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Posts Tagged ‘Scifi romance adventure’

Piloting Fury Part 21: Brand New KDG Read

It’s Fury Friday! It’s time to see what Mac and Manning and Fury are up to. Wherever they are, trouble is not far behind them. Time for another escape to deep space for a rollicking read.  My NaNoWriMo project, Fledgling Nightmares is finished! Doing a happy dance with wine in hand here at Grace Manor. I promise a sneak preview as soon as I can clean one up for you. This week I’ve been working on timelines for the Medusa universe, fitting everything together and making it seamless. I still have work to do to make the last two books sync timeline wise, but it’s a lot of fun.

In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 21th week. If you are, please spread the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’m offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Today, Mac gets a hard lesson in smuggling. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!

 

 

“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.

 

Piloting Fury: Part 21 We Have Company

We skipped the scenic route to Outer Kingston in favor of the most direct, the one that involved three rough jumps and a slingshot move around a gas giant. It was a route that no one had tried before and frankly I was surprised when Manning gave me the go ahead. He said he’d rather be there a little early, never being sure of what Banshee Blake would do. “I trust the bastard about as far as I can drop-kick his fat ass through the nearest airlock,” Manning had said. He added that Blake had to have a special captain’s chair in his ship that would accommodate his size.

We came out of hyper and all but coasted to the rendezvous point with time to spare thanks to some seriously fancy flying, if I do say so myself. I could tell by the smile on Manning’s chops that he thought so too. He chuckled and ran a hand over his stubbled chin. “I think we just took the record for fastest trip from the Remote Inner Edge to New Kingston,” he said with a chuckle. “The McAllister Sling Shot, that’s what I figure they’ll be calling it one day.”

Sadly we both knew it couldn’t be made public, since we’d just paid an illegal visit to a plague planet carrying major contraband, and all that done with a Shanghaied indentured pilot. But I still had every plan to bask in the afterglow until Blake showed up.

“Nothing to do now but sit tight and wait.” Manning disappeared and returned shortly with a bottle of New Hibernian and two glasses. “Under the circumstances, I think a toast might be in order.” He handed me a glass and lifted his. “To the McAllister Sling Shot.”

I returned the toast.

He downed his in a single go. New Hibernian was more of a gulping whiskey, even the good stuff. It would get you there fast, and almost but not quite burn your taste buds off in the process. I followed suit.

He pushed the glass aside and stretched out his hand. “Let me see your device,” he said.

I gave it over and raised a curious brow as he typed something in it.

“There!” He handed it back to me. “As far as our little run to Pandora Base, well, nothing from nothing is nothing, but you’re welcome to half of that.” Before I could say anything, he nodded down to the pad.

“That’s the code to your Atlas account. It’s empty now, but while you’ve been doing the flying, I’ve arranged everything so that, as we said, twenty percent of all profits will automatically go into your account. Numbered only, for your protection, of course. Plus the folks at Atlas don’t give a shit that you’re indentured. Once we conclude the deal with Blake, the credits will be deposited. If you continue to prove yourself, I’ll up your percentage to twenty-five and from there,” he quirked his head and winked, “well from there we’ll see.”

I stared at the open account page until it became nothing more than an abstract jumble. “Does that mean you’re giving me the opportunity to buy back my indenture?” I managed around the excited hammering of my own heart.

“That means I’m giving you the opportunity to do whatever you want, whatever you’re capable of.” He held my gaze. “Naturally I’d prefer that whatever you do, you do it here with me and Fury.” Then he offered a blinding smile. “With a pilot like you who can gamble like you do, who can think on her feet like you do, I figure you’re my ace in the hole.”

Before I could offer more than a shocked thank you, Fury said. “There is an urgent incoming transmission from Banshee Blake.”

Fury patched it through. “Authority’s on my ass,” Blake’s voice was a nasal sharply accented tenor that boomed through the com like an out of tune French horn, like we were all deaf, or soon would be if we had to listen to him long. I guessed that’s how he got the name Banshee.

“Rendezvous point’s been compromised. Sending new coordinates.”

“Fury send a text only confirmation,” Manning said without switching on his com link. “I don’t know this place,” he added studying the coordinates Blake had sent. We both watched as a 3D image came up, closed in on our destination and then magnified it.

“It is a high orbit space station, abandoned five standard years ago as unsafe and too expensive to repair,” Fury’s computer said, as we studied the details.

“This is not like Blake,” Manning said. “He prefers open space for a quick getaway. That makes it easier for him to grab the cargo and run if he gets an opportunity.”

“I don’t like it,” I said.

“I don’t either. But then I never like doing business with Blake.”

“Then why do you?” I asked.

“Well, the deals are usually sweet and the profits high if you can manage them without him scalping you alive.”

“Fingers crossed then.” I entered the coordinates and stroked Fury’s console for luck. “I could use the credits. I’m broke.”

The space station was huge, and I wondered how the hell the giant hunk of junk had remained in orbit once it was left derelict. I also wondered why it hadn’t been dismantled. It had been used for the docking port for all ships coming and going to Outer Kingston until the new, larger, more streamline one had been built on the other side of the planet. Outer Kingston was the last and most remote port of call before the long trek to the Outer Rim. It was not really a part of anything, only a single rocky planet orbiting a small yellow sun, a planet that was almost entirely water other than the few small islands that served as hideouts for smugglers and ports of call for ships in and out of the Outer Rim. There had been a few efforts to make some of the more picturesque islands into holiday destinations, but the planet was just too far from the so-called civilized center of The Consortium of Planets. That meant most of those islands had devolved into illegal casinos and brothels, surviving and thriving just beyond the edge of Authority scrutiny. Though technically it belonged to the Consortium, it was too far out for any real Authority control, and that made the place a mecca of smuggling and illegal activity. We made our way in and out of the docking bays of the derelict space station until we found the rendezvous point. It was way too claustrophobic for my liking. I couldn’t keep from wondering just what else went on in a place that had trouble written all over it.

“It’s a good place for a sting,” I said.

“Too good,” Manning grunted, just as Blake’s ship appeared from a blind spot around the curve of the station.

“Wait a minute,” I said, “the man just came out of nowhere. That’s not possible. Something’s going on. We should have been aware of his approach.”

“Manning, let’s make this quick. I’m feeling a little twitchy after the week I’ve had.”

Manning kept the mic off. He laid a hand on my shoulder. “I need you to stay on deck and stay ready, Mac. We’ll Molt-tran the whiskey and me over at the same time, but separately. You know how to do that?” He waved a hand. “Fury does. Keep a lock on me and on the whiskey, but if worse comes to worse, we cut our losses and live to fight another day. I’ll need you to get us out of here fast. You got it.” I nodded.

He opened the mic. “On my way. Meet me in the belly with your manifest.”

“Shields dropped,” came Blake’s nasal flugelhorn response.

“I don’t like this,” I said to Fury, as I keyed in the mol-tran and watched first the whiskey and then Manning dematerialize before my eyes. “I don’t like this at all.”

“I am not terribly pleased at the situation myself,” Fury commented. “Banshee Blake is to be trusted less than most of our disreputable colleagues.”

Ourcolleagues?” I commented as Manning’s visual implant came online and I felt a whole lot better clapping eyeballs on him. “How much is he paying you?”

“Not nearly enough.” Fury replied, and in spite of the tense situation, I laughed. But the laugh died in my throat when Fury quickly added. “We have company, Diana Mac, three Authority jaegers converging fast off starboard.

 

Piloting Fury: Part 20 Brand New KDG Read

It’s Fury Friday! It’s time to see what Mac and Manning and Fury are up to. Wherever they are, trouble is not far behind them. Time for another escape to deep space for a rollicking read.  Here we are in December, which means  NaNoWriMo  is over and I downed tools at the 92.5 mark, my largest word count ever for NaNoWriMo. Fledgling Nightmares is nearly done! I have three chapters left to go, so the characters are still taking me on a wild and wonderful ride, their favourite time to grab me by scruff of the neck and send me scurrying to the laptop seems to be early morning. I promise a sneak preview when the draft is finished.  The Medusa Consortium world is full of surprises that may involve the expansion and reshaping of the whole Medusa universe.

In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 20th week. If you are, please spread the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’m offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Today, Mac and Fury enjoy the calm after the storm and Manning rejoins the crew healthy and robust and ready for a little smuggling. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!

 

 

“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.

 

Piloting Fury: Part 20 Sleep Aids and Mysteries

“I do not want to disappoint you, Diana Mac.”

Plague One was little more than a vanishing white dot in the distance, and I was just about to make the hyper jump when Manning finally made it to the deck looking no worse for the wear. To my surprise, he brought me coffee. When I was finished, I had another sandwich and I pulled up Kandenski on the monitor. For a long time I stared at Keen’s information in the ships database, which was nothing more than a name and not even his own. But then the last thing Manning would want was to be associated with the notorious Victor Keen, and he certainly wouldn’t want the Authority getting any hint that Keen was still alive and that Plague One had been transformed.

“Your vital signs are those of exhaustion, Diana Mac,” Fury broke into my silent reverie. “I recommend sleep.”

“Recommendation duly noted,” I replied, and continued staring at the database.

After a few seconds, Fury responded, “Duly noted, but not acted upon?”

“I can’t sleep,” I replied.

“There are several reliable sleeping aids in medico.”

“I don’t like to medicate myself.”

“Perhaps warm milk then?”

I made a face. “Have you ever actually tasted warm milk, Fury?”

“I have not had that pleasure.”

I shivered at the thought. “Well, it’s vile, awful stuff.”

“Perhaps a non-Terran folk remedy then? Digan fire weed tea is said to induce slumber.”

“You suppose Manning would notice if I tapped into one of those kegs of New Hibernian gently aging in the cargo hold?”

“I do not advise such action, Diana Mac. Your systems have been compromised due to the stress levels endured during our efforts to escape the atmosphere of Plague One. There are no healing benefits to consuming alcoholic beverages. In fact to do so would compromise your bodily functions even more.”

I snorted a laugh. “My bodily functions. Right.”

“However,” Fury continued, “should you choose to ignore my advice, there is a complete selection of alcoholic beverages onboard, including New Hibernian whiskey.”

“Never mind,” I waved a dismissive hand “While I would love to partake, I’m still the one on duty until Manning is up and at ‘em, so best I stick to useless folk remedies.”

I stared at the name Kandenski on the viewing screen. Now that all of our lives weren’t at risk from the storm, my mind was racing, replaying over and over the things Keen had said to me, the things that were a world away from what I had always been told. He was right, I had a million questions, not the least of which was why Manning knew enough to think I should go to Plague One and meet Keen. Granted it wouldn’t have been that difficult to find out about me if he’d had a conversation with Captain Harker, and the truth was, as far as indentureds went, I was both tragic and infamous because of my father.

In the early days of my indenture, Fallon was forever having to shoo the reporters and papparaci away. He would give interviews about the poor little indentured he saw more as a daughter than a servant. He would remind them again how he had purchased my contract of indenture and great price to himself because he had known my father and did not want Aden McAllister’s only child to be sold into the hands of strangers. After all, it wasn’t my fault what happened, I was a victim … blah blah blah.

But he would never let them speak to me nor would he let them get close to me. For my own protection, he told everyone. I’d suffered enough, he said. Truth was, he didn’t want anyone seeing my bruises and the scars from being infected with the SNT virus multiple times. I don’t know why he bothered. I would have never talked. I wouldn’t dare. After all I was his indentured. No one would stop him from doing with me whatever he pleased. And he did.

“Fury, can you open a channel to Kandenski?” I asked at last.

“I cannot comply due to atmospheric conditions above the planet,” came the reply.

“Thanks anyway,” I said. I finished the sandwich and drank a cup of Digan fire weed tea, which I found nearly as vile as warm milk, and I told Fury so, a complaint he duly noted in the database of folk remedies and sleep aids.

Upon returning to the bridge, I slowed again in front of Manning’s door, trying not to think about the fact that he was locked in his quarters with Stanislovski, and I was locked on the outside. I was, I reminded myself, nothing more than an indentured, and it hurt worse to be invited in and then locked out again than it did to be excluded and not considered at all, though that was something I would have never expected of Manning.

In my own room, I undressed and settled onto the bed thinking myself too strung out to sleep. “Fury,” I managed before I drifted off. “Wake me when the storm passes.”

“Affirmative, Diana Mac,” came the quiet reply. It was the last thing I heard before I fell into a deep, blessedly dreamless, sleep.

“Diana Mac.”

It was the computer’s voice that woke me. I was disoriented, still not used to my new surroundings. For a moment my brain fought to place myself in time and space, and when everything came back to me, I practically catapulted out of the bed.

“Fury? Are we all right? The storm, has it passed?” I asked in a breathless gasp.

“We are all right, Diana Mac, and while the storm has not completely passed, it is dissipating rapidly. It has died down enough that Ina Stanislovski is requesting you return her to Pandora Base. I have opened a com link, and with your permission, we can begin the mol-tran.”

I stumbled from the bed and dressed. Just as I stepped into the hall, Stanislovski stepped out of Manning’s room.

“Is he all right?” I asked.

She nodded. “He’s sleeping comfortably.” I could read nothing out of the ordinary on her face. Doctor patient confidentiality, I told myself.  While Stanislovski served as the first mate on the Svaldbard, she was also a trained medical doctor. If anyone should have spent the night with Manning in his room, it should have been her, but still I found myself fighting back thoughts of that locked door. “Can you Mol-tran me back to Pandora Base?”

On deck, we waited in awkward silence while Fury connected with the planet and a direct Mol-tran was arranged. There were a million questions I wanted to ask her all about Manning, though many of which I figured she wouldn’t answer anyway. We said uncomfortable good-byes and within seconds Stanislovski vanished from the ship to the planet below. I heaved a sigh of relief.

“Now then, Fury, how about that nice trip to Outer Kingston I’ve been promised. You don’t want to disappoint me, do you?”

 

I nodded my thanks and gulped it back, entering the last of the coordinates and giving Fury a stroke of appreciation when I was finished. I looked up to see Manning studying me as I downed the last of the coffee.

He offered a quirk of a smile. “I figure you’d be needing that after the rough night you had.”

“Not as rough as yours, I’m guessing.” I mentally kicked myself the second the words were out. If it were rough for any reason other than his illness, I didn’t want to know it. And I didn’t want him thinking the thought had crossed my mind. “We did okay, Fury and I,” I added quickly without looking up at him. “Strap in, I’m about to make the jump.”

Once the jump had been made, I unbuckled and turned to Manning resolved to face him like an adult. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine now,” he said. “I don’t remember much. I never do. Probably just as well from what Fury told me.”

“Glad he’s filled you in. If you want my colorful account, it’s in the log.” I nodded to the consol. “Now, I’m gonna need another one of these.” I held up the cup. “Like you said, it was a long night.” As I turned to leave the deck, Manning blocked me with an outstretched leg. “Mac, you’ve gotta know that if I’d been even semi-conscious, you couldn’t have kept me off this deck. Fury’s my ship, and it was one helluva a time for … that to happen. I’m sorry.”

“Good thing Stanislovski was there to be with you then, because there was no way I could have”

He flinched as though I had slapped him. “I don’t need anyone to be with me when it happens. I know what to do. I’d have been fine.” Color crawled up his throat and he avoided my gaze. “I …  nearly died on her watch once. Oh, it was my fault. I was farther away from the ship than I should have been when it happened, and I knew it.” He waved a negating hand. “Don’t worry Mac, it doesn’t happen often, but this particular time she was there, and ever since she thinks I need mothering. You couldn’t have kept her away, just like you can’t keep her from those infected indentureds she brought onboard. Besides, after the boy’s death the other night, she was hyper-sensitive.”

He took my hand and turned my wrist so that the spot where the shackle was lay beneath the tips of his fingers. “And just so you know, what I don’t tell you has nothing to do with the fact that you wear this. You’re my pilot and my first mate. Fury would have spilled his guts if he’d thought for one minute I was in any real danger. He’s way more of a mother hen than Ina is. When it happens, all I really need is to get back to my ship and sleep it off, and then I promise you, I’m fine.” I opened my mouth to speak, but he shushed me and tugged me onto his lap with a wicked chuckle. “The fact that ace smuggler and lover extraordinaire, Richard Manning, has to haul his ass back to his bed for a nap occasionally would do nothing for my reputation. So can we agree to keep it our little secret?”

“All right.” I was finding it difficult to breathe as he ran a coffee scented thumb over my bottom lip and looked up at me from under heavy lids. The bastard was
distracting me from further questions. I knew that. And he knew it would work. For now. I wasn’t about to give up that easily.

“Good.” His breath was warm against my face, and damn if I didn’t feel like
something had gone wrong with the inertial dampers when he smoothed the hair away from my cheek. He gave my ponytail a tug and squeezed my shoulder. “Now go get some coffee, and have something to eat. Something healthy,” he called over his shoulder as I scrambled toward the door to put a little safer distance Manning and me. “Better yet, have Fury choose your breakfast. The damn ship could have a career as a chef in one of the restaurants on Riviera Beta 3 if he decided to fuck off and change careers.”

 

Piloting Fury: Part 19 Brand New KDG Read

I hope those of you who celebrate it had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. For those of you who are taking advantage of Black Friday, please stay safe. But today’s not just Black Friday for shoppers, it’s Fury Friday for readers. It’s time for another escape to deep space for a rollicking read.  In a NaNoWriMo  update, with ten days to go, I just passed the 78K mark. My characters are taking me on a wild and wonderful ride leading to some late night and early morning unexpected writing adventures. The new Medusa Consortium novel is full of surprises form the readers, and certainly for me as I write it. What fun!

I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 19th week. If you are, please spread the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’m offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Today, Today Mac and Fury ride the storm out while Stanislovski treats Manning for some mysterious illness. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!

 

 

“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.

 

Piloting Fury Part 19: Riding the Storm Out

As it turned out, the ride was way rougher than I’d anticipated. We’d had even less warning than the Pandora Base computer had predicted. When it became clear I wouldn’t be able to fly straight out, nor was I able to jump, I had no choice but to ride out the storm, seeking with Fury’s telemetry, the levels where the winds were less fierce, and that wasn’t saying much. For the next four hours, I had little time to think about what was going on in Manning’s quarters. There were no updates from Stanislovski on his condition. I figured they were as busy trying to keep from being battered to death while Fury bucked and twisted, as I was. It took all my focus, and then some, just to keep the winds from tearing us apart. “I got you,” I spoke under my breath. “Hang on Fury, work with me, just work with me. Don’t worry. I got you.”

“Diana Mac, I am not programed to worry,” came the calm response from the ship’s computer.

“Wish I could say the same. Any suggestions?”

“Hang on, Diana Mac. I got you.” Came the response, and I gave what couldn’t have been less than a maniacal laugh.

“But you were programed with a sense of humor, I see.”

“Not a very fucking good one, as Richard Manning often reminds me.”

“Well, what the hell does Manning know anyway,” I managed before we hit an eddie that all but spun us a three-sixty, and I cursed and fought the wave feeling like Fury really was working with me, anticipating my efforts, like a lover, I thought. Not that I’d ever had one – a lover that is. Not that I’d ever had a ship of my own either. But then again, Fury wasn’t really mine.

“Diana Mac, sensors indicate a calmer airstream three thousand meters lower.”

“I’m on it! Thanks Pal,” I said.

There was a strange sound from the com that sounded almost like a chuckle. I certainly hoped it wasn’t a malfunction because I sure as hell had no time to fix the computer. “You all right?” I ask.

“Five by five … Pal.”

I smiled, gritted my teeth and fought to bring us down to the altitude Fury recommended, which, while it wasn’t spinning us about like a mad centrifuge, was bone jarring and teeth rattling at best.

“Can you set broken bones?” I managed as the ship juddered and bounced.

“My auto surgery is programmed for general orthopedic damage to humanoids. Are you broken, Diana Mac?”

“No. I’m fine,” I managed correcting hard left. Then I chuckled, “My sense of humor’s not very fucking good either.”

For the next hour, I didn’t speak, and neither did Fury, though I felt the ship working with me as clearly as I felt the movement of my own hands across the consol. It was as though the ship were anticipating my every move. I’d had moments like that onboard the Dubrovnik, moments of connection, moments when I was so in tune with the ship that it felt as though my very skin had dissolved and whatever boundary separated ship from pilot temporarily disappeared. But it was only ever momentary, and never really very personal. Lots of pilots felt that connection on those occasions when the situation demanded the most from the pilot and the ship. But the components that were always working in the equation of me piloting the Dubrovnik, the failsafe barriers and safety protocols separating ship from pilot didn’t exist with the Fury. Somehow I had more control, and that seemed to, in some strange way, give the ship more control as well. With Fury, I realized, we were always skin-to-skin.

“I recommend supplement AR 1.” Fury’s computer interrupted my ruminations.

“For what? What’s supplement AR1?” I asked, taking us up again to a higher level that was no less turbulent, but brought us closer to our goal of escaping the upper atmosphere.

“It will help you feel less tired, more energetic. It is Richard Manning’s own formula.”

“What does the AR stand for, I asked?”

“Adrenalin Rush.”

I laughed and risked taking the ship up a little higher still. “Oh that sounds delightful. But maybe later. I think we’re almost free.”

“Sensors indicate that we are, indeed almost free of the planet’s atmosphere.”

“What do you think? Shall we risk an attempt to break the bitch?”

“The odds are fifty-fifty, Diana Mac. Worth the gamble.”

I laughed and nosed us up a little more. “Has Manning been playing poker with you, because he cheated, you know?”

“Of course he cheated.” Came the reply. “I did warn him that he would lose, if he attempted such an illogical wager against you.”

“Oh?” The ship began to judder hard, and I gritted my teeth, forced the nose up another few meters and leveled off again. “So he ignored you?”

“He did not ignore me, Diana Mac. He took my advice.”

“You told him to cheat?”

For a moment there was silence as the ship bucked and shimmied, and I feared I’d have to bring us back down again. “Goddamn it! I’m sick of this shit, and I’m starving, Fury let’s get the fuck out of this mess.”

“Don’t worry, Diana Mac. I got you,” came the reply.

We took a bloody battering, but together we kept our nose up and didn’t retreat, until finally, after what felt like an eternity, we pulled free of the planet’s exosphere with a sudden burst of acceleration that had my stomach in my throat and my brain about to pop out my eyeballs. I think I might have let out some very undignified war whoop, and then we were free. The Fury settled like a seabird on calm water, and I ran a hand, suddenly none too steady, across my sweaty forehead.

“We did it,” I managed once I was sure all my innards were back in their proper place.

“Fucking A,” came the response that had me laughing out loud.

“You’ve spent too much time around Manning,” I said.

I had read that Plague One was noted for it’s horrendous planet-wide storms, and from the beginning the plague colonies had been built below ground. No one could have survived on the surface in a full blown planet-wide, and what made the storms even worse was that the only safe distance was beyond high orbit.

Once we were out of harm’s way, too exhausted to move, I just sat and looked back at the planet, ghost white against the black of deep space, it’s own sun little more than a distant yellow speck. The entire atmosphere was a mesmerizing jumble of massive hurricane swirls. Goose bumps rose along my spine and I laid a hand on the console. “We did good,” I spoke softly to Fury. “We’re still alive. We did real good.”

“Real good, indeed,” came the response.

“So,” I said gazing down at Plague One still in the throes of the storm. “You advised Manning to cheat me at poker?”

“I did. Yes.”

“Mind telling me why?”

There was a long pause, and I half expected the ship’s computer to ask me to rephrase the question. But at last Fury answered. “I needed a decent pilot.”

I smiled in spite of myself. “Well you got the best now, but that’s a helluva way to get you one.”

“Indeed.”

I let my mind swirled with the clouds, as I slumped deeper into the pilot’s chair nearly falling asleep before my stomach growled. Then I undid my restraints and stumbled to the galley. I stopped at Manning’s door and lifted a hand to knock, but then thought better of it.

By the time I reached the galley and replicated a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of coffee, I was wondering if Manning was even still alive. Surely Stanislovski would have commed me if his situation had worsened. Not that I could have done anything. What if they were both dead? I mean the storm was seriously rough going. If they hadn’t been able to strap in in time, anything might have happened. I took a bite of my sandwich and scalded my mouth on the coffee.

“Fury, can you tell me Manning’s condition,” I asked. Then I shot a glance over my shoulder just in case the man was watching, as he’d been known to do.

“Richard Manning is resting comfortably,” Fury’s computer replied.

“And Ina Stanislovski?”

“Ina Stanislovski is resting comfortably. Their vital signs are normal, and Richard Manning is fully recovered from his incident.”

Relief left me feeling like my bones had turned soft. I glanced over my shoulder again. “Fury, can you tell me what Manning’s condition is?”

“I cannot,” came the response.

“Cannot or will not?”

“You must ask Richard Manning.”

“Do you knowwhat Richard Manning suffers from?”

“Of course I do. He is my captain.”

“But you’re not authorized to tell me.”

“I am not.”

“Bloody bastard.” I didn’t bother to speak quietly. I didn’t care if he heard me. “I’m his goddamn pilot. Doesn’t he think I have a right to know if he suffers from some debilitating disease that leaves me alone and in charge at the absolute worst possible time?” Then I tried another approach. “Has he had this condition long?”

“All of his life.”

Then it hit me like an orca class freighter. “Is that why he made the bet with me? Is he no longer able to captain you alone?”

“His condition is stable, and he is quite capable of performing his duties to me. You were brought onboard for other reasons.”

“What other reasons?”

“Because I needed a pilot,” came the reply.

“You’re not very fucking good at lying either, Fury.” I shoved half my sandwich into my mouth, and chewed angrily. “Stupid me. I’m just the fucking indentured. You’re probably not authorized to tell me anything. I’m just an expendable tool.”

“We are all expendable tools, Diana Mac. I do not understand your anger.”

“Never mind. It doesn’t matter. It’s not important.” Since there was nothing I could do about being kept in the dark where Manning’s condition was concerned, I pulled up the Pilot’s log and entered as much detail about the storm as I could remember, checking back over the computer records of the past four hours. The only sound in the galley was the soft hum of the life support systems.

 

Piloting Fury: Part 18 Brand New KDG Read

It’s Friday and time for more Fury, and another escape to deep space for a little RR – that’s reading relief for those of us who’d rather have our noses in a good book.  In a NaNoWriMo  update, with ten days to go, I just reached the 50K mark, which is the basic goal of NaNoWriMo. But I’m a long way from finishing the novel. As I have said before, for me, writing a new novel is as much of a sanity saving escape as a good read. And yes, my characters are still keeping me up late and get me up early for an extra hour or two of writing.  The new Medusa Consortium novel is coming along nicely, and it’s great to be back with Magda and the gang.

I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 17th week. If you are, please spread the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’m offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Today, as a storm descends on Plague,  Mac finds herself having to pilot Fury to safer with no help from Manning. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!

 

 

“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.

 

Piloting Fury: Part 18 A Small Dose of Truth

“How can this be?” I asked, as a waitress in a vintage uniform served me a burger and fries and what she called a milk shake, informing me that everything I was about to ingest was either grown or synthesized on Pandora Base. No real meat, I was told, and since I had no idea what a burger and fries was supposed to taste like, I didn’t know the difference.”

“This is Professor Keen’s creation,” Manning said, looking from him to me and back, as though hoping that would placate me.

“Actually, we all worked together to create Pandora Base. It was just my design,” the man replied sipping at a cup of coffee.

“Like the SNTs?” I said.

He looked down into his cup and inhaled a deep breath. “Like the SNTs, yes.”

“And how many died in the creating of this little project?” The minute I asked it, I knew it was a stupid question.

“Thousands. I can give you exact numbers if you’d like. While we built Pandora Base, we were still working on the cure, and even when we got it right, it was difficult to synthesize without ingredients we had to have smuggled in.” He scrubbed his hand over his face as if by doing so he could erase the memory. “Everything had to be smuggled in back then. Some died just because we couldn’t get what we needed in time to save them. Those were the hardest deaths to bear. It’s only been the last ten standard years that we’ve been totally self-sufficient.”

“And the ships, the SNTs? How many millions died because of them, and you sent them out there, and you bonded my father.”

“There was nothing wrong with the ships. They were perfect!” He leaned so far over the table, I thought he would climb on top of it. The raw emotion in his voice crackled through the air like static. “Their bondings were perfect. Every contingency planned for, well-thought out, tested and retested. Every humanoid perfectly matched to his ship. It was the virus, it was the damn virus.” He dropped back into the booth and slapped the table so hard that the cutlery rattled.

“The SNTs would have brought the galaxy to the brink of peace. Another generation of ships would have revolutionized space travel with their speed only limited by the speed of human thought. That would have meant a more mobile workforce, and it would have opened up other uses for bonded technology that would have, within less than a generation, completely done away with the need for indentureds. Think about it, indentureds are the work force that keeps the conglomerates and the oligarchs in power. Fortunes have been amassed and empires built on the backs of indentured. What may have started out as a way to pay off debt has become an economic necessity.”

I folded my arms across my chest. “You’re not saying anything every citizen and every indentured doesn’t already know, Keen.”

Manning waved a hand to shush me, and Keen continued.

“At the time, there was already a motion before the Authority to begin the emancipation of indentured. Then the Perigrine incident happened, and everyone blamed the SNT ships, everyone said they weren’t stable. Within a few months several more went rogue. Diana,” he held my gaze with pleading eyes, “you and everyone on Pandora Base knows that the SNT virus was engineered to keep indentureds in line. There’s no way it would have infected a sentient ship. At least not as it was. It was engineered, never was it naturally occurring.” He looked down at my forearm. “It was engineered specifically for the shackle. But with the SNTs’ biological matrix, it could have just as easily been reengineered to infect a sentient ship. With just a little tweaking, the makeup of the virus that affects the brain in advanced stages of the infection could be magnified and manipulated so that it was the component of the virus that was injected into the sentient ships. That’s exactly what happened with the Peregrine and with the other ships. Your father discovered this — he and the Merlin. The Merlin had already been infected, but the bond was strong enough between the ship and your father that he was able to diagnose the problem and get the word to me. I made the mistake of taking the information your father gave me to someone in the Authority I thought I could trust. The next thing I knew, I was on a plague ship being sent here, deliberately infected, and your father and the Merlin had sacrificed themselves for nothing.” His voice had become a tight, vicious whisper and the fever in his eyes looked more like an inferno.

My pulse beat in my ears like a flock of pigeons taking flight, and the tightness in my throat made speaking impossible.

At last Keen continued. “With the mass destruction caused by the infected ships, naturally public opinion turned completely against the SNT project, just like the Authority wanted. Up until that time the virus was known only by name V1. Most people just referred to it as ‘the virus.” But after the SNT disaster, it became known as the SNT virus. Rumor even spread that the ships had engineered it on their own for the purpose of destruction, never mind that they didn’t used it and never mind that it destroyed them. By that time the evidence was irrelevant. Emotions had been whipped into a frenzy, and what blame I didn’t get, your father got. That’s the truth of it, Diana. I swear to you. ”

I sat for a moment, feeling the world spinning out of control around me. It wasn’t that I ever had any control, but if what Keen said was true, then I felt more helpless, more trapped than ever.

Keen took a deep shaky breath and spoke into the silence. “I … I was sent to Plague One to die a long and painful death, and your father was saddled with the crime he didn’t commit, and the debt of the loss of the Merlin, which was all kindly passed on to you.” That part of the story I knew and lived with every day. I had no doubt Fallon had known this all along – even been a part of the downfall of the SNTs most likely. And for him, I was just a reminder of a job well done.

The clatter of Manning’s coffee cup hitting the floor brought us rudely back to the present. “I’m sorry. Clumsy of me,” he said, reaching for a handful of napkins from the vintage dispenser and scooting from the booth, where he promptly fell to his knees with a pained gasp.

“Manning, what is it? What’s wrong?” I clamored out after him, ignoring the shard of the broken mug slicing through my jumpsuit and into my knee, as I did so. “What’s wrong? Manning talk to me, damn it.”

“I need to get back to Fury, back to my quarters, then I’ll be just fine. Don’t worry.” The words were barely out of his mouth before he began trembling so hard I feared his bones would break. He forced a laugh between gritted teeth. “Talk about lousy timing. Mac, you’re knee’s bleeding. Best take care of it.” He offered me a napkin, but dropped it with a sharp groan as he doubled over, like someone had punched him in the gut.

“Forget my goddamned knee, it’s just a cut. Tell me what’s wrong?” In my peripheral vision, Keen was now standing, braced against the table with his hand extended to Manning. Between the two of us, we got him back into the booth just as the uni-com system crackled and a computerized female voice spoke.

Warning, all personnel return immediately to Pandora Base. P-Blizzard Epsilon will be planet wide in T-minus 40 minutes. Repeat all personnel return immediately to Pandora Base. P-Blizzard Epsilon will be planet wide in T-minus 40 minutes.

A siren began to wail outside in the biosphere’s main street.

“It wasn’t predicted to hit that fast,” Keen said, fumbling for his personal device in his pocket. “That means it’ll be a deep atmosphere storm.”

Manning grabbed my arm. “Get me back to my quarters, and get the Fury a safe distance from the planet.”

“You’re not fit to go anywhere,” I said, settling his parka around him. “I’m sure Dr. Keen can –”

“Do it, Mac. That’s an order.”

“Listen to him,” Keen said, helping him into the parka, and motioning me to put on mine. “He knows what he needs, and it’ll take you at least thirty minutes to get the Fury prepped and out of orbit.”

Manning fisted my parka in a wave of pain and then hissed between gritted teeth, “Mac, if you don’t get Fury out of high orbit, there’ll be no ship left to move.” Then Manning was leaning on both of us as we half dragged half carried him into the street, which was a hive of organized chaos as everyone prepared for the storm.

“We can mol-tran you two from Main Street,” Keen said. “In this weather, it’s not likely we could even get containment outside the airlock. It’s unusual for a P-level storm to breach so quickly, but it happens.”

Just outside the door of the diner, Ina Stanislovski joined us already dressed in her parka and storm gear. “I’m coming with,” she said falling into step.

“Ina can help,” Keen explained. “You can send her back as soon as the storm breaks.”

She took Keen’s place supporting Manning on the other side and Keen pulled out his device. Then he stopped and turned to me.

“I know you have a million questions, Diana, questions I’ll happily answer. Com me. I’m in Fury’s database under Kandenski. It was my mother’s family name.” And then he stepped back and spoke into his device. “Three for Mol-tran to Fury.”

The next thing I knew we were standing in the ship’s corridor in front of Manning’s quarters, with me feeling like I’d left half my innards on Pandora Base.

Stanislovski gave her belly a quick fisted rub, clearly feeling the same. “Always a rougher mol-tran from inside the base,” she said offering a reassuring smile.

“Get Fury out of orbit,” Manning managed, leaning heavily on Stanislovski. “I’m
counting on you, Mac.”

“I’ll see to Rick,” the woman said, and the next thing I knew the door to his cabin opened just wide enough to admit the two of them, then slammed shut and locked behind them leaving me standing in the corridor next to the bridge.

I felt the click of the locking mechanism like a slap, but I had more important things to dwell on than what I swear was absolutely not jealousy. I turned away, strapped myself into the pilot’s chair just as the whole ship lurched wildly. “Buckle in,” I announced over the com, already checking telemetry and trajectory “We’re in for a rough ride.”

 

 

Piloting Fury: Part 17 Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday everyone! Time for more Fury. Let’s all escape to deep space for a little relief from the stress of our own space. I don’t know about you lovelies, but a good rollicking read is the best sanity saver.  As I mentioned last week, I’m self-medicating with NaNoWriMo. for a writer writing a new novel is as much of a sanity saving escape as a good read. I do confess, however, to suffering from sleep deprivation while my characters keep me up late and get me up early for lots of caffeine and an extra hour or two of writing. In the worlds I create, I am god. 🙂 The new Medusa Consortium novel is coming along nicely, and it’s great to be back with Magda and the gang.

I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 17th week. If you are, please spread the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’m offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Today Mac and Manning arrive on Plague One and meet someone from Mac’s nightmare past. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!

 

 

“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.

 

Piloting Fury 17: Plague One Surprise

For the briefest of moments, I simply didn’t exist, and then I blinked back into my own skin freezing my ass off in the middle of a blizzard. Manning still held onto me, which was just as well because I wasn’t entirely sure without him as anchor I wouldn’t just blow away in the storm. He guided me right into a solid wall of ice. I caught my breath with a gasp of surprise as he pulled me through the illusion and into an airlock, which was opened from the inside by a one-armed man in clothing replicated to resemble the Old Terran mid-20thcentury. His t-shirt was covered in splashes of color along with the words ‘Make Love Not War’ superimposed over the peace symbol so popular in that time. One sleeve was empty, neatly folded over and pinned the to shoulder of the shirt. A gnarled twist of puckered scars climbed out of the neck of the t-shirt and up around the side of his face to disappear in the shoulder-length scraggle of graying brown hair. I recognized the results of late stage SNT, but the loss of an arm and the scarring belonged to a man who seemed absolutely healthy otherwise. I could only assume that he was another survivor who had been treated with the vaccine.

“Richard, good to see you again.” With a very pronounced limp, the man shambled forward and gave Manning a one-armed hug, which Manning returned with gusto.

“Vic. Been awhile.” He pulled away and turned to me. “This is Diana –”

“Diana McAllister.” The man turned fever-bright brown eyes on me and offered a beatific smile. He extended his hand. “Aden McAllister’s little girl,” he said. “You have your father’s eyes.”

My knees would have given beneath me if it hadn’t been for Manning’s arm slipping supportively around my waist. “You knew my father.”

“I knew him, and I knew the Merlin.” He gave my hand a hard squeeze and held my gaze. “I bonded them.”

“Jesus!” I pulled away so quickly that I nearly knocked Manning off balance. “Vic? You’re Victor Keen? You did that to him. It was your fault.”

Keen looked from Manning to me and back again, and stepped away, color climbing his scarred throat. “You haven’t told her?”

“We weren’t planning on making this stop, Vic, and I wasn’t exactly expecting you to be the greeting party.

“What the hell are you doing here?” I stepped forward ready to punch the bastard, crippled or not, but Manning pulled me back. “Haven’t you done enough damage?”

“Professor Keen is here because he’s an indentured, just like everyone else.”

“Not like everyone else,” the man said, his face darkening and his shoulders drooping noticeably. “Tell her the truth, Richard. Not like everyone else at all.”

“You tell her the truth, Vic. It’s your truth to tell, but,” Manning gave a glance around, “this is not the discussion to have in the airlock. Please, Mac,” he turned to me. “I promise you’ll get the whole story but not out here.” He grabbed me by the shoulder and gave Keen an apologetic looked. I wanted to kick him in the balls for it, but he might have suspected as much. He reeled me in close enough that I could do no damage and spoke next to my ear. “You’re about to do something you’ll seriously regret. Wait for the facts. That’s all I’m asking.”

I squared my shoulder and gave a jerk of my head that would have to do for
agreement. I wanted to hear the bastard’s story. Oh yes, I wanted to hear every bloody detail, and then I wanted to rip his other fucking arm off and let him bleed out. I knew what he had done. I knew every goddamn detail – way more than most, because the Merlin was the only SNT whose humanoid compliment fathered a child, who just happened to be onboard when the world fell apart.

The SNT15s were designed to fly deep space missions with a compliment of only one humanoid. There were just fifteen of them ever made. They were powerful, outrageously fast and versatile ships that would give any pilot wet dreams. In spite of having only a crew of one, they were stripped down and streamlined to have lots of cargo space to carry heavy equipment for colonization, supplies, even humanoids if necessary. In fact everything to begin a new colony, along with the colonists themselves could comfortably be transported on one properly outfitted SNT. They were all equipped with cloaking technology and a full array of weapons – weapons to be used only for defensive purposes, weapons that were controlled by the ship, not the pilot, effectively doing away with human error.

The thing about the SNTs was that they were more than just metal alloys and computer components.They were organic at their core, and they were sentient. They were programmed to see long-range outcomes that would eventually lead to peace rather than escalation. Because the SNT project was overseen by the few remaining Free Universities and funded privately with no aid or ties to the conglomerates, the general population of the Consortium of Planets saw the SNTs as the dawn of a new age. The ships, with their bonded humanoid compliment, had the power to end conflicts, negotiate treaties beneficial to all parties and use their resources for further exploration and colonization to everyone’s benefit. They offered a galaxy reeling beneath the weight of petty wars, conglomerate greed and indentured servitude a new beginning. That was the dream, but all too quickly it became the Consortium’s worst nightmare, one that the shackle in my left arm assured I could never walk away from.

These past two days had forced everything I’d spent years trying to suppress back to
the surface, and now here I stood on Plague One, the hellhole of the galaxy with the man responsible for the whole SNT debacle.

Manning and Keen spoke quietly among themselves, and I ignored them, lost in my own thoughts. I remembered only too well how the age of the SNTs ended. Victor Keen and his team had biologically bonded fifteen humanoids — all of whom had volunteered for the irreversible procedure that integrated their brains and central nervous systems into the sentient ships. The procedure effectively and permanently tetheredthe ship to its humanoid component.

My father was not only one of the volunteers, my father was the SNT fleet commander, and no one was more proud that I was. I understood the opportunity. I understood that he, and me by association, were on the cutting edge of science and the evolution of a better society, a society that eventually would have no need for indentureds. Hell, as a child, I used to fantasize about growing up to be bonded to a ship of my own in a future generation of SNTs.

In that brave new beginning, Keen’s science didn’t take into account the psychological factors of that integration. If a mentally unstable humanoid can be dangerous, imagine how much more so a heavily armed star ship with a mind of its own? My father had died as a result, and I would have died too, should have died, except for a quirk of fate that left me both orphaned and indentured to a monster.

The first ship to go rogue was the Peregrine. It suffocated its human cargo of refugees from the conflicts on the New American outposts, blew its pilot out the airlock and destroyed four colonies and a space station on the Inner Rim before it was disintegrated by the Dubrovnik’s protective mol-canons. The modified canons were a gamble that an SNT would not anticipate an attack from a freighter.

My father died when the Merlin was blown to bits by the Alvarez, an Authority warship that should have been easy for the Merlin to defeat. But my father and the Merlin chose not to fight back. I was the only survivor. That was when Keen’s flawed science first came to light. Somehow, and no one ever figured out just how, the SNTs were extremely susceptible to the virus engineered for the shackles of indentureds. Somehow they had become infected. The virus destroyed the part of the ships biotechnical brain programmed to protect humanoid life. The end result was mass destruction on a scale no one could have imagined.

It was all because of the virus. That was what the Authority scientists had told everyone after the destruction of the Peregrine. Several of the ships were decommissioned without incident, several more were destroyed in boarder skirmishes on the edge of the Rim. After two more incidents and countless deaths, the rest of the SNTs were destroyed or decommissioned and taken secretly to remote space docks where they’d been either impounded or taken apart. That was not an easy task. The biological brains at the heart of the ships had a very powerful survival instinct. No one actually knew how many had been destroyed or rendered harmless. What I knew was that visions of those ships and the horrors they caused still haunted my nightmares.

I had been so pulled into the memories of a past that I was unaware of our surroundings until I realized I was sweating inside the parka and that the world had suddenly gotten brighter as we stepped through the airlock into what felt like bright sunlight.

“Welcome to Pandora Base,” Keen said, and in spite of his distress at what had just passed between us, he couldn’t hide his pride in the place that, while not exactly a paradise, wasn’t far from it. I could do nothing but stand and gape. “Plague One doesn’t exist anymore. Hasn’t for a long time now,” Keen hurried on to say, probably figuring to take advantage of my good graces.

“What about the SNT victims?” I asked.

“The ones on Pandora Base have all been cured,” and then his face darkened. “The ones who survived the horrible early years, that is. A new generation has been born here, a generation that would have been born into indentured servitude had the Authority gotten wind of what was going on here. So we prefer it if people still believe we’re Dante’s vision of Hell.”

“And this is your penance?” I asked.

He flinched, then squared his shoulders. “In part, I suppose.”

“If all the indentureds on Plague One have been cured, then why did we just deliver serum?” I questioned.

“You brought with you a dozen SNT survivors, also,” Keen said. “We’re a refuge, the safe place to which ships like the Svalbard can bring survivors, the place they can get treatment, so we keep a supply on hand. As for the whiskey,” he offered a tentative smile, “well while we’re very self-sufficient, we’ve not managed to increase the size of the biosphere to include luxury items like grains for fermentation. At least not yet. Follow me.” He nodded down what looked like the main street of a town straight from Old Terran middle America of the 1960s. “I know you’re on a tight schedule, but you’ve got time for meal before you head for Outer Kingston.” He turned to me. “And your explanation, Diana. The truth.”

 

 
© 2018 K D Grace
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