BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JAMESTHEDARK

Legacy 2:22, That Place of Darkness, part 1
Friday, July 21, 2006

When the Alliance strikes closer to home than ever before, Jacob and the crew of Legacy must go into the heart of darkness to discover the truths which have made them the enemy of the entire nation.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1392    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Sorry about the long wait. I had posted this during The Troubles, but the formatting donkey humped me and I had to take it down again. After finally getting some time to do some editting and a major overhaul of the last bit, I'm finally able to put it back up. I don't remember what all I commented on last time, but this is the first part of the end of season two. The next one (which I'm just over half way finished on) will wrap up the season. Please don't ask for a timeline. It'll be done when it's done. After that, I'm taking the summer off. Work's a pain, don'cha know? This one see's the addition of a new crew member (better late then never, eh?), and everything else exploding down to the Big Damn Finish. Enjoy. Firefly and Serenity are Joss'. What he ain't spoke on is mine. Feedback: Please. I'm dyin' here.

That Place of Darkness

It was a lovely world. Deep in the heart of the Alliance, in the very deepest region of the Core, it was the third world colonized. From its fertile soil, a new civilization sprang to life, defying the very will of God, who would have had them perish on their now-abandoned home. The world was lovely, as was the building. The building stood, some fourty stories of shining metal and glass, with broad vistas of billowing grasses, not only on the roof, but between several of the floors as well, making the building seem more idea than object. This building was home to hundreds, and workplace for hundreds more. It was a lovely building. The basement, though, was not so lovely. Stark rows of files and folders and hard-copy text filled long rooms, every one cold and dry. The light from the flare pulsed and waned, filling the place with an unsteady quality, contrasting with the stillness of the room, the straightness of the lines. With exception to the ugly hole in the cieling, this room was a portrait of precision. The very place seemed to reek of stagnancy, but that was what a storeroom like this was meant for. To hold things in stasis. To keep things whole. Unlike him. For him, the 'Verse had collapsed down to the length of two arms. His, on her shoulder. Her's on her hilt. He stared into flashing green eyes, watched as the smile crept upon her lips, as the tongue poked its way out to wet them sensuously. The pain was staggering. He'd felt its like before, but this was much worse than last time. Last time, there had been those he could depend on, nearby. This time, he was very much alone. His hand squeezed on her shoulder, his other, stronger hand keeping hold on her wrist, if only to keep it from moving. Moving right now would be bad. Jacob let out a pained wheeze. It wouldn't help him, now, but maybe she could get away. Almost unconsciously, he glanced down, then back up to her eyes. "There is no shame in this," Jane said, her voice a touch hoarse. But there was shame. He'd failed. This was his punishment for his failure. He glanced down, a bit longer this time, to the blade impaled through his chest. Twelve Hours Earlier "Excuse me?" he asked, gracing his wife with a bewildered expression. "Is there something wrong with Ajax?" Anne asked as she guided the craft up to the drift's docking port. Jacob shook his head, grinning all the while. He crouched down by her side, placing his ear to her belly. He knew it was entirely too soon to hear, or feel, anything, but he wanted to be the second to know. It weren't exactly likely that he'd be the first. "Do I even have to start?" Jacob said from his pleasant position. She scowled down at him playfully. "And what would you call this non-existent son?" "Hector," he responded. "What? It's a good, strong name. Can't be shortened without it loosin' all sense. Kinda like Jacob." "Actually," she pointed out, staring at the approaching rigging, "Jacob can become Jake, Jack, Joe, Jay..." "I get the picture..." Jacob muttered. "Yagi..." she continued regardless. "You're a pain in the ass, you know that?" he muttered, and she smiled down at him. A loud clunk sounded throughout the ship as the rigging caught hold of the vessel, securing it for the airlock connectors. These stop-off points in deep space were notorious, almost obsessive, about their docking procedure. But he got that bein' a half step away from vaccuum dessication had a tendency to set folk a touch antsy. He never could develop a respect for these folk, though. It was like they didn't have the legs for living in the Black, nor the resolve for making a go dirtside. Stuck in between, they was. Anne simply smiled as she pushed him gently away and rose to her feet. He shook his head as she made her way to the back of the boat. "This might not be the best idea," Jacob said softly. She cast him a look over her shoulder. "Much as I love this boat, I'm like to get addle-pated my own self, I stay here much longer. Don't fret, this place filters their screens. Winds the 'lliance up to no end, havin' a place they can't see," she answered, leaving the cockpit in the process. Rolling his eyes, he followed her, barely pausing to pull his gun belt around his waist. She trod to the ramp, confident as a peacock on a rich man's yard, as he made his way to her side. The cacophony was immortal, something static in an ever-changing 'Verse. Hearing the hustle and bustle of this drift threatened to drag in straight into childhood nostalgia. He looked around, noticing that for all the noise, there weren't too many people in the floating city, for a change. He pondered this for a moment, then realized where this particular colony was situated. At this time of year, it was in the middle of nowhere, with the closest planet being Bernadette, and it a ways off. While he was pondering, Anne had snagged herself a pair of Ice Planets. He reached for one, and she held it away with a possessive expression. "Fine, then. Just don't make yourself sick," Jacob said, running his hand along her still-flat belly. "Wouldn't want to..." Anne rolled her eyes and lifted one of the Ice Planets aloft. Whoever decided to make an icecream that was edible in zero-G made a fortune on that particular product. She nodded toward a seedy, nearly empty eatery, and he followed suit. As she contently slurped away at her snack, he caught a glimpse of a familiar face. "Turn that up," Jacob shouted. The waitress turned up the volume on the screen, then went back to what she was doing before: absolutely nothing. "...confirmed that the border world Persephone has declared independance from the Union of Allied Planets," the newsanchor emoted. "This uprising called the attention of what remains of the UAPAF fleet over Hera, who responded quickly. Unfortunately, they were rebuked by traitors from their ranks who had thrown in their lot with these Separatists." "Well," Jacob muttered. "Guess it's just as well we didn't stick around for the morning, eh?" "The leader of this startling coup, Warrick Harrow, released the following statement," the anchor continued, and Harrow's rotund form came into view in a clip. For a long moment, Harrow simply stared at the screen, a condescending smirk on his face. Then, he spoke. "There is, for all things, a season. A time to flee. A time to build. A time to conquer. Now, it is a time to fight back. The Alliance's despotism has blighted the society which I, and many others like me, have lived our lives for. Were their tyranny a belt on an enlightened rule, I would not feel compelled to act, but supreme authority should not be used to girdle a diseased reign. As long as they believe they have power, they have it." The image of Harrow changed, as the backdrop now showed a series of rings around what looked like the local sun. Two planets were inlaid into the orbits, Persephone and Hera. "I am not demanding that you act. I simply ask; would you rather live in fear, or freedom? You reap what you sow, and the Union of Allied Planets has sowed the gale. They shall reap the whirlwind." "Warrick Harrow was once a respected lord in the Persopine elite," the anchor rambled. "but with his recent actions, his titles of lordhood are being revoked, and he has been deemed an enemy of the state." "Well, good for him," Anne exclaimed around a mouthfull of green and purple icecream. Jacob smiled, feeling lighter than air. Things were reaching something of a normalcy, now that the most recent person-who-wanted-him-dead wasn't any threat no more. At this moment, Zane was probably babying the ship what carried them, Friday and Casher were about actin' like teenagers, Monday was sniffin' contemptuously every ten seconds -- an improvement from when she'd got on. When she'd joined Legacy, she'd have sniffed every five -- and Syl doin' the Black only knows what. He knew she was content, and that she weren't on the ship on the ship no more from that bundle of sensation he had floatin' at the back of his skull, but he couldn't pick out much more than that. Not that he wanted to. In truth, he really didn't want to know what that link thing was capable of. When he'd shot her, it hurt him every bit as bad. And by her word, if she kicked it, he wasn't long for the world either. It was a dicey proposition to have to depend on a 'public relations' person for his very existence. "Ain't supposed t'be," Sylvia's voice appeared right beside his ear. He started, tipping the rickety chair and dumping himself to the floor. Syl laughed. Anne started a bit herself, then shook her head, taking another chomp of the rapidly disappearing Ice Planet. Syl offered her hand. "Hell, I realized you were jumpy, but I never thought it'd get this bad." "Didn't I tell you to stay on Legacy?" Jacob said as she pulled him to his feet. Her grip was stronger than he remembered. Well, she had been hitting the weight deck with resounding frequency, of late. It wouldn't surprise him too much if she was stronger than him. Sylvia offered one of her distant smiles. "You did," she answered. "On account of you still bein' wanted, and havin' a warrent active?" Jacob prompted. "Well aware of that fact, Jacob," she replied blithely. "But there was something I found which was much more important than the inside of the boat." Jacob crossed his arms. Finally, Sylvia rolled her eyes, and nodded to a lanky figure standing across the 'street' from the eatery. Jacob stared at the youth, who had perhaps seventeen years to his name, if that. Finally, he turned back to the telepath, about to demand who this could possibly be. Then he remembered. His mouth still open from his unspoken question, he made his slow way to the waiting boy, who stared back at Jacob with oh-so-familiar eyes. The last time he'd seen those eyes was fourteen years ago, when the lad was a great deal closer to the ground. And the last time he'd seen them, they were staring at him, asking him when mommy was coming back. Jacob didn't have the heart to tell him that his mother was dead. "Who is this?" Anne asked, now working away at her second Ice Planet. "This is Daniel," Jacob answered, staring at the lad, with his dark, shaggy hair and nearly black eyes. Anne looked between the two of them, and something caught inside her. "This is my sister's son." There was a moment when all the noise in the promenade seemed to still, leaving the two men and two women in silence. "You're telling me," Anne said slowly, "that you had livin' relations y'ain't told me about?" Jacob shook his head. "I didn't even know he was still alive. I ain't heard from him since the fire." "And great job on that," Daniel interrupted, eyes dead and heavy lidded. "Abandoning them when they needed you the most. Prodigal son my ass." "I didn't abandon them," Jacob said, not backing down. "That ship went to the scrappers, and they didn't need us for workin' no more. So we all split what all's left, and went on our merry." Dan smirked, his eyes not changing one whit. "Ain't the tale Manny's tellin'," he said, his voice almost perfectly flat. "See," Sylvia said, with a smug smile. "Didn't I tell you it'd be interesting?" "I've had about all the 'interesting' I can take for one day. Deng dai yi miao zhong, how'n the hell'd you even get here, I'd like to know?" "Manny was gracious enough to give me a ride," Dan's face fell, an interesting trick with it so slack in the first place, at the mention of his other uncle. "I almost wish he hadn't." "Why?" Jacob asked. Dan sighed, then nodded his head, walking all hunched over as spacers usually did. The youth wouldn't say another word as he wove through the byzantine corridors, headed to another of the facility's many airlocks. Finally the corridors gave way to the tube that connected the drift to the ships that landed on it. Jacob smiled a bit when he saw the Swan. It was so very ugly that the name almost seemed a satire. But still, Dan wouldn't speak. When the inner airlock door opened, Jacob immediately knew why. The smell of blood and rot hit him in the face like a side of ham flung by a catapult. A streak of blood pooled right beside the doors, and streaks showed where a body had been dragged. Jacob turned to Sylvia, who shook her head sadly. Anne tossed the depleted stick of her Ice Planet away, and moved very close to her husband. Dan moved into the ship without a second glance. Jacob, Syl and Anne all shared a look, then followed the youth into the ship. The ugly exterior made for a wide open interior, and laid out in rows on the cargo-bay floor was the entire crew compliment of this vessal. Jacob practically lept off the catwalks, moving to the bodies which so thoroughly reeked of decay. He looked at each one in turn, knowing every face as it came. The Mechanic he'd let go when he found Zane. The tough he'd turned around with a few kind words. The ship's medic, a shameless browncoat. All of them riddled with bulletholes. Who would do such a thing? Then he realized that there was one body notably missing. "Where's my brother?" Jacob asked. Dan, still on the catwalks, shook his head, and began moving toward the nose. Jacob went back up the path, hot on his heels. At the front of the ship, he found Imanuel, still sitting in his chair. Which wouldn't have been so bad, weren't there a razor sharp sword holding him there, and the smell of rot permeating the room. "I couldn't get the sword out," Dan said flatly. "It wouldn't come loose." Jacob felt his knee's give out on him, and he fell to a barely supported seat on the floor. An odd numbness was creeping up his limbs. He could feel Anne's small hands wrapped around his own. It should have hurt. But instead, he was numb. "Who did this?" Sylvia asked. Dan ran his right hand through his hair. It was about then that Jacob noticed the bandages covering it. "Some crazy bitch what ordered the Purplebellies around," Dan said, his voice oddly flat for the circumstance, and the words he used. "I tried to stop her, Jacob. I really did. But when I reached for my gun... my hand," he whispered, holding the extremity before him. From the profile of the bandage, he must have been missing most of the last two fingers, and part of the middle finger as well. Sylvia reached for him, but Anne shook her head. "Why didn't they kill you?" she asked. Leave it to her to ask the uncomfortable questions. "She said it was so I could deliver a message. I don't think she knew who I was." "What message was that?" Anne continued. "That no matter where Jacob runs, she can reach him," Dan said, plain as protein. "After that, they left, leaving the ship with none but me on it, and all the bodies where they lay. I figured they ought be in the hold, till's I could figure what to do with 'em." "Why haven't you told the police?" Anne asked. It was then that Dan showed his first flash of emotion. Rage. "Because they were above the police, you stupid tart!" he shouted. "Alliance Spec-Ops if I ain't totally off on their armor. These people are above the law. I tell the cops, bein' the only'un left as I am, what are the locals gon' think? That a swarm of military types tore into a ship for no good reason, or that I went Reaver and killed 'em?" "Daniel, there's no need for," Sylvia began. "No, there is a need for," Dan bit back, his eyes welling up. "She killed them. Killed them all. They was like family to me, and she killed 'em like they was nothin'." Jacob crawled to his brother's malodorous form, laying a hand on the shoulder. It was cold to the touch. He ran his fingers up the shoulder, across the horrible burns Imanuel had to live with since the day of the fire. They had almost killed him, and in the end had cost him both his good looks and his possibility of fathering children. He almost sobbed when he saw Manny's eyes, still staring at the Black. With shaking fingers, he eased them closed. A blinking light caught his attention, right next to the main monitor of the bridge. He pressed the button, and Imanuel's face appeared on the screen, its usual inexpressiveness transformed into panic. "Jacob," the recording said. "If you can hear this, run. They've got us, brother. I'm sorry." The door at the back of the cockpit was burning as he spoke, and was pulled open as the last word cleared his lips. He turned from the screen, trying to pull up a rifle, but the black-armored Feds had swarmed the room and put bullets into both the first mate and pilot. From the milling black mass, a slender figure in the grey serge of an Alliance Officer flowed forth, lashing out with a silver talon that drove Manny back down into his seat. The blade penetrated further, exploding out the back of the chair, dripping red off its tip. Then the green eyes rose, and she smiled at the camera. Jacob stared in abject shock as Jane removed her white-gloved hand from the hilt and spun Imanuel's body around, showing him still trying to breathe, trying to not be dead. "I killed him, Jacob," Jane said liltingly. "I killed him with my sword. How weird is that?" "You bitch," Jacob growled at the unresponsive screen. Her mad, twisted smile didn't alter a whit, though. Her eyes, did, though. They grew dark, serious, and if possible, even more dangerous. "You could have ended this, Jacob, before this had to happen," the Operative stated, leaning back from her handiwork. Manny's eyes fluttered, his mouth opening and closing like a fish trapped out of water. "You could have given yourself to us, and it would not have had to come to this. You killed them, Jacob, with your selfish desire to live. Had you sacrificed yourself, all of these people," she opened a white gloved hand, motioning toward the pilot, who at least got out of her seat before she was gunned down, "would be alive. But your resistance is pointless. I will find you. Make no mistake, there is no place in this universe that is outside of our reach. You have nowhere left to hide, and are running out of places to run." Jane turned and motioned for the black armored Feds to clear the room, which they did in short order. Just before she took a step away, though, she seemed to have an afterthought, and reached back blindly for Imanuel's chest. His eyes followed her hand as it grabbed the hilt once more, giving it a brutal twist. Manny's eyes lost their focus, then their light, and his attempts to breath finally stopped. The playback stopped abrubtly as Jacob's fist somehow found itself smashed through the screen. Anne placed her delicate hand on his shoulder, and his head dropped to his chest. His eyes burned, his fingers tingled, and his left hand throbbed in pain. He watched it as he extracted it from the screen, as the blood dripped from lacerated knuckles, as the blood splattered onto the paneling. This was it. "Jacob," Anne said, "honey..." Jacob idly patted Anne's hand, noticing a moment too late that it was with his bleeding hand. Both of them froze for just a moment, then he felt Sylvia's hand on his other shoulder. He could feel that she was on the verge of weeping. Daniel just stared at the floor. Jacob's hand went to the blade impaled through his older brother's chest, and pulled it out with a hard yank. A waft of rot filled the room and Jacob held the blade in front of him. "Syl," he said, his voice somehow completely calm, despite the waves of wrath which seemed to be on the verge of burying him. "Get Casher and Zane. Tell them to bring long boxes. Lots of long boxes." "What are you going to do, bao bei?" Anne asked. At that moment, Sylvia's hand dug into his shoulder, as if in pain. Jacob turned up to his wife, then stood. He stared off into the black for a moment, letting the rage subside just a moment... or was it distilling? Then, he turned back for the door. Three long, deck eating strides took him to the threshold, where he grabbed a rag from a bucket by the door, and began to wipe away what grisly remnants of his brother this blade contained. "I'm going to do," Jacob said as he paused, "what I should have done, a long time ago." <> Jacob waited, staring at the sword, laid out across the panel. It was still tarnished, from its week-long stay in a corpse, but it accepted a new edge almost with eagerness. For a long time, he stared at that blade, as the two men dragged the bodies from one ship to another, through the 'streets' of the drift. Now, finally they were all here, clustered around him standing at the front of his ship. Their ship. Legacy. Legacy of the fallen. Now, it would be Manny's legacy, too. Zane fidgeted for a moment, then showed an unsteady grin. "Not that I'm... ah, y'know," he said, "but what's all them dead guys doin' in our hold. What's the percentage in that?" "Ain't no percentage," Jacob said. "But it needs to be done. That's the way things've gone 'round these parts of late. And as of this moment, right now, I'm sick of it. I'm sick of running away. I'm sick of hiding. I'm sick of having my friends die." He leaned back. "And most of all, I'm sick of bein' afraid. I'm sick of wondering whether this'll be the day that they find us, that they get their claws in us and tear us to shreds. So it ends here. No more running. We're shoving off in about ten minutes, so I'm gonna say this now; if you want off, this is the end of the line. After this, there ain't no gettin' off, not until this ends, one way or another." Jacob stood, stretching his back until it creaked, and stared at each of his crew in turn. Gigantic Casher, tiny Anne, the twins, Monday and Friday. At perky Zane, at mysterious Syl. And now at Daniel, leaning against the door. His crew. "Here's how it is," he began. "We've got two very obsessive Parlimentary Operatives, with an unhealthy fixation on Anne. They've done everything short of callin' down hell on earth-that-was to flush her out, and they've shown themselves willin' to kill anybody who gets in their way. Each of those bodies is another victim of not just those two, but everything they stand for. The Alliance cannot stand, not anymore. They've stolen the life of their last innocent. Piper, the pilot, had a six year old girl on that boat. We found her with all the rest of them. They murder children. Anybody like that shouldn't ever have that kind of power." Jacob took a deep breath, to steady himself. "They think Anne knows something, somethin' all manner of dangerous to the all-mighty-Alliance, or they wouldn't be pressin' so hard to find her. I say, we find out exactly what that something is. This isn't just Reavers anymore. They're hiding something huge, something so dangerous to 'em that they hunted my wife like an animal for damn near a decade," Jacob's eye sparkled a bit, quite maliciously. "I say, we find out exactly what that is." There was a moment of silence. "Anne knows that the file repository is on Bernadette, and more important, exactly where on the world that building is," Jacob continued. "Don't get me wrong. That's as deep in the Core as a body can go. Lucky for us, it ain't more than twelve hours away, at hard burn." "But," Casher began to point out. "Because it's in the Core, that means we have little chance of reaching undetected, and no chance at all of getting away. Bein' the Core, there's sensors everywhere, and where there ain't sensors, there's Feds, and all of 'em will be looking for us," Jacob overrode, not even missing a beat. "I don't hold any illusions. This is more'n likely a one-way ticket. If any of you decide you want off, I ain't got no call in keepin' you here." Jacob waited, as the silence drew out. Surprisingly, Monday was the one who stepped forward. "This is the most obsurdly suicidal plan I've ever heard. It's ill thought out, has a near-zero margin of error, and an equally poor chance for success. It's you're one ship, with its one gun, against all of the Alliance's fleet, and they will be waiting, I have no doubt," Monday took a deep breath. "That said, I see no reason to leave. If I leave, and you fail, then my death is postponed a few worrisome weeks. Months at the outside. I'm surprised to hear myself saying this, but if somebody is going to kill me, I'd rather, at this point, see it coming. I want this to end, now. And that means, I stay here." Zane smiled. "Ain't a one of us'd get off at this stop," he laughed. "We've all got targets on our backs, and the one way we got at gettin' them off is to head to Bernadette. And if Monday's stayin', an' I'm pretty sure it's safe to say ain't nobody wants to be here less, then safe to say we're all with you, boss. The question now is, how do we get there?" "I might be able to help with that," An new voice answered, startling Jacob up from his leaning against the panel. He leaned down, staring at a pair of burnished-gold eyes that stared back at him through the screen. Kell's lupine smile seemed especially feral today. "I couldn't get an answer from you, so I had my boys tap your line. Caught the end of that little speach you pulled, on account of the eavesdroppin'. You sure y'ain't in politics, boy?" "Didn't expect on seein' you again," Jacob said, and Logan shrugged. "I was fixin' to get your feed on a possible job we'd be pullin' over Bernadette. Big one, too. Hell, this'll make Boros look like pickpocketing," the man's gravely laugh sounded like a wolf's growl. "Wait, what?" Jacob asked. "Bernie's on the far side of the spin from the rest of the Core. Her guard's down, and I intend to capitalize. Now, I'd been thinking of havin' your guns join us, but seems like you got all manner of troubles of your own." "You're going to attack Bernadette?" Sylvia asked incredulously. "That's going to start a war." "He ain't startin' a war," Jacob objected. "Mainly 'cause this war started a damn long time ago." Kell grinned as he heard the last part. "Whatever problems you got, don't bring them my way." "What if the problem might bring down the Alliance's hold on all of the Border and Rim?" Anne said. Kell stared at her, and she somehow managed to not flinch from those uncompromising golden eyes. "That's a hell of a problem," Kell noted. "And what would be your part in this?" "Under New Paris is a repository of extremely sensitive information. I know how to get in, and I have it on good authority that they've not upgraded their security one jot since I was last in there," Anne said. "The people after us want to kill me because I might have seen something... I don't remember exactly what it is, but I know it has something to do with a facility somewhere, holding something very dangerous. Like, 'Verse shattering dangerous, dohn ma?" "And you think this'll push them right out?" Kell prompted. "I'm not sure. Hell, I didn't even remember what that file was until a few days ago, and even then it's vague as all hell. When I see it, I'll know it, though," Anne assured. "So you want me to spoof the locals so you can land your ship on that building?" Kell asked. "You have people on Bernie, right? Well, if you send word, they could shut down," Jacob began, but Kell cut him off. "You leave the misdirectin' and obfuscatin' to me, kid," Kell growled, his voice thick with anticipation. "What's your timeframe?" "In this ship, it'll take ten hours at full burn." Kell smiled. "Shiny, my fleet can get there in eight," he replied. "Fleet?" Anne echoed, a bewildered expression on her face. "Don't be late. I can't distract their attention forever, and these people ain't stupid like Reavers. You do what you gotta do." "Excuse me," Anne said. "Fleet?" "It's the end of the line, and there ain't no gettin' off this train," Jacob said. Kell nodded, and the line went dead. Jacob turned to his wife, who was still mouthing the word 'fleet', and said her name. She snapped her head up then nodded and slid into her chair. "The rest of you all have something to do. I suggest you do it." The crowd had mostly dispersed, leaving just Dan by the door. "What about me?" he asked. "You and I have a funeral to attend," Jacob said quietly. <> The grey serge of the Alliance Navy was uncomfortable. It was entirely too thick for her liking, and she had already begun to sweat. But it was a necessity. Unlike Prion, her clearence wasn't so high that she could do literally anything. There were rules she had to follow. The din of the ship, now on high alert, swirled around her, not really touching her, but surrounding her despite. She was unskilled, in some ways, at this sort of work. But with John still not at one hundred percent, she had to do this herself. "Sir," one of the technicians said. "We're still getting that soup outside. We can't peg down a source of interference, nor can we cut through it." She nodded. The interference had sprung up recently, and she was on edge, staring at the holo-tank which wasn't even showing all of the ships she had at her disposal, even though it should have charted every craft in the sector. False readings crackled continuously along the display, real ships vanishing, false ships appearing. It was as if her very senses had betrayed her. "He's coming here," she whispered again. It made perfect sense. She'd realized that truth when she'd woken up that morning, that Jacob was heading directly toward her. As usual, she didn't know how she'd discerned that, but she'd long ago stopped questioning anything that she intuited. "What about Admiral Harris?" The technician shook his head. "His Wave just came through the chop. The Burning Dawn suffered engine troubles and won't make it for at least a month. It seems that we're going to have to fight this one without the Sorceror." Jane pursed her lips, leaning against the rails of the tank. The Sorceror was aptly named. There wasn't a better mind in the Alliance military, and none more loyal, either. His absense was worrisome; he had a way of seeing through military tactics and trickery, one that she admittedly lacked. She started a bit as something appeared directly in front of her, and she turned back to the techs. "Did you see that?" she asked. One of the other techs leaned toward her monitor, then shook her head. "Sensor ghosts. Whatever is producing this soup is playing merry hob with all of our sensors," she muttered, just loud enough for Jane to hear over the quiet of the bridge. "I'm not so sure," the other one countered. He fiddled with his controls for a moment, and a new contact appeared just where she was staring. She smiled, a wide, feral smile. "We've got a new contact, eight thousand out and closing fast. One moment... Yes, it's a Firefly." "Lock batteries three and six on it," she ordered. "I'm disappointed, Jacob. You could have done so much better. You could have been so much smarter." "Sir?" The technician said. "It's deploying its shuttlecraft... We've lost them in the murk." "This isn't right," the woman muttered again. "No matter which sensor I use, they're all blocked. It's as if somebody's piping out static..." Jane shook her head, watching as Legacy careened suicidally toward the line. "Open fire," she ordered. The missiles screamed through the silent void, their courses twitching drunkedly. "What is the matter with...?" she said, before they exploded, entirely too short of the ship. "It's the soup, sir," the woman answered. "It's spoofing the target acquisition sensors too. I don't like this..." "It's not headed on a standard landing path," the technician noted. "It's headed... Oh, God." "What is it?" Jane demanded. "It's on a constant vector decreasing range course. Sir, it's going to ram the Kensington," he declared. Jane scoffed. "Idiocy. Legacy won't even scratch the Kensington's paint." "Sir," the woman said, her voice trembling. "I'm not exactly sure, through all the chop, but..." "Out with it, woman," Jane demanded, her voice booming throughout the cavernous but almost vacant room. "It's that reading, sir. It reads as nuclear ordnance." Jane stared at the woman for a long moment, then back to the tank. As she watched, the tiny Firefly disappeared in an all-annihilating sphere that engulfed and consumed the Kensington. The nearby panels flickered as the EMP surged through the ship, then returned to normal. There was a moment of absolute and total surprise. She hadn't seen this coming. "Sir!" the technician screamed, and Jane's attention returned to the other side of the holotank as a flood of new contacts appeared, swarming over the ships on the near side of the line. "We're receiving transponder frequencies from the new contacts. Sir, they're old Independant codes..." "We're fighting ghosts," the woman whispered. "Sound battle stations," Jane shouted, snapping the two out of their revelry. "Pick a target and open fire." "They're too small," the technician pointed out. "This ship's weapons are designed to track capital scale targets. Those dinky freighters barely even show up as blips on autotarget." "Then target them manually," she muttered a curse under her breath, leaning over the battle which was spreading through the Alliance line. "A clever trick," she whispered. "Any Fireflys in that swarm are priority targets. Don't let anything through!" <> Kell laughed as the holotank registered another line of destructive spheres along the spine of the massive Tohuku, snapping its delicate engine mount and leaving it dead, in a decaying orbit. "Sir," the sensors man, Zhi, noted. "The Galatea is adrift. Do we continue?" Kell grinned his wolfish grin as he strode around the tank, watching the blips which were his rag-tag force, and the overwhelming wall which opposed him. Six hours of piping out interference certainly made the Alliance all compliant and stupid -- not that it was a hard thing to do -- so the first volley of the attack went exactly to schedule. That, in itself, was almost unheard of in the history of human war. "That ship's just as dangerous adrift as not," he said. He traced a line up its side. "We hit it here, then two passes later, we hit it in the same place," he traced a line up the same side, but on its bottom rather than its top. "That'll spin all of the heavy weapons straight down at the planet. Not much good it'll be facin' its very own port a' harbor." Zhi laughed and began transmitting the orders. It would take a while, since they couldn't use the Wave frequencies, what with the chop they were throwing up. "Sir," the young man began. "Don't call me sir, gorramit," Kell interrupted. "We've got reports from Hephaestus. They're prepared." Kell let out another laugh, finally feeling the thrill of his occupation. He wasn't a soldier, not by any measure. He was a thief, first and only. And this was a theft on a scale he'd never have though possible, a raid into the very heart of Alliance territory. "Execute Case White. The word is Revelation, repeat, Revelation." <> This was not going well. The encasing murk had reduced the Sakhmet's sensor bubble from a sphere big enough to envelop half the planet below to something which barely reached two thousand kilometers, and then, only vaguely. Jane ground her teeth as another ship began to send a distress signal, at the edge of her sensor range. "Sir," the tech said, his face awash with perspiration. "We've just got a report from the Camulus. A boarding party was repelled, but not before the crew took significant casualties." She grit her teeth as another ship began to thrust away from the planet. Another ship out of the fight. "Send out this order, omnidirectionally. I want them all to hear this," she hissed. "The next ship which breaks the line will be considered an enemy of the state and will be fired upon. End transmission." "What about the Bishamon? There has been no word from them for almost half an hour," the woman interrupted. "If they take any action except for firing at the enemy, shoot them down. God damn it all, woman, do I need to think of everything myself?" Jane snapped. The woman blanched a bit and returned her attention to the screen in front of her. "I'm getting a Firefly at the edge of our inner bubble," the lead gunner, new to the gathering, mentioned. "Cannot get a firing solution." "Send another flight of ASREVs to bring it down," Jane ordered. The gunner turned back to her. "Are you sure that's wise?" he asked. "The rest of our compliment is spread out over half this sector. If we send them, we won't be able to protect ourselves from..." "I said to do it, and I meant it. If any Firefly touches Bernadette's surface, I'll have you all for derelection of duty," she yelled. "Sir, I've got new contacts, approaching from out of system," the tech said. "I read them as large... We've got reinforcements, thank God." "Reinforcements?" Jane asked, suddenly suspicious. "IAV Magellan and Galileo. A pair of Tohukus," the tech answered. Then, he muttered a bit more. "That ought to change the balance a bit." She stared at the newcomers at the edge of the screen. Something wasn't right. She'd heard those names before, but she couldn't for the life of her remember where. The ships drifted toward the line, almost pacifically, before scudding to a stop near the lateral edge of the sensor bubble. "They aren't engaging," the woman noted, worriedly. "Why aren't they engaging?" "Oh, no," Jane groaned. The Persephone Separation. That's where she'd heard of those ships. "Open fire on the Magellan and Galileo." "Sir?" the gunner asked, absolutely incredulous. "They've betrayed us, so open fire on them at once," she repeated. She hadn't even finished the words when the two ships began to belch out scores of missiles at the defending line. In some places, whole ships vanished under the assault. She watched in brutal awe as others of the planetary guard began to fire back, with little effect. "Sir, new contact. It's the Hephaestus, coming from the dark side of the planet," the tech paused a moment. "It's firing on us, sir." "Add the Bishamon to that tally, sir," the gunner ammended. "It's powered up weapons and is attacking everything nearby." "Sir," the woman murmured. "I think we've lost." <> Jacob leaned over his wife's shoulder marveling at the chaos that had engulfed the sphere of Bernadette. Some eighty hunks of Alliance metal made their ponderous way around orbit. Fully a quarter of them were dead in space, either decaying in their orbits, or drifting helplessly into the Black. Another handful were now proudly displaying Independant colors, and firing on their former allies. From this distance, it was a glorious light-show, a spectacle. They were going to have to get a lot closer to it. "Are you sure you can handle this?" Jacob whispered. Anne turned to him with a nervous smile. "No power in the 'Verse can stop me," she replied, her voice belying her words. He laid his hand on her shoulder. "Then work your magic, love. Get us on the ground." Anne's face became serious almost to blankness as she powered toward the azure globe suspended against the everlasting night. <> "Sir," Zhi said again, setting down the fire extinguisher he'd hastily grabbed to put out a crewmember who made it a simply astounding distance while on fire. Kell was going to have to buy that one a drink, when he recovered. "Don't call me sir!" Kell barked. "Whatever. We've just caught a new contact on the edge of our sphere. It's Legacy." Kell grunted. "Well, it's about gorram time," he muttered. "Tell the Fireflys in Kowalski's group to execute Case Amber. Form up on Legacy, and let nothing touch her, dohn luh ma?" <> "Whoa!" Jacob flinched away as the explosion washed over the nose of Legacy. She was flying like a madwoman, but he couldn't blame her in the slightest. With fourty enemy ships, several hundred small attack craft, and the nearly countless scores of Kell's makeshift fleet mixed together with the meager traffic which hadn't learned yet that the skies were a dying ground, the atmosphere over Bernadette was a twisting hell of debris, powered and not. "That was nothing," Anne said neutrally. "I once used one to Pulse-shift me two degrees off so I could..." Whatever it was she'd done was cut off as a piece of flotsam suspiciously similar to a toilet smashed into the screen overhead. The transparent stuff didn't crack -- it weren't glass, but he didn't know one thing more than that -- and even Anne flinched a bit. "I've flown in some bad spots," Anne muttered, her dark eyes wide on the maelstrom interjecting itself between her and solid ground. "I'm pretty sure this is worse," Jacob pointed out. Another explosion rocked the ship, jolting Jacob forward against his harness. He'd given up trying to stand at her side several incomprehensible maneuvers ago. He glanced at the sensors at his elbow. "We've got an ASREV on our tail," he said. "On it," both his wife and his mechanic said in unison, and the view from the front spun wildly, bringing the black of space and the glistening silver craft into view, as well as a wholely unhealthy amount of jetsam. True to Zane's word, as soon as the ship stopped spinning, Jacob heard the whirr of the missile launcher coming to life, and a string of four warheads burned through the black, slamming into the small, underarmed ship and spending it into a looping spin, which was terminated when the tiny ship slammed into an Alliance frigate. Jacob winced a bit. The ship spun around to bring the world back in view, but this time, it wasn't there. Or rather, it was blocked by a gigantic ship, which Jacob recognized, because he'd helped Logan Kell steal it. "You see that, don't you? Do you see it?" Zane "Turn..." Jacob said, watching as his wife smirked slightly, bearing down on the behemoth of a ship. "Um," Zane added. "Would you turn?" Jacob asked, but his wife was grinning now. "Anne, turn." "Do you want to fly this thing?" Anne snapped, her attention on the rapidly approaching bulk of the New Shadow. "Christ Almighty, couldn't you just ask for directions?" Zane asked, his eyes as wide as teacups. "I swear, if you two don't let me..." Anne hissed through gritted teeth. "Get out of the way!" Zane screamed, whether at Kell's flagship or at Anne, Jacob couldn't immediately tell. "Anne, for the love of whatever God you hold dear, turn!" Jacob yelled. "I don't need a back-space driver," Anne replied testily. Jacob's eyes widened as the ship's bulkheads drew so close he could practically count the rivets. "Anne!" he screamed, and she pulled gently on the controls, settling the ship into a run along the trench commonly used by this ship to launch ASREVs. The proximity alerts screamed their protestations, with the massive ship zipping by mere meters from dragging most of the cargo-hold off. In that moment, all conversation in the cockpit ceased, and all eyes fell on Anne, who almost casually lifted the ship out of the trench just before it reached the end wall and spun the craft down through the atmosphere. "If you want to fly, then ruttin' fly," Anne said, leaning back from her controls, waving as if to offer them. Jacob waved his declination, and his wife offered him a smug grin. "One of these days, you're going to give me a heart attack, honey," Jacob muttered, and Anne just lapped it up. "Boss," Zane interrupted. "We're gettin' them Fireflys on our scope again. They're pullin' up on us like they did before. What should we do?" "Not a damn thing," Jacob said. "Just keep that gun ready and wait for Anne to get us to the ground." <> "Our core is offline. Dumping the fuel reserve and reaction bottle," the tech said, leaning against the console he'd worked himself to exhaustion in front of. "Our orbit is decaying. Sir, this ship is done for." Jane sighed, rubbing her eyes as the image in the holotank flickered. "And I assume the ship can no longer be used as a stationary battery?" "The fire control could operate on secondary, but not without an active fusion reactor. And that's all academic, since this ship is going to burn up in less than an hour," the woman, now bleeding on her temple from a monumental knock which hobbled the engine so brutally, replied. Jane sighed. "No use throwing away good after bad," Jane announced. "All hands to escape pods and abandon ship," she stared hard at the signal from the IWS New Shadow, sitting practically on top of the Sakhmet. You won this round, Jacob, she thought, staring at the holotank as it flickered off, and stayed dead. She glanced around the suddenly darkened command hub, to the people making their ways out. She caught the shoulder of the bleeding woman as she made her way past. "How many ASREVs made it in for refuling before the redirect order went into effect?" she asked to the pace of deck eating strides. "Only one still here," the woman answered, still patting the congealing wound. It would probably scar, but with her hair the way it was, it probably wouldn't show. "But, that's..." "Release it's moorings. I'm taking it down to the planet," Jane interrupted. The woman halted a moment, staring at her. "Did I suddenly overstep my authority?" "The launch bay doors are on the primary circuit. They won't open on auxilliaries," she impatiently explained. "Then you put a charge on the doors and you blow them open!" Jane yelled, and the woman nodded, dashing back the way she came. Jane rolled her green eyes toward the cieling and followed. Of course it would be back the way she came. She was not, to her detriment, up to snuff on the schematics on all of the newest Alliance vessels. It wasn't her perview. A notion struck her, and she pivoted on her heel, and strode back the way she had originally gone, eventually increasing her pace to a jog, then a full-out run. When she arrived in the medical bay, she stared at the beds of the wounded, mostly empty, with the evacuation underway. There was one bed she expected to see full, but it wasn't. She snagged the arm of the ships doctor, a grey haired man with a voice one would expect from a chronic whiskey drinker. "Where did my companion go?" she demanded. The doctor looked her up and down, then made a dismissive gesture. "I've seen so many these last two hours he could have been shuffled off with any of the groups," he muttered, pulling away from her. She grabbed him again. "He was under orders not to leave bed," she hissed. "So. Where. Is. He?" The doctor shrugged his ignorance, and she released him to whatever last-minute task he had to accomplish. Outside, she called the attention of the local guard, who was assigned to keep the doctor safe. "Did you see an Asian man come out of here. Late thirties, beard?" "Yes, sir, I did," the grizzled man said. "He didn't look too well." "Which way did he head?" "Toward the hanger deck," came the answer, and she was off at a run toward the hangers, which were infuriatingly situated on the far side of the ship. Her legs were beginning to ache for the unprepared exersion when she finally made it do the hangar. The woman, noting Jane's arrival, handed a detonater to her. "Use this once you're inside, because it'll depressurize the whole deck. I'm locking this down when I go, so there's no coming back out if the charges don't take off the door." "I understand," the Operative interrupted, and nodded toward the door. The woman almost gleefully took her dismissal. Jane vaulted up the stairs and into the pilot's seat, waiting just long enough for the hatch to close and her helmet to lock onto her head before blowing the charge. The doors flew out in one large piece, spinning through the blackness as her ship was blown out into space. She checked the fuel reserves. Not much, barely enough to make it planetside. But she knew exactly where Jacob would be taking that ship, so she knew she would get there first. "This ends now, Jacob," she whispered as the craft began to thrust towards Bernadette. <> "Now," Jacob said as the ground screamed by, its pristine city blocks devoid of activity with the recent invocation of martial law. Not that it ever wasn't if a body got to thinkin' about it... "Where dod you say this building was?" "A few more dozen miles," she said. "Big spot, looks like a glass brick." Jacob took in the forest of tall buildings that flit past the close formation of Fireflys which monopolized the sky over New Paris. "Uh, honey? They all look like glass bricks." She gave him a glance and rolled her eyes. "I'll know it when I see it," she muttered. She squinted ahead and let out a laugh. "And there it is." The building stood in the midst of a sort of grassy moat, separating it somewhat from the rest of the city which spread cancerously around it. She pulled back on the stick and the ship swung to a hover, all the rest of the Fireflys having to loop back around to create a rough ring around Legacy. "So," Jacob said, taking in the unbroken expanse of glass and metal. "How do we get in?" "First," Anne began, "you get your uniform and fake IDent card, then, you head to the fourth basement floor, opening the fifth AC duct, blocking the downward feed. Then, I sneak in from above, taking the tubes down to that floor. Unfortunatly, it has biometrics, so I won't be able to move until you reach the mainframe room and shut them down..." Zane shook his head, running his fingers over the gunners screen. The back of Kell's head appeared on the monitor. "Kell, we've got a wall needs a door blown into it." Kell turned around, then leaned toward the screen. "Where?" "Pointed right at 'er," Zane replied. Kell leaned back and shouted something. When his golden eyes turned back toward them, he had a smirk on his face. "You might want to back off a bit," he said. Jacob felt the ship scudding backward slightly, watched as the building receded a bit. Jacob was just about to ask why when a grey contrail blasted down from the sky, slamming into the side of the building and tearing it apart. Whatever he thought about the Alliance, at least they had good architects; even missing one corner with a crater in the ground, the building still stood as strong as ever. "Or..." Anne ammended, "we could go in the front door." "The next one I'm sendin' down is a crate of missiles. You're gonna need them," Kell gave a final nod, then the screen went dead again. Anne was already half way through her landing sequence when the pod slammed into the sod. Kell scowled a moment. Jacob and his wife shared a look, before he turned to Zane. "Get those munitions in here doubletime. I ain't got so much as a doubt that blast'll attract all manner of unwanted attention." "Gotcha, boss," Zane said, vaulting up from his seat, and making his way down into the bay. "I know where the file is stored. I'm the only one left alive who does," Anne said quietly as the ship settled onto the grass. Jacob laid his hands on Anne's shoulders, smiling down at her. "We're goin' in together, you, me, and Casher for watch," he tapped her arm. "Get your gun, we've got a buildin' to infiltrate." <> "Alright," Zane shouted at the people strapped into their seats at the back of the kitchen. "We've got to load up some missiles doubletime while the boss does his thing." "I'm on it," Casher said, rising almost instantly. "Not so fast," Jacob said, sliding his Mauser into its holster. "You're comin' with us. The rest of you can deal with the ammo," he said. His wife was a dark shadow at his side, inseparable as the two descended from the front stairs and out of sight. "You heard the boss," Zane ammended. "We've got half a metric tonne of missiles to move and a couple of minutes to do it." Monday glanced around. "What about...?" "You too, my lady," Zane said, unbuckling her when she failed to do so herself. Friday and Syl had already gotten themselves loose by the time Zane managed to untangle the Companion from her rigging. Zane reached behind the counter and handed the woman a pair of shears, and she stared at them with confusion. "Liftin' gos-se's hard work, and y'd not want to break a nail, would'ya?" She gave him a baleful look as he began to vault his way toward the bottom of the ship, and he heard the clacking of long, overly-cared-for nails being sheared off behind him. When he slammed his boots to the deck plating, he saw Syl strapped to the gizzard with weaponry. How could she have gotten that much on so quick? "She's a warrior, Zane," Elias said. "It's what she does. She never situates herself far from her weapons, because she's never sure when a time like this will come." "Very enlightening," Zane said. Sylvia looked to him, giving a momentary start, then looked to where the phantom Elias was standing. Zane glanced that way, noticing Elias pulling his vanishing act once more. The man really did seem to have an issue against gettin' noticed by her. "Who are you talkin' to?" Daniel muttered as he stared down the ramp. He barely even had to move to catch the gun Syl threw him. "Oh, ain't y'heard?" Friday remarked, uncomfortably cradling the revolver given to her against her breast. "Zane 'ere talks to himself." "Oh," Daniel said, taking the first step of any of them down the ramp. "Guess that means either he's crazy, or we all are." "I don't know," Syl said, hot on his heels as he made his way out onto the neatly -- or perhaps obsessively -- trimmed grass toward the soddy crater and the drop-pod rising out of it. "Sometime's talkin' to yourself is theraputic. It is the surest way to find one's intellectual equal," she pointed out. "Is this really the time to be waxing philosophic?" Monday said from the back of the pack which was now rapidly crossing the distance toward the supplies. Interrupting Daniel's no-doubt smart-ass reply, the sky began to fill with firey blossoms, deafening those below. The Fireflys split and bolted in every direction, those bursts of flame and force dogging them every inch of the way. "Guess we're in this one alone," Zane murmured to himself as he hopped over the lip of the crater and pried off the ablative plating from the roughly teardrop shaped pod. The panels came off surprisingly easy. They were designed to hold pressure and heat out, not be pulled off from within. The last one fell off, and the racks of missiles practically gleamed in the early morning sun. Zane chuckled to himself as he dragged the first warhead out of its rack. It wasn't even breakfast yet, and here they were starting a war. Almost uncivilized, that. "Everybody grab a missile, two if you can manage," he gave a pointed look to Syl with that one. She smirked and nodded toward Monday, who looked to be almost tipped over with the burden. They shared a silent chuckle as she slid one missile under each arm and began to trot back toward the ship. Zane shook his head, quietly admiring the way her golden braid swung above her bum as she made her way back. "You might want to pay closer attention to your surroundings," Elias warned chidingly. The spectre was leaning against the pod when Zane looked back. Zane followed the large man's silver eyes toward the ring of buildings outside, and Zane damn near dropped his bomb. "Syl, we got company!" he screamed, sprinting now toward the ramp. The Alliance Federals, in their grey and purple armor, barely waited a second before opening fire, their bullets tearing up the turf and the carefuly arranged trees. In a hunched over dash, Zane made it up the ramp, with the whizz of bullets zipping by, and the dull pling of lead slamming into the bulkheads. "Get those crates into the hold!" Syl shouted, letting the warheads drop to the deck with a dead thunk. Zane winced from his place just inside the airlock doors. If Kell hadn't been as smart as he was, those things could have been set off with so little disturbance. As the bullets slammed into metal, Sylvia and Daniel began to shove the crates into the middle of the bay, crawling behind them for use as light cover. Sylvia began to fire back at the soldier's advancing toward the ship. "This is bad," Daniel summed up as he wildly and inexpertly fired into the group. "It could get a lot worse," Zane pointed out, suddenly unable to move. All those bullets flying into the ship... "How could that possibly happen?" Monday shouted from her own corner, on the far side of the bay from Zane's. "If they figure on settin' off them missiles," Zane said, his voice oddly calm, "then it'll take out most of this park, and us right along with it." <> Jacob's ears rang, and he hurt... well... everywhere. His eyes drifted open, and he coughed out a lungful of dust and fire. Experimentally, he moved his arms, then his legs, then various parts in between. Besides a goodly amount of detritus covering the back of his long brown coat, he seemed to be more or less unharmed. Anne. He turned around, confronting the wall of collapsed debris that explosion had caused. It had to have been a trap, and he'd blindly walked right straight into it. He struggled up, only making it to his knees, when he heard a characteristic cough. He turned to his side, recognizing Anne, buried up to her neck in dust and rubble, but otherwise unharmed. He pulled some of the debris off her, and helped her to her feet. She stared bewildered around, coughing and waving away the motes of dust. "Casher," Jacob said. "Casher!" "I'm alright, sir," Casher's voice came, if muted and quiet, despite his yelling tones. "I'm just on the wrong side of the wall," there was a long pause. "Is Anne alright, sir?" "She's fine. Get back to the ship," Jacob's words sounded quiet and tinny to his ears. Of course, he had been about a yard away from a high explosive going off, so he was thankful he wasn't blind, deaf and dead. "All due respect, sir, I think I'll find a way around," came Casher's reply. Jacob rolled his eyes. Anne dusted a last bit of detritus from her shoulder and turned. She instantly glued herself to Jacob's arm, and let out a mewling whine. Jacob turned. He hadn't heard her approach. She managed to make her hips sway, even in the flat-soled combat boots. She looked like an approaching viper, raised to strike. One delicate fingered hand tossed away a detonator, and the other waved away some errant dust. "I had hoped that would kill you," the Operative said, her green eyes locked balefully. "Of course, it seems that was always hopelessly optimistic. You are harder to kill than a cockroach, and for that I commend you. It's a damned shame that you had to be on the wrong side." "Losing side ain't always the wrong side," Jacob said. Jane smiled, that crazed, condescending smile. "And I knew you were going to say that. You're predictable, Jacob. And now you're all alone. You can't beat me." Jacob smirked. "Sure I can," he said. He pulled his pistol out and began to unload it down the hall. Jane twisted and weaved like a snake, avoiding every shot. It didn't help that Jacob was still extremely dizzy from the explosion, he noted. When the slide locked, he cursed and slid the weapon back into its holster, forgetting it entirely. "Can you find your way to the repository?" Jacob asked. Anne nodded quickly. "Then go. I'll keep her..." Anne bolted toward the intersection Jane had appeared at, taking a side path away from the insane Operative. Jane glanced from behind her impromptu cover, noticing Anne's flight, and moved to follow. Of course, she didn't make it far, because Jacob's tackle pinned her to the ground. She struggled under his weight, slamming painful punches into his ribs and arms. One flying elbow caught him over his newly recovered eye, splitting open the brow. After several mere seconds of her from-the-ground pummeling, she changed tactics, grabbing his shirt and flipping him over her head, rolling on top of him. Jacob felt something catch his finger, and he pulled. She smiled down at him, reaching up for the hilt of her sword. A metallic ping filled the dusty air, and she stared down in surprise. One of the grenades on her belt was now pinless and armed. Brown eyes locked with green, and she let her sword still and flung the grenade away from her belt behind her. The grenade barely made it two meters before going off, its waves of force shoving the two of them away. Then the floor, already compromised from both Kell's orbital strike and Jane's later tactical explosives, crumbled downward, sliding both of them toward the blackened abyss of the next floor down. <> "Zhe shi wan quan di feng kuang de!" Zane shouted as Sylvia's dead aim put another Fed on the ground, only to have two more swarm in around him. They were now swarming around a pair of APCs they'd moved into position a few yards from the ramp. "This ain't crazy," Daniel said, his eyes bright as he leaned back over the cover and fired inexpertly at the vehicles. What the youngest member of the crew lacked in skill he more than made up for in enthusiasm. "Hell, this's nothin'." "Zane," Sylvia shouted, tossing him another empty gun. He set about refilling it; it wasn't like he knew how to shoot. "You do," Elias said, leaning over the bay door controls. "You just don't realize it." "Ain't the time," Zane muttered through gritted teeth as he shoved bullets one after another into the magazines. "This is the only time," Elias countered. "Do you really think this is my idea of a fine existence?" "What?" Zane asked. "I didn't want to be here. Hell, I'm pretty sure I should have faded away a long time ago. Something about you isn't letting me die." "And I want that why?" Zane demanded. "Oh, great," Monday rolled her eyes from the far corner. "The blonde one is going crazy again." "Bi zwei," her sister snapped, handing Dan back a loaded machine gun, one from Syl's collection. Dan pulled it up with a smile of glee and sprayed the bulletproof sides of the APCs with it, sending the soldiers scuttling back for cover. "Did you ever stop to think that maybe something happened? That maybe we aren't entirely who we were before we met?" Elias asked, pushing off the controls and moving to the side. "That what I did created one mind. A personality, split against itself?" "Impossible." Elias smiled. "Zane, it's impossible that I still exist, even though it's a scientific fact that I'm dead. It's impossible that in my life I could move from mind to mind with ease. Hell, it's impossible that I was a telepath, but that all happened. It's all real. Whether you believe it or not is irrelevant, although it might do you good to believe it right now." Zane shook his head. "I don't..." "You do!" Elias bellowed. "You can, you just won't admit it. Try. Just try," Elias' face took on a smug smirk. "You might surprise yourself." Zane leaned around the edge, jerking back when a bullet slammed into the bulkhead a few inches from his face. He rolled his eyes, then grabbed the box of bullets and kicked it, sending it sliding along the floor of the bay on its tiny wheels. "Zane? Have you gone mental?" Daniel asked. "Shove over, Syl," Zane shouted, throwing himself behind the crates. He peeked up, spotting the soldiers as they prepared for another push to breach the craft. Their numbers were swelling with every passing moment. "What's goin'..." Dan asked, as Zane popped up and squeezed the trigger. To his amazement, the gun went off, sending the bullet directly into a Fed's skull. Operating on pure muscle memory, an interesting trick because he almost never handled a gun, he moved to the next target. The trigger pulled, the hammer fell, and so did another soldier. One target after another, with one bullet to each. Finally, the slide locked and the newest wave decided better of their chances and moved back to the safety of the APCs. Syl and Dan, and the twins, for that matter, all stared at Zane. "Son of a bitch," Zane muttered. "How long you been able t'do that?" Friday asked. "Um... about ten seconds?" Zane answered. Dan stared at Zane for a moment. "Can you do that again?" "Let's just see, shall we?" the mechanic replied, reloading the pistol and getting another look at the vehicles. Sylvia glanced toward his corner, noticing Elias. She thrust out a finger directly at him. "You stay right gorram there!" she shouted. Elias' eyes widened. "What are you doing here?" Elias seemed to struggle with himself a moment, then he tipped his head to the side, walking into the middle of the hold. The bullets which flew from the left hand APC's remaining turret zipped right through him, as would be expected, continuing to pock the back wall. "Now she's crazy too?" Dan asked the twins, who both shrugged. "Control is the first lesson," Elias said. "And the last. Too little is every bit as dangerous as too much. Remember that." "Wait," she said. Elias smiled. "I'm already gone. Move on." She was about to speak when Elias vanished, winking out of existence as he often did. She stared at the empty air, then down to Zane, the unasked question obvious on her face. He shrugged, and she looked up, getting a peek over the now bullet-riddled metal crate. Suddenly, she smiled, and she got back down. "What is it?" the mechanic asked. A dull clang sounded from the ramp. "We're gonna be alright," she said, leaning back up. "I have a plan." Whatever her plan was, she didn't manage to enunciate it, because it was at that exact moment that the concussion grenade the Fed's threw into the ship went off. Her head snapped back, and she collapsed to the deckplating as if her bones had turned to water. <> The plummet was black, and a lot longer than Jacob expected. Finally, the constant rolling amongst debris and the unhelpful Operative came to a halt, after a painful drop which deposited Jacob directly onto his spine. He heard a similar thump a moment later, and a decidedly female groan. It wasn't nearly far enough away for his liking. Jacob forced himself to his feet, limping through the darkness of this unknown lower room. His hand reached for his sword. Missing. He reached for the sword he'd pulled from his brother's chest, and found it still strapped sideways across his back. He pulled it out, wincing both from the pain in his back and at the quiet rasp of the metal dragging against the leather he'd strapped it to his back with. His steps were completely silent as he moved in the utter blackness, toward where he heard Jane hit the ground. It was a dangerous gamble, since she doubtlessly knew she'd made some noise when she landed. And she wasn't stupid enough to assume the fall would render him senseless. His quiet feet made their careful way across the floor. She would have fallen right about here, he guessed. With his right hand, he quested for her, his left ready for the strike. His fingers found debris of all description, but no woman. He stilled himself. No sound. Not even the sound of breathing, since he held his own breath. Where was she? He took another step, and the room erupted into whiteness. He lurched back with a strangled yelp, covering his eyes in a vain attempt to preserve either his night-vision or his plain old vision, he wasn't sure which. The whiteness faded within a second, but as the flare dropped toward the floor, he saw Jane reach behind her and grasp her sword hilt. His own was up in a flash, diverting the lunge which would have lanced his heart, and he attempted a swing of his own. With his eyes still burning from the sudden and inconstant light, he missed handily. He caught a glimpse of flashing steel, and managed to turn it aside once more, even as he was forced back a step. He felt a crunch under his foot, metal upon dust. He didn't dare to glance down, so with a motion practiced hundreds of times when he was back on the BlackJack, he flicked the blade into the air. The weapon was much larger than he had practiced for, however, and his aim was off, sending it directly toward the Operative's face. Jane let out a squawk of surprise, even as her lightning quick hands snatched it from mid air. She let the edge slide down between her fingers, coating its edges with a thin slick of her blood, until she held it by its hilt. Then, he began to dance forward, her twinned blades a complicated web of razor sharp metal which Jacob couldn't hope to penetrate. He was forced back with every thrust and slash. In a lunacy of frustration, Jacob pulled something off a wall and threw it at her. The weighty file was knocked aside by the blood edged blade, which was Sylvia's wedding present to him. Jane advanced, and Jacob retreated, and his questing fingers closed on something hard and heavy. He flung it, noticing with a wince that it was an actual book that she split in twain with a flick of her wrist. He saw a razor thin opening, and took it, sliding his own proffered weapon through her guard and along her left arm, freeing a rivulet of blood. She grunted in pain, pausing in her attack for just a moment, which Jacob took to kick her in the hand. The blade flew up and out of sight in the darkness, which at that moment, became absolute. Jacob spun in the new black of the spent flare, his eyes flicking toward every noise. The falling of dust was an irritating companion, sounding from many directions. He couldn't hear anything but the occasional clatter of newly falling debris, and the unstoppable pounding of his own heart. He took a moment to wipe the blood out of his eye. Clatters and beats. Light erupted, throwing his shadow long against the wall so distant at the end of the hall. He turned quickly, noticing that Jane was making an identical manoeuver. He began to swing his own blade toward her oh-so-vulnerable neck, but she had a better notion. With a fluid motion, she pulled her own razor sharp blade around and thrust it directly into the left side of Jacob's chest. As the pain began to spread, Jacob's sword clattered to the floor.

To Be Continued

COMMENTS

Saturday, July 22, 2006 4:49 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Oh yeah...you're back and definitely in control, JtD!

Gotta say...loving where this is going, and I almost bust a gut at how you adapted the hilarious outtake from Serenity with Mal back-seat piloting during the insertion to Mr. Universe's planet:D

Really can't wait for part 2...need to know what the big secret is and if Jacob lives to kick Jane's derriere:P

BEB


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