to hurry, nor to judge time. Her PD would have given her all of that information, but that was a moot point now. She headed in the direction she had come following the perimeter. Perhaps the PD Ascent 7 had given her was sophisticated enough to not show the breach until she got to it.

The heat beat down on her even through the loose light clothing. She fucking hated the Taklamakan heat. She much preferred the icy chill of night, minus the perpetual wind that howled until dawn, of course. She walked slowly, keeping one eye on the PD and another on the barely visible shimmer of the do-mole. Every once in awhile she would pick up a small stone and toss it at the fence, where it would instantly disintegrate back to its molecular elements. Occasionally she stopped to sip water from the insulated flask that kept it cool. Creature comforts and attention to detail. Ascent 7 seemed to be all about both. The knot returned to her stomach. She missed his company. How could it be that she’d grown used to it so quickly? She’d probably had more conversation with him than she’d had with anyone at Sandstorm Base for the past year, unless you count those haggling over the price of some piece of rubbish she’d been desperate enough to steal from one of the yards and sell back again.

She walked slowly, carefully, for over an hour. Much farther than she could have possibly made in her injured condition. No matter how long it had taken to get her to Asctent7’s airlock, there’s no way it could have been far. Had she turned the wrong way? Sweat ran in little riverlets down her back even as it dried in salty trails and formed again. She squinted hard in spite of the goggles and pulled the cloth up tighter around her face. Any signs of her passing would have all been scoured away in the wind. She pulled a concentrated journey bar from her pack and nibbled it, surprised by the rich intensity of the flavor, then she drank again and turned back the other way. She must have mistaken the direction she’d turned. The heat rose in shimmering waves from the ground playing tricks on her eyes, making living things out of dancing heat, blasting the shadows with dusty knee-high clouds that ebbed and flowed like someone might have passed that way, then blended with the shadows until every movement lost clarity, every shifting felt like an intruder waiting to pounce on her, waiting to finish what the assholes on the Dart had started, like predators that had found their way in at the scent of her blood and lay in wait for a meal that would eventually come if they were only patient enough.

 

 

The skin along her neck prickled and she glanced behind her. But of course no one was there. Surely Ascent-7’s hiding place was well guarded, but then she was an hour away from the airlock. A lot could happen in an hour. Sweat dripped down inside the goggles and stung her eyes. She gave the PD a little shake. Perhaps it was miscalibrated. But it wasn’t. Again the thought ran through her head that perhaps Ascent 7 was pushing the limits of his functionality to care for her. She shivered in spite of the heat and pushed that thought out of her head. Perhaps she had gone farther than she thought. Damp hair stuck to the back of her neck and the heat beating down on her felt like a physical thing as she trudged back.

When she arrived, the force field that hid Ascent-7’s airlock trembled away and the cool of the interior beckoned her. Instead, she took another careful sip of water, blinked her stinging eyes and continued on in the opposite direction, watching the PD’s readout more carefully. Her sense of time and distance had always been good. It saved her life more than once while exploring the salvage yards for something she could sell. Yes, there was nothing wrong with the PD, she was almost certain after she had walked for an hour in the other direction and then carried on another fifteen minutes and then another just for good measure. Her mouth felt like a sandpit as she carefully sipped the water. She had walked into the heat of the day now, the Shimmer, they called it on Taklamakan. It was something she knew better than to do. Still no sign of the breach in the de-mole.

An hour and a half out meant an hour and a half back. She should have never taken such an unnecessary risk. There were too many things that could go wrong in the Shimmer. Along with the exhaustion and the weight of the heat that squeezed in against her still weakened body, threatening to suffocate her, there was a rising fear in the pit of her stomach she still could not dare to give thought to. The breach had been larger upon her arrival to ease her passage. It was now gone. She could not get out. Would Ascent-7 allow her out if she asked, or was she his prisoner?

She pushed the thought to the back of her heat-addled brain as the return stretched before her, every step longer and harder than the one before. She tripped over her own feet and fell to her hands and knees. It should have jarred ribs still tender at the very least, but she felt nothing unusual, no pain at all. For a long moment, she stayed on all fours, catching her breath, fighting off the panic and the anger that what she had done, how she had pushed herself had been stupid. She had just calmed herself and shoved to her feet when she felt it. Around her the air shifted, then stilled, charged and full. A chill passed over her, as though she were suddenly immersed in deep shadow, though the sky was empty and baked as it always was. The hair on her arms and neck bristled from the static and for the briefest of moments she was certain she felt a wisp of breath along her neck. She yelped and ran, like all the banshees of hell were chasing her. Running in the Shimmer was sheer madness, but stopping seemed stupider still, terrified to look behind her, knowing beyond knowing that she was not alone. “Ascent!” She gasped out loud. Then she screamed, “Ascent!” Though she didn’t know what the hell she expected a fucking computer to do when she was still at least an hour away from the airlock. The heat, the heat, the heat! It beat her shoulders with every step. She had to get back, she had to get back!

The feel of the prickle against her skin drove her past her abilities, way past. It wasn’t possible she could run this fast in the heat. In the Shimmer it was barely possible to do more than shamble without passing out. The inexplicable increase in speed didn’t stop the feel of her lungs on fire or her heart in hyper drive. The speed was unsustainable. She was unsustainable. She wanted only to sleep and forget the fire, the loss, the loss the LOSS! What kind of fucking thought was that? Sure there had been loss in her life, but she didn’t want to go to sleep, and it had been ice, so much ice. Not fire. Always ice. She slammed down the wall in her head that held back the ice and the snow. Now was not the time to navel gaze, now was the time to move her ass. Just at the moment she was certain her heart would explode and she would die, the ground opened beneath her feet and swallowed her up. There was no infestation, no glass serpent’s maw, just sand. Sand that was there, then suddenly gone. For a moment she fell into total darkness.

 

 
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