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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
With mere hours to go before Confederation, Jacob catches wind of a travesty taking place, perpetrated by his supposed allies. Will he jeopardize the conference for the sake of his principles?
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1120 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
I've recieved quite a bit of feedback to the effect that the last chapter was confusing, so I'll relate a little tale to you. A couple of years back, I saw a show which confused the hell out of me. It started with a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated things happening, and only when the series was close to completion did we gain even a gleaming of what the hell was going on. Looking back, Charlie Jade was a damn fine show. It didn't patronize the intelligence of its audience. Neither do I. Things might seem off the wall and hard to tie up, well, that's because I want it to. And it'll only get worse.
Some are also wondering about why the characters are acting the way they are. I'll answer this one. The events of episodes 2, 3, 4, and 5 all take place within a ten hour period, meaning the crew of Legacy hasn't had a chance to breathe in, let alone catch their breath, since the lump of shit hit the fan. They're tense, and it's most of the reason they're snapping at each other. Except for Friday. She's just shiny.
I pity Monday, though.
Anyway. The second-to-last new member of Legacy's crew is introduced in this chapter. See if you can spot the one I mean. I say second to last, because the last one comes at the end of the next episode. After that, the number only goes down...
As an aside, this chapter only took a few hours to write. I just had to get into the proper headspace, which ain't easy, nowadays. Don't mind me. I'm just smug.
Serenity and the 'Verse are property of Joss. Legacy, and everything which happens to the 'Verse from here on, is all mine.
The language warning isn't in effect, but mature subject matter abounds, so no kiddies, please.
Feedback is love, and it's the summer of '69.
The Definition of a Hero
The crisp snap of Friday's glove coming off was the only sound that echoed through the room. It was fitting, she thought. Last time she'd done this, only two days ago, Anne had been practically bubbly with anticipation, but now the woman was nearly funereal. Friday threw the soiled gloves in the garbage and motioned the pregnant woman to assume a more decent position, before leaning against the closed and locked doorway.
"It's safe to say that you're due date has effectively come and gone," Friday said.
"Meaning?" Anne asked coldly.
"It means your baby should be here by now," Friday explained carefully and calmly. "Stressors usually cause a baby to be premature, not late."
"Stressor?" Anne parroted, but Friday was already making a placating gesture.
"My point is, you should have been in labor by now. In fact, I have more than half a mind to induce, but we need a pilot at the moment, and..."
"And I'm the only one that can do it," Anne finished. Of course, that wasn't entirely true. Jacob had landed the ship before, and there wasn't expected to be any sort of difficulty on Hera. Friday just shrugged.
"Are you alright?" Friday asked.
"My baby is healthy, even if she's going to show up late," Anne said, her voice brightening even if nothing else did.
"Did I ask about your baby?" Friday shook her head. "I asked if you were alright. You, Anne."
Anne just stared at Friday for a long time, then a not-entirely stifled sob issued from her throat, something she quashed quickly but not quickly enough. Anne looked... well... afraid, angry, ashamed, and all manner of other emotional words which coicidentally happened to begin with the letter 'a'.
Friday took a step forward, shushing the now freely weeping woman. She even went so far as to pull Anne into a friendly hug. Friday was actually somewhat amazed when Anne took it as offered, clutching to the doctor as she wept.
It was several long minutes until Anne's torrent began to slow. "Do you feel better now?" Friday asked. Anne snorted out on Friday's smock, making her glad she hadn't donned anything more comfortable, expensive, or colorful.
"No," Anne answered at last. "I still feel like hell."
Friday nodded, trying to extricate herself, but finding herself unable to. It struck her, then, how Jacob got those lines of scars on the backs of his shoulders. Anne was a grabber, no doubt about that. "Anne, I can't tell you what to do..."
"Don't say it," Anne muttered against Friday's belly.
"I know Jacob fairly well," Friday pressed on, regardless. "I've known him for three years, and I've seen him in the good times and the bad. And I know this..."
"Don't say it, Friday," Anne warned.
Friday forced the smaller woman away, a somewhat painful process involving curling the woman's fingers out of her shoulder blades. "He loves you, Anne," Friday said.
"No," she snapped, turning away. Friday turned her back.
"You're going to listen to me."
"Hell if I have to, I'm..." she made as if to stand, but Friday forced her back down. Anne stared daggers at the doctor, but she knew she lacked the leverage to force her way past Friday.
"He loves you," Friday repeated. "I know that much about him."
"He betrayed me," Anne said, her voice straining as she spoke. "He swore he'd never... He promised that he would never do that to me. That he would never play games with my heart..."
"Anne, you know as well as I what happened to us..." Friday attempted.
"How can I trust him anymore?" Anne implored. "This was a test of his fidelity, and he simply failed it. He... her... Why did he have to get her?"
"I can't claim to understand what happened to us yesterday," Friday sighed. "But I know that somebody had a plan for us. Something we all performed our parts in to the letter."
"So, you're saying God wanted Jacob to cheat on his wife?" she asked darkly. Friday shook her head.
"I'm going to blame that one on the pregnancy," Friday muttered. "The old man we all saw. If you want to call that God, be my guest, I'll just make sure I stay clear of you as to avoid His wrath."
Anne scowled. "Why would he...?"
"Who knows?" Friday exclaimed. "We know it wasn't human, from the fact that it swallowed a bullet to the brain and didn't stay down long enough for the dust to settle. And I don't think we'll ever know what his intentions were."
"So, you're saying that something came onto this ship, screwed with our minds, and destroyed my marriage for its own sick amusement?" Anne asked.
"Your marriage isn't destr..." Friday tried, but Anne had hopped onto the floor and was moving toward the door. Friday made to move back in front of the tempremental woman, but was stiff-armed away. "Anne! Don't blame him for this, Anne!" Friday called to the overdue-mother as she stomped up the stairs.
Friday shook her head, then set about gathering up her long hair, which the woman had knocked out of place with her rude shove. As she put her things away, she almost missed the thin click of her door sliding closed. She managed to hide her start, but secreted a scalpel into her long, volumnous sleeves regardless, before turning.
Sylvia turned from the door, giving Friday a glance, then giving a similar one to the sleeve with the scalpel in it. Sylvia's next look was one of consternation. "Do you really think Jacob'd let anybody on this ship right now?"
"With that man, I never can be sure," Friday shrugged. She let the scalpel settle back into the autoclave, then took a long step toward the blonde. "I'm not very happy with you at the moment."
"I suspect not too many are," Sylvia grumbled, moving to sit on the slab. Friday looked her up and down, and but for the dark circles under her eyes that probably meant she hadn't slept, she looked a picture of health.
"What is your problem," Friday asked, all business. Sylvia turned to her with an uncomfortable and possibly unconscious smile.
"I'm... ah... hiding," she said. Friday rolled her eyes.
"That doesn't surprise me," Friday muttered. "Still, this isn't the place to do it. Your room will do perfectly well, so get out of mine."
Sylvia's forehead fell into the heel of her hand, and she stared as one blind at some place well beyond the room. "I screwed everything up, didn't I?" she asked.
Of course you didn't, Friday thought. How could any of you have known. Still, she said "Yes. And Anne is heartbroken about the whole thing."
"Thank you," Sylvia said. "I just needed to hear it from somebody else."
Friday leaned back for a moment, then remembered a very important fact about Sylvia. She was telepathic. "Look, I'm not going to lie to you," Friday started over. "Anne is a dear friend of mine. What you and Jacob did hurt her, hurt her a lot. It's hit the crew pretty hard, too. That the captain would do something like that."
"And that paints me as the fluff-brained doxy to Jacob's insatiable lech?" Sylvia asked. Friday shook her head.
"The only one who could possibly think that would be Daniel, and he doesn't. This is a gargantuan misunderstanding," she offered. Sylvia shook her head.
"She wants to kill me, you realize?" Sylvia whispered.
"Who, Anne? No, she'd never..."
"She has before," Sylvia said, raising her head, and her blue-green gaze. "She did it with people back before she joined the BlackJack. She did it with a lot of people. She even did it to Atherton Wing. You remember Atherton Wing, don't you?"
Friday's expression darkened quickly. That man --- if he could even be classified as a man --- had sent a thug to rape her in a dark alley, thinking that she was her identical twin sister.
"Anne killed him as he was lying on the ground, defenseless. And while I can't begrudge her that particular murder, she's done similar to people a great deal less deserving. And there is nothing in the 'Verse could stop her from doing the same to me, come an appropriate moment."
"Wouldn't you see it coming?"
"What, do I not sleep at all, now?" Sylvia asked in disgust. "No... She blames me, Friday. And herself, which I can't figure out, because she's usually not like that."
Friday shrugged. "I don't know what to say," she turned to the door, then turned back. "You're not alone in this crew, Syl. Jacob won't let his wife hurt you, I know that if I know that man at all."
"I wish I could believe you," Sylvia murmered into her hands. "I really wish I could..."
"What are you doing in my home?" Monday demanded as soon as she plucked the spider web off of her face. Soft footfalls sounded from her office, and a upright looking gentleman appeared, staring down at a sheaf of her paperwork.
"We left that device on as a courtesy to you, miss Yiao," he said, not glancing up. He moved to the overstuffed sofa, seating himself without sign nor site of care. For all the 'Verse, he was sitting in his own home, reading his own documents. "We realized its nature after the first visit, but..."
"I asked you a question," she demanded, taking an overtly agressive step toward him. It wasn't a trick she had gotten much experience with, as she was more an advocate of subtlety, but at the moment, all she wanted was him, out, now. The intruder did as he did before, not deigning to glance her way, and reached inside his pocket. She tensed until he drew out a simple plaque, iron on wood. He set it on the glass table before him, then kicked up his feet beside it.
She took another step toward him before she recognized the plaque. The five pointed star, on a backing of larch, a wood lost to Earth-that-was, with a few notable exceptions. The symbol of the Union of Allied Planets Secret Police. Even she, with her years and years of Companion training, couldn't restrain the flinch she manifested then. A smirk lit upon the Constable's face, and he gentilely set her sensitive documents aside, offering her a sedate smile.
"I feel I should offer you a seat, miss Yiao," the Constable said, waving to her chair, purpendicular to the sofa. "I feel I should offer it, because you seem near upon fainting."
Monday steeled herself. "What are you doing in my home?" she demanded with a power to her voice she certainly didn't feel worthy of possessing at this juncture. "Boros is not under the jursdiction of the Whapsep."
"You might find things... different than when you left Sihnon a year and a half ago, miss Yiao," he said, still smiling that insufferable smile. It altered a bit, betraying a shard of his arrogance. The shard she saw nearly took her breath away. "My name is Tobin, in case you were avoiding asking in some overwrought attempt to gain the conversational high-ground by speaking to me as you would chattel. Now," he said, leaning forward a bit. "Sit."
"I think I will remain standing, thank you," Monday replied. This man was omnipotent, and he knew it. She could tell from every line of his being that he was in utter control, and that she would die if it suited his purposes. And it might. She only knew the Whapsep from the urban legends, almost myths, that were circulated amongst the youths from the House. Above the law, answerable only to the Empress on Sihnon, just as the Operatives were to the Parliament.
Tobin waved his hand, a brusque dismissal of her obstinancy. "Be that as it may. I have several questions I would like answered," he said, in a purely conversational tone.
"That plaque could be faked," Monday said, suddenly grasping on the slim hope that it was. Larch was rare, but not impossible to find, and few knew what the badge of the office actually looked like. Even she wasn't completely sure, unless this one was genuine, which she was hoping against. "You haven't offered one whit of proof towards your so-called authority, in any matter," she demanded. Tobin smirked once more, then stood, opening the top buttons on his shirt. He opened it, exposing his chest.
More accurately, he exposed the overlapping rings, symbol of the Empress' authority, branded into the flesh of his chest. She felt her knees go loose and she dropped into an awkward sit on the arm of her chair. Her head spun as she tried to find some way that this somehow could be not true.
"No..." she whispered, as Tobin smirked in that infuriating way he did, buttoning his shirt back up and collecting his plaque.
"Two years ago, you were an unremarkable whore..." Tobin began.
"Companion," Monday corrected out of rote more than anything else.
"I always get the two terms confused," Tobin chuckled darkly. "Regardless. You were an utterly unremarkable Companion, earning your money on your wiles and your back. Or your front, if your client preferred. Then, approximately twenty two months ago, you vanished from your contract on the Border World of Persephone. We located a copious amount of your blood in a room also occupied with the remains of one Dmitri Niska," he paused a moment. "I see you remember him?"
"Does this have to do with Niska's death?" Monday asked, trying desparately to not sound meek as she stared up at the Whapsep standing over her.
"Niska was a parasite, this one more than the rest," Tobin dismissed. "No, I am interested in that date because several days later, you vanished from all contact. Your house went untenanted for two years, miss Yiao, and a fine house it was. Your bank accounts, padded comfortably with wealth, were untouched. And sightings of a woman matching your description vanished before we could even substantiate them."
"Where are you headed with this?" she asked. Tobin leaned down, spreading his arms to pin her against the back of the chair, his oddly metallic breath clouding around her.
"You vanished for a year, Monday," Tobin hissed, his arrogance now out and free, his authority unassailable, and unsurmountably intimidating. "And you reappear not too long after that unpleasant business on Shadow."
"I'd just gotten back from the spa," she snarked. "I decided to extend my stay by a few months when I learned they offered free backrubs."
She was shocked beyond belief when his hand lashed out in a brutal backhand, twisting her head and sending a shard of agony up into her jaw. She tried to kick him in the groin, but he'd already twisted his knees and caught her jaw in a powerful hand. "Don't you dare lie to me again, whore. I know you were on Legacy. Why were you there? Why did you choose that ship? Was it because of Greyson?"
She struggled further, if only to spite him, and his hand struck out again, this time knocking the wind out of her lungs. As if she were a mere doll, he threw her onto the floor. She struggled to run, to get to her feet, to breathe, but with empty lungs, she was denied all of those options as Tobin calmly sauntered to her, then caught her by the hair, hefting her to a sit and slamming her back against the low wall separating the living room from the kitchen.
"I'm not impressed with you, at this moment, whore," Tobin sneered. "You are going to tell me what I want to know, with absolute clarity, veracity and completion. If you do not do this, then you should know now that I have access to your case file, and know exactly what happened on your eighteenth birthday. I know there are certain things you would rather have never happen to you again, and I have no compunction to subjecting you to them if I believe for a picosecond that you are being anything but absolutely honest to me. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"
Monday nodded hopelessly, tears of pain and humiliation and fear running down her face. Tobin smiled then, a wholely different creature from the smirks he had used before. As he smiled, she felt something warm running from between her legs, so demonic was his visage.
"You are going to tell me everything you know," he hissed, "about Jacob Greyson."
"Is that what I think it is?" Anne asked, staring out the front of the ship. Casher leaned forward against the console as he stared in wonder at the fleet which had gathered over Hera. It numbered in the high hundreds, if it didn't breach a thousand, and it might well have done that. While the vast, overwhelming majority of the ships were Logan Kell's wolfpack ships, more than a dozen goliaths stood out amongst the crowd, like teachers overseeing a rowdy classroom filled with children in dire need of medicating.
"I think it speaks fairly substantially for itself," Zane said, moving to Anne's side. She gave a start, and even flinched away from him. He knew why she stared at him with such accusation, but she hadn't said a word about her problem with him. That was highly out of type, in Zane's experience. She was usually of a mind to express herself immediately and vocally.
"How many do you think are out there?" Casher asked. Zane knew his sight wasn't the best, so most of the ships would be a smear to him.
"Is that the Rachel Wall?" Anne muttered to herself, leaning forward. Kell's old flagship stood proud amongst its pack, formerly the largest ship available to the so-called Independant fleet, now it was amongst the smallest. A smile crept onto her face at seeing it, for a reason Zane never did hear the reason to.
"Something is wrong," Elias whispered from the back of the cockpit. Zane cast him a glance, but didn't answer him. "No, seriously. I can feel it even through your deadened senses."
Zane didn't say a word as he turned, exiting the bridge without a glance at the dead-man's location. Which was just as well, because when he looked up from his advancing toes, he could see Elias pacing the kitchen. Jacob sat at the back of the room, understandably oblivious to Elias' presense, staring tensely toward the bridge. Zane didn't need to look back to know exactly what Jacob was staring at. He felt a smile twitch his lips before he reined it in. The man didn't deserve what she was giving him right now, and that was for damned sure, even if he did slide with the first mate.
"He needs to get onto the Wolf's ship," Elias said, moving to Zane's face. Zane smirked.
"Is that your instinct or mine?" he asked silently. It was a trick he'd picked up pretty damn slowly, but it was a damn sight better than having everybody around him think he was batshit loco every time Elias felt like piping up.
"Does it matter? You know I'm right," Elias replied. "Time is running out, Zane."
"And how exactly would I get us on that ship?" Zane queried. Elias rolled his silver eyes.
"Who is your passenger at this very moment?" Elias pointed out. As if fate decided to work in synchronicity, William Kell chose that moment to appear from the back stairwell. Elias cast the younger Kell with a glance, then threw up his arms in a flourish. "What did I tell you?"
Zane grinned. "I think I'm rubbing off on you," he prodded.
"God forbid," came his response.
"You got something on your mind?" Jacob asked. Zane ignored him for the moment and moved to Kell.
"Your father's old ship is waiting out there," Zane said. William arched his brow. "Isn't that a bit odd? Your father said it was doing maneouvers in Burnham."
Kell nodded. "That is a bit strange," he muttered, rubbing his bestubbled chin. "I might need to pay them a visit."
"Aren't we kinda on a schedule, here?" Jacob asked.
"Not such as we can't make a quick stop on the old stomping grounds," Kell pointed out. He got a downright nostalgic look about him as he continued. "Hell, I still remember when I..."
Zane turned to Elias. "Happy?"
"No," Elias muttered. "I haven't been happy in a long time."
"How long do we have until that Confederation thing happens?" Zane asked out loud. Kell pondered for a moment.
"A while," Kell nodded. He broke out into a grin. "I'll go tell the gilted missus about the course change."
The instant Kell mentioned Anne, Jacob's face dropped. Kell didn't catch it, but Zane did. He wished he could have told Jacob that it'd all be alright, but he was sure his own self that it wouldn't. It wouldn't alright be, and it would only get more complicated if Zane told him the rest. Complicated in the way removing a bullet from one's stomach is complicated. His only question was which of them would be doing the shooting?
Jacob dropped back into his seat, cradling his brow in a shaking hand. It was almost painful to see the boss like that, but Zane once again reminded himself that this wasn't his problem to make better, only to make worse. He shook his head, moving past the captain, in his own sorry little state, and trod toward the engine room. He'd almost made it back into his domain when he remembered why he'd gone to the front of the ship in the first place, and spun on his heel, headed back for the kitchen. It was during the execution of this turn that he bumped into Sylvia.
"You shouldn't sneak about like that," Zane said idly, but she barely registered him. Her eyes were locked on the position where Jacob was sitting, which was a neat trick because a couple of bulkheads were squarely in the way.
"Not that neat a trick," Elias muttered to himself, but contented himself with being smug, for the moment. Zane tapped Syl on the shoulder, then forcibly dragged her gaze to someplace he found more useful.
For a long moment, he just stared at her. She was damned lovely, and there wasn't a man in the 'Verse who'd say otherwise. She didn't deserve to be the shitheel of Anne's jealousy, and she certainly didn't deserve to be ostracized by the rest of the crew. Truth be told, he just felt bad for her, but in an odd way, that he hadn't felt before... well, before Elias showed up. It made him, once more, question how much of his mind really was his own.
"You need to talk to him," Zane said, grasping her shoulders, and practically willing her to listen. "And you need to make him listen. Let the Anne situation burn on the back for a while."
"But, I..." she simpered, which made Zane scowl. Sylvia Witherell did not simper. She growled with rage as she unloaded her shotgun into Reavers; she did not simper like a love-lorn schoolgirl. A part of him just wanted to smack her and tell her to snap out of it. It was a part Zane assiduously choked down.
"Do it, Syl. He needs your help," Zane took a deep breath. "And I'm sure he needs your forgiveness."
"For... what?" she asked. At least he had her attention.
"You know," Zane said. "You know exactly what."
Without another added word, Zane pressed past her, heading back into the kitchen to grab himself something to eat for later. Without Friday cooking, and with a near assurance that nobody else was going to show up for chow, he was finding himself rather famished. And, as he rifled quickly through the cupboards, he watched as Sylvia approached Jacob, she timid as a chipmunk in the wolf-runs, he tense as a clock-spring wound eight times too many. She laid her hand on his shoulder, which ticced back a moment, before accepting it. The hand supporting Jacob's head dropped away, leaving him staring at the floor.
He had located what he was looking for when the captain's eyes finally rose, red rimmed and damp. Zane didn't even need to moderate himself from making an off color comment. He knew exactly what the boss must be going through. He stared up at her, his dark eyes seeming to say a thousand things, all of them unhappy. "I shouldn't have done that... to you..." he said simply. "I'm... I'm so sorry..."
Zane had to think a second before figuring out what that meant. It struck him that she hadn't even tried for some trim since she dropped through that hole in the cieling almost two years back, still covered in Reaver blood. Zane didn't even want to think about what she'd been subjected to on that ship.
"You could never hurt me, Jacob," she said, her voice taking on a tremulous tone. She then dropped to her knees, which made Zane wince a bit at the sound of them colliding to the deck, and threw her arms around his chest, pressing her face against him as she broke into tears. "I never wanted to hurt you. I really didn't..."
Jacob didn't say a word, just staring at the long braid of golden hair that fell down her back. Finally, his arms rose, and he began to rub her back, a crippled gesture that he was not capable of surpassing at the moment. Zane really felt out of place, and made his way toward the door.
"We really screwed things up, didn't we?" Sylvia asked between sobs.
"Yeah," Jacob answered as Zane lost sight of him. "We really did..."
Jacob took a very deep breath of the air, noting again that smell. The guided tour of the Rachel Wall, Logan Kell's pride and joy, had ended a few minutes ago, leaving Jacob wandering the massive, over-armed merchant's ship on his own. Well, not on his own entirely, because he knew Sylvia was somewhere on board. Somehow, her presense, both in his proximity and in his mind, didn't grate on him like it used to. Didn't feel quite as dirty.
He'd never asked her about the Reaver ship. He could tell, just from the way of her, that she never wanted to broach the subject either, and let it lie. He'd been in the presense of live Reavers enough for several dozen lifetimes, and couldn't imagine what she'd had to endure to escape that hell. The fact that she'd had several Reaver fingers in her stomach when she found her way back to Legacy was simple testament to how far they'd pushed her. He rather thought she'd decided to celibacy after she'd regained her sanity, and he couldn't begrudge her that for a moment.
Of course, that theory was blown right the hell out of the water. He ran his fingers along the wall as he walked, smirking at the feel of dirt as he moved. Clean ships weren't right, to his reckoning. Dirt meant the ship did things. Went places. Made a difference. If the ship was spotless and sterile, what was the point of taking it out of space-dock? It'd just get dirty, now wouldn't it? He breathed deep again, and still got that undefinable aroma.
He kept wandering, then realized that Sylvia was getting closer by the moment. It was as if she were running to him by the shortest possible route. He shook his head. At least he didn't have the guilt of forcing himself on an unwilling woman, he pondered as Sylvia drew closer. He'd never done that in his life, and didn't want to begin with his close friend Sylvia. Close friend, he thought. He rolled his eyes, wondering if he could even call her that, anymore. If they'd gotten any closer, they'd have to melt.
He stumbled to a halt, in front of a door with two men standing guard outside it. One of them was making an obscene motion, while the other one laughed. Jacob didn't say a word, just counted the feet between Sylvia and himself, as the number steadily got smaller.
"And that wasn't the best part," one of them said to the other, specifically the one doing the motion to the one who laughed. "The whole time, she had this mauled-cow look on her face, like..." he approximated the expression in question, as Jacob stood, still and quiet, counting the decreasing feet. It was an expression of somebody divorced from reality.
"Who'd'a thought it'd only take eight months to break that bitch in?" the other replied, and the first laughed handily. Jacob glanced over his shoulder, noticing as Sylvia nearly exploded around the corner. She looked to him, and he nodded her attention toward the two men. She looked to them, then recoiled as if in utter disgust. It was all Jacob needed.
He slowly strode toward the doorway, and the two laughing men. Walked as if he belonged here, he was certain. Anything less wouldn't work, and right now he had to see it before he could do anything more. He didn't need to look back to see Sylvia was creeping along behind him as he erupted into view to the two men, who fell silent and stared at him. He put on his best glare, glad for once he had such an unpleasant mug.
"This area is off limits to unauthorized..." one began, but was cut off by the second.
"Holy hell, bi zwei," the second shouted at the first. "This here's Greyson."
"Greyson?" the first asked, looking Jacob up and down. "The Jacob Greyson?"
"Yes," Jacob snapped. "The ruttin' hero of Liann Juin, slayer of Reavers, and sapper of the All Mighty Alliance."
"Wow," The first said, suitably impressed, although Jacob couldn't personally see why. Each step was perfectly reasonable at the time. Hell, in most of them, it was the only path he could have taken and kept his life and sanity whole. Or near enough to whole, anyway. "What are you doing here."
"Why else would I be here?" Jacob demanded, staring past them at the door.
"What, you want to talk to the..." the first said, and was silenced when the other kicked him in the ankle.
"Quiet," the second snapped.
"Yes," Jacob answered. "There are... things I need to know."
"Well, we'll talk to the Admiral and get back to you with the..." the second began.
"This is Jacob Greyson!" the first interrupted. "He's the reason we've even gotten this far. If he wants some 'private time', he ought get it."
The second man pursed his lips, but then shrugged and opened the hatch. An unpleasant swirl of odors wafted out as the door opened, and he hadn't even begun to catagorize them by the time he stepped through. He glanced back to Sylvia, waiting in the shadows, and gave her a mental 'wait' before the doorframe cut her off from sight.
The room stank.
The acrid tang of urine ran together with the metal bite of blood. Over those was the invisible but thick cloud of an unwashed body, and the scene was punctuated by the funk of sex. What tripped it was the overriding fog of terror. It told him everything he needed to know before he even turned on the light to illuminate the pit of a hold. He pulled the door closed, cutting off the second's protestations, and flicked on the light.
He was greeted by exactly what he thought he would. His body began to run cold as his hand grasped his pistol's broomhandle grip so tightly that the knuckles began to crack. He surprised himself how calmly he pulled a line of bullets out of his pocket, how slowly, how forcefully he slammed them into place, loading his weapon for the first time in weeks, that fantasy notwithstanding.
He knew, in some reclusive corner of his mind, that he should be calming himself, taking control of his rage and stifling it. Thinking critically, behaving rationally. Of course, that part wasn't exactly the preaching pastor at the current juncture. Now, he only had one thing he could do, and that one thing would not be denied, no matter what the consequences.
He waited, about fourty seconds if even that, before his patience gave out, and began to slam at the door with his right hand. It cracked open, and the pervert's face showed through. "I think there's something you need to see," Jacob said, somehow managing to keep the lunatic edge out of his voice. The pervert smirked, pushing into the room, his eye on Jacob. Jacob nodded toward the woman, still chained to the floor, and the guard looked to her. He didn't even notice as Jacob placed the Mauser's barrel to the back of his skull, and likely went straight to hell with the most pathetic look of shock on his face the devil ever saw.
Before the first echo of Jacob's gunshot even reached his ears, he spun to the other guard, outside the door. His eyes stretched wide as he clawed for his weapon. He even managed to bring it to a hip, but Jacob was faster by any measure. His first shot knocked the rapist back a step as it destroyed his right shoulder at the joint. Jacob followed, not even realizing that he roared with long-supressed rage, and fired again. This time, the bullet splintered his unarmored knee, dropping him to the deck as the needler slipped from his wounded grasp. Jacob placed his foot on it, pressing his Mauser to the guard's face.
"She's just a Wap!" He shouted, somewhere between panic and frenzy. "She's not on our side..."
"And you're not on mine," Jacob replied. He belched out another cloud of fire and lead, splitting the guard's skull like a melon against the bulkhead. He stared at the corpse for a long second before he felt Sylvia at last, her hand on his shoulder, with surprise and alarm in both her face and her bond.
"You remember where we are, don't you?" she asked.
"Logan Kell's ship," Jacob replied, his voice flat and leaden.
"Yeah, the good guys. Why did you..." she demanded, then looked past him into the room. She blanched a bit at the sight. "Well... Could you have at least been the least bit more subtle?"
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," Jacob quoted, slamming his pistol back into its holster. He let his voice return to its own tone. "If you know anything about me, Syl, you'll know I'll never let myself be party to another's rape. Never, not for any damn reason. There are things y'just don't do, Sylvia. Not even in war."
Sylvia sighed, then hefted her shotgun onto her shoulder. He hadn't even noticed she had it out, and was a bit surprised she hadn't gotten a chance to use it. "Still..."
"Can you do something about her?" Jacob asked, pulling her into the room. Sylvia slid her shotgun into her coat, kneeling down beside the woman and pressing her hands to her face. The blond grunted the instant she made contact. "Is something wrong."
"If I were to properly answer that question," Sylvia hissed through gritted teeth, her eyes locked on the woman, "I wouldn't have any time to do something about it..."
"Well?" Jacob pressed. She was silent for a long moment, and absolutely still. Then they screamed. Everybody. Jacob felt a part of his soul being shredded as Syl arched her back away from the woman, her eyes wide open and blind, emitting a sound nobody should ever have to hear. And Jacob was providing tenor accompaniment, while the battered woman provided the soprano tone, a symphony of agony the likes of which Jacob wished he'd never had to hear. Or be a part of.
Mercifully, it dissolved into oblivion before he could truly begin to appreciate it.
King Benjamin lurched into his room, dropping onto the bed in a most unkingly manner. He rolled over, kicking off his boots and running his fingers through his hair as he stared at the cieling. Was this what it meant to be King? To be hounded and prodded? He thought back on the hours he spent at his father's side, at all the meetings he surruptitiously attended.
Ben threw something heavy away from him. He didn't look at what it was, nor care, he only enjoyed the smash he heard when it hit the far wall. He didn't belong here. He knew that distinctly and completely. He wasn't supposed to be king.
"But it has fallen to you," the family advisor pressed. "As the oldest surviving member of the family Triari, it is your duty to assume the throne of Londinum."
"But I don't know how," Ben cried out. "I wasn't taught anything about bein' the king."
"Do not," his tutor corrected, "and bein' is hardly kingly."
"I'm not the gorramn King!" he'd shouted at the tutor. Bellock, the advisor, simply shook his head.
"You are as much a King as there remains," he intoned.
"What about Sonia?" Ben demanded.
"She's younger than you," Bellock pointed out, as if that were self evident truth, and everything that needed to be known. Ben ran his hands through his auburn hair, barely more than stubble. Even that was nothing kingly.
"And Sophia? What about Armonde or Gerand?" he pressed.
"Cousins," Bellock informed.
"And use complete sentences," the tutor continued.
"Oh, shut the hell up!" Ben roared at the tutor, who recoiled slightly at having attention directed at her. Ben turned his smoldering glare back to Bellock. "I ain't King, and I ain't nearly kingship material."
"I couldn't agree more," Bellock replied with the most aggravating smirk Ben had ever seen. Had Father been subjected to this man's smugness? Probably not... "But you are the only remaining member of the family of the proper age. Sonia could be Queen if this were wartime, but it is not, so it falls to you. You are uncouth, uneducated, and deplorable socially. You are a disappointment to the very concept of princehood, and while your elder siblings were alive, your inadequacies could be overlooked. Now, they cannot."
"I won't be..." Ben began.
"You will be silent," Bellock interrupted, forcing Ben back a step, despite the fact that Ben was a good foot taller, and by any description mightier than the diminutive advisor. "Until such a time as I decide you are capable of taking the throne, you will do everything that I advise you to, and you will do it without questioning me. Do I make myself clear?"
"I won't be your puppet," Ben growled. Bellock laughed... laughed!
"Oh, you will be our puppet, Benny. You will dance and smile and kiss the babies, and you will leave the adult decisions to those capable of them. Maybe, in ten or twenty years, you'll be capable..."
"You will," the tutor unconsciously prompted. Bellock turned to her, his bony hands lashing out in a stunning backhand knocking her from her chair.
"Get you hence, vile sow!" Bellock roared, the voice startling Ben, who'd never heard Bellock even raise his voice, let alone match it with violance of the flesh. The tutor scrambled out of the room, not even pausing to gather up her dignity, as she clutched her tear-stained cheek. Bellock waited until the doorguards closed the portal behind her before turning back to Benjamin. "Maybe," he continued. "In ten or twenty years, you'll be capable of making a few decisions of your own, but until such a time, you will leave the work to those who know what the hell they're doing, dohn mah?
His coronation happened later that very hour.
He heard the door open as he lay, staring to the cieling. He glanced up from his pathetic position, watching as Maeve glided into the room. "So you've finally arrived," Ben said, letting his head fall back down to the copiously stuffed pillows. "Come to gloat, I suppose. Or perhaps bully me into doing something for you?"
Maeve silently moved to the edge of the bed. "Why would I do that? Either, I mean?"
"That's what everybody else is doing," Ben said, staring straight up. Maeve leaned over him, staring down at him with those intoxicating brown eyes. "It would go with the day I've had so far."
Maeve frowned, taking a deep breath and leaning back. He felt the bed shift as she settled onto it. He looked at her, and the reality of the situation finally struck him. With his older brothers dead, she was now his concubine. Hell, she was his property, to do with as he saw fit. He waved her away. "Leave me," he said.
"No," she said with authority. Ben rose to a sit, staring at her.
"Do I need to remind you of your position in this house?" Ben began, but she cut him off by slapping him. He was so stunned his train of thought completely derailed. "What'n th'hell did y'do that for?" he demanded.
"Because that wasn't the real you," Maeve said, her full lips perking into a smile.
"I could have you executed," Ben warned.
"You could, but you won't," she responded, fairly dismissively. She rose to her feet, and pulled down the bodice of her dress, forcing Ben to emit a strangled yelp and look away. Her lilting laugh echoed through the room as he heard her dress hit the floor. He had to remind himself that he'd done the like before, and she was his... deplorable as that was... He rose his gaze.
She was lounging in a nearby chair, still dressed, after a fashion. "You aren't that bad," Maeve said, rummaging through his things. He let out a strangled yelp as she lifted up a pair of his boxers, inspecting them. "You're a long sight less pompous than your brothers, and a lot more humble. I think I like you,"
"I'm honored, now will you please put that..." Ben shook his head. Saying please to family property? Father would be spinning in his grave. "Now, you listen to me, Maeve. You are property of the family Triari, and you will obey me..."
"Practice?" Maeve asked, looking over her shoulder. She smiled as she found a pair of his shorts, and pulled them on, cinching them down so they wouldn't hang off her hips. "By all means, practice for when it matters. These are comfortable, at least compared to that thing," she cast a thumb at the discarded dress. Now she dug through his shirt drawer. What was she doing...?
"Are you forgetting that you are...?" Ben began.
"Property?" Maeve asked. "Only on paper, big boy." She continued to dig through his things, then found what she was looking for, and turned back to him as she pulled his old, well worn t-shirt over her significantly smaller frame. She stood, walking to him, and leaning over with a cunning smile on her face. "And, for the record, nobody owns me unless I say they do. Savvy?"
"What the hell's the matter with you?" Ben asked. She answered by slapping him again. He responded by throwing a pillow at her, since he threw the only heavy thing within easy arm's reach a few minutes ago. The pillow emitted a few feathers as she batted it away.
"You're acting like a child, Ben, so I'm treating you like one. I get it, you don't feel ready to be King," she said. She took a seat on the bed again. "Do you think your father was when Koster died? Do you think Koster felt ready during the Georgetown Rebellion, when his father died?"
"They were men. I'm just..."
"You're eighteen," Maeve interrupted. "Koster was no older when he became King. Kingship doesn't magically appear in you when you reach a certain age."
"Kings are born, not made?" Ben sighed.
"Something like that."
Ben took another deep breath. "At least I know I have you on my side. Which is more than I had an hour ago," he spun his legs over the edge of the bed, scratching his scalp as he did so. He was a bit surprised when it brushed the iron circlet, which he promptly pulled off and tossed onto the foot of the bed. He turned to Maeve again. God damn, but she was beautiful, even wearing his old, grungy clothes. He supposed that was part of the reason Father bought her. "There's one thing which I can't figure out," Ben muttered.
"What's that?" she asked.
"Why did you come back. With the chaos, you could have just... disappeared, and nobody would have even noticed you. You could have had a life..." he trailed off as she smiled. Maeve was the perfect name for her. She was intoxicating.
"I have a life. It's here, for the moment. Besides, I couldn't leave you to the sharks. I wouldn't be a good friend if I did," she clapped a hand onto his shoulder. "Now, you'd best get back to practicing telling people what to do. That's the very art of Kingship, you know?"
Jacob lurched back into consciousness with a grunt. "Is it Christmas? What's happen'd about me?"
Sylvia pushed off of the deck, rubbing her temple, and letting out a grunt of shock when she saw him likewise ass-planted. "What happened to you?" she asked.
"What the hell did you do?" Jacob demanded at practically the same instant. They stalled, trying to figure out which should answer the other's question first, but were forestalled when a third voice spoke.
"Who the hell are you people?" the woman asked, still in an uncomfortable looking crouch with her shackles binding her. Jacob frowned at them, then placed his barrel against a random link and blasted it off with a bullet. The woman recoiled with a yelp, stumbling into the far corner with her soiled towel held before her like a shield. Jacob and Syl just stood there for a long moment, sharing a look, then turned back to the woman now pressed into the corner.
"We're the people who just got you off the floor," Jacob said. "Here's a question for you, now. What's your name?"
"Germaine, Harriet, serial number 328-b2-zz1-031, Lieutenant, junior grade," she rattled off. "And that's all you're getting out of me you filthy browncoats."
"I think she's sufferin' a bit of a misconception, here," Jacob murmured.
"Look at me, Hari," Syl said, taking a step toward her. Hari did as commanded, but mostly because now Syl was the closer threat. "You're looking at me. Good. Now, look over there."
Sylvia pointed at the nearly decapitate corpse lying near her former locking place, and out the door at the other one. "You recognize them, don't you?"
"I do," Hari muttered. She glanced down at herself, then back up at Sylvia, who's skin was slowly taking on a shade similar to old bruise. Jacob knew it'd fade within an hour, but Hari's eyes quivered in confusion. "What did you do to me?"
"The only thing I could do," Jacob said, checking his chronometer. They couldn't have been out for more than a minute, which was a great relief. "How long did they...?"
"Eight months," Sylvia answered for her. "They took her during the Bernadette raid."
"That's..." Jacob's growl trailed off, then he pulled off his duster. He pulled the tails of his shirt out, drawing even Sylvia's attention.
"Um... Jacob?" Sylvia asked.
"You stay the hell away from me!" Hari screamed.
"Shut up!" Sylvia hissed at the understandably panicking woman. "What are you doing?"
Jacob was pulling down his pants at this point. "She's a bit too naked to go anywhere at this juncture," he said simply. It made perfect sense. Sure, he'd be running around Logan Kell's ship in his skivvies, but it's not like he'd done crazier things whilst naked. Actually... no, this was probably the craziest thing he'd ever done naked. He threw his clothes at Hari. "Put them on. You're getting off this ship now."
"W-wha..." she stammered. Jacob shrugged back into his duster, turning his back on the sweaty, stinky, naked woman holding a towel in front of herself.
"Get dressed. If we're lucky, you'll just walk right out of here..." Jacob said. He ground his teeth as he waited. "We don't have all day."
"Jacob..." Sylvia whispered. He could feel her hand on his shoulder.
"It's the right thing to do, Syl," Jacob said. Suddenly a smirk burst onto his face. "Besides, Anne'd likely kill me if it was you runnin' 'round naked in my presence."
"Who are you?" Harriet's voice came again. Jacob didn't turn back.
"A good man, somethin' surprisingly lacking in this viscinity," Jacob replied.
"No," she whispered. Jacob heard the rustling of his clothing, but didn't turn back, yet. "Your name. What is your name?"
Jacob took a deep breath. "It doesn't matter. Anybody with half a consciounce would..."
"Jacob!" Sylvia hissed, and he could feel her hand close into a claw.
"Jacob," he ammended. "Jacob Greyson."
There was a long pause, then Syl turned him. Harriet had just pulled his shirt down. She stared at him like she'd never seen his like. "Do you do things like this all the time?" she asked.
Jacob's grin returned in full. "More often than is prudent, miss Germaine. Now, if we don't get going, I'd hate to be caught with yet another woman in my pants."
Harriet shot Sylvia a 'what the hell?' look, to which Sylvia responded, "That's a long story."
"I still don't know why I'm here," Zane groused silently as he walked along the wide open common area, which actually had two floors and was open to the lower area. Jacob and Syl had both vanished, in opposite directions, no less. Anne had stayed on the ship with Friday, which was probably for the best. She should have given birth by now...
"You wouldn't understand," Elias said, walking along the railing. Of course, were Elias really there, he'd more'n likely have tumbled right off, because the railing was round and seemed all manner of slippery. Sometimes, Zane wondered how bored the dead man must be most of the time, to appear doing things so pointless and odd.
"Try me. I ain't stupid, and since you've been around, some folk even call me wise."
"And I wonder how that came about?" Elias snarked. He windmilled his arms, which did about as much as one might expect it would do for something which doesn't exist. A moment later, Elias dropped out of sight. Zane had played that game before, and didn't bother looking for where Elias landed. It was just another of Elias' little games.
"Not falling for it, 'Lias," Zane said, unable to hide his boredom.
"Not falling for what?" Anne asked, surprising him. He turned, noticing her taking a place on the rail not far from him. Zane waved the question away. Anne fixed him with one of those 'I hate you right now but I know I've got to talk to you' looks. "It's come to my attention that you and I have to talk."
"Really?" Zane said non-commitantly.
There was a long moment where nothing happened, save for the bustle of the ship's crew below, going about their business. Which was, if he gauged their intentions with anything resembling accuracy, the business of war.
"One of us should say something," Anne said.
"You're treating Jacob like shit," Zane said.
"Alright, that's something," Anne admitted, "albeit not what I expected."
Zane turned to her. "He deserves better than that, Anne. You're his wife."
"He had sex with..."
"Yes, he did. Because he didn't know that she wasn't his wife. Because everything that old fart did was to put that doubt into his head," Zane continued. His tone dropped. "And you're holding the high ground on him, but the both of us know you don't got any right to that."
"He should have checked. He should have..." Anne argued.
"He should have what?" Zane demanded. "Look, I'm not the one you should be havin' this conversation with, but I'm the only one handy, and Jacob probably's feelin' all manner of incapable of it at this juncture, so here's the facts. It is a fact that Jacob had sex with Sylvia. So what? Does he love her? Does she love him? Dubious, Anne. Really goddamn dubious. And while you two had a streak goin' that would leave most most married men prayin' for its like..." he trailed off, then recollected himself. "I'm not going to say it was just sex, because you ain't going to listen to that, so I won't force you to hear it. But still, he's your husband, and he's still devoted to you. Not her. He's the father of your child, not hers. And if I know the first thing about him, he's going to want to be a part of that child's life, your say so or not."
"Zane..." She said, surprised at him.
"What?" he asked. "Did you expect me to have nothin' to say on this matter?"
"Less," she ammended. "When'd you get so damn wise."
Zane could practically hear Elias' snicker. "Jacob's going to be with you until one or t'other of you is in the ground, and that's a simple fact."
"...I know that," she said. "But I'm so... angry with him..."
"Then you'd really ought be angry with yourself," Zane said. "Seriously, we're not any better than those two."
"Zane..." she whispered.
"And you're going to have to tell him," Zane said, turning his back to the drop and facing the back wall, with its evenly spaced doors where the crew bunked down during the times they slipped through the Black.
"I don't think..." she began.
"He needs to know," Zane said. "And if you don't tell him... I will."
Anne nodded, flattening her hand on her belly again in a protective, maternal gesture. "When this job is done, an' we have some time to breathe... I'll tell him," a smile inched onto her, a sublime smile that left her looking at places well beyond the deck-plating and bulkheads of the Rachel Wall. "It just kicked again..." she said, and moved away from the railing. Zane turned back down to the bustle. He'd just gotten comfortable when he felt his attention tugged away but somebody spinning him about.
"Zane? Is that you?" the woman asked. It took about five seconds before he recognized her, clean and scrubbed. And gorgeous.
"Fiona?" he asked. "Well, it's a fine thing to see you again. How's the old man?"
The hacker-savant smiled widely with those rose-bud lips as she spoke, "Masterminding an alliance between the divergent locales of the 'Verse. Basically the same as planning a state dinner, except with with less chance of a war breaking out."
"Which brings me to the next question I had... Why are you here?" Zane asked. "I'd figure your father to have you stowed away nice and safe on Persephone while he put his neck out on Hera."
Fiona's smile turned to something devious. "Do you really think I'd stay away from where the biggest party in the 'Verse was going to go down in less than twenty four hours?"
"I suppose not," Zane said with his best grin. It was the grin which got him run out of town for a week, one time. Of course, it was a miracle he didn't get that girl pregnant; she'd dropped four kids in the next three years, after her father married her off. It was also the grin which no-doubt landed him his first wife... who widowed him in two days. It became a bit of a struggle to keep that grin on.
"What about you? What have you been doing the last little while," she asked.
"Besides setting the groundwork for this very conference?" Zane asked. "You've heard about Heian Difeng?"
"Guess who found it?" he pointed out proudly.
"Jacob Greyson," she said.
"Well, he had my help," Zane muttered. She swatted his arm.
"No, Jacob Greyson," she repeated, pointing down into the crowd. Zane followed her point down to him, and saw Sylvia standing not two paces behind him, with another woman between them. Others must have heard her repetition, because a lot of faces turned to him.
"God damn it..." Jacob's words wafted up to Zane's ears, which confused him a bit at first. Then he saw guards in brown dusters levering their way through the crowd, and pointing nasty looking guns at him. No, they weren't pointed at him, they were pointed at the other woman. Jacob, man of everlasting confusion that he was, spun to the nearest, pulling out his Mauser. His duster flew open as he moved, displaying to the ship that he was clad only in his underbritches. The Mauser brained the closest browncoat and waved off another, which was about when a shotgun blast tore through the recirculated air.
"Che tui huo, bei sha hai!," Sylvia roared, and the people opened up into a circle around them.
"What's going on?" Fiona asked.
"You know the definition of a hero?" Zane asked.
"Somebody that saves people," Fi offered, her gaze fixed on the scene below.
"No, somebody who gets other people killed," Zane corrected. "And Jacob... that man is a hero... no doubt about that..."
Things had gotten very bad, very fast. The fact that he was now surrounded on all sides by what should have been his friends and allies, many of whom were currently holding weapons at his person. It didn't help that he'd found himself in this situation wearin' nothing but his skivvies. That was just icing on the cake.
"Would you mind telling me what the hell is going on here?" the most decorated man in the room demanded. From the fact that his chest held about ten pounds of metals, Jacob didn't have to think hard to guess that he was in charge.
"That depends, would you mind tellin' me who the hell you are, and why the hell I should give a damn?" Jacob asked.
"I am Admiral Vickers," Vickers said, looking Jacob up and down. "And you could not be any other than the notorious Jacob Greyson."
"Oh, I'm notorious now, am I?" He laughed. Vicker's took another step forward, out of the crowd, and Jacob halted him by changing the direction his gun was facing. Vickers didn't recoil back, he just looked insulted to have a gun pointed at him. Sylvia leaned toward him.
"Vickers was in charge at the Battle of Sturges. His ship was the only one which got out," she informed.
He'd been so close, Jacob had. They were twelve steps away from the airlock which lead directly to the umbelicus connecting the Rachel Wall to Legacy. Now, those twelves steps might as well be twenty leagues.
"You don't seem to understand the amount of trouble you're in, Jacob," Vickers said. "She is..."
"A woman you've been heaping all manner of abuse onto for far too damn long a time," Jacob intercepted. "Had I the bullets, I'd put one into every damn one of you for that."
"What did I do?" somebody shouted from the crowd.
"Why aren't you wearing clothes?" another asked, thinking question period had opened.
"Eight months of sexual abuse, Vickers. There are things you just don't do, even in war," Sylvia said.
"He enjoyed it more than most did," Harriet snarled. Jacob cast a glance over his shoulder, and was astounded when he noticed Sylvia was having to restrain the former-prisoner with one arm and wave off the crowd with the other. That woman had spunk. Too bad she'd fought for the wrong side.
"Y'see?" Jacob asked. "There's just abundant reason for me to shoot folk today."
"That would be a mistake, Greyson," Vickers countered. "Besides, don't you think it odd that she claims abuse, yet is as healthy as a horse? And why are you even believing her, Jacob? She's a Wap."
"Wap or not, she's still a human being," Jacob said. "And she is gettin' off of this boat. You'd best stand aside."
"This constitutes treason," Vickers stated.
"Against who?" Jacob laughed. "It's not like you people actually serve anybody. At least the Templars are honest about their abuses of power."
"That's enough," Vickers shouted.
"Indeed it is," a new voice joined the crowd. The crowd parted away from it, like the biblical red sea, leaving Logan Kell standing steadfast, staring at the unlikely grouping at the exit of his ship.
The crowd swelled back and away from him, seeming to avoid his eye, even though it was leveled squarely on Jacob. He stopped about six feet away from the two parties, casting his burning gold glare between the two groups, before hooking his thumbs in his belt-loops and tapping his foot.
"Y'all mind telling me what the hell you're doing on my ship?" he asked.
"This ship is part of the fleet, which is under my control," Vickers countered.
"Since when?" Kell demanded. "I own this ship, Brad. I bought it with my own money more'n thirty years ago. When, exactly, did I hand it over to you for your use or safe-keeping? Exactly, now shut up."
"I will not be talked to in such a manner," Vickers fumed.
"My Ship!" Logan bellowed, forcing everybody back a step, Jacob and company included. "My crew, my rules. Now, shut the hell up."
"I..." Vickers began.
"Not another word out of you," Kell stabbed a finger at the admiral, as his eyes stayed locked on Jacob. "What's your part in this fiasco, Jacob?"
"Harriet here was taken prisoner during the..." Jacob began.
"We took no prisoners during the Bernadette engagement," Kell contradicted. "Everybody was shoved into pods and dumped in orbit."
"Not everybody, appearantly," Jacob said.
"I served on the Haephestus," Harriet said. "They... took me... after they'd taken over the rest of the ship."
"Is this true?" Kell turned to Vickers.
"She was found trying to sabotage..." he explained.
"That's a lie!" she screamed back, and fell silent when Kell waved a finger at her. Vickers halted when Kell did likewise at him. Kell turned to the former prisoner, and after swallowing, she began again. "I was clubbed trying to escape. I woke up chained to the floor of the hold."
"On the Haephestus?" Kell prompted.
"No, here," she corrected. Kell's gaze went from a smoldering golden ember to standing three feet away from the sun.
"On my ship... You did this on my ship?" he demanded.
"She's lying. She doesn't have a mark on her," Vickers pointed out.
"We have Syl to thank for that," Jacob whispered, pitching it just so Kell could hear it. Kell looked at Sylvia, then back to Harriet, then to Vickers once more.
"You took a prisoner, Vickers. You didn't bother coming out of hiding until I had an honest to God fleet, and you defy me at every step. You're a shameful excuse for a human being, let alone military commander," Kell rattled off. "I said no prisoners."
"I am in charge of this fleet. My orders are the only ones which..."
"You're in charge of nothing, less'n I say you're worthy of it," Kell shot back. Vickers seemed to stumble a bit, at that. "I said, no prisoners, Vickers."
"She's not a prisoner, exactly..." Vickers said, his ardor turned into desparation.
"Obviously, because prisoners have rights, don't they?" Kell shouted. "Jacob, give me that gun," Jacob hesitated. "NOW!"
When Kell took the gun, the crowd moved in a few inches before Kell warned them back again. "Son, do you know the definition of a hero?" he said, his voice conversational.
"I do," Jacob answered. Kell nodded for a long moment, then spun toward Vickers. Before Jacob could even comprehend enough to be surprised, Kell was firing round after round into Vickers. When Vickers finally collapsed to the floor, Kell stared hard at his body, then tossed the gun he'd used back at Jacob.
"Well, consider yourself a hero," he muttered. When he continued, his voice was raised for the entire gathering to hear. "You see this? Any of you who were involved in this, this is what'll happen to you if I learn your name. You get off my ship now. That's the only chance you're going to get, dohn mah?"
When the silence stretched a bit. "This man is a better man than most of you," Kell announced, pointing a finger at Jacob, standing in his skivvies under a browncoat, cradling his own empty firearm. "He had the courage and conviction to do something about a situation none of you had the balls to deal with. I gave my word, back during the last ruttin' war that I wouldn't lay an unpleasant finger on those what I capture. You made me a liar. You should be ashamed."
"Should I leave...?" Jacob asked.
"Not yet, son," Kell waved to him. "Take a look at this man. Look at him. I want every one of you to be him. He is not strong, he is not wealthy, nor is he powerful. Yet he did what needed to be done, without care toward his own safety... or dignity, it seems. If you can do that for me, only then will you regain your honor with me. Now, get the hell back to work. The job or the airlock, your choice. And shore-leave is cancelled."
The crowd dispersed in a wave, not even a single of them voicing their dischord. None of them would dare.
"I thought you had things to do," Jacob said.
"I did. Now, they're done. The Templars and me, we got ourselves a little agreement," Kell smiled that wolfish smile, then it fell and he pointed up at the second floor. "Fiona, if you still want to go dirtside, you'd best find another ship. We're not going down. These people have gotten too soft in my absence," he turned to Harriet next. "And I give you my apology for how you were treated. Had I known of this sooner, I'd have shot him then. If you want, I can put you under protective custody until I can arrange for the Waps to pick you up."
Jacob slid his gun into his holster, and left Kell and the prisoner currently wearing Jacob's clothing to work out whatever arrangement they would. It wasn't long until Zane loped his way beside him, matching them step for step down the umbelicus. "You did a good thing, boss," Zane said.
"I may have," Jacob shrugged.
"You do seem to get naked on a frequent basis," a woman said. Jacob turned, raising an eyebrow at the woman following him.
"I'm not going to question why you're here," Jacob said to Fiona.
"Need a ride down," she said simply.
"That can be arranged. Just stay clear of my wife, and you'll be alright," Fiona gave him a look.
"She's in a bit of a snit," Zane offered, and Fiona hummed neutrally.
"You know," Fiona said as Jacob crossed the threshold onto Legacy, "Cole's going to spit when he sees the picture."
"Picture? What picture?" Jacob asked. She held it up for him, a capture of him standing, bare to his skivvies under his duster, pointing a gun at an admiral, while the Wolf stared on. Jacob stifled a groan.
"What is it, boss?" Zane asked.
"There's gonna be another movie, about this," Jacob said fatalistically. "Mark my words..."
Blue growled as he swung his feet over the edge of the bed. He glanced at the clock on the wall, then out the window at the setting Londinum sun. His first night in his own bed, and he had to be roused out of it. He thought several very unpleasant thoughts, mostly relating to what he was going to do if the person standing outside his threshold was a salesman or suchlike, when he went down.
He rose to his feet, stifling a yawn as he moved down through the well furnished, yet still humble rooms. He'd decided he needed a house about three hours before he left the Corporation headquarters, and it had been readied for him well before the time he walked up the walkway.
It was good to have power.
His path took him down the stairs, around a corner and into a short hallway where the door was situated. He looked through the bullet- and laser-proof panels before opening the door. "Greyson, what the hell are you doing here at this hour?" he demanded. Elias pulled off his hat, tossing it into the room where it spun around a standing vase, almost tipping it, but somehow not. Greyson smirked at him.
"It's nice to see you, too," Greyson said. "It's a nice house, Nick, but your gate security is a joke."
Blue frowned. "I know you didn't come all the way here to compliment me on my choice of housing."
Eli took a step forward, and Blue let him pass. "You're correct in that assumption."
Blue waited a long moment. "And?" he prompted. Greyson just smirked, that infuriating smirk he'd observed before. On a whim, he checked out his assumption, but found himself strangely rebuked from entering Greyson's mind.
"Naughty naughty, Nicodemus," Greyson smirked, tapping his temple. "You might want to read some of the non-telepath related files the Corp has cooked up in the last few years. Like lacing the Guard into a human skull. Works just as well as that clinging contraption you recently doffed, I find, and it's a lot less sweaty and unpleasant. They've been doing it for twenty years. Hell, even the Royals are doing it, nowadays."
"I'll look into it. Your name is Greyson. Would that be any relation to..." Blue began.
"To the infamous Jacob Greyson?" Eli asked. He smiled, and pulled back a lock of greying golden hair. "Well... it would be interesting, if that were true, wouldn't it?" he chuckled. Suddenly, his face went flat. "You and I, we have something of a problem."
Blue waited again. "Being?"
It really was irritating that he couldn't just pull out what he wanted from this man, instead having to be baited along like some... human. "The board of directors is gathering in two hours. For an emergency session."
"That's not my concern," Blue said. It really wasn't. Whatever they did wouldn't affect him, or his plans, in the slightest.
"Actually, it is," Eli corrected, taking a step in. "This is a nice place... No, the problem is, they're voting on a resolution that would invest them with total operational authority. Which would mean you were legally shit out of luck."
Blue just stared at him. "Really?"
"True as the Black, Nick. True as the Black," Greyson replied, leaning over to retrieve his hat. "Now, if you'll excuse me?"
"Why are you even telling me about this?" Blue asked. "Wouldn't you stand to gain if I am ostracized?"
"In the short term," Greyson agreed. Then, that smile returned. "But I recognize my best option for the long, and with what is coming, I think it might be prudent not to trust a... human... with my fate."
Greyson tipped on his hat, turning and sauntering back out the door, but Blue had already put him out of his mind. All thought of fatigue banished from his mind, he slammed the door behind the older man, taking the steps up two at a time. He already had the suit in mind he would use. His best suit. A suit fit to kill kings in.
Friday, October 27, 2006 8:35 PM
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