[Firefly-Fiction] [NEW] Legacy 2:01(Mistletoe) through 2:03(Monday's Child) (1/2)
jamesthedark at hotmail.com
Wed Jan 18 14:29:13 EST 2006
2:01(Mistletoe) through 2:03(Monday's Child)
by James the Dark
jamesthedark at hotmail.com
Please see part 0 (template) for warnings and summary.
Malcolm Reynolds eyes flew open at that sound, the sound of something docking
with his ship. It had been so long, now. He'd gone to the rendezvous point,
where Kell had bade them wait. He waited, as the ships showed up one after
another. He waited as Kell transferred dishomed crew back to their original
ships. He waited as the ships flew off, into the Black, one after another. He
waited, and even Kell gave up and left. And still he waited. "Captain, we've
got new arrivals," Kaylee's cheerful voice announced, and he was out of the
pilot's seat like a shot. He hadn't even realized he'd fallen asleep. He
practically jogged down the the cargo bay, almost running down the sweet girl
in the process. He paced on the catwalks anxiously as the door was pulled open
by the good doctor. His heart fell more'n a bit when he saw Zoe and Fredesa
step out. Not who he was waiting for. Not at all. She was out there somewhere,
he knew it. River would have told him if she wasn't. He almost marched right
back to his seat and continued brooding. "Sir?" Zoe said, above the howling
that Hoban was putting up. He was currently flailing about in Fredesa's arms, a
definite change for the proud, protective woman. She hadn't even let Mal touch
the kid for months. "It's good to have you back, Zoe," Mal said, glancing past
her toward the door, which the doctor was swinging closed. "I take it you're
alone?" "I count three of us, sir," Zoe pointed out. "Why, are you waiting for
somebody else?" Reynolds frowned, unable to look his first mate in the eye for
a moment. "Yes. Yes we are. You and Fredesa get squared away." "Dell, sir," Zoe
corrected. "Dell?" "Dell." Mal rolled his eyes. Of course, it wouldn't be his
ship unless his crew was backtalkin' him. "Fine then, Dell it is. Zoe, you and
Dell get yourselves squared away." The two went their separate ways, Fredesa...
Dell, headed toward the passenger dorms, and Zoe to her bunk. At least that
hadn't got complicated while he wasn't looking. Simon had a look in his eye
when he came up, so Mal turned to face him in all his captainy glory.
"Captain," the doctor began. "Waiting here isn't going to do us any good."
"Well aware of the problems, doctor," Mal responded, "but until we get back the
rest of this crew, we ain't budging an inch." "It's been more than a week since
anybody saw them, and they were covered in boarding craft and following the
Reavers. Even you have to accept the possibility that," Simon seemed to be
gaining momentum, a phenomenon Mal really didn't want to deal with right now.
He shut him down. "We ain't having this conversation," he said, voice forced
into a semblence of mildness. "Ain't never, have my way. We'll wait till the
food runs out, if we have to." "Interesting," Simon said. "Because our
stockpile won't last a fortnight." The doctor walked past him, muttering a
curse about foolish old men as he went. Mal watched him leave. He should just
leave. Jayne weren't too big a loss. Hell, with him not around, they'd save
hundreds in food, thousands in medical supplies, liquor and deals gone south.
River might be a bit forelorn about it, what with the nutty way she been actin'
of late, but the crew'd be better off on the whole. He tried to tell himself
that, at least. He also tried to tell himself that without... her around, he'd
be able to think clear, not get turned about all the damn time. But he couldn't
even fool himself on that, and he had it on fairly good authority that he was a
master at self delusion. Shrouded in a fog of worry and self-pity, Mal found
himself on the bridge. River had taken to staying below unless he specifically
called for her. Then, like as not, she'd appear out of Jayne's ruttin' room. He
didn't feel like company right now, though. He dropped himself in the pilot's
chair, staring down the plastic dinosaurs which still guarded the pilot from
sudden but inevitable betrayals. He couldn't take it. Not again. Not anymore.
With a roar of impotent frustration, he swept the figures onto the floor and
threw himself back down into the chair, cradling his head in his hands.
"Inara," he whispered. "Where are you?" <> Jacob lurched toward the latest
sound of crashing and unpleasantness, supporting as much of the weight as he
could on the crutch Friday had helpfully left in the infirmery. It still hurt
to walk. Hell, it still hurt to breath, with that gorram fluff shot through him
like caulking. Sometimes when he coughed hard enough, some of it came out.
Which was more'n a mite unsettling. "I am not liking that sound, Zane," He
yelled. Or rather, tried to. It was hard to get any sort of volume with a
twitchy lung. "All's fine, boss," Zane said over his shoulder as he darted past
the door. "Not to fret." Of course, Zane had to be lying. The gorram engine was
on fire. That was not a thing which inspired confidence, seein' flames coming
out of any part of the ship, especially the one which makes the ship go.
"Zane?" "What, boss?" "Your engine's on fire," Zane cast a glance toward where
Jacob pointed, started, and grabbed a fire extinguisher. "Fix it." "Jacob, bao
bei, you shouldn't be up," Anne's concerned voice said behind him. He felt her
trying to guide him back down the the infirmery, but he was too stir-crazy to
stay there right now. He glanced at her, but she'd taken place at his right
side. His blind side. "Ain't goin' back down there," Jacob said. "I just can't.
Gotta be up and about. Pa always said the best way to cripple a man is let him
recover too long." "Your father sounds like an interesting man," Anne said, now
dragging him away from the engine room. "I'll have to meet my new inlaws
sometime." "Meeting mine is about as likely as meeting yours," Jacob muttered.
"Pa had a heart attack two years ago, and Ma got took by a stroke back near a
decade." Anne frowned up at him. "Y'ain't never said anything about them
before." "Didn't think it mattered. Where are we headed? Miranda?" Jacob asked.
"Our path takes us well away from the Burnham quadrent," Anne said. "You're
giving up?" his voice grew very tight and low. "You ain't listening," Anne
said. "They ain't headed back to the planet. They's headed somewhere else."
"Well, this is all kinds of fun," Jacob muttered. She tried to guide him down
the stairs to the infirmery, but he momentumed his way into the kitchen, and
from there into the fore-corridor. She still tugged at him, but she didn't want
to hurt him. He was counting on that. Carefully, he lowered himself into the
copilot's seat, wincing as the wound twisted a mite. Gorram if that didn't hurt
still, after a whole week. He'd love to get Friday back on his boat. That'd fix
him up. Getting Sylvia back, though, would be better. Finally realizing she
wasn't getting him back into the infirmery, Anne surrendered and sat herself
down in her seat, fixing him with a hot glare. "This ain't makin' a touch of
difference." "Anne." "Common sense, bao bei," she said softly. "Them's got took
by Reavers either die or are better off that way. She's gone, Jacob." Jacob
locked his eye onto hers. "She's not gone. Not until I say she is." "You
wantin' don't make it happen," she said quietly. "Why are you fightin' so hard
for her?" "She's a part of my crew," Jacob said simply. Anne's look became
distant. "And if it was me?" she asked. "Never gonna happen." "If it was me?"
she asked again. Jacob sighed, staring off into the black. "If it was you,
ain't a power in the 'Verse'd stop me from finding you." Zane appeared then,
looking a bit scorched and a bit sad. "Boss," said he, "we've got a problem."
"Don't want to hear problems, Zane. What I want is to hear solutions. Get that
engine turning. Get us moving." "Not going to happen, boss," Zane shrugged.
"We've been runnin' ragged on an engine that had a Reaver monkeywrench tossed
into it. It was just a matter of time before it quit. And sure picked a sweet
bung of a spot to quit, didn't it?" "It's not a Capissen 38, is it?" Jacob
asked. "No." "Then you can fix it, so ruttin' fix it!" he shouted, then
succumbed to a fit of painful coughing. "Anne?" Zane implored, but she shook
her head. "Look, boss, when I say ain't gonna happen, I really do mean it. The
primary grav-couple housing's up and shattered. Without that, we're runnin' on
reaction drive only, and that won't barely even outrun one of the shuttles."
"Replace it, then," Jacob coughed up another red and white glob. "Use them
parts we picked up after Liann Juin." "Da-shiong bao jah shr duh lah du-tze,
you're not listening to me," Zane finally shouted. "The housing's damn near the
only custom piece this ship's got. Ain't nobody but another Firefly'd have one.
Only way we're gettin' another is if another Firefly just happens to come
along, or if I make one m'self." "Then make one!" Jacob ordered, forcing
himself to his feet. "I intend to run down those bungers. I intend to get back
my crew, the way it was. And I ain't havin' that coasting in the Black, dohn
luh muh?" "Fine," Zane said loudly. "Fine!" Jacob shouted back. His voice left
him after that, so his next words came out quiet and gravely. "Get to work."
Zane cast one more glance back, somewhat hurt, it looked like, and vanished
back into the ship. Jacob lowered himself back into the seat. Anne dropped
herself on his knees, facing him. "What the hell?" "So you don't get up again
and do something stupid," she explained. Her eyes were beginning to glimmer. "I
thought I was losing you, back there. I don't want that. If that means I have
to hold you down, I will." "Ain't leavin' you in this world, bao bei," he
whispered, his throat still achin' him somethin' fierce. "Ain't never gonna."
She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him tight. He struggled to hold
back a hiss of pain as her admittedly meager weight pressed against his injury.
Her fingers began to bite into his shoulder blades, the way she did when she
was sleeping. "I was just... so afraid I was going to lose you." "Not in this
'Verse, ki zi, not in this 'Verse." She remained in that position a good long
time, simply clutching herself to him and trembling. Her head was buried
against his shoulder as she shook. Was she crying? He couldn't tell. She wasn't
one for weeping, usually, but once she started, she had a tendency to go on for
a while. There were a lot of tears stored up in that little frame. "Oh, I'm
sorry, I just thought," Inara said as she noticed the two. "What is it?" Jacob
asked as if nothing were out of the ordinary. She didn't seem to need to be
pushed further, making him wonder if the crew over on Serenity got grapply or
weepy more often than he gave them credence for. "I heard from Zane that you
were up and about. Which, by the way, I disapprove of." "If I wanted a medical
opinion, I'd talk to a doctor," he said. "What are you here about?" The
Companion sighed. "You have to accept the possibility that Sylvia might be
dead." "Why does everybody think I need to hear that today?" he asked, eye hard
and sharp on Serra's own. "She's alive. I know it, and more important your own
pilot, River, knows it." "Oh, yes," she scoffed. "Let's bring that little
vision of River into this, shall we? A vision that tells you exactly what you
want to hear, that none of the rest of us, conveniently enough, can't see."
"Jayne seen it, too," Jacob pointed out. "Jayne," she began, and found herself
caught between entirely too many negative things to say, and not enough time
her natural lifetime in which to say them. "Jayne is a fool." "Shouldn't be
talkin' 'bout folk behind their backs," the mercenary said as he entered the
cockpit. "Might hurt their feelin's." "We both know you don't have feelings,"
Inara snapped. Jayne scowled. "I didn't come here lookin' for a fight," he
retorted. He then seemed to notice the position Anne had taken. "What in the
hell's she doin'? Shouldn't you to be doin' that in yer bunk?" "Does this
disturb you?" Jacob asked flatly. "More'n a little." Jacob rolled his eye.
"What's this about, Jayne?" "Done cut the last of them things loose. Patched up
the hull, too. Weren't easy with the li'l 'un flyin' us so crazy." "Might want
to watch your tone around my wife," Jacob pointed out. "What's next?" Inara
asked. "We're dead in the water 'till Zane fixes up a part. Till then, ain't
really nothin' to do," Jacob said quietly. "Shiny," Jayne muttered. "I'll be in
my bunk." "You don't have a bunk," Inara said. Jayne paused in his turn.
"Right," he said slowly. "You know where I'll be." As the last of them left the
room, Jacob shifted his weight, drawing another spike of pain from his chest,
to get a look at his wife. She was crying, eyes shut as she sobbed. He wondered
if she was even aware of what was happening around her. Sometimes, when she
lost control of one thing, a lot of other things went buggy too. "Anne?" he
asked. She tilted her head to glance at him. Her cheeks were quite damp. "I'm
sorry," she said. "I just..." "Don't ever apologize," Jacob said softly. "It
doesn't matter what you do. I'll be here for you. It's what I signed up for,"
he grinned somewhat. "I accepted you, strangeness and all, four years back when
we started sharing a bed. Have I ever asked why you get clingy when you go to
sleep?" "I do not get clingy," she protested. "Oh, you most certainly do." She
smiled then, a weak, uncertain smile, but a smile nonetheless. She rested her
cheek against his shoulder. "Do not." "Boss, I can f..." Zane announced as he
charged up onto the bridge. Then, he saw the pair of them in their crippled
embrace and hesitated, making as if to leave. "I ain't cuttin' in on a moment
here, am I? "Life is but a series of moments, Zane," Jacob recited. "What is
it?" "I can rig up somethin' that'll work like a grav-couple housing, but it
won't last long. Might only take us out the day, might last us a week. Sure as
hell won't run for a month, though." "If it'll work rig it up," Jacob said.
"Here's the kicker. Full burn is out of the question. We try pipin' more juice
through this thing than one hundred percent, it'll fry faster than you can
say... don't full burn or the thing'll... fry..." "Then do it. I'll take
whatever you can give. How long to rig this up." "It'll take the rest of the
day, at least," Zane said. Jacob sighed. "Then get started," every hour they
spent coasting along was an hour that they were getting farther away. As the
mechanic left the cockpit, Jacob found himself running his fingers along Anne's
short, curling hair. He tried to remember a time when things was simple. <>
Kaylee frowned at Mal as he stared bleakly at the slim fare which had been set
before him. As edible as it looked, he didn't have the slightest inclination to
touch it. He knew that no matter how good a cook that Friday was, it'd just
taste like ashes. Weren't much left to him, nowadays. "Captain?" Kaylee said
quietly. "Y'ain't touched your dinner." Mal gave her a level glance. "Looks
awful tasty!" she said with a hopeful smile. Mal didn't even look up. "You
should eat," Simon said in the breach. "Starvation might take days to set in,
but malnutrition can make it difficult to..." "Simon," the other doctor's voice
sounded, smooth and sensual. "I ain't exactly what you'd call couth, but that
ain't proper dinner conversation." "We're tryin' to get him to eat," Kaylee
whispered, more than a bit too loud to be confidencial. Friday frowned, pulling
off the slim spectacles and frowning at the captain for a moment. "If you don't
eat," Friday said. "You'll get stupid. You get stupid, you won't find her." Mal
frowned at her, but still couldn't bring himself to eat. The doctors both shook
their heads in almost the exact same disdainful way. The crew exodused around
him, leaving him staring at the admittedly somewhat attractive dinner the other
doc had whipped up. It also marked the last of the canned food. Now, all they
had left was protein in all the colors of the rainbow and that scum in the
water-purifiers. "Sir?" the no-nonsense voice that had stood beside him for
entirely too long to be ignored. He looked up, seeing Zoe staring down at him
with a more than slightly unimpressed look on her face. "What is it?" "Are you
really going to do something this stupid, sir?" Zoe asked. "Stupid?" "Yes,
stupid. As in where you stop eating because someone you care about isn't
around." "I don't think we ought be havin' this conversation," Malcolm said. Of
course, that was when Zoe caught his shirt and hauled him to his feet, then
pitched him forward into his dinner. "Gorramit, woman, what in the hell're
y'doing?" "If you don't want to eat, I'll shove it down your rutting throat,
sir," she said flatly. "Trust me, I've gained a lot of experience feeding
uncooperative infants." Malcolm struggled for a moment, but even with a kid on
the ground, she was still more than able to manhandle him. "Fine, I'll eat.
Just let go of my gorram neck." Zoe let him flop back into his seat and pick
off the vegetables which had become stuck to his face. "You didn't need to do
that," he muttered. "Yes, I surely did, sir." her back was still perfectly
straight, but there was a sense of her loosening. It was something she only did
around two men that Mal could remember, and he was one of them. "Sir, I know
what this is about." "I surely think you don't." Her face went blank. "We were
both there. We got chewed up and spat out. I didn't have much keepin' me going.
Then you brought that annoying pilot with his plastic dinosaurs, which I
noticed you spread out onto the floor, and I found myself a husband. We got
tore up plenty again after Miranda, and I lost my mister. Things got bleak. But
I'm still here. I've lost more than any-damn-body on this ship. I lost my
family twice, lost my man, near lost Hoban, but I'm still here. So are you. You
didn't die in Serenity Valley, sir, so stop the hell actin' like you did." Mal
stared his first mate in the eye for a long moment. "Is that all?" "For now,
sir." "Well," he said, picking the last of the food from his mug. "I'll just
finish my dinner then. Y'ought maybe be seein' to that rugrat of yours." "Just
maybe ought, sir," she said, waiting until he'd actually bitten into something
before leaving. Friday brushed past her in the other direction. Mal noticed she
was carrying a guitar with her as she dropped herself down in the puffy chair.
Mal must have been giving a what-the-hell look, 'cause she slid them glasses
back up onto her nose and smiled at him. He was shocked at how much it reminded
him of Inara, despite the fact that the two women had only the barest
resemblence. "I've got to keep practicing, don't want to get rusty," she said,
tuning her instrument. "Got any requests?" "Not as such, no." Friday plucked a
few experimental strings, then glanced off pensively. "I've got one. Writ by a
soldier from the Valley." she began to strum the chords of a tune he felt he'd
heard before, a song which was a part of him. "Take my love, take my land, take
me where I cannot stand," she sang, her voice ringing clean and clear
throughout the closed space. "I don't care, I'm still free, 'cause you can't
take the sky for me. Take me out into the black, tell 'em I ain't comin' back.
Burn the land, and boil the sea: you can't take the sky from me. Take your war,
I've found my peace, to soar where I find my release. You lock me up, but I'm
still free, 'cause you can't take the sky from me. No one place that I can be,
since I seen Serenity. You can't take the sky from me, no, you can't take the
sky from me." As she continued to strum, Mal glanced over his shoulder, spying
River standing at the theshold of the fore-corridor. She was draped in Jayne's
Fighting Elves shirt, and her hair was in even more marked disarray than usual.
Feet, as they often were, bare. He stared. She stared back. At long last, she
nodded slowly. "I'll set a course," she whispered between the notes. <> "So,"
Inara said, breaking into the long, awkward silence that had invaded the dinner
table. It had been almost a week since Zane's little mishap with the engines
that sent them limping on their ways. Each day saw the crew getting more and
more pessimistic about their captain's plan. The man ate his meal mechanically,
despite the surprising quality of it. "How about something to dispel the mood?"
"What've you got in mind?" Zane asked, instantly chipper. "Tell me," she swept
her dark, penetrating eyes around the table, "what you find most attractive in
a mate." "The eyes! No, the nose," Zane said. "Wait, that's not it... you know
that spot on a woman's lower back? Just above the pi gu?" She tried to focus
the cycle the other direction, simply to avoid Jayne being next, but he stomped
right into the spot, conversationally speaking, without hesitation. "Soft
lips," Jayne said, sprawing a bit of food onto the table in the process. Inara
looked a bit surprised by his answer. "I thought you never kissed them on the
lips?" she asked. "I don't," he said, a lascivious grin on his face. "Ugh.
Remind me never to talk to you again," Inara grunted. "Anne?" "Weight," she
said, staring at Jacob. "Excuse me?" "Solidity, substance. If you got that, you
can fall asleep and know that they'll still be there in the morning." Inara
nodded to concede the point. There was certainly something to be said for not
waking up alone. Some of her clients paid extra to be cuddled. A great many
more simply walked away, which made very little sense to her. "And what about
you?" she asked the captain. His gaze swung from his wife to his passenger.
"The ability to look a man in the eye and say 'no, and no amount of money will
change that'." Jayne burst into raucous, messy laughter, almost falling out of
his seat. Zane looked at the mercenary next to him for a moment. "Did I miss
something?" he asked. "That's almost 'xactly what Mal said when she asked
that," Jayne managed to say between guffaws. While he was snickering, he seemed
to have his attention diverted to the currently empty nook. Inara simply shook
her head beautifically. "I was refering to physical attraction," she said
softly. "Oh, well then," Jacob pondered for a moment. "Nothing." "Excuse me?"
"Physical attraction is learned. Before I met my dearly beloved, I had a set of
physical cues which got me all hot and bothered, and not a one of them is
shared by my Anne," he placed his hand on her far shoulder and drew her toward
him. "However, in the time since, everything I find attractive is in her. The
height, the weight, the skin, the hair, the eyes. It's all secondary to what's
under 'em." "Well," Inara muttered. "That's somewhat romantic." "Ah hell,"
Jayne muttered, his face shining with terror. Jacob stared at the mercenary for
a long moment. From what he'd heard, there was only one thing the man feared.
"What is it?" Jacob asked, his question ending just as the proximity alarms
began to call from the cockpit. Usually, since the sensors were so damn
powerful on this ship, they didn't start up till somethin' was damn near at
spittin' distance. Out here, Anne had rigged them to start singin' the instant
anything popped onto the screen, at any distance. She'd pulled free and ran up
into her domain in a heartbeat. Jacob followed a few steps behind, leaning over
her shoulder as she interpreted the readings the ship was feeding her. "What is
it?" he asked quietly, knowing full well that there weren't nothing else this
far out. Even though they'd been headed in a direction markedly not toward
Miranda for a hell of a while, by which he meant. "Hold on," she muttered, her
face deapan as she concentrated. "All I'm reading right now is moving metal.
Could just be a rogue comet." "Then why's Jayne actin' like we're about to get
hit by..." "Reavers!" she shouted, turning in her chair. "Zane, get your skinny
ass up here!" "Anne?" he said. "We've got a pair of Crabs coming from dead
forward," she growled as she readied Legacy for whatever they needed of her.
"We gettin' Reavers?" Jayne's booming voice sounded from the back of the
cockpit, sounding more that of a child than the foul-mouthed mercenary it
belonged to. A glance back showed he'd already gotten his weapons. "River?"
Jacob asked. Jayne nodded. "Will somebody get this rou di-duo mao di kiang out
of my way?" Zane muttered, having to sqeeze himself between Jayne and the
doorframe. "Reavers?" Anne nodded. "Where are they?" Jacob asked, staring off
into the Black. He couldn't see anything. "They're a ways out. Zane?" "Ready,"
He said, seating himself in the 'gunners' chair. "Where they at?" the mercenary
muttered. There was a brutal silence as the 'Verse collapsed to about ten
square feet. "There!" she shouted as the first of them was hit by the light
she'd started swinging around. Two of them, bearing right down on them; 'Crab'
landing craft. Those things'd ram the ship, dig in with their claws, and dump
their cargo of Reavers inside. Legacy was already tore up plenty from her last
run in with Crabs. "I've got it," Zane muttered, eyes locked forward. He let
out a laugh as the missile shot free of its launcher, streaking through the
black toward the closer of the Crabs. It was about to strike when the craft
jerked away, letting the thing streak past it. As the missile tried to loop
back around, it slammed directly into the second. "That was... lucky," Anne
muttered. The Crab began to drift erratically, and the one which had dodged the
attack looped back around, headed back toward its wounded fellow. Another
contrail reached out into the void, still streaking toward the first. This
time, its target dropped itself behind the already wounded craft and halted,
sacrificing the debilitated craft. As the ship began to drift apart, the
remaining Crab thrust straight at them. Anne drew the craft away, setting the
ship into overburn and throwing everybody not holding onto something into the
back wall. "What's the plan?" Jacob asked, holding his chest where the wound
tore at him from his wife's mad maneuvering. "Sometimes," she said with an odd
smile, "you gotta roll a hard six." Jayne frowned. "What th'hell's a hard six?"
"Y'all better hold onto somethin'," Anne said, which was all the warning she
gave before flicking some switches and sawing at the controls. The ship lurched
painfully, metal screaming as it was stressed beyond tolerance. A loud bang
sounded from the engine room, no doubt Zane's replacement part quitting with
great gusto, and the stars spun in front of the ship. Finally, when the ship,
and Jacob's head, for that matter, stopped spinning, the Crab was directly in
front the ship. Zane didn't hesitate for a second, letting fly another missile.
That's when the damndest thing happened. The gorram missile exploded early,
hittin' nothing but Black. The Crab streaked past it, latching itself to the
spine of the now crippled ship. Zane leapt up from his seat, sprinting past the
wretched sounds of tearing metal and to his engines. Jacob dragged the hulking
mercenary down the corridor and pointed his Mauser at the hole which had been
torn into the cieling of the kitchen. The shrieking stopped. And they waited.
"Not that I ain't relieved," Jayne said, staring down a particularly large
rifle, "but ain't them supposed to be comin' on?" The hole remained. Vacant.
Jacob loped painfully to the side of the table and looked up, trying to gain a
glimpse of what could be inside. That was when the black blur dropped out,
landing awkwardly on the table. Jayne had the gun pointed at the figure in a
moment, but Jacob swatted the weapon away as he beheld a pair of blue-green
eyes staring out of a blood-coated face. "Syl?" he asked. Her clothes had been
shredded badly, and no small amount of that blood appeared to be hers. Her eyes
flit around the room, and her lips writhed. Her hand, scarlet from fingertips
to elbow, where her clothing extended no further, reached up toward him.
"H...H..." Jacob leaned closer. Sylvia's hand pressed against his cheek.
"Home." "Son of a bitch!" Jayne muttered, and Sylvia's eyes rolled back and her
brutalized form became limp. <> It had been a week since they'd left the
rendezvous point. Seven days. One hundred sixty eight hours, give or take a
few. Every damn one of them felt like an eternity. He hadn't asked the li'l
albatross where she had him headed. With Zoe and F...Dell on board, weren't no
reason to go back to Paquin and Brownlee's. He'd spent most of his time below
decks. In the cargo bay, when it was dark, in his bunk when it weren't. Just
couldn't face down them newlyweds, all happy and such, mood he was in. It
didn't seem right for everything to be going right for everybody but... not
him, he guessed. Things never went smooth for him and he didn't expect that'd
ever change. Still, every second he spent flying through the Black felt like
another second he'd abandoned her. River wouldn't even talk to him anymore, and
she didn't look too good. Like she hadn't had any sleep in a week. She wouldn't
talk to anybody, but she always seemed to be muttering, always too low for
anyone to hear. Zoe tried to confront him again, but with his door locked, all
she could do was call him an idiot and wait. She must have given up at some
point, 'cause when he went up for something to nibble on, she was nowhere to be
found. He hadn't taken much, yesterday, but he still hadn't gotten around to
finishing it. He just wasn't hungry. He was so far beyond desparation that he
was willing to sell his soul, had he believed he had one, or a convenient forum
at which to sell it. Having nothing else he could do, Malcolm Reynolds tried
something he hadn't done in years. Malcolm Reynolds got down and prayed. He had
drifted off at some point during this last, most desparate ploy, his head
coming to rest on his bed and everything else on the floor. The hiss of the
door becoming unlocked pulled him back into conciousness. "Gorram it, Zoe, I
ain't in any sort of mood for this right now," he growled, leaving his head
against the mattress. The sounds of boots falling against the ladder vexed him.
He grumbled again. "For the last time, I," he said, pulling his head off the
mattress and rising to his feet. Suddenly, he felt all the words falling away.
<> Jayne stared at the door as the shuttle locked into place. Looked like it
were the middle of the night on Serenity, and was about as good a time to show
up as any. Christmas present, River had said. Well, smack him around if it
weren't Christmas Eve. The captain a' Legacy, that Greyson fella, had taken the
duty of runnin' the two of them back to their home. He weren't too bad a fella,
Jayne thought. Not nearly as crotchety as Mal, didn't have nearly the problems
with the womanfolk. More'n welcome a change to that damn tension Mal and 'Nara
always seemed to throwin' around. Inara pulled the door open, glidin' through
in one of Jacob's doc's robes, confrontin' the woman herself what owned the
robe. Friday, her name was, smiled as she beheld the two of them, and beyond
them, Jacob. The Asian woman leaned in close to Inara, whisperin' something
Jayne couldn't quite catch. She also slipped something into the Companion's
hand, paper, looked like. Jayne frowned. Not worth thinkin' on. "Well, this is
your stop," Jacob said slowly, still favorin' that hurt in his chest. Jayne
couldn't rightly blame him. Closest he ever got to somethin' like that was when
the crazy one came at him with a butcher knife. Jacob stared at the merc,
makin' him all manner of uncomfortable for a while. "She might not be all
there," Greyson said quietly, more'n like just between the two of them. "But
she don't have to be." Jayne glared at the smaller man. Jacob smiled
disarmingly. "Pa always said I shoulda been a shrink. Don't be a stranger,
mister Cobb." Jayne was shaking his head as he went out the door. He made it
about four steps on the catwalk before he got hit by a flying weight. A little
flying weight with arms and legs. And long, black hair. He felt another mouth
pressed against his own, and he struggled a bit to shrug her off. Weren't no
good, though. She had him good. Finally, when she was done, River pulled back
with a beaming smile. "What the hell?" he asked loudly. Without breaking eye
contact, the little girl... little woman, he guessed... pointed straight up.
"Mistletoe," she said brightly. And damn it if there weren't a sprig of that
crap right above their heads when he looked up. Appearantly sated, she let go
and skipped away, leaving one very baffled mercenary staring after her. Inara
also stared after the young pilot, possibly every bit as confusticated as he
was. "I didn't," Jayne began. "Just," she responded, "too insane... to be your
fault." Jayne nodded in agreement. Doc might say she was on the mend, but that
girl was gettin' more feng kuang every time he looked at her. The shuttle was
already liftin' off, Jacob and his doc in tow as they headed back to their ship
what done parked a short ways off, and Jayne shuffled the confused Companion
out in front of him. Just as they reached the top of the stairs, River's head
popped around the corner. "Captain wants you," she said to Inara. "What does he
want?" she asked, somewhat miffed soundin'. "Captain wants you," she said
again, not seemin' to understand why Inara didn't get it. "Go to him." Inara
rolled her eyes and glided past the pilot, no doubt on her way to trade words
with that contrary capt'n. Now, though, River was staring right at him. "What?"
he demanded. She just stared at him and smiled that little, creepifyin' smile.
"I ain't gettin' you a Christmas present." "You already did," she responded.
Jayne grunted, not feelin' like dealin' with this right now. As he pushed past
the li'l 'un, he growled to nobody in particular. "I'll be in my bunk." <>
"River said you wanted me?" Inara said as she beheld the confounded looking Mal
standing in front of his bunk. He was, she was surprised to see, stripped to
the waist, and had a from his mattress pressed into his forehead. He just
stared at her. "Well," she began. "I've been aboard five minutes and you
haven't called me a whore yet. That must be a new record. Whatever it is you
want, I assure, you, I can explain." Mal blinked, standing unsteadily in the
middle of his room. "I believed in the Alliance, Mal. I always did. I never
questioned what they were doing to make my life the way it was. But since...
then... I haven't been able to... Back on Osiris, that girl was being... She
made me so angry, and I just... I hit her." Mal didn't offer his opinion. "I
know, you keep saying that one should never hit another with a closed fist,
however hilarious it is. That's what tipped the scales. I had to do this, Mal.
I had to be on the right side, instead of the winning one." She paused for a
moment. "Mal?" He hadn't said a word since he caught sight of her, just stared
at her. Staring, and smiling. She wasn't sure whether he scooped her up or she
leapt into his arms, but before she knew it, their lips were locked and she
felt the 'Verse disappearing around her. All that remained was the two of them.
She felt herself being placed, oh so gently, on the tiny cot against the wall
of the room. "Wait," she said, pushing Mal away for a moment. "What does this
mean?" Something happened to Mal's eyes, a fire that had burned so bright and
so hot, doused. His smile dropped away and he stood up. "I don't know," he said
despondently. She grabbed his arm and pulled him back down beside her, an act a
great deal easier than she thought it would be. She caught his chin between her
fingers and stared into those eyes. "Good answer," she said, kissing him again.
She broke away for a moment. "Just promise me one thing." "What is it?" he
asked. "No pirate jokes." Mal smiled very wide as she undid the belt to her
robe. "Yarr," he said. It was the last word he said for a very long time. <>
"That'll do you," Friday said, pulling the stitches closed on his wounded
chest. "Should be right as rain in no time flat." Jacob nodded gravely. He
pulled his shirt down over the wound and stared out onto the slab, to where
Sylvia had been laid out. Since she had literally dropped in on them, she
hadn't regained consciousness. When they'd cleaned her off, they discovered she
had taken very few wounds during her stay. "What about her?" he asked. "Excuse
me?" she muttered. "Sylvia. Have you figured out what's wrong with her?" "Not
yet," Friday said. "It's a good thing you saved her stomach contents, though. I
found these." She slid the pan toward him, and he looked inside. "Ai ya, tyen
ah," he whispered as the partially digested human fingers rolled in the pan. He
looked back at his friend, laid out and looking so helpless. If he was right,
she was anything but. Never before had he hoped more that he was wrong. "What?"
she asked, putting the last of her things away. "Don't leave her alone, not
ever. Tie her down," he said. "Take everything sharp or pointed out of this
room, and lock it when you leave." "This is insane," Friday said. "You're
making her sound like a..." "Reaver," Jacob finished grimly. "She spent
fourteen days endurin' what drives the strongest insane inside four hours.
Ain't got any proper idea what's going to be greeting us when she wakes up."
"Boss?" came Zane's voice from behind him. "What is it?" "Legacy's hurtin' bad.
We've got to get some place to patch her up," the mechanic answered. "Ain't no
place anywhere near here," Jacob swore. "Not quite, boss," Zane interjected.
"There's Mister Universe." "Zane, that place is abandoned." "I wouldn't offer
it if I didn't know what I was talkin' 'bout, boss." Jacob sighed. "Tell Anne
where to fly," he said, suddenly feeling very exhausted. "You should get some
rest, Jacob," Friday said gently. Jacob nodded. "You know," he whispered,
pulling out his gun, "I really should."
A Question of Sins
"We close enough now?" Jacob asked. The mechanic nodded, and the captain
flicked on a screen in front of the pilot's chair. Or at least, he tried to.
"Why the hell won't this thing turn on?" he asked his wife and pilot, who was
lounging in the mentioned chair staring up toward him. She smiled a bit with a
shrug. "I had them disconnected," she said simply. "Now why in the hell would
you do that?" he asked gently. "Mayhaps I don't like the idea of folk watchin'
me when I'm flyin'. Or when we're finding other uses for this chair." "Oh, God,
make it stop," Zane feigned disgust. He flipped a few switches on the copilot's
seat, and waved the captain over. The Cortex screen flickered own, showing a
middle aged gentleman with bright eyes and hair just beginning to get shot
through with grey. Despite the physical symptoms of age, the way he grinned as
the screen popped on made him seem Zane's age. "Zane!" the man shouted. "Can't
say I expected to see you again, after that last business." "We both came out
alive. Well, except for that bottle they broke 'cross your head," Zane laughed.
"Hey, that really hurt. Weren't like you got much better. If I recall, there
were pool cues..." the man responded gamely. "Zane?" Jacob asked. "What the
hell?" "Oh, right," Zane said. "This is Jacob Greyson, captain of this little
boat." "Yeah, noticed you were callin' a mite closer than any planet," the
man's gaze flit around, as if taking in feeds from other screens. "I told you
you'd never last long on the ground, and Jiangyin's about as grounded as a
fella can get. What kinda ship is she?" "Firefly. More'n a bit banged up,
though. Thinkin' we should be spending some time on Ion patchin' our hurt," the
man nodded, staring at something else above the camera that was recording his
image. Finally, the man turned and shouted to something in the background. "Fi!
Feed that IFF into the FCS," he shouted. "Don't want the autoguns knockin' you
out of the sky, I think?" "Fi?" Jacob asked. "I'm still waitin' on hearing who
the hell you are." "Ain't it obvious?" the man said, spreading his arms. "I'm
Mister Universe." "Mister Universe is dead," Jacob pointed out. "Mister
Universe can't never die," the man laughed. "Can't stop the signal, and where
there's a signal, there's Mr. Universe," Jacob and Zane shared a look. "Hey,
don't make faces." "So," Jacob declared. "You've moved in and set up shop?"
"Could say that. By now you should be reading the Ion Cloud. It'll play merry
hob with your sensors, but pretty pretty lights and a few miles later you'll be
on our doorstep. Patch your hurt, you said?" he asked. "We're kinda bleedin'
out the ears," Zane admitted. Mr. Universe leaned away from the camera gain.
"Bao bei, wake up that lazy-ass brother of Fi's and tell him we got a job for
him," he yelled. "How many a' y'all are down there?" Jacob asked. "Me and the
miss, Fi and her brother." "Mister Universe worked alone," Jacob said. "I ain't
him," the current Mr. Universe said sadly. "I'll see you when you hit the
planet." "Wait, where the hell on the planet are we supposed to go? This ain't
exactly the biggest moon we ever saw, but still." "Just follow the Fruity Oaty
Bar in," he said with a grin. As soon as the words were gone, the commercial
began. "Fruity Oaty Bars, make a man out of a mouse," it cheerfully belted, and
Jacob stared close at the screen. Nearly the same color as the insane
background was a set of coordinates. "Shoot that over to Anne," he said,
walking to her console, which caught the thing right as the squid made its
appearance. "Eat them all the time, let us blow your mind!" it continued. Jacob
shook his head. He never understood what these folk were thinkin' making a
commercial that was so unforgivably odd. Jingle was catchy as hell, though.
That there was utter cruelty. "You catch that?" Jacob asked. Anne grinned
almost childishly. She turned to the mechanic. "Play it again!" Jacob rubbed
his eye as that damned tune started playing again. <> Mister Universe didn't
usually get visitors. Sure, he did get a lot of requests for information, or
help hacking a system, but when it came to meeting folk, he didn't get much of
a chance to hone his skills. So when that ship made its fairly ungraceful
landing on his hidden landing pad, looking no small bit tore up, he was itching
to see some new faces. Miss Universe was as always by his side. She didn't
completely understand her husband's obsession with 'the signal', but she'd
sworn to stand by her man. He'd already been there while they raised their
children into adulthood. Now, by her estimation, he was retired. That, she
could understand. The ramp slid down part of the way, but jammed, forcing its
occupants to crawl out around the edge. When they finally dropped to the
ground, Mister Universe took his first step toward them. Most of them looked
more'n a little banged up themselves. The captain, Greyson by name, clutched at
a spot on his chest, and Zane had a bruise, nearly gone, just above his left
ear. The crew, limping though it was, made their way to him, Zane outstripping
all of them with his long, ground eating strides. When the two men met, both
paused. Not exactly sure how to progress, he warrented. "It's good to see you
again, Zane," Mister Universe said, extending his hand. Zane grinned and
accepted it. "Likewise, Verne," the mechanic said, before turning to the older
man's wife. "And Shelley, ain't seen you in a dog's life." "Zane?" Mister
Universe muttered. "Shuh muh?" "Why'd you go and do that?" he asked. "Do what?"
"Tell them my name?" The mechanic laughed. By this point, Greyson finally made
his way to where the two had met in the middle. "Boss here thinks you could do
with a head-deflatin', so deflate your head I do." "Verne," Greyson said with a
deadpan face. "Look what you've done," Verne muttered. "I have a reputation to
keep, you know?" "Cole still workin' for you?" Zane asked, looping his arm
around the shorter man's shoulders. "Of course!" Verne "Couldn't run this place
without him and his sister." "His sister," Zane smiled distantly. "You're gonna
have to introduce us. Don't think I've met her yet." "Look," Verne interrupted.
"We may be friends, but I can't just wave my hands and repair your ship. It's
not exactly cheap just running this little operation, and I don't have nearly
the skill at tapping accounts as the last Mister Universe did." "Won't be a
problem," Jacob said. "We've got a good deal of right cashy money coming our
way and coming quick." "Hate to say it, though," Verne muttered. "That ship
doesn't look like it's worth saving. I can get you a great deal on a Dragonfly,
though. Great engine, low mileage..." "Cost ain't exactly an object," Jacob
said. "Whatever it takes, point of fact." Mister Universe shook his head. "I
never could understand why some get so attached to their ship." "They get
attached out of love," Zane said. "Love keeps a ship in the air. And you not
havin' none for yours is what dropped her on that mu yi di nao tan keh moon
four years back." Verne scowled. "I thought you didn't know Chinese?" "Had to
pick it up sometime." He shook his head. "Fine. Anything else I can get you? A
first class ticket on the El Dorado? A signed Ace of Spades from Jack Leland?
Cargohold full of cattle?" "Actually," Jacob said, keeping up despite his
obvious pain. "We need you to send a Wave to Logan Kell. He's got one of our
crew on his ship, as well as the cashy money I done spoke on." Verne glanced at
his wife, and his hands twitched in quiet sign language to her. "You haven't
weighed in on this, Shelley. What's your opinion?" His wife, born deaf, looked
back at him. "I wasn't paying attention. It is company though," she signed
back. "I do miss having company." <> It was a boring job. There were no two
ways about that. Every day, he'd come in to work, make sure everything was the
same place it was the day before, and walk out having done nothing of any note
whatsoever. It was stable, and safer than any job he could think of, but by God
it was dull. Mostly, he spent the time writing. He wasn't a professional, by
any stretch of the imagination, but in a job like this, one had a lot of free
time, and not much else to fill it with. The New Paris depository wasn't
exactly the most exciting place to be. Neither, in point of fact, was
Bernadette on whole, but the Rim Yokels never seemed to tire of goggling at the
Prometheus, or wandering New Paris' somewhat meager promanades. Despite being
deeper in the Core than any planet in the system, Bernadette felt entirely too
much like a Border world. One particular line was snagging at him. A line of
dialogue between his two protagonists, now at each other's throats. He couldn't
quite figure out how to make the exchange seem brutal and unrehearsed. His wife
said sometimes he made people say things they couldn't think of in the
situations he put them in. She knew what she was talking about, he admitted,
but he didn't want his characters yehawing and ain'ting like some backwater
rube. It just wasn't civilized. Samuel got up from his station and went back
into the kitchen to dump out the now cold coffee and pour himself another mug.
The machine was near empty, so he took the time to brew up an entirely new
batch. In his head, he kept running through lines, possibilities. Something
that would be noble, yet spontaneous. He wracked his brain as the coffee
percolated, but nothing came. Nothing his wife would agree to, anyway. Finally,
he poured himself a mug of fresh coffee and took a sip. That was one of the few
good things about this job: working for the Parliment meant he didn't have to
put up with the Blue Sun brand Coffee. Yes, it was coffee, but that was it.
This place shelled out for the premium blends, things more of his taste. He
smiled a bit, and returned back down that long corridor to his lonely
workplace. When he pushed the door open, he almost dropped his cup. An Asian
man was sitting on the corner of Samuel's desk, fingers lightly pressing on a
DataBook that had been removed from its niche. Near him, a tall, lithe blonde
woman was running her eyes along the wall from which it had been retrieved. She
was fully dressed, and well dressed besides, but he had to actively coach his
brain away from uncivil thoughts. "Excuse me?" Samuel said. "Can I help you?"
"That depends," the Asian man said. "It depends on whether you know what we
want to." "I'm sorry," Samuel said. Three weeks without a single visitor, and
now two. And both more than a touch unsettling, in his humble opinion. "You
shouldn't be in here without clearance." The blonde turned to him, brushing a
strand of her short hair away from her eye and stared at him. Samuel swollowed.
"Unless," he stammered, "of course, you do have clearance?" The Asian man
nodded, speaking flatly. "Right of you to ask." He turned Samuel's own monitor
around to face him, and pressed his fingertips on the biometric scanner. The
transparent cubes spun and melted, showing the parlamentary logo. "Full
Parliamental Override," it read. "What does that... Oh," Samuel's eyes grew
wide as he beheld the woman sashaying over and placing her own fingertips on
the screen. The cubes resolved into the same logo, with the same three
confusing words. "Full Parliamental Override." "Of course," Samuel stammered.
"Operatives of the Parliament will have my full cooperation. I don't understand
why you would be here, though. There's nothing of..." "That is for us to
decide," the Asian man cut in, without raising his eyes from the DataBook. "It
doesn't list your rank," Samuel said. "We do not have any. Like this
depository, we do not exist," the woman purred. She really did make it hard for
him to hold in the naughty thoughts. "Then I take it that these names are?"
Samuel began. "False," the one listed as Johnathan said. "However, you are use
them. That is their purpose." "Fine then... ah... John. Could you explain your
presence here?" he asked falteringly. It didn't help that the one listed as
Janet began to circle him, trailing a black-painted nail across his narrow
shoulders. "You are aware of the lapse in security that occured at this site
nine years ago?" John minced no words, his dark eyes drilling holes into
Samuel. The librarian swallowed. He had been afraid something would happen
about that, but he didn't ever expect that it would take this long. Or come in
this form. He was so... so very fired. "Yes, I am," he said simply. John rose
to his feet, running a thumb along the neatly trimmed beard on his jaw. "During
the height of the Unification War, a group of spies infiltrated this site and
stole documentation regarding the Alliance's force disposition and armament.
Were you not the custodian at that time?" John's last sentence, though
delivered in his same monotone, struck Samuel by surprise. Busted. "I... ah...
I was," he said. No use lying to this man. Especially with that odd woman at
his back. He could feel her nails tickling the back of his neck. Operatives had
a way of knowing when a man was lying. "Hm." John said. "I believe we have
that... Janet? Janet!" Samuel heard a disappointed sigh from behind him, and
she sashayed her way back to the desk, opening up a long breifcase which John
seemed to have placed there. She pulled out something long and cylindrical, a
portable holo-emitter. She placed it on the ground in the dead center of the
room. "Please, stand clear of the projection," John said, waiting just long
enough for Jane to seat herself on the desk before activating the thing. The
emitter let out a quiet hum and the door was now standing ajar. Only
holographically, of course, but it seemed to be ajar, and that was what
mattered. Four figures dashed into the room, all dressed in black, with masks
over their faces. All but one, it seemed. The shortest of them was similarly
attired, but long black hair obscured, but did not cover, her delicate, fey
features. They spread out into the room, two of them rifling through the
DataBooks, another beginning to hack Samuel's computer, and the third knocking
out the cameras one by one. When the last camera in the room was disabled, the
image went dead. "Stop," John's voice bade. "Backtrack." The image began to
move slowly in reverse, the image reappearing, the people moving backwards
around the room, placing files back onto the shelves. "Forward slow," Jane
said. The image continued forward again, crawling past until just before the
last camera was knocked out. "Stop." "What am I looking at?" Samuel asked. "Do
you recognize the file on that shelf?" he asked, pointing to the one the short
woman was just barely touching. "No, I don't," Samuel answered. "I just watch
the files, I'm not cleared to know what is inside them." John nodded sagely.
"Of course you do not. It's not your position to know." "That," Jane said,
sidling up next to the much shorter woman, "is a highly classified document.
Top, very top secret." "There are many secrets here," Samuel said. "Secrets are
not our business," John said testily. "Keeping them, is," Jane finished. "What
is so special about that particular file?" Samuel asked. "Not your concern,"
she answered throatily. "It is the business of the Parliament, and let it stand
at that," John said. "How can you even be sure she knows what's on that?" he
began. "It is not our concern whether she knows," Jane interrupted, but was in
turn interrupted by John. "We found epithelial cells on the file. Epithelial
cells that came from a woman without any Parliamentary clearance. If she
knows," John said. "Her life is forfiet." "And if she doesn't," Jane smiled,
"she's just... collateral damage." Samuel glanced around the room, and Jane
flicked the control to the emitter. The image shifted, pulling the woman into
the center of the room. She might have been cute, he figured. As it was, it
looked like she was hiding behind her hair. He stared into her dark, dark eyes.
"What's her name?" "That is a problem," John muttered, somehow still making his
voice crisp and clear. "We are not sure what it is, now at least." "She
vanished entirely more than five years ago," Jane smiled. "So..." Samuel said.
"Why are you here?" "We were hoping to find some clue as to her present
whereabouts," John said, walking to the librarian's side, watching the still
image of the woman. "And did you?" Samuel asked. John glanced his direction,
but didn't speak a word. "In older, more civilized cultures," John finally
spoke, "when a man was found in betrayal, he would beg to throw himself on his
sword." Damn! He knew! He'd let those people in, taking their money in exchange
for taking a two hour coffee brake. John was going to rat him out to his
employers. He put on a brave face. "Well, that doesn't exactly seem like an
option, does it?" he said. He heard a sound of metal ringing along metal. From
the desk, Jane grinned savagely as her long-fingered hand pulled up a long,
slender sword. Samuel's eyes were locked on the weapon. "Do you know what your
sin is?" she asked langorously. "I..." "Sloth," she answered, cutting him off.
"You don't want to do this," Samuel said, but John was paying him no attention.
Jane got to her feet and began to approach, that weapon held in her hand. His
eyes twitched about, and he decided to do what he promised he'd never do. He
decided to yehaw and ain't. He threw the first punch of his life, trying to
catch John unawares as the man watched the image. The fist was about to connect
with the man's jaw when the Operative seemed to flow out of the way, slipping
behind Samuel in a heartbeat. His body was thrown off balance, but John
helpfully stopped his forward stumble with a hand on his shoulder. Then came a
paralyzing, horrifying pain, accompanied by a wet crunch. Then, there was
nothing. He could still see the image of the woman, reaching for what was no
longer a shelf, he could still see Jane walking toward him, but he couldn't
feel anything from his tongue down. Suddenly, he didn't find her the slightest
bit attractive, more like some already dangerous animal driven mad and set
loose in a village. She kneeled down, facing where John had walked to stand in
front of the short woman's eyes. Jane spun the blade about, slamming the pommel
of the weapon into the floor, leaving the blade pointed straight up. Directly
at Samuel's benumbed body. He felt his center of gravity shifting relentlessly
forward, toward that sharp object. Then he fell. He didn't feel the blade
cutting him, or in fact anything, but he knew it had impaled him. Jane smiled
at him then, something that might have been pretty if there weren't so much
madness behind it. "This is a good death," she said, green eyes flashing
brightly. "There is no shame in this, a man's death. No shame at all," She
smiled up at the image that still hovered in the middle of the room. "We are
all making a better world. All of them. Better worlds." Samuel felt himself
flipped, and the slight pressure on his ribcage which had been all the
indication he had that he'd been stabbed was released. His eyes locked on John,
who had reached out his hand to just at the verge of where the image's boundary
stood. John whispered into the falling dark, "Where are you hiding, Annebell
Roykerk?" <> The two men's staves cracked under the overcast sky as they spun
about, one trying to press his advantage, the other trying not to get drubbed
in the ribs again. He'd already taken sufficient stabbing pain to put him off
of wanting to be stabbed for a while, but Jacob took Sylvia's advice to heart.
Better to know how to use a sword and not need to, than to need, and barely
know which end of the weapon to hold. So they fought as he healed. He felt
stronger with every passing day, no longer hobbling about like an invalid.
Early pressed forward again, finally offering what Jacob dearly needed; an
opening. Using the larger, stronger man's momentum against him, Jacob managed
to turn Jubel's attack, slashing the man's back with the wooden training sword
as he slipped past. Were the blade steel, it would have torn out the man's
spine. Early recoiled in surprised pain. Jacob had never landed a blow before,
and the former bounty hunter scowled as he kneaded his back. "Told you I was
getting better," Jacob panted. It felt good to not hurt every time he breathed.
Hell, he felt good in general. Kell had made good his word, delivering both
Early and Legacy's payment for that big damn job that almost got them all
killed over Boros. As well, he had delivered something else. "This is a..."
Jacob said in surprise, looking up to the screen. Kell smirked. "I ain't earned
this." "You fought for the Independants," Kell replied gruffly. "Don't matter
when or how you did, only that you did. You've earned the right to wear the
brown. That's yours. You've earned it." Jacob pulled the rich brown duster over
his shoulders, thrusting his arms throught he sleeves. The damn thing seemed
tailor made for him. He grinned at the fit of it, and Kell nodded. "Looks good
on ya, kid," Kell said. "Don't be a stranger, Greyson." Now, Jacob pulled on
that brown coat, dispelling the seasonal chill that was working its way into
his bones now that he had ceased his physical exersion. He pulled up the
scabbard that had laid against the stones of the ground, buckling it into his
belt almost without thought. Strange how the weirdest things could become
normal in time. "Who's watching Syl?" he asked quietly into the blowing wind.
Early scowled. "Friday, right now. I'm on next watch," Jubel responded,
buttoning his shirt back up. Syl hadn't recovered. Hell, she hadn't even come
close to waking. Since that single word uttered nearly a month ago, she hadn't
made a peep. Jacob wasn't taking any chances, though. Even when she was being
watched, she was strapped down under enough bindings to hold down a panicked
bull. He knew what would happen if she came out of it... changed. Corrupted.
Reaved. So she was watched. Only Anne never took a shift, because he knew if
she did, Sylvia wouldn't be a problem any longer. He still wondered where she
had developed that sort of will. Legacy herself was begin pulled back together
nicely. The Crab which was still embeded into her spine had been pulled off,
and Cole tore it apart with a vengence, giddy with the opportunity to work with 'Reaver
tech'. The repairs on the ship, which ate up most of Legacy's coffers, should
have taken a year, according to Cole, but even now Zane was damn near finished.
Having both a drydock and a pair of good mechanics working on her, she
recovered quick and strong. The two men walked back into the complex, after so
long ignoring the computer controlled autocannon which patroled the sky for
intruders. After the Alliance last let itself be known on this rock its owners
made sure they would walk a bit softer. So far, Jacob and company had been the
only folk to leave their bootfalls on the dirt. Wasn't much of a sun to be had
on this rock, which made its disappearance with night all the darker. The two
went their separate ways once the building closed around them. Early went
toward where the rest of the people were, the heart of the place. Jacob went
toward the back bay, where Legacy sat in wait. Verne stumbled onto Jacob as he
was making his way through the compound. Now that Jacob knew his name, weren't
a way in hell he was calling him Mister Universe. Just didn't work, he thought.
"Done for the day?" Verne asked. "Right tired," Jacob answered. "Yeah." "I
figured as much," Verne said. "Because you're headed toward Lenore's room."
Jacob frowned. "I thought it was just you four?" "It is. Kinda. Lenore was here
first," he said, nodding to the room. Jacob indulged him and stepped in. A
blonde woman was sitting upright in the middle of the room, which had been made
into a sort of dias. She stared forward, eyes glassy and unseeing, her limbs
completely motionless. Dead? He sniffed the air. No, not dead. It smelled more
like plastic. That's when it hit him. Lovebot. Jacob shook his head. "I didn't
know Shelley put up with these kinda propensities," he laughed. "Lenore isn't
mine," Verne contradicted. "Never was, in point of fact. It belonged to the
last Mister Universe." "Really?" Jacob said, taking another step toward it.
"You might not want to do that," Verne warned. "Why? What's it going to do?
Thrust at me?" Jacob chuckled. "Mal!" the lovebot's voice was odd, more than a
bit strangled, as if she were talking past a stab wound. "Guy killed me, Mal.
Killed me with his sword. How weird is that?" "We found Lenore in his old
sanctum, still covered in his blood," Verne explained. "It only seemed right
that we keep her around. Last vestige of the great man, if you would." "They
can't stop the signal, Mal," the lovebot wound down. "They can never stop...
the signal..." "Well, that was all manner of unsettling," Jacob said, backing
away from the now slumped and motionless sex-toy. "Anne is on Legacy?" he
asked. "Last time I checked." Jacob nodded for a moment. "And which way is
that?" Verne laughed and pointed in a general direction that was pretty much
the way Jacob had been heading anyway. He took his leave and made his way
through the complex until he reached its far side, where Legacy sat quietly on
the tarmac. With a smile, he walked up the ramp and into the ship which was now
on its last fussing-over. He dropped his bag of things in the corner of the bay
and ascended to the top deck, finally pushing open his door and descending into
his bunk. Anne was already laid out on the bed, dozing lightly. He dropped off
his coat and his weapons, sliding into bed next to her. The moment he'd paused,
she rolled onto him, staring down her nose at him from her favorite vantage
point. It had been a while since she felt confident to do that. She smiled. He
smiled back. "Did you win?" "Once," he said. "Doubtful," she said, snuggling
closer, despite the fact that the only way she could be closer would be to open
him up and burrow inside. He regretted the imagery the moment it sprung to
mind. "Are you alright?" he asked. Something about her wasn't quiet normal, he
thought. Something a bit off. He ran a hand along her short, curling hair. "I'm
just shiny," she replied, but she didn't sound confident in that. Come to think
on it, she rarely did. Tough, but not confident. "We flying?" She asked, dark
eyes still closed. "Come tomorrow, we will be," Jacob answered. She murmured
slightly and hugged close. Jacob dispelled the thoughts he had and simply
wrapped an arm around his wife. It felt good to say that, if even to himself.
His wife. His beautiful little wife. Still clothed, sweaty, and no doubt a bit
malodorous, Jacob knew he couldn't be that pleasant a mattress, but she was
immediately asleep. And he was not long in joining her. <> The chirping brought
her awake. She didn't like having to deal with a call at this hour in the
night, especially when she was having so pleasant a dream. She rolled over and
slipped her legs out from under the silken sheets which piled high on her bed.
She casually pulled a robe around herself as she worked the blood back into her
body. It still didn't feel like she was awake, but there was nothing to do for
it now. She yawned as she climbed the ladder. She knew that most of the crew
couldn't hear the signal. Even though they were pretty much universally closer
to it than she was, she'd trained herself to notice it. It wouldn't do to have
(Continued in part 2)
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