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Piloting Fury Part 12: Brand New KDG Read

It’s Friday, and that means time for more Fury. A cheerful hello from Grace Manor. I hope all is well with you Lovelies and that much good reading is happing

As we enter the 11th week of Piloting Fury, I hope you’re enjoying the read. If you are, please share the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’ll be offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. This week Rab does a little detective work with some unwelcome help.

 

 

 

“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.

 

Detective Work Part 12

Rab wasn’t bad at this investigating shit, if he did say so himself. And even though the work all had to be done on his own time and on the sly, it sure beat the hell out of being indentured — a thing Fallon reminded him of often. He’d managed to play stupid when Harker questioned him concerning his unhappy encounter with Fallon’s brat. After all he’d had the hell kicked out of him. It wasn’t hard to believe that a man might take an ass whupping on a backwater space station and not know who’d done it. The stations and colonies on the edge of the Rim were noted for being rough. That’s why Harker tried to avoid them whenever he could. Being that the Dubrovnik was a big-assed fancy-shmancy conglomerate ship, it seldom put in at the more remote shitholes. The conglomerates always wanted everything to look all squeaky-clean and we-care-about-our- employees like. But Rab knew better. They all knew better.  Hell, Rab wasn’t the first of the Dubrovnik’s crew to get roughed up while on shore leave. He’d been damned lucky, truth be told. Harker lost an ensign just last year and in a place far more respectable than NH372. Young Turk, flirting with a woman. Turned out the bitch in question had a boyfriend, a real jealous boyfriend. Cut the poor kid’s throat from ear to ear. He bled out in nothing flat. So Rab’s story wasn’t much of a stretch. Whether Harker believed him, he couldn’t say. The boss man kept a good poker face. Working for the conglomerate, he couldn’t afford not to.

Over in the corner of the bar on Mining Colony Heceta 9 – the dive didn’t even have a name — Gerando Fallon sat with a woman on his lap all but fucking her right there at the table. Apparently she was on the menu. Rab knew for a fact that daddy had ordered sonny-boy to play nice and not draw attention to himself. But it still made Rab’s skin crawl to think of that turd ball even feeling up a Faribaldina crater slug, let alone a woman.

It wasn’t by chance they’d ended up in the same bar. Sadly, while Rab might have the makings of a good detective, Abriad Fallon had decided that a part of his job should now be babysitting his jizz waste of son. The two were all but joined at the hip until they found Diana McAllister. Hell, he’d thought he’d never have to look at Junior’s ugly face again after what had happened in New Hibernia. But feeling the sting of daddy’s wrath had sent the little cockroach scurrying to find a way to make right his fuck-up, and that led to an even bigger fuck-up. He cornered the poor unsuspecting notary who had notarized the bet between McAllister and some punter named Manning.

Well, the good folks of Rim stations take their gambling seriously, and the bets placed by clientele in any establishment are duly notarized, then kept secret on pain of death. And this notary’s death had, indeed, been painful. Before he died, he’d managed to destroy the DNA codes on his device and everything but the name Manning.

That was when dear ole dad had stepped in. He didn’t want the fucking fruit of his loins killing any more innocent people – mostly because the cover up cost him serious credits, but he also wanted to get to the bottom of what had happened to Diana McAllister. So like it or not, and neither of them liked it one little bit, they were a team, which meant Rab doing all the work and Junior spending his time whoring and drinking.

Rab had done a little detective work from his sick bed on the Dubrovnik and had discovered that there had, indeed, been a Richard Manning in port that night. Manning was the captain of a bucket of bolts called the Fury. Fury was a cargo ship, but you didn’t need much of a brain to know that small cargo ships stayed in business by smuggling, and this Richard Manning had a reputation for being damned good at it. Several people who knew him, or knew of him — as it turned out no one knew him all that well – claimed to have seen him with Diana McAllister at watering holes across the Inner Rim over the course of the last couple of years. Hell Rab had probably seen them together himself, but he didn’t pay much attention to who drank with who, since he knew damn good and well an indentured wasn’t about to jump ship. Or so he’d thought until McAllister had done just that.

Strange now that he’d had time to think about it, low-end cargo ships and smugglers seldom hung out with Orca class conglomerate freighters. They were more likely to hang out in the shitholes at the edge of the Rim where there was business a plenty to be had for their ilk. While Rab knew who Diana McAllister’s father had been and the debt she’d been saddled with, while he knew that a place as corrupt and the Authority had to have enemies, rebel fractions, he seriously couldn’t imagine any of them would have the power to take McAllister right from under Fallon’s nose. Nor could he imagine why they would do it, except maybe to make a statement. Hell, maybe this Manning bloke was working on his own and just wanted some company that looked nice and could pilot a ship. Big risk though. But then again, who wouldn’t want to spend time with Diana McAllister, if they could keep her from winning the clothes off their back.

That’s what landed Leo Rab at a nameless bar on Heceta 9, tossing back a few and blowing off some steam with as many of his crew mates as could get shore leave. The Dubrovnik was at the colony to pick up a large shipment of triaxium ore. And mining colonies, no matter where they were, always attracted the scum of the galaxy. It was perfect for Rab. He’d learned that Manning had made a dodgy purchase of New Hibernian whiskey from a man named Gruber. According to rumors, Gruber was one of the more straight shooting smugglers out there. The man had a partner on Heceta 9, who ran the business planet-side and made sure all the transactions were just enough above board for Gruber to look legit.

“Yeah I know Manning,” Gruber said, sipping on the same beer he’d been nursing since Rab came into the place. He’d approached the man and offered him a fresh pint. Gruber nodded his thanks, and Rab took that as permission to sit. “He captains the Fury,” he said sniffing at the beer like he thought Rab might have pissed in it. But then you couldn’t be too careful in Gruber’s line of work, could you? “Don’t know how the hell he keeps the wreck flying. He must be a damn good engineer as well.”

Rab pulled up the image of McAllister on his device. “Don’t suppose you happened to see this woman onboard the Fury?”

Gruber grabbed up the device and squinted at it. “So what if I have? I don’t want no trouble, and Manning, well Manning’s all right.”

“She’s my sister,” Rab lied. Aside from the fact there was no resemblance whatsoever, he couldn’t think of any other reason why he might be asking after her. “The folks are worried. Old man’s not in the best of health, ya know. I just want to know my sister’s all right.”

The bloke shrugged and handed back Rab’s device. “Got a sister of my own, and yours could do worse than running off with the likes of Manning. Sorry about your old man, though.”

Talk about dumb fucking luck. Who knew the sod had a soft spot for his sister.

Gruber finished off the dregs of his beer and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. “Didn’t get a good look at her. She was on the bridge, but that’s her. Maybe the bastard hired someone on to fly the damn ship while he’s busy fixing it, although,” he squinted harder, “Manning’s quite the ladies’ man. Your sister might have just gotten herself smitten.”

“Smitten. That don’t sound much like my sis, but hell, I suppose anything’s possible. The heart wants what the heart wants.” Strange, as long as he’d worked onboard the Dubrovnik with his only real reason for being there to keep an eye on McAllister and to see what Harker got up to, she really did feel sort of like a little sister – one he didn’t think he’d want to cross left to his own devices.

“Well, Manning’ll take good care of her if she’s on his ship. You don’t need to worry about that. Man’s got a good heart, even if he is bat shit crazy, but hell this far out, ain’t that many sane folks around is there?”

Wasn’t that the truth, Rab thought. “Don’t suppose you know who Manning’s selling the whiskey to?”

“Probably heading for Outer Kingston. That’s where I’d be heading if I had a load of New Hibernian I wanted to shed for a good profit. Woulda done just that ‘cept I had another contract pending.”

Rab’s heart sank. He was tied to the Dubrovnik as surely as if he was an indentured, and the Dubrovnik never ventured out that far. He hated like hell to think of Gerando Fallon getting his hands on McAllister before he did. He supposed the end result would be the same. Poor woman would be returned to Daddy Fallon, and Manning, if he survived, would be indentured and sent of to some penal colony for the rest of his life, which wouldn’t be long. Rab didn’t like to think about that. He didn’t like to dwell on the end result of all his detective work.

He tossed back his whiskey and ordered another one. “Don’t suppose you know who he might be selling to?”

“He didn’t tell me and I didn’t ask. None of my goddamned business once the stuff’s out of my hands and I got credits in my account.”

With no joy there, Rab tried a different approach. Another hour of asking around if anyone knew where he could unload a hefty shipment of New Hibernian on the QT, and he came up with a name he figured just might be their man, some Polyphemian named Banshee Blake. About as slimy as you could get, the scuttlebutt had it. But he paid well for New Hibernian. You just had to make sure the bastard didn’t take the goods and run. Polyphemians were notorious for that. Just one rung above thieving pirates, the whole damned lot. They’d sell their own mothers to the highest bidders. Blake was exactly the kind of scum they might be able to work with. But Rab wasn’t about to turn that information over to Junior.

He paid for his drink, and glanced around. Sonny boy was still parked in the corner with his head buried in the woman’s tits and his feet up on the table. He headed out back all nice and quiet like to run his plan by Fallon Senior. The man had the connections he’d need if they were to get to this Banshee Blake in time.

He found a quiet corner and was just about to send the message when a wave of alcohol on the air that made his eyes water told him that he wasn’t alone.

“What are you up to Rab?” Gerando Fallon sauntered up to him straightening his trousers. “You’re not trying to pull one over on me are you? What did you find out from Gruber?”

“What’d you do, kid, pull a fuck’n’run?” Before Junior could respond with more than just a growl, Rab fumbled with his own trousers. “I came out for a piss. Do you mind?”

Damned if the little gob shite didn’t pull out his cock and start pissing right next to him, while Rab had visions of working up a sweat kicking the bastard in the ass. “So, what did Gruber say?” Junior made a show of shaking it and tucking himself back in.

“He knows Manning.”

“Well we already fucking knew that, didn’t we? If that’s all you could squeeze out of him then maybe you better let me have a go.” He cracked his knuckles, and Rab would bet a galactic month’s wages that, if he looked, the motherfucker was getting a hard-on just thinking about beating poor old Gruber.”

“No need for that,” Rab said, tugging up the last reserves of his patience. “He sold Manning whiskey. Said he reckoned he’d sell it somewhere near Outer Kingston. I suppose you coulda have told me that too,” he said, suddenly feeling very tired.

“Coulda. An ass-kissing bastard like you wouldn’t know that, of course because the old man keeps you busy aboard the Dubrovnik.”

While daddy Fallon had ordered Junior not to kill Rab, he had conveniently overlooked the possibility that Rab might just kill the kid. Hell the old man would probably reward him for making the galaxy a more pleasant place.

Before he could get into a heartwarming fantasy of the best ways to take Junior out, the fucker grabbed Rab’s device right out of his hand and opened the message he’d been about to send. Rab braced himself figuring this was the part where the kid lost control and all bets were off.

“When were you gonna tell me this? When the fuck were you going to tell me this?” Spittle gathered in the corner of his mouth like a mad New Hibernian wolf dog and just as he drew back a fist, Rab took advantage of his generous alcohol consumption, ducked the punch, grabbed back his device and sent the message.

“I was going to tell you when I knew a little more about this Banshee Blake, and I thought with your father’s resources, he might be able to help us.”

The words were barely out of his mouth before a subspace came through from daddy.

 

Piloting Fury Part 11: Brand New KDG Serial

It’s Friday, and that means time for more Fury. A cheerful hello from Grace Manor. I hope all is well with you Lovelies and that much good reading is happing

As we enter the 11th week of Piloting Fury, I hope you’re enjoying the read. If you are, please share the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’ll be offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. This week Mac discovers that whiskey is the not the most dangerous thing Manning and Fury smuggle.

 

 

 

 

“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.

 

The Truth, or at Least Part of It: Part 11

“I do, yes,” he said, taking the second first aid kit and moving into step beside me.

“These need immediate attention,” called the head medic. “There are ten others infected onboard, but we haven’t had time to treat any of them. Authority’s been on our ass since we left Freeport. I have no idea how they found out. We’ve had so many jumps that half the crew is puking and the other half is too dizzy to stand. They’re getting injections for space sickness now. But at the moment it’s just us and the pilot. Afraid the transfer of the precious cargo is going to be a bit slower than expected,” the medic said. Then she threw her arms around Manning in a heartfelt hug that he returned in kind. “You okay Rick?” she asked, reaching up to stroke his cheek.

He caught her hand and pulled it down to his chest. “Fine, Ina. I’m fine.”

I couldn’t help but bristle just a little bit, embarrassed to admit that I’d gotten used to having Manning and Fury all to myself. I wasn’t keen on the touchy-feely rubbing up against each other that meant the two had a history. Before I could dwell on it, she pulled away and offered me her hand. “Ina Stanislovski, First mate. Some damn good piloting there, though you scared a good ten years off half the crew.”

“They’ll get over it.” I grudgingly took her hand without introducing myself. I was suddenly way more focused on the mess of fevered flesh occupying the four stretchers than I was on Stanislovski’s overly familiar greeting of Manning. “There’s nothing we can do for these people. You know that. They’re too far gone.” If there was anything that made me want to puke, made me want to pass out, made me want to run away screaming, it was seeing someone in the advanced stages of SNT, the point at which there was no return. I was always just one step away from that. All indentureds were, and we bloody well knew it. We had nightmares about it, and I carried way more into my nightmares than most.

The First Mate looked from me to Manning and back again. “She doesn’t know?”

“It’s always been on a need to know basis, Ina, and up until now, there was no one else on Fury who needed to know. Besides,” he added. “It’s not my cargo.”

“It is now,” Stanislovski said. “The Authority will be on us the minute we leave the nebula. We leave everything on Fury and they’ll just think we dumped cargo. They won’t be able to do more than slap us with a trumped-up fine. But if they catch us fully loaded, the indentureds will end up dead and the precious cargo will be confiscated. You know what that means.”

“Fuck me!” Manning said, but he was already grabbing the vial Stanislovski offered him and loading a syringe.

She handed me one, but I stepped back. “There’s nothing we can do for these people. They’re too far gone for the antidote.”

She shook the fisted vial at me. “Oh there’s a cure all right, but it only works if you use it.”

“She’s right, Mac. Just do as she says.” Manning was already injecting the first patient. “There’s a cure. Just not very many people know about it. And the people we definitely don’t want knowing about it are the Authority, now move your ass.”

I injected my first patient fighting back tears – me who had given up my emotions the day the shackle went into my arm. But this, this was hope where there had been none, and I found myself smiling down into the face of a boy who looked barely to be in puberty. Clearly he was terrified. He had already lost two fingers and his feet were bandaged. The end stages could go on for years and horrible years, and the only refuge was one of the plague planets. What the hell kind of debt must this lad’s family have incurred that it would pass on to a child? The obscenity of it all made my blood boil.

“She’s Aden McAllister’s daughter.” Stanislavski spoke to Manning without looking up from the patient she was tending.

Manning shot me a glance and gave a grunt and a nod.

“Not sure if you’re brave or stupid,” she replied.

“Not sure it’s any of your business,” I growled. I was liking the woman less by the moment.

“I needed a good pilot,” was all Manning said.

By the time Stanislavski set up a make-shift infirmary, it was hotter than hell in the cramped space of the hold, though Manning assured me that Fury had regulated the temperature for the comfort of the victims who shivered in the throes of the fever. We had injected the four on the stretchers and made them as comfortable as possible. The rest of the Svalbard’s crew was beginning to recover from space sickness, and they were bringing in the less critical victims.

I worked with a strange sense of anguish and hope. It was an unusual mix. Even when Captain Harker allowed me shore leave and the chance to win what little money I could through gambling, he knew damn good and well that I’d never live long enough to pay off my indenture. But this! This meant that if indentureds could escape, and if they could get to a place where the vaccine was available, they could take on a new identity, move out beyond the Rim and begin a whole new life. I couldn’t get my brain around it. I couldn’t think beyond the next injection, the bathing of a fevered brow, the holding of an emesis pan while someone still suffering the remnants of space sickness vomited. And next to me, Manning was doing exactly the same.

I had just finished the last injection and had checked to see that all of my patients were resting comfortably when I noticed crates baring the conglomerate label were being loaded onboard. Wiping my forehead, I moved to where Stanislavski stood. “What the fuck? You risked my ship for whiskey? That’s your precious cargo?”

My anger didn’t rattle her in the least, nor my pilot’s possessiveness of Fury. “Oh that’s not the precious cargo. But yes, that is whiskey. If anything, they need it on Plague One more than they do on the Rim.”

“Jesus! You were going to Plague One?” And for the first time since the wild ride had begun, I felt like I just might join the ranks of the space sick and lose my lunch.

She studied me for a moment, then took my left arm into her hand and looked down at where my shackle was nestled just below the skin. “You’ll have visited one of the plague planets, I presume? I can’t imagine Fallon not making sure every indentured of his gets the scenic tour.”

I nodded. “Plague Three, my first month under the shackle. He wanted to make sure I knew what would happen to me if I crossed him. He used the virus as a punishment,” I added swallowing bile.

“And yet you crossed him, and you survived.” Before I could comment, she gave my shoulder a squeeze, then rolled up her sleeve. There was only a white scar where her shackle had been. A white scare met that somehow an indentured had either won freedom or bought it. “My owner did the same. With me, he waited a bit too long.” The line along her jaw hardened, and the color rose in her cheeks, the color I recognized as anger. Only another indentured would recognize that look.

“Lucky for me, I was smuggled onto Plague One. I was among the first the serum was tested on.” She looked beyond me, and I knew she was looking into a nightmare past that could have so easily been my own. Then she turned her gaze back to me. “Half the Svalbard’s crew are free indentureds, so yes, we wouldn’t have minded flying right through the center of the Faribaldi if we’d had to. At least it would have been a clean death.” Then she added as an afterthought, nodding to the next load of crates being brought onboard the Fury, “The rest of the shipment is serum. Sadly it’s not nearly enough, but one day there will be. That’s worth the risk. One day maybe there won’t be a need for it.”

Up until today I could have never allowed myself even her modest optimism, and I still couldn’t. I knew better than anyone the odds against a few freed indentureds, and even I wouldn’t have taken that bet.

Our attention turned to a tall man with eyes like none I’d ever seen before. They were the color of Valinian opals.

Stanisovski spoke next to my ear. “Captain Bryar lost his eyes to the SNT virus. He sees with implants.” Then she stepped back and introduced me.

“Damn fine piloting, First Mate McAllister,” Bryar said, offering me an outstretched hand. “Damn fine piloting. I only wish there was time to celebrate over a proper meal in the captain’s quarters.” Then he turned his attention to Manning, who approached, running a sani-device over his hands.

“Can you do it?” Was all Bryar asked.

Manning nodded tight-lipped, then blew out a sharp breath. “If we make a quick turnaround and kick Fury into high gear, then we should be able to make the rendezvous in Outer Kingston with no trouble. Traveling to the edge of the Rim is never an exact science. Things go wrong. No one is on a precise schedule out that far. What about you, Bryar? Do you have a plan?”

“Well we can’t stay here forever, but wherever we come out now, they’ll be after us. Granted our hold will be empty and they’ll have nothing on us, but it’ll slow progress. It’ll really slow progress, and the next shipment is vital to Plague Two.”

“Where do you need to be?” I ask.

“Isle of Dogs. It’s where the serum components are kept. No one goes there so no one suspects.”

“I can get you there fast.” I said.

All eyes were suddenly on me.

He offered a gentle smile. “No offence McAllister, but I don’t think my crew could survive another jump like that last one.”

“What about a trip through a wormhole?”

“There are no wormholes in that area, at least none that have been charted,” Manning said, studying me like he’d never seen me before.

“That’s true,” I replied, “but McAllister One has never been charted.”

“McAllister One?” Both Bryar and Manning spoke at the same time. Stanislavski moved to flank her captain, arms folded across her chest.

Manning chuckled softly and scratched his head. “Mac, care to take us on a little tour in the chart room?”

As it turned out the chart room was a corner of the observation deck with a holo-image atlas of the known galaxy and download capabilities for individual devices. It didn’t take me long to pull up the image of an empty stretch of space not far from the Faribaldi. It looked to have nothing more interesting than a brown dwarf and a possible black hole. I knew for a fact it was no black hole. “The McAllister One wormhole?” Manning said, a broad smile splitting his face.

“I named it after myself because I was the lucky indentured who got sent through in a probe to see if it went anywhere.”

“And, let me guess,” Manning said, “you told Fallon it didn’t.”

“I’d just been punished.” I kept my voice even, my face neutral. They didn’t need to know more, and I didn’t want to be reminded. “I figured I just about had enough life support in the probe to make it to the Isle of Dogs if I cut the tether. If I’d died in the probe, it wouldn’t have mattered. I was okay with that. I wasn’t okay with being infected and ending up on a plague planet slowly rotting to death. But if I had made it to the Isle of Dogs, well who knows, if I’d taken the risk I might have been a free woman by now.” I shot Manning a glance, but I didn’t linger. The look on his face was raw, and it had been a raw enough day already. “I lied to Fallon. I fudged the telemetry. Not that hard for me to do, actually, and I filed it away as something that might be helpful if I ever did find a way to escape. The next month I was transferred to the Dubrovnik.”

I enlarged the little sliver of space to maximum magnification. “No one will look for you there because there’s no reason to go there. It’ll take you half a chronometric day to get there, and then it’s just a fast ride through the wormhole – smooth as flushing a galacine toilet. You’ll be at the Isle of Dogs in time for Happy Hour. I can calculate the exact times, even lay in a course for you if you want,” I said.

Bryar studied me with those opal bright eyes. “It’s the life of my entire crew on the line, McAllister.”

“Like it was a couple of hours ago,” I observed nodding to the cargo hold below us. “We can lead you through if you want.” I spoke without thinking, I spoke out of turn, and I knew the minute I did it that I shouldn’t have. Manning’s amicable face became a storm cloud, and he looked like he could bite right through Fury’s hull. Unconsciously I grabbed protectively at my forearm.

“McAllister, you’re dismissed.” His voice was like polar ice, and his gaze followed the movement of my hand against my shackle. “Go down below and check on the cargo. Now.” He said before I could open my mouth to apologize.

With my heart slamming at the inside of my ribs, I did as he asked, kicking myself for opening my mouth at all. His battles were only mine in as much as they kept me alive. If the Svalbard was taken lock stock and barrel, what was that to me? Every Indentured had a hard luck story. If not, we wouldn’t be indentured to begin with. And the truth of the matter was that the only thing that ever really mattered at the end of the day was staying alive long enough, and keeping your wits long enough to either buy your way out or die in a way that didn’t involve the SNT virus.

 

Piloting Fury Part 7: Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday my Lovelies! We’re actually away up in Cumbria walking some of Hadrian’s Wall this week — our first time away since lockdown began. It feels wonderful to be back in one of our favourite parts of the UK. It feels lovely just to be away.

I hope you’re all enjoying Piloting Fury. If you are, please share the word. We writers love to share our stories with as many people as possible. I’ll be offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Last week, Diana Mac did a bit of exploring around her new home. This week, Diana Mac is missed.

 

 

 

Piloting Fury

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

 

Turning a Blind Eye Part 7

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

“He still in sickbay then?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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