Happy Friday everyone! Time for another episode of Dragon Ascending. Last week Dragon rose from the desert and the race was on to rescue Mac and Manning and Len. This week, Tenad learns she’s been betrayed and gives Fury an ultimatum. As I mentioned, I am now attempting to post episodes at lengths that will be better suited for the flow of the story and enhance your reading pleasure. Some will be slightly shorter, some will be longer. This one is particularly long in order not to break the flow of events. I hope you’re enjoying Dragon Ascending, the sequel to Piloting Fury, as much as I’m enjoying sharing it with you. As always, I love it when you share my work with your reading friends, so feel free. In the meantime, enjoy!
For those of you who would like to read the complete novel, Piloting Fury, book one of the Sentient Ships series, follow the link to the first instalment.
Dragon Ascending: Book 2 of the Sentient Ship Series
On a desolate junkyard of a planetoid, scavenger Lenore Felish, disturbs something slumbering in a remote salvage dump and uncovers secrets of a tragic past and of the surprising role she must play in the terrifying present she now faces.
Robbed of her inheritance after her tyrannical father’s death, Tenad Fallon is out for revenge on her half-brothers, one who happens to be the sentient ship, Fury. Fury, with his human companions, Richard Manning and Diana McAllister, has his own agenda – finding the lost sentient ships and ending the scourge of indentured servitude in Authority space.
Dragon Ascending Part 68: Ultimatum
Tenad came up from the depths of drug-induced slumber with her ears wringing and her head feeling like it would split in two. She managed to shift herself just in time to vomit over the side of the bed – no! It was not a bed, it was the slab in the fucking auto-surgery, a fact that only made her puke harder.
When she could manage to settle the gag reflex and the nausea passed enough that she could function, she shoved her way off the gurney and promptly landed hard on her ass, but at least she wasn’t lying on the glorified autopsy table of the auto-surgery. She shivered not from the bitter taste of bile but from the nightmares she’d had of what she’d seen her father do on exactly those tables with his victims. The memory always came back with such clarity that she was a child all over again, realizing all over again what a monster her father was.
When he became aware that she was watching, he looked up from his efforts and laughed at her. “Girl, if you’re going to puke, get out of my sight or you’ll be next up here. I don’t have time for mewling, puking weaklings.” She hadn’t. She hadn’t puked then. She learned well from her older brother’s endless humiliations, never, ever show weakness in front of the old man. No, she would never cry in front of him, she would never show fear in front of him, and she would certainly never puke in front of him. Instead, she meant his eyes calmly, forced herself to take in what he was doing to his indentured, a woman, so far gone that she shouldn’t even be alive, a thing that should not have been allowed to live, wounded, diseased from her shackle, and yet she lived, yet she felt every agony. And Tenad had known then, as did that hapless indentured that he would not let her die, no matter what extreme measures it took to keep her alive. He would have gotten off on that, he would have kept her conscious and suffering as long as he possibly could, maybe even taking notes on her body’s responses to the SNT virus, to his torture. Once Tenad had carefully, clinically, forced herself to stand and take in the hideous, pitiful sight on the table long enough to prove to him that she would not humiliate herself, she turned on her heels and walked unhurriedly away, feeling as though she were in a surreal dream, feeling as though she were outside of her body, observing what she could not take into herself if she were to stay sane inside that home of flesh and bone. She walked carefully, deliberately out of the room and down the hallway. Behind her she could hear her father laughing, not the kind of laugh he so often used to humiliate Gerando, no, this was the laugh that told her he was proud his spunk had spawned her, and she almost felt she’d rather have that laugh of humiliation. She did not want his admiration. She didn’t want his attention at all. It was a temporary thing, and it was never safe when he admired you. His admiration would always be followed by humiliation. That was the game he played, his sick competition with his own children, even the smallest. That, she understood at a very young age, and until now, as the second child and as a girl, she had managed to stay beneath his notice.
No, she had not puked. She had returned to her quarters and calmly ate her dinner, then finished her studies for the evening. But she had locked herself in the bathroom that night when the nightmare woke her, and she could no longer keep what she had seen outside herself. And then she did puke. The nightmare didn’t come often now, but every time it did, she would find herself hunched in the bathroom over the commode. The next day she had returned to her mother’s house and convinced her to send her away to school, far away. It was one of the outlying free universities where life was tough and the education tougher, but it was a waltz in the park compared to staying in that monster’s lair. She was only his second child, and a female. She would remain irrelevant to him as long as he had a male heir, and he had plenty of those and was constantly having more. She was just fine with that. There were other ways to get what she wanted. She didn’t need to suckle at the Fallon teat. She closed her eyes to the memory, shoved her way to her feet and looked around her into the stabbing light of the med bay, light she knew SNT 1 had made no effort to dim.
“Where’s Camille?” Tenad forced the words up through a throat that felt blistered. “Why the hell was I in the fucking auto-surgery? She knows I hate auto-surgeries. I told you I hate auto-surgeries! Camille! Camille!” Her attempt to yell came out cracked and rusty, and fuck she was trembling in front of the goddamned SNT! He would know. He would sense her fear. From him, she knew she could hide very little.
“You are in the auto-surgery, Tenad Fallon, because without it you would have died,” SNT1 responded.
Her laugh felt like shards of glass at the back of her throat. “And you wish I had.”
“You are very wrong, Tenad Fallon. I will never allow you to die,” came the ship’s icy response. “I will make sure you live. As long as you hold my compliments hostage, you will live, no matter how much that life makes you suffer.”
The quick flash of her father and what he had done to his indentured all those years ago went through her head, and like it or not, she was puking again barely making it to the sink on the cabinet next to the medical supplies. Instantly a med-doc appeared with a hypo and a quick sting against her arm made her flinch.
“Only something to ease the nausea,” the ship said.
She spat into the sink, then rinsed her mouth from the faucet. “I don’t suppose you could have done that a little sooner.” When no response came, she chuckled, or tried to. “I should have known that, under the circumstances, you might just have a lot more fun keeping me alive. Now where is Camille? I need her.”
“She is not here.”
Carefully, she forced herself to turn, as though she could actually face the voice that addressed her. “What the hell do you mean she’s not here? Did you send her to rest at a time like this just so you could torture me a bit?”
“While I was fighting to keep you alive, Camille Ingraham took your transport and left.”
If the nausea and the battle with her body’s immune response hadn’t hollowed her out enough, Camille’s betrayal felt like a gut punch. “And you didn’t see fit to stop her.”
“I did not. And I was busy.”
“Need I remind you that the lives of your compliments are in my hands?”
“Need I remind you that if anything happens to them I will be the first to know and I am sure I don’t have to tell you the consequences will be dire? I owe you nothing, Tenad Fallon, and you holding another person in bondage is abhorrent to me. Why would I stop her?”
“She’ll die anyway. Surely you know that? And it won’t be a pretty death. I was good to her. I never tortured her. I never even punished her. I treated her well.”
“She seems to think that a painful death is better than the life of a slave, a thing.”
“You do know that once we’re bonded, I’ll make you find her, and I won’t be kind to her when I do. In fact, I may make you do the honors.”
“You are welcome to try, Tenad Fallon.”
She pushed away from the counter and despite the last wave of rejection, realized she didn’t feel too bad, which was just as well because Camille’s defection had forced the issue. “The treatments are working, aren’t they?” She asked.
She paced the room on shaky legs that seemed to feel stronger with every step. She barely noticed her nakedness. “Even though I nearly died?”
“It is not unexpected since each infusion of my bio-tech is bigger than the last, and we are essentially doing in a few days what would normally take months, possibly years.”
“And tell me, Fury, is it enough?”
“It is not as much as you would receive in a normal training for bonding, but you are tolerating my bio-tech better that I would have expected.”
“Why wouldn’t I? My brother is a bonded compliment.” She raised a hand to stop his response. “I know that he was trained to it, but I’ve been reading about the process. I’ve been doing a little research of my own. Isn’t it true that there is something in the genetic make-up that makes certain people compatible for bonding? Isn’t it true that most people just can’t, no matter how much of immunosuppressant you dose them with?”
There was a long silence, and if she were reading another person, she would think it was because the ship didn’t want to tell her. “Isn’t it?” She repeated.
“There is some evidence that there might be a connection, yes, but before the research could be completed, in fact barely more than began, your father infected my family and destroyed those scientists who might have come to find out.”
To this she only grunted. “My father often did not have much foresight, and look where it got him.”
“I am not certain you have a great deal more, Tenad Fallon.”
“Isn’t it possible that my genetics would be a good match for an SNT bonding since my brother’s was?”
“It is possible, yes,” came the response.
“And tell me, SNT1, isn’t it possible that I could very well be ready and that I could survive the bonding now?”
“As I have told you, Tenad Fallon, I will not allow you to die.”
She managed a shaky sigh and resolved nod. “Then do it now, the bonding. There are too many variables I can’t control when I’m incapacitated. When we’re bonded, I’ll have an SNT ship at my disposal, and then I’ll control those variables.”
“I have told you that isn’t how it works, Tenad Fallon,” the ship said evenly.
“Oh I think it is when the life of your compliments is on the line,” she said. She was no fool. Camille knew everything and if she was willing to run, she was willing to share what she knew, possibly even willing to risk a rescue attempt, though she didn’t see how she could possibly pull that off even with the Andromeda at her disposal, even if SNT1 had deactivated her shackle. “I think it’s quite possible at this point you’re just dragging your feet, possibly even making me ill to prolong the situation until you can figure something out. So, I’m calling your bluff. I want something to eat, I want a shower, and then I want us to get on with the bonding. Is that clear?”
There was a long pause, and Tenad could feel the static in the air around her making goose flesh raise on her arms. But she knew it was now or never. She braced herself, squaring her shoulders and doing her best to look relaxed, confident, neither of which she felt right now.
At last the ship spoke. “Very well, Tenad Fallon. If that is truly what you wish for, then it is what we shall do.”