Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you enjoyed the Dragon Jubilee Reading Spree. After four back-to-back episodes of Dragon Ascending over the four days of the Jubilee holiday weekend, we are now back to our usual Dragon schedule again. Last week Mac, Manning and Fury found Len, but getting her back was another matter. This week we find out what happened to our girl. I hope you’re enjoying Dragon Ascending,?the sequel to?Piloting Fury,?as much as I’m enjoying sharing it with you. As always, I love it when you share my work with your reading friends, so feel free. In the meantime, enjoy!
For those of you who would like to read the complete novel,?Piloting Fury,?book one of the?Sentient Ships series,?follow the link to the first instalment.
Dragon Ascending:Book 2 of the Sentient Ship Series
On a desolate junkyard of a planetoid, scavenger Lenore Felik, disturbs something slumbering in a remote salvage dump and uncovers secrets of a tragic past and of the surprising role she must play in the terrifying present she now faces.
Robbed of her inheritance after her tyrannical father’s death, Tenad Fallon is out for revenge on her half-brothers, one who happens to be the sentient ship, Fury. Fury, with his human companions, Richard Manning and Diana McAllister, has his own agenda – finding the lost sentient ships and ending the scourge of indentured servitude in Authority space.
Dragon Ascending Part 19: Embrace
Len fell long enough that her stomach threatened to climb out her throat and the sensation of free fall was almost there, then instantly replace by tight enveloping darkness and a hissed “shush” in her ear. “We are being scanned,” Ascent-7 whispered so close it felt as though it were in her head.
It was only when Ascent answered that Len realized she hadn’t spoken the words.
“They will not find us here,” his response was also a thought. Len knew there was nano chip technology that could link ships and their most important crew sub-vocally, but this, this was far beyond that tech. This was instant thought communication. It didn’t exist. Ascent-7 sure as hell was no salvaged wreck. For the first time it entered her mind that whoever was out there wasn’t looking for her at all. And then she truly was terrified.
“You must relax, Lenore. We are safe here,” Came the comforting voice in her head. “You are trembling, and your pulse rate is too fast.”
Oh! Oh, there were all sorts of responses she would like to make to that little remark, but she decided instead to try to keep her thoughts to herself. Vaticana Jesu! Could he read her thoughts? When she could breathe again and was sure she wouldn’t pass out, she became aware of her surroundings, the ones she could not see, but she sure as hell could feel. Those surroundings were most definitely male. Her heart rate spiked again. “Am I your prisoner?” She asked – whispered this time.
“You are not,” came his reply in her head. “Now be quiet please. We are in danger.” If it were possible, he wrapped himself still more tightly around her, almost as if by doing so he could calm her. And she clung to him too, arms wrapped tightly around his neck, fear flooding her nerve endings, fear that she had never lived terribly far from since she had escaped Authority space with her mother. Fear kept you alive, and sometimes, sometimes even that was not enough.
Ascent held her securely tucked against his chest, a broad strong chest she could feel every detail of, and it was bare. Warm skin against her cheek? That wasn’t even possible. She listened for the beating of a heart, but she could hear little above the hammer fall of her own. Perhaps he was humanoid, perhaps there was a humanoid living out here hidden away in the wreckage, then why hadn’t he shown himself if that were true.
She was aware that long haul ships especially the smaller ones, quite often provided for the sexual needs of their crew with pleasure tech, not that she’d ever had the experience. The only long haul ship she’d ever been on was the one that had whisked her and her mother away from their home in Authority space when she was just a child. She would not have been aware or interested in such things then. All she recalled well was that her uncle was missing and presumed dead and because of that they’d had to run. Mostly she knew about the pleasure tech able to shape itself into humanoid form for the pleasuring of small crews on deep space missions because the functioning parts of that pleasure tech were worth a fortune in the salvage yards and most often snapped up immediately. After her mother’s death, when she came to live on Tak Major, she fantasize about being lucky enough to find a functioning device in the salvage yards that had been overlooked, which would have made her well off enough financially to catch a transport off this rock to somewhere decent beyond the Rim. Even as valuable as they were, those systems were crude. They were functional and clunky, not that anyone minded when their only other companionship was another smelly crewmate or two, or possibly not even that.
But this, blessed baby Jesu! In the dark, Ascent-7 felt completely humanoid, completely male and … really happy to see her. Flashes of her violation reminded her too vividly of what could happen when men had been too long without companionship. Ascent-7 was so much stronger than any humanoid, and no doubt badly damaged or he wouldn’t be here in the salvage yard. Her skin sheened in cold sweat and she tensed.
“I will not harm you,” came the response in her head. “Please do not worry. You are safe with me.” The embrace relaxed a little and the erection dissipated slightly. “It is only that I have not embraced a humanoid in a very long time.” The erection vanished completely, and there was an ache of sadness that somehow Len knew belonged to the computer, even though she felt it somewhere deep below her heart. She didn’t know how a computer could feel anything. Surely it was only mirroring human emotions, emotions that could have even been her own really. Before the Dart, she’d had no humanoid embrace since her mother’s death. Her friends in Sandstorm had protected her from the worst of the rusters who came in for salvage. Though in truth she’d had little desire to get close to anyone after her mother’s death, and living on her own and spending most of her time beneath the salvage heaps, there was no one to get close to. What happened on the Dart was not anything she’d ever want to repeat, but this, what Ascent felt like around her, this was something totally different. She understood his pain, and his closeness she welcomed.
This time it was she who tightened the embrace. “I’m sorry,” she whispered very softly against his ear, misjudging the distance and brushing her lips against that warm spiral curve.
His breath caught, surely breath he did not have. “As am I,” came the equally soft whisper of warm lips against her ear.
She wasn’t sure how long they remained in the embrace, the pleasure of human closeness. The erection slowly returned, but he made no advances, and she could not ignore the aching hardness of her nipples beneath her clothing and the clench below her belly that made her want to move still closer, to shift and squirm and wrap herself around him as he had her. Instead, she indulged the embrace, relishing his nearness, marveling at what it felt like to have maleness engulf her in safety, even to perhaps desire her a little, or at least the comfort of her body. It was a long time before she felt solid footing beneath her feet and Ascent-7 spoke out loud this time. “They have gone. They are no longer scanning the salvage yard.” Utility lighting came on just enough to illuminate a corridor that was not a part of Len’s short context with the computer. The embrace disappeared, though she sensed as she recovered her balance, that should she stumble, Ascent would not allow her to fall. “Come,” he said, and the path ahead of her illuminated still further revealing pristine white walls with a metallic sheen. “You must rehydrate and eat, then you may have a shower.”
“I have questions.” She followed him down the corridor. “Lots of questions.”
“I shall give you what answers I may,” came the reply, “Once you have refreshed yourself and rested.”
“Do you know who it was scanning us?” She asked as they stepped into a lift.
“I do not. I feel that I should, but I do not. I feel strongly that we must not reveal ourselves.”
“They’re after you, not me.” It wasn’t a question. It was a fact. She was no one anyone would ever look for, and that was just the way she planned to keep it.
“Perhaps.” The doors of the lift closed around her and her stomach dropped at the speed of the ascent.
“You’re a big ship?”
“My size is irrelevant,” came the reply. Silence returned and for a moment she was afraid he would once again give her the silent treatment. When the elevator stopped, they turned at a junction that almost instantly brought them to the open door of her chamber. The smell coming from inside was exquisite and she realized for the first time since she had broke and run just how hungry she was. This time the drink in the glass was bright orange. It was accompanied by a pitcher of water. “What is it?”
“Only another variation in the electrolyte formula I have been serving you. This one will boost any nutrients and minerals you have lost from your flight in the Shimmer, since clearly you did not partake liberally of the water I provided.”
“Sorry,” she said, downing the contents of the glass in thirsty gulps. “I’m not used to having any spare water.”
“You could have sustained severe damage from the heat.”
She smiled as she dug into a pasta dish she could not identify, but it was divine. “You don’t need to baby me,” she said around a mouthful, which she chased with a glass of water.
“I do not wish to have you damaged again after you were so difficult to repair in the first place.”
“Ascent,” she sat down the glass and wiped sweaty palms on her trousers. “Ascent, how badly damaged was I? I mean I remember falling before I blacked out. I couldn’t make the leap. The only other thing I remember after that was waking up in the darkness and knowing someone was there. I thought perhaps the Religiosers were right and maybe there was an afterlife. I thought I was dead.”
“You were dead, Lenore,” came the reply, “and I could not remember how to fix you.
He said something after that, but she heard nothing over the beating of wings in her ears and her struggle to breathe.