BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JAMESTHEDARK

Legacy 3:06, Confederation, Part 2
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Legacy's crew is scattered across a city soon to be embroiled in a full-scale war, and time is running out before the bombs fall. In the sky, two of the greatest military minds clash, while on the ground, the best the crew can hope for is to not be crushed under foot.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1589    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

God damn, this is getting long. I swear, I had every intention of wrapping things up in Part 2, but I just kept on coming up with things that needed to be said, things that needed to be done, and eventually it got so long I had to cut it off again. I swear, Part three will be the last one. Really. Pinky-swear. In Part 2, we're actually introduced to a character hinted at in the last season's finale, a man known as The Sorceror. He becomes a recurring character, and is a fine foil to Logan Kell. As well, we learn why the Browncoats (or Confederates, as they are now properly called) stand a fighting chance against the Unioners (or Waps, as the derogation goes). As well, more people suddenly going crazy, and no, Anne's baby isn't born yet. Finally, we learn a little bit about the woman occasionally known as Saffron. The language warning is still in effect, so don't read this if you have unstained, virgin ears. Although, why you'd come here if you actually had virgin ears is a concern for a different time... Malcolm Reynolds, Serenity, and the 'Verse are property of Joss and Co., but the War blazin' through it is all mine. Feedback is ammo. Reload me.

Confederation, Part 2

Logan threw himself onto the bed, kicking off his boots as he stared up at the cieling. Things had gotten away from him, dangerously away. They'd gotten soft, complacent with their morals. They'd made him a liar, and the six hours he'd had with them might have put the fear of God into them, but he knew that they were a far cry from the crew he'd left when he went onto the New Shadow. He tried to will himself to sleep, but it was about as effective as he expected it would be, and he eventually just sat up, running his nails through his recently mutilated beard. Night was always the hardest time for him to sleep. Of course, he could have just reset the ship's clocks, but that'd bend the crew up, and it was better that he suffer than everybody but him. Hell, it was just common rutting sense. He had just decided to grab a book to read for a while when the screen at the far side of the room chirped to life. He scowled at it a moment, but since he was not only wide awake, but on his way to his feet anyway, he moved over and flicked it on. His eyes twitched at the face staring back at him. "Logan Kell," the Sorceror said, adjusting his glasses. "It's been too long." "Nine years, give or take a few," Kell answered. "I understand things have been going well for you." "They have," the Sorceror admitted. "I don't doubt you'd heard that my father-in-law allowed my adoption into his House? I must say, Zhao Harris has a nice ring to it." Kell smirked. Whoever decided to call an infant as blatantly Caucasian as the man before him with the title of Zhao must have been at least a little insane. "I had. Although, after the performance you put on, I think it was more'n a bit difficult for him to keep putting it off. And the scandal of havin' a Wap Admiral without a sirname, heh, I don't think the Unioner's'd ever live that one down." "They fought it," Harris shrugged, pulling off his spectacles and taming the grey hair that the action dislodge. "You know that this isn't a social call." "I figured as much," Kell responded. "And from the fact that there's no gap, you're within at least five AU of me," he paused as second as Zhao betrayed nothing. "But I'm guessing you're a lot closer than that. A lot..." "Ever astute. I always wondered what would happen if we ever met," he said, with an appearantly geniune smile. "I guess this is my chance to find out." "Son of a bitch," Kell muttered, pushing away from his chair. "May the best man win," Harris' voice chased him out of the room. The fact that the Sorceror actually meant what he said made his turn of phrase that much more disheartening. Kell had won every battle he had been in, true, but so had the Sorceror, and Zhao had been specifically placed in straits most dire, since he was deemed untrustworthy by the higher ups. The fact that he survived even his own leader's maliciousness was enough to give everyone pause. Kell's bare feet padded against the cool deck plates as he navigated his ship in a near daze. Zhao had given him a warning, because he wanted to test himself. That was Kell's only advantage, that he wasn't completely surprised. But then again, under the Sorceror, even the Alliance could be sneaky... He erupted onto the bridge with a bellow of, "Man battlestations, set condition zero throughout the fleet. We are at battle imminant, repeat battle imminant." "Sir?" "Don't call me sir," Kell barked. "Did you send the order?" "Hell yes, sir," Georgia answered. "The Wolfpacks are scrambling and the Heavies are moving into defensible position," she paused a moment. "Harken is asking if this is a drill..." There was a long moment of silence as the holo-tank filled the center of the bridge, with its myriad lights representing the forces of what was now essentially the Confederate Navy. And well beyond them, a force approached from the planetary umbra, a taskforce of ships running Alliance markers and colors. "Yes," Kell said sarcastically. "This is a drill. Go back to bed, and dream of sugarplums and free cooch. No, you idiots!" "Sir? We're getting reports of small ships approaching from the dayline," Georgia continued. "Alliance. Sir, they're Wolfpacking us." "Clever bastard," Kell said, standing at the edge of the holo-tank. "Using my own best moves against me... Get us some room to maneuver. We can't do any-damn-thing if they're shoving their fists down our throats and up our..." "Harken reports first contact," Georgia reported. "Negligable damage." "Have the Tohoku's keep the Wap's at arm's reach, for now. Conventional's only," Kell instructed. "We can't show our hand too early." "Aye," Georgia said. "And move the Wolves into position around our Heavies. We can't afford to lose them this early in the fight to boarding parties," he continued. "Already on it, sir," she overrode him. Kell's eyes fixed on the tank as the few bridge-crew who hadn't been present rushed to their posts. "Sir, we have a lock with both missiles and Gauss guns," Warren declared. "Hold off on the Gauss until we have to. If they see that we have..." He trailed off as a sudden pain shook him, radiating out of his chest like a fist squeezing his heart. "... the technological advantage, they'll scatter, and we'll lose the full effect," he managed to finish, his fist flexed as he struggled to ignore the pain. Not now, damn it all. Not now. "Sir," Georgia piped up again. "Don't call me sir, gorramn it!" Kell barked. "We're getting comms from our forces on the ground. Our skiffs are empty, with the celebrations. It'll take time before our backup reaches us." Kell turned to the tank to hide his pounding of his own chest. The dull thump was lost in the din of the active room. So too was the second one, after which, the pain began to subside a bit. "Well, then," he said, his voice more gravely than usual. "We're just going to have to draw a line in the sand, and draw it right... ruttin'... here..." <> "So..." Jacob said, luxuriating in his private jail cell. "That went well." Zane shot him a look that was obviously torn between laughter and growling. "I could have defused that, you know." "Maybe," Jacob shrugged. He lidded his glare for a moment at Zane. "We didn't get a chance to finish that little talk we'd started." "I thought we had," Zane answered, making sure he was well away from the bars separating the two of them. "First of all, you've got secrets, I know that. Like your homocidal proclivities towards slavers. Whatever the did to piss you off that bad, I don't know, and truthfully I don't think it's my place to ask..." Jacob began. "They killed my brothers," Zane cut him off in response. Jacob frowned. "Yeah. When I was a runt, the slavers out of Beaumonde came through the town, picking up anybody not already bowed down under their labors and various types of lungrot. I must'a been about five, at the time..." "Zane, you don't need to..." Jacob offered, but Zane's slashing gesture cut him off. "No... I was about five, and they'd decided they were gonna take some Lungers to Regina, to work in the Bowden's mines. Of course, they'd seen my sister. You remember her, don't you?" "Redhead, crazy, can't stay on any one name for two consecutive weeks?" the captain asked. "That's the one," Zane nodded. "They picked her out when they barged in. She was about twelve, then. Still, she caught the eye of one of them, who scooped her up." "Wu, neng li deh shen..." Jacob whispered. "My oldest brother, about sixteen, tried to stop them. He fought them, damn hard, even though he'd already caught the startin' of a nasty type of lungrot. They shot him, right in our own home. My younger brother tried to fight 'em, next, hackin' out one's achilles' tendon with a butcher's knife," Zane continued, before barking a mirthless laugh. "It was pointless. Our parents knew enough not to fight. They knew their place. They were slaves. We all were. They could do whatever they wanted to us, but they were young, and stupid. So, they killed him, too. Strangled him t'death, right in front of me. After that, they took my sister and vanished out the door. It'd be five years 'fore I saw her again. And she'd changed. What they did to her, it twisted her. Made her cold and as ruthless as even the worst of them." "Ai ya, hua lai," Jacob murmured. "My parents, they didn't ever talk about that day. I knew they hoped I didn't remember, so they wouldn't have to lose the last child they had to an upstart notion of independence. They said it never happened..." he trailed off for a second, his eyes staring at far distant things. "But I just had to take one look at my sister, when I was a lad of only ten years old, and I knew. I knew that there was evil, right then. Evil that could take even the sweetest, kindest girl..." "What?" Jacob snorted. "Sweet?" "She was, you know. So kind. Now... I can't even look at her, because when I do, all I see is those that took away my sweet jie-jie. And I get angry... so, so damn angry. At first, I thought I was angry at her, for being cruel and manipulative and abandoning us..." "But now, you know you're not angry at her," Jacob finished for him. "You're angry at what they did to her." Zane sighed, shaking his head. "And now you know about them. Why I had to do what I did," he murmured. He looked up, falling silent as the jailer walked the length of the corridor, checking off a list at each occupied cell. "What you did was... hell, it was terrorism. You killed a lot of people, Zane," Jacob whispered. "I'm not sayin' I didn't," Zane snapped, his blue eyes flashing. "But I needed... She deserved justice, Jacob. Even though she'll never appreciate it, now, they still needed to be repayed for what they took." Jacob shook his head slowly. "I never knew that..." "I wouldn't have told you," Zane chuckled, "'cept that I'm feelin' some sort of truthsome today. Might have something to do with the day I'm having." Jacob let out a chuckle of his own. "You're telling me. I wake up on Earth-that-was, filming a show which just so happens to be my life, then I completely forget who I am, having sex with my best friend --- no offense," he muttered; Zane shrugged, and Jacob continued, "in the process. I then find myself in a position that I have to rescue a brutalized Wap from Logan Kell's old flagship, and having to do so nearly in my altogether. Now, I've learned that my nine-months pregnant wife had sex with my mechanic, whom I then attempted to murder --- no offense," Zane laughed his acceptance, "and then found myself locked in prison for said offense. This, I have to say, hasn't been my best day either." "I was about to ask why you weren't straining at the bars, tryin' to throttle me," Zane leaned against the wall as he made a dismissive gesture, "but you summed it up a damn sight better than I could have." Jacob leaned back himself, staring out the tiny, barred window at the flashing lights of the fireworks lighting up the sky. "She could be giving birth right now, you know?" Jacob whispered. "And I won't even be there to see him when he's born." "You're sure it's going to be a boy?" Jacob smirked. "Yup, if only because Anne'll lose the bet," a grin slid onto his features for a long moment. "At least she's safe, and now, we have time. I'm so tired..." Jacob turned to Zane, who was staring at a block of empty space beyond the bars. "Zane?" "What?" "What were you staring at?" "Oh, nothing. I just had a thought... Bah," Zane waved it away. He then smirked. "So, what are you going to call him?" "Oh," Jacob leaned forward. "I've got just the name picked out..." <> "Commander Harken, we're taking heavy fire from the Burning Dawn. God damn, that ship just won't let up," the older officer growled as he stormed around the holo-tank, leaving Harken to stare at the battle line. "What is the range to the nearest capital ship on that line?" Harken asked. Hogan leaned forward, squinting with his one real eye. Many people thought Hogan lost his left eye in glorious combat, but that couldn't be further from the truth. He'd lost it on his only trip to Osiris, when he was mauled by a patrician's pet leopard. Hogan managed to kill that leopard, and shoot the neglectful, over-rich fool for the mistake. Hogan had been on the fast track to the Admiralty, until that little episode. Hogan pointed out a ship. "This one." "Why that one?" Harken asked. "It's slow and it can't run from our guns. And it's right in the middle of a swarm of ASREVs so it's practically untouchable. And shooting at the Burning Dawn is a waste of ammunition... sir," Hogan finished, pulling back to his full height, overtopping Harken, and in fact everybody else on the bridge, by a good margin. "Trojillo, do we have conformation for Gauss?" Harken asked, rocking with the ship as it absorbed another spread of missiles from the Sorceror's flagship. The aged communications officer hunched over his panel for a long moment. "We have conformation. The word is Overshot... Jeh shr shuh mah...?" Trojillo muttered. Harken turned back to the tank. "Target the Freygr with cannons one and two. Sound the alert and brace for rapid deceleration," Harken commanded, grabbing the bar that surrounded the tank. He nodded for his XO to do the same before the weapons fired, because when they did, if the tests were any sort of indicator, it, as Kell would have noted, was going to be one hell of a rough ride... "Target aqcuired," the weapons officer called. "Awaiting order." Harken paused for a second, giving a glance to Hogan, who was only now grasping the bar. "Fire." The entire ship lurched to an untidy stop, nearly tossing Harken and the rest of the bridge crew three steps toward the front of the ship. The holotank cheerfully showed the pair of gigantic metal orbs tear away from the ship, traveling dozens of times the speed of sound, and cross the intervening space in less than a second. It also showed the shocking amount of damage those ultra-dense slugs did when they impacted, one of them actually bursting free of the Freygr's far side, to continue until it struck another Alliance ship, if with far less violence than with the unfortunate Freygr. Even Harken was awe struck by the level of destruction his one assault had done on the Victoria class Cruiser, leaving the thing twisting in a slow spiral as much of its atmosphere began to rush out into the space above Hera. "Sir, the rest of the retrofitted ships have opened fire," Trojillo chimed in. "It's a mess out there." Harken stared at the screen, and the Alliance ships now pulling back and away from the suddenly-much-more-lethal craft they were arrayed against. Several of the ships were now, like the Freygr, twisting in their death throes, slain in one brutal blow by the weapon that the Alliance had designed and never gotten around to testing. "Set a pursuit course on the Burning Dawn and prepare for a second volley," Harken barked, and the crew snapped back to their senses, moving about their tasks with an alacrity which almost seemed to be out of shame of their own shock. "Commander, I've just gotten an intermittent reading from near the Invincible," another officer, one who'd only joined the crew a few weeks ago, during this ship's refit. It wasn't Harken's first choice of posting, but his own Gallileo was still being refitted over Shadow, and he was disinclined stay behind. Which, he'd pondered, was strange, considering he had, not that very long ago, been a loyal member of the Union of Allied Planets Navy. "Could you be more specific?" "I'm not sure... but I think it's nuclear. No, wait, I've got a definite. Stealth Nuclear, five in number." "Where are they headed? Are they aimed for the New Shadow?" Harken queried. "No... they're headed toward the planet, sir," he frowned at the delivery of the news. Harken scowled, too. "Serenity," Harken muttered. "Shoot them down." The young officer stared at him as though he were daft. "Sir, those are stealth armaments. You can't shoot them down. That's what they're built for. Only ASF can intercept them, and when they do, they die. Joint that with the fact that we've got no ASF within range..." "I understand..." Harken muttered. He glanced back up. "Is the shield working?" "Are you out of your mind, Joe?" Hogan demanded. "Not now, Seth," Harken barked, then turned back to the officer. "Does the shield work or not?" "We're not sure. It's never exactly been reliable," the young woman tried to explain. "I can't believe you're considering this..." Hogan growled. "It'll get us all killed." "Does it work!?" Harken shouted. "Maybe. I don't know," the woman admitted. "It was never designed to work in combat, let alone on so large a scale..." "Well, it's all we have," Harken muttered. He stared at the tank for a moment, drawing in a deep breath. "Kelsey, put us in their path of flight." Hogan grabbed Harken's coat, turning him to face the taller, one eyed man. "This is insanity, you know that." "Sometimes, life demands one do the insane," Harken pulled his coat from his XO's grasp. "Now, either help me do my job or stay the hell out of my way." Hogan ground his teeth, but said nothing more. Harken looked back to the navigator. "Do it now. And when you get to that spot, divert all gravity drive and arti-grav to the shield." "Are you sure this is going to work?" the young officer asked. "He doesn't have a goddamn clue," Hogan grunted. "You're right, I don't," Harken admitted. "But it's not like I have much of a choice." <> "Sir..." Georgia began. "Don't call me sir," Kell snapped, but the comms officer was undeterred. "The Arrow of Achilles is moving out of formation." Kell allowed himself a moment of profane mutterings before looking back to Georgia. "Get that son-of-a-bitch Harken on the line. If he's routing, I'll have his guts for garters..." "Kell, we're getting something on the sensors..." Tao muttered. "It looks like... Now it's gone. Wait, there it is again. It's headed toward the Arrow." "What is?" Kell demanded. He was answered when the tank shorted out entirely, leaving only the external video feeds to announce what was happening in his little corner of the 'Verse. A nearly blinding light radiated from where the Arrow had been situated, expanding into a funnel of leaping atomic flame, lashing out and away from the planet, slamming into another ship on the Confederate line, vaporising most of it in a heartbeat. "That was a nuclear explosion," Tao gasped. "But it was shaped. Nothing can shape a nuke blast..." Kell found himself staring at the scene in awe. "Son of a bitch, it worked. That piece of junk actually worked." "What are you talking about?" Tao asked. Kell slowly made his way to the screen, slamming his index finger down on the tiny shape at the epicenter of the flare. Under his finger sat the Arrow of Achilles, every bit of it still there, if dead to the fight from the EMP. "Our sensors are back on line in five..." Georgia stated, and true to her word, five seconds later, the holo-tank flickered back to life, showing the lull in the battle, the Arrow of Achilles, and one more thing, barely registering, headed toward the planet... "Good god," Tao muttered. "God has nothin' to do with this," Kell spat. "He tried to stop 'em. That's what Harken was about." "One of them got through. Our aerospace fighter screen is too far out of position to intercept," Tao reported, his voice flat and grim. "Based on projected trajectory, it'll detonate directly over Serenity." "Congratu-ruttin'-lations, Harken," Kell sneered, "you just pared a cataclysm down to a trajedy. Send out the call to evacuate the city before the hit. Other than that, there's nothing we can do." Kell turned away from Tao, moving slowly to the holo tank again. He flexed his hand against his still-aching chest, staring at the Alliance line again. "God damn you, Harris," he whispered into the bedlam. "Why couldn't you stop him?" <> "Reynolds, is that you?" The voice turned the captain on his heel, bringing the dark man into view. Mal frowned a moment, unable to recognize the approaching man with his bizarre entourage. "That would depend on who's asking," Malcolm said, hooking his thumbs behind his gunbelt. The dark man looked down at the gun, and the two women flanking him both gave Reynolds a harsh look for his trouble. Inara, realizing that he wasn't behind her any longer, turned to take in the sudden confrontation. "If I recall," the man chuckled, "you still owe me money." "I owe a lot of people money. You should get in line. I hear it starts a couple planets back," Mal said, not taking his hand away from his gun. Who was this strange man? And why would Mal owe him money? Besides the obvious reasons, anyway... "Mister Leland, I presume?" Inara said as she approached. "I must say, I'm surprised to see you on Hera." Jack Leland; now Mal remembered him. He'd won some hands to the rich-ass gambler more than a few years ago, now. Hell, it was because of those very winnings that he could afford the down payment on Serenity. If he was feeling sore about that... "Where else would I be, miss Serra?" Jack laughed. "The biggest party in the 'Verse is happening right now, and how could I maintain my reputation if I were to miss it?" "Well, you're missing it right now, so you might want to pick a direction and walk in it," Mal said curtly. He didn't like the serendipidy of this meeting, and was making fully clear of his opinion on it. "There's no need to be rude, Mal," Inara soothed. "He's just..." "An ass?" Jack laughed, then turned to the women on either side of him. "He's not a threat, Hwa Ling, so don't frisk him." "Frisk me?" Mal asked. Hwa Ling, obviously the Asian woman with the angular features standing to Jack's left scowled but didn't say anything. The other, a very tall albino woman wearing a dress with a very... very deep neckline leaned in to whisper to the gambler, who laughed at the supposed joke. "No, Cel," Jack chuckled. "We're not doing that either. Any weapons we have to worry about will be hanging on his belt. I'm sorry, Malcolm, I haven't properly introduced you to my accompaniment," he waved to his left, then to his right. "This is Hwa Ling, and this odd bird is Celia." "And a fine pair they be, although the hard faced one doesn't strike me as a good purchase. You might want your money back, on her..." Mal said, turning away again. Inara stalled him, though. "Mal..." she warned quietly. Mal followed her gaze to the Asian, and more specifically, the blade she was palming for a viper-like throw. "They're my bodyguards. After my last... run in..." Jack shivvered at that, for some reason, "I'd decided I needed more security. Not that she's not woman enough..." "You're rambling," Celia pointed out. "Right. What was I saying?" "Goodbye," Mal said. "And you're not getting that money back." "The money I let you win?" Jack said with a grin. "You were in a desparate spot, Mal. I couldn't just turn my back on a man in your position. Besides, I like somebody willing to take stupid chances." Mal frowned, carefully moving Inara to the side with his left hand. "This is starting to sound like a job offerin'." Hwa Ling smirked, turning to the taller Albino. "I told you he'd figure it out." "Fine..." Celia grumbled, reaching into her dress and handing over a thin roll of cash. Jack, not looking back, grinned all the wider. "I'm rubbing off on them. Yes, this is a task I need somebody of your specific talents for. Your specific talents being you know somebody I need to get in touch with, but I cannot personally approach." "You've just described every employer, contact, seller, and buyer I've ever done business with," Mal pointed out. "I'm talking about a very specific man, who works in the Core," Jack continued, after waving the grouping forward. Over head, fireworks began to burst in the sky. "That narrows it down considerably," Mal acknowledged. "Indeed. He goes by Graves. He's a member of a group that have... dealt with a problem I find myself saddled with," Jack continued, if stutteringly as that shudder overtook him again. "Are you going to be alright?" Inara asked, but Jack waved her away, despite her taking no move toward him. "Fine... fine. I'm fine. No. You've done business in the Core before. I know that. I just need to know a name, an address, something," Leland shook his head, his eyes now locked on the pavement in front of him. Mal scowled hard. "You really are in trouble, ain't you?" Reynolds asked quietly. "More than I've ever been before," Leland responded, also quietly. He was about to say something else, when Hwa Ling caught his arm with a nearly feral hiss. Mal frowned in confusion, until he looked back, seeing the albino woman leaning face forward against the wall, her milky white hands clapped over her ears. The rictus of agony on her face had his hand on his gun, and his eyes searching every nook, cranny, and rooftop. "Celia, what's going on?" Leland asked. "Noooo..." the long moan issuing forth from Celia's throat had everybody backing off a step. One hand came off the woman's ear, and it pounded into the wall. Her demonicly red eyes stared, wide with rage or terror, he wasn't sure which, as she drew her fist back, and smashed the concrete wall again. A third strike ended with an unpleasant crack. "You have to stop her," Inara pointed out, her voice weak from the sight she was subjected to. "She's already broken..." "The wall," Mal said, marveling at the massive crack in the concrete her naked fist had caused. This time, though, when she smashed her fist into the already damaged concrete, the crunch was far too wet to be vandalism, but perfectly in line for self mutilation. Hwa Ling grabbed the woman's arm before it swung back again, but this time, the albino responded with the rest of her body, moving practically in a blur, so quickly Mal didn't even see what she did to propel Jack's remaining bodyguard through the air and into the side of a dumpster. Celia turned to the group, blood streaming from her eyes and nose, as well as dripping from her mangled hand. "See three, won I for nothing... Reporting for duty," the woman whispered, her voice so soft Mal had to strain to understand it. Mal didn't hesitate on bringing up his gun, though, leveling it at the inexplicably bleeding albino. "Mal, don't hurt her!" Inara cried out, if a bit too late. Firstly, because Mal had already pulled the trigger, and secondly, because by the time he had, she wasn't where he was aiming any more. Again, her movement baffled his sight, and he found himself crashing into the concrete wall with tremendous force, even as the report of the shot sounded. He struggled against the dark tides of unconsciousness, shaking himself back to cognizance. He tried to level his gun again, but found it dozens of feet away at the mouth of the alley opposite where Hwa Ling was only now beginning to show signs of life, let alone consciousness. Above him, he could see Inara, back flat against the wall, watching the white skinned woman, who had hefted up Jack in her fists, one of them being broken notwithstanding. "Let him down," Mal slurred, staggering to his feet. Celia turned a bit, a movement so alien in its execution that he could have sworn she'd never practiced its like, and stared a moment at him with those bleeding eyes. Eyes devoid of even the slightest fraction of human recognition. "You'd better, else I'll have t'do somethin' unpleasant..." She didn't speak another word, simply throwing the gambler to Mal with an almost casual motion. The movement catapulted the larger man directly into Reynolds, sending the two into a heap. Mal tried to pull himself out of said heap, but by the time he had, the albino was long gone. He looked down at Jack, who was staring around as though all the 'Verse had gone mad. Which, Mal supposed, it truely had. "Did you know that was going to happen?" he asked, wiping the blood away from his lips, which he'd split against his own teeth when he'd impacted the wall. "I really didn't..." "Mal..." Inara spoke, her voice quaking as she pointed into the heavens. "What is that?" "It's just a firework," He said, but she shook her head. "No, Mal. This one is coming down." <> "Calm down," Friday shouted, but she was overscreamed by the tiny woman clutching her arm so hard she could almost feel the bones scraping against each other. "You're going to be alright..." "Alright?" Anne demanded, her voice ragged already. "There's a nuke headed to Serenity, where my husband is imprisoned, and I'm..." she paused as her face screwed up under the weight of another painful contraction. "...in more pain than I've ever been in my life..." "Anne, just calm down and take a deep breath. You aren't at the point where you should be..." "My God, I'm going to be a single mother..." Anne whispered in terror. Her dark eyes locked on Friday's. "I can't do this alone, Friday. I can't! I don't know how to..." Friday cut her off by slapping her, stunning the woman into silence. "Calm down," Friday repeated for the seventh time in the five minutes since she'd limped back into the infirmery. "There's a long way to go, and if you wear yourself out now, things will only get harder." Anne flopped onto her back, staring with a mixture of fear and agony at the cieling. "Why couldn't you just fill me with pop and make this thing..." she tried. "No," Friday cut off as she managed to peel the last of Anne's fingers off of her arm. She knew there was going to be a bruise there in the morning. If the morning ever came, that was. "Right now, you'd need an epidural, and I don't have any, since I used up what I had put aside for Daniel when he shot himself. I was sure I'd have time to pick up more." "So I'm goin' without smoothers..." Anne grunted. "Fuckin' shiny... Can't y'just cut it out?" Friday shook her head. "I don't know how. I only delivered one child, Anne, and it was a natural birth. Unlike the fancy MedAcads in the Core, we didn't get taught all contingencies, just most of them." "I'm thinkin'..." Anne paused again with a growl of pain, "...that I might need a new doctor..." Friday smirked, shrugging off the robe which was covered in mud and grass from when... she forced herself back to her task before she was side-tracked. She had to be focused; she reached into the cupboard, pulling out the by-now quite oversized initiate robe she'd placed there three years ago and only pulled out once in the interval. It was a much more snug fit than her robe, but it was sterile, and that was what counted. She turned to the door, noticing Daniel limping past. Limping more than usual, to be clear... "Is something wrong?" Friday asked. "Yeah, I'm givin' birth with an inept doctor an' no painkillers. That's what's ruttin' wrong..." Anne snarled. Friday didn't even bother to send a frown in the direction of the captain's wife, instead moving to Daniel and halting him before he vanished from sight. "What is it?" the youth asked. "Where are you going?" Anne screamed. "You'll be fine," Friday responded to the expectant mother first. "You have about twenty more hours before anything starts to happen." "Twenty hours...?" Anne's voice took on a note of hopelessness, but Friday already was looking over Daniel. "Good God, Daniel, why didn't you come to me?" she demanded, taking the captain's nephew into the infirmery as well. In response, Daniel coughed up a gobbet of blood. "Your lung was pierced, likely from... I need to operate now." "The hell you do!" Anne shouted. Daniel didn't say anything, opting to allow his rapid paling respond as to his opinion. Friday shoved most of her things to one side from the long counter, laying him out there, since she didn't even entertain the notion of attempting to dislodge Anne. "Unless you start screwin' with my implements, you'll be fine," Friday said as she pulled out her things. "He, on the other hand, won't. Now, would you do me a favor, and turn that light this way?" Whatever Anne was about to say was cut off when the lights died, along with every screen and electronic device, leaving the only the sound of Anne's panting, Daniel's rasping, and the silence embodied by the doctor to fill the sudden darkness. "Does this help?" Anne asked acerbically in the blackness, accompanied by the squeek of the lamp's gimble. Friday sighed, moving to the door out of spatial memory, leaning out and shouting. "Fiona!" she screamed. "What?!" came the response. "Grab the candles from the nook," Friday instructed. "I need some light!" <> "Really?" Zane asked, leaning on his cot. "What? There's a problem with that?" Jacob queried in response. "The list is long on that one... Why did you pick...?" Zane began. "She wants to call him Ajax, Zane. AJAX!" Jacob threw up his hands in exasperation. "Wasn't he a Greek hero?" Zane pointed out. Jacob grumbled a moment, but didn't respond. "Fine. But what if it's a girl?" "If its a girl, Anne gets to name it," Jacob smiled, twiddling his thumbs. "Well, that's what she tells herself, anyway." "Why?" "Ever since I brought up the name Chloe, she's wanted to use it. So, either way, my baby's gettin' the name I pick," Jacob finished with a laugh, which tapered off and died after a moment. "I just hope I'm not in here when the baby's born..." "Doubt it," Zane shrugged. "Come on, the only reason you're here is 'cause we were both drunk." Jacob shrugged, leaning back against the wall. He was about to say something when the wall trembled in a most unusual way, catching his words in his throat where they lost their vocal purchase and tumbled back into his lungs. He turned, facing the small window, set high on the wall, and hauled himself up to it. The fireworks show had ended. Technically. Now, the explosions in the sky were of the most un-celebratory variety. "Holy shit, it's a gorramned warzone out there," Jacob muttered. "I can imagine," Zane chuckled. "And here we are, missing out on it." Jacob shot the mechanic a look which curdled the younger man's smile, and sent him scrambling to his own window. "Oh, damn. That can't be good. If there's a war going on, we need to not be trapped in this cell," Zane pointed out. "Yeah, well these doors," Jacob turned and gave the portal a kick for good measure, "don't just open on their own." In perfect timing with his words, the room erupted into a white flash, and a thud spread, more sensation than sound, through the air now pounding through the tiny window. In its wake, darkness descended like the curtain of death the lights ceased to function. Jacob rubbed his ears, trying to get the ringing out, and leaned against the door; this time, when he put his weight against it, it swung as free as a monkey, nearly toppling him into the hall. "Huh," Jacob said. "Yeah, well huge sums of money don't just fall from the sky on their own." There was a long silence. "It was worth a shot," Jacob muttered, and he forced his way out into the hall. Just outside the next unlocked door was the booking area, starkly devoid of even the most basic human presence, and still slightly illuminated by a few older bulbs which somehow hadn't gone out. Zane barged into him as he scrutinized, granting his captain with a 'what the hell?' look before moving to a spot more capable of hiding oneself in. "What do you think happened?" Zane asked. "With the boom?" "No, I'm fairly sure that was a nuke," Zane clarified. "Why we ain't dead's a bit of a mystery..." "Air burst bombs," Jacob muttered, squatting down under the level of the dividing walls. "Nukes designed specifically for production of EMP shockwaves." "How do you know these things?" Zane asked. "I can't give away all my secrets, can I?" Jacob whispered with a bitter expression. "There's a war going on, and the first targets will be barracks and police stations, because those will be the sources of potential combatants. Only, most of the combatants are already in the streets, on account of the night, and are only lacking for armament," Jacob muttered as he crept to the weapons locker, which, like the lock up behind them, was open. Only, this one was also pretty much picked clean of weaponry, too. They'd left in a hurry, but they weren't stupid about it. Jacob still took the only thing handy, a single flash-bang grenade which had rolled to the corner and been forgotten. "Only thing we're going to find, here," Zane said. "They didn't find your gun, on account of it ending up in the alley. Local cops, man..." Jacob made a hushing gesture, straining to hear through the muted bedlam beyond. Without another word, Jacob grasped Zane's arm, and literally dragged him out of the booking area, and out into the reception. Zane had just given a second 'what the hell?' look when the two men were tossed to the floor like dolls from the impact which had staved in three floors and cratered into the reception room behind them. Jacob pawed at himself, surprised that the expected explosion didn't vaporise him, then looked back at the room behind him. A sleek, black Drop Pod leaned against the wall, its ablative paneling swinging open through the rubble and detritus. Jacob dragged himself to his feet, snagging Zane in the process, and made a break for the door, but even as he turned away, he could see the first of the dark armored soldiers pouring out. He shoved Zane out the door, leaping out just as bullets began to splinter the door frame. "An' that'd be the army," Zane muttered, then his eyes grew wide as he stared at the ground near Jacob, where the flash-bang settled. Pinless, no less. Zane threw himself to the active explosive, twisting himself as he landed to get leverage enough to fling the cylinder into the building they'd just vacated. Jacob clapped his hands over his ears as the concussion leapt out. There was a long moment of silence, which was probably due to his ears ringing. Then, he looked up, watching as brown coated men firing behind them as they fled from something out of sight. Jacob pulled himself up, not wanting to be near when the soldiers recovered their wits. One of the brown coats noticed Jacob, and let out a shout. "Rally to Greyson!" went the cry. "Rally to Greyson!" "No!" Jacob shouted in response. "Don't rally to Greyson! Rally somewhere the hell else!" Zane shook his head, then dragged Jacob to the ground as bullets began to whizz over their heads as the Waps exchanged fire with the Confederates. The Waps, it seemed, outnumbered the Confederates, and had better weapons, but the Confederates now fought with an almost mad vigor, driving the Union soldiery back into the building, finishing the skrimish by several lobbing grenades into the doorframe and scattering into the back alleys. "Fine," Jacob muttered into the maelstrom, "just don't get me shot." The black figures only now started to barge back through the burning door, only to be cut down by gunfire in an instant from the surrounding Confederates. After several long seconds, the racket died, the bodies in their dark armor stopped moving, and the ringing in Jacob's ears was the only noise to distract him from the devastation. "It's good to see you're alright," A soldier said, tipping up the blast-shield on his helmet. Golden eyes caught the light of the fires flickering throughout the street, reflecting them back in a matter Jacob'd have found most disturbing had he not been under the spell of shell shock. Kell grinned, shouldering his assault rifle. "When we heard you'd gotten pinched, we were sure you'd be in one cop-shop or another when the bombing started." "Bombing?" Zane asked. Kell nodded. "The only reason it ain't 's 'cause of the old man," Kell chuckled, but his laughter was short lived. "We've got to get you out of here. It'd cripple them to lose a hero this soon in the war." "I ain't a he..." Jacob began, but he felt himself dragged to his feet by several other soldiers, and dragged down the street. He tried to fight his way free of them, but they had an iron grip. "Let me down, gorram it," Jacob shouted. Of course, they didn't listen. The ringing in his ears started to fade as they bore him down another alley, and when the ringing died, he realized he'd been distracted from another impulse. Jacob gave his left arm a mighty tug, managing to free it, and moved to Kell. "Hold on!" "What is it?" Kell asked, peeking around the corner. "I have a friend out there, somewhere close," Jacob began, but Kell waved him down. "If you had a friend out there, we'd have found him," a soldier behind the two of them noted. "You don't know his friends," Zane muttered. He scowled a moment. "Would it have killed you to grab us one of their guns?" "Unioners use those gorram imprinted guns. No'un but their assigned grunt can use 'em," another soldier answered in a thick Dyton accent, with a sideways spit for good measure. "Lucky we got guns 'nough for ourselves, this hell droppin' down on us." "Clear," Kell called back. "You're headed to the dockyard, aren't you?" "Yeah, that was the plan." Kell grunted, "That's not gon' be easy..." "Wouldn't 've guessed that, with this warzone conveniently parked around us," Zane murmured harshly, having to be pushed to keep up with the group as they quickly cut across the embattled causeway. Only a hundred or so yards away, Jacob could see a dark phalanx of Union soldiers making their way betwixt the market stands and miscellany. Luckily, they were making their way away from Jacob's outmatched party and didn't look back in time to shoot them as they scuttled to the nearest dark place that nobody would step on them. "Damn, damn, and thrice damned!" Kell hissed, peeking around the corner at the retreating squad. "That was the clearest path. It'll take hours to get around them unless they kindly decide to leave." Jacob was about to speak when another long coated Confederate tapped on Kell's shoulder and whispered something. "Bloody hell, we're surrounded," Kell snarled, his eyes gaining the feral rage of the trapped wolf. "Be silent and when they show themselves, we cut through." "Don't you know that's no way to treat a lady?!" a cocky roar came from the street Kell had taken to facing. Jacob just shook his head. No rutting way. As his life often did, though, the impossible became fact a moment later, as Malcolm Reynolds dashed into the alley, dragging a dark haired woman with him and firing over his shoulder. Until the woman cast up her hand, at least, dragging down his arm. Reynolds turned around, seeing the soldiers pointing weapons in his direction, and his nostrils flared in futility as his hands began to rise. "Mal, I think they mean get down," the woman urged, dragging him to the ground just as the first of the offended Unioners crested the heavy stone of the corner. Bullets tore through the air above the prone pair's backs, and Jacob didn't make note of the exchange, because he spent most of the time on the ground his own self. Having no weapon was a dangerous way to be, especially when literally everybody else did. The cacophany died down after a few seconds, whence Jacob glanced up to see a heavy grenade drop into a puddle of scum in front of him. Without hesitation or falter, he flung it back out of the alley, where it burst into shrapnel and fire. Kell let out a cry of pain. So did Reynolds. Jacob rose to his feet. One of the soldiers was lying motionless, blood seeping freely from the ruin of his neck and chest. Kell scraped his fingers along his tongue before pulling a shard of hot metal out of his shoulder, cursing quietly all the while. "Mal?" the woman cried out. "Mal? Mal!" "Get him up," Kell barked, and the soldier who hadn't split off earlier or died a few seconds ago leapt to action pulled the bleeding captain to something resembling a stand. The Dytoner stayed by the alley mouth. "He's in a bad way, Will," the Dytonish soldier noted. "An' their's not an 'aid-stand set up anywhere near enough." "Oh, God, no," the woman cried. "You can't die like this..." "Air..." Mal muttered, his blue eyes focused skyward, but seeing things nowhere present. "Need tha... air..." "Where the hell is she?" Jacob growled, pulling the rifle off of the dying Confederate. "Where the hell is who?" Kell asked. He got his answer when shotgun blasts began to sound from the south. Finally, a last one sounded, and a dark armored figured stumbled into view, animated by ballistic momentum rather than his own volition. "Who?" Kell muttered again, but Jacob didn't need to answer. Sylvia, her braid undone and hair tossing in the fire-stoked wind lurched forward, pressing her firearm to the chestplate of the Unioner and pulling the trigger again. The sharp crack of the ceramic plates giving way was audible even over the din. She turned to Jacob, and almost fell with relief. "Sylvia," Jacob said, his tone rising as he approached. "I thought I told you to go back to the ship." "I did," Sylvia said, her words a bit uneven. "I just didn't stay there." Jacob moved close. She still smelled like liquor. "Are you still drunk?" "Aren't you?" "Nearly getting killed sobers you up right quick," Zane remarked. "Need that... g'rramned air support..." Mal muttered, his head falling to his chest. Jacob scowled, dragging his first mate to Mal's side. "What, here?" she asked, incredulous. "No, we'll wait to his funeral, and you can try your hand at ressurection. Of course, here!" Jacob shouted, and Sylvia pulled back a mite, slipping her shotgun into her coat and laying a hand on Malcolm's forhead, forcing it up. She stared into his fading eyes for a moment, then tensed as though being dowsed with extremely hot water. Inara stared in wonder, reaching to Mal's back and pulling away a thumb-sized shard of grenade which had been lodged in the back of his lung. Her gaze was utterly lacking in comprehension as she looked at the two of them. "You owe me one," Sylvia said, before slumping such that Jacob had to grab her, else she swoon on the sidewalk. She tried to wave Jacob away a moment later, but it was obvious she wasn't ready to move on her own, yet. "God damn their eyes," that Dytoner exclaimed, running to them from the direction they'd came. "They've turned back about. They're coming here, and coming fast." "Then we'd better move out," Kell growled, flipping down his blast shield as his limping lope carried him down the street. "What's the situation at the far end?" Jacob waited for a response, but didn't hear one. The Dytoner remained at the rear, letting Zane heft Sylvia, the woman... Inara?... deal with Reynolds, and Kell and Jacob run down the street, one limpingly, which resembled the very city of Pandemonium, all fire and terror and desolation. After a seeming eternity of flight, Jacob was waved to a stop as they reached the edge of the southern dockyard. "It's not there," Jacob muttered, his knees giving out so he landed in the fine rubble cast into the street from a smoldering building. "'s what I was tryin' to tell..." Sylvia gave her self a shake. "I was trying to tell you. They left a few seconds after I jumped the ramp. They were afraid of that nuke the Unioners had coming down." "And you weren't?" Jacob asked. "I..." she gave Zane a glance, and he moved off, helping Inara shoulder her hefty burden. Sylvia moved to Jacob's side, laying a hand on his shoulder. "If you die, I die too. You know that." "Is that why?" Jacob asked, trying to rise, but finding his exhausted, battered, still slightly inebriated body not very good at following his commands. He squared his gaze on hers. "I didn't want to lose you." It wasn't spoken, but it was clear as day. Kell loped painfully back into the impromptu grouping. "This place is a graveyard. Nothing moving here but the roaches," he pointed to one dark shape in laying inert on the tarmac. "Miss Serra, that'd be your stop. You said you had a shuttle, didn't you?" "I did." "Well, y'd best be gettin' to it," Kell remarked. "You'll need to stay low to dodge the ASREVs, but it's your best shot at dodgin' the groundwar." Kell turned, and Zane let out a clipped yell. "Where do you think you're going?" "Back to my wife," Kell answered, every ounce of him a predator. "Where'd you think I was headed in the first place? Jacob, like I said before, I'm sure our paths will meet ere too long." Jacob nodded, and Kell loped away. The weary captain turned to the telepath, and with a sigh, said, "I'm not yours to lose." He moved off, into the rubble to the east, and for his movement and the blood pounding in his ears, he didn't hear her response. "Not yet..." To Be Concluded...

COMMENTS

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 3:57 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Ya know...in all this briliant craziness, it's Sylvia's words to Jacob that really hit. And not for the right reasons:(

Last time I checked, Jacob was married and about to become a father. Now's not the time to be subtly declaring one's love and future relations with said married man and father-to-be. Cuz I am presuming something crappy is gonna happen to Anne so that Sylvia can eventually step in:(

Still...this entire chapter was freaking amazing, JTD! Was stuck between shock and amazement - Saffron was a sweet little girl?!? - and pure horror at some of the fei hua you're willing to fling about for the sake of a story:D

BEB


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