BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JAMESTHEDARK

Legacy 3:08, Running Away
Monday, February 26, 2007

On Boros, Monday begins to see the unpleasant truth that stalks her, while King Benjamin finds his breaking point on Londinum. In the end, they're just running from their problems.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1326    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

First of all, I have to apologize for the gigantical gap I'd allowed to grow between the last episode and this one. Second, I have to apologize for the fact that I couldn't come up with a better title or summary. I'm a bit tapped.

Anyway, this is another bit of literary setup, albeit one, I hope, which is a bit interesting in its own right. Once again, the rating is for language, and there are scroll-over translations for both Chinese and Spanish. There isn't any smuttiness until next episode.

Got your attention there, didn't I? I thought I did.

Serenety et. al. Are property of Joss et. al.

Feedback is appreciated. The way air is appreciated. Don't suffocate me. I'm too pretty to die.

Running Away

Monday tugged her coat closer to herself as the uncharacteristically cold wind swept down through the street, sending the hawkers and layabouts scuttling further into shelter. The rain that fell now was cold, and especially jarring when compared to the blood-warm deluge which had fallen only a few weeks earlier on the eve of Carnivale. She glanced about, but found no eyes following her. She was just another faceless wanderer, trying to reach an unknown destination before she soaked to the bone. Which was alright by her estimation. Another gust of wind threw her hood back, and she quickly snatched it back into place. The creeping paranoia that she was being watched was beginning to send her skin into writhing convulsions. She knew it was just that, paranoia, but ever since Tobin... She shook her head, damp strands of her hair flicking in arcs, as she dispelled the thought before it could settle back into her. She didn't want to think about that. After composing herself, she refocused herself on her task. Lex had left again, without saying where he was going. This time, though, there'd been no burly, silent guardian standing outside her door. She'd like to say that she was going out to prove she was tougher than he gave credit, but that nagging voice in the back of her head snidely pointed out that she was just feeling isolated and cut-off. And it was true. She hadn't heard anything not filtered through Lex since he'd taken her to that hovel the night after her... Another flick of the head. She hated feeling so weak, that she had to be tended for. But she was afraid, too. She didn't want to see what the other's would have in store for her. She grumbled a curse that would have done her twin proud, and a bystander turned toward her with a shrug offered to the rain. "'Tis bloody unseasonable," he offered, then turned away, back to whatever it was that he had been doing. Monday felt a hand on her shoulder, and she jerked away from it, spinning to see an older woman standing a short distance behind her. "Are you alright, my dear?" she asked. "You look like you've seen the face of the devil." "I'm fine," Monday lied. She shook her shoulder, realizing how tense it was. The woman leaned closer. "Don't look too fine to me," the woman muttered. She raised a greying brow. "Y'sure all's right with you?" Monday just looked at her for a moment, before turning and striding into the rain. It wasn't her problem. She didn't need to go asking for personal things. It wasn't her place. She didn't have any right... Monday tried to rein herself in before she truly wandered down dark paths. Jacob Greyson. The questions they asked were all about him. In the cold, calculating part of her mind, she felt almost a little sorry for Greyson; rising to the attention of those on high was never a pleasant experience for the riser. Those above always found ways to use those below. It was as predictable as clockwork. The only thing which confused Monday was how the questions mostly dealt with his family. Of course, she didn't have answers for him, were she in the mood to give them. And she was, by the end, in a mood to give answers. Any answers. Long before the words failed her and all she could do is scream and sob, she would have given him any answer he wanted, but she didn't have what he was looking for. She didn't know his past. Right now, she was almost glad. She snapped out of introspection when she saw the building she'd seen him enter that night, weeks before. He hadn't stayed long, but from the way he acted, it seemed he was at risk even bringing her within eyeshot of it. That meant there was something important there. Curiosity had never been a failing of hers in the past, but now, she needed to know some things. She ducked into an alley a full block before the streetfront. It was every bit as dingy as she expected it would be. She could still feel some unseen eyes on her, so she nervously hitched her hood even further forward. She had to be careful. She couldn't afford to be found. Lex would be disappointed, the little voice chided, but she stifled it. It didn't have anything to do with Lex. But it does, the voice continued. You want to know where it is he keeps going, instead of keeping you safe or getting you the hell off of Boros. Of course, she did wonder, but... She shook her head again, this time with a long bundle of her hair coming undone and drooping onto her wet cloak. She would have growled could she manage it, and moved through the offal toward the building's rear. Thunder played weakly in the distance, the first sign of normality she'd heard in a while. Thunder meant warmer weather. At least, warmer than this. It was the middle of summer, for God's sake! She moved to the back of the building, looking carefully down at the windows which opened down into the basement. Probably, she pondered, when this building was built, there was nothing behind it, so it could gain some benefit from the window. Now, though, it was as useless as an aristocrat in a rice-field. She leaned down, her eyes widening when she saw Lex, sitting in a circle with a number of other men and women. A fire smoldered in the center of the ring, and an old man teased off a sliver of meat which had been cooking upon it, and handed it ot the woman sitting next to Lex. "You all know why you were called?" the old man asked. Lex, and all the rest, nodded. "The Tiempo de Congelación may well be upon us. Feast, and let the Father speak." The group obediantly began to eat, each gnawing at a strip of meat each held. Friday watched as they began, one by one, to close their eyes, and waited for the next word to be said. So rapt was she, in fact, that she didn't notice the burly man leaning behind her.


"You do realize you have your own bed," Benjamin noted, propping himself up to veiw the barely older woman laying sprawled across his own bedsheets, wearing his old clothes. Maeve smiled, that slow langorous smile that she seemed to have honed to a razor edge, and tilted her head toward him. "I do know this palace, Ben," she cooed. Ben smirked, shrugging. "You have your own room, too. It's a big room. Private consort, and all that. I hear it's got its own bathroom, too," he pointed out. She just arched an eyebrow at him. "What? Afraid I'll catch you in the shower?" she asked. "Again," he added, and she chuckled. "It's not funny." "Oh, yes it is," she laughed, propping herself up, now. "You're so-o-o cute when you pout." "I'm not pouting," Ben retorted, with a wagged finger as emphasis. "That'd be unkingly!" "It would, wouldn't it?" she asked, then shrugged. "I could go to my room, but that'd mean I'd have to put on that rediculous outfit," she cast a finger to the dress that she'd eventually tossed into a corner. "Besides. I can get anything I want delivered here, so why should I go wandering about like a servant?" Ben swung his feet off the bed. "Well," he offered, "walking would be good for your heart." She flopped back onto the bed with a chuckle. "I'm charmed that you're looking to my health, I really am." "And it wouldn't kill you to get some fresh air," he continued, rifling for something appropriate for his puppeteering today. If he didn't dress himself properly, they'd drag him back into the room and redress him themselves. "A tan wouldn't hurt, either." "Sensitive skin," she said, not even moving a whit. "I burn very easily. And I freckle." "That's not so bad," he said. He realized he was still holding his boots, and that he'd held them for quite a while. Of course. They were the last thing he had to put on, before he was completely dressed. Once he was dressed, he'd have to leave. Sighing, he pulled them on. He'd just managed his first, when a thought occured to him. "Maeve?" "Yeah?" she responded. She scooted to the edge of the bed, kicking out her long, muscular legs and seating herself on the edge. "What is it?" "I..." he began. Again, he sighed. "Look, it can wait." She shrugged slightly. "Whatever you say," she stared up from beneath her brows before adding the last words, imbued with all the sarcasm she'd picked up in her twenty two years, "my Lord." Ben pulled himself erect, running thick fingers through his recently extended hair. It wasn't his idea, but they'd said that having a buzz-cut was 'patently unkingly'. Same with the purple cape and all of the other frippery they'd demanded he wear. At least he didn't have to wear that gaudy, silly crown. Just an iron circlet that he frequently forgot to remove, and woke up to it jabbing him in the forehead. "I should be back by dinner," he said. Bellock had scheduled a very long day, today. And there wasn't much Benjamin could do to escape it. Not and maintain any sort of personal pride or dignity. So, he moved as his strings jerked him. And now, they jerked him out the door. As the doors closed, and the guards took their respective places on either side. Bellock, of course, was not far away, pacing down the hall leading toward his chambers. Ben steeled himself to the smug grin the small man inevitably showed. "Good, you can be prompt, when properly trained," Bellock whispered as if to himself, but pitched so it could reach the King's ears. Ben's jaw tightened as he struggled to snuff his temper before it brought about something unpleasant. He had a problem with his temper, sometimes. Now, though, he had to stay calm. "What's the agenda?" Ben asked evenly. Bellock smirked. "Just a few things that you need to see and sign," Bellock paused a moment, striking up a pensive pose. "Of course, you really don't need to read them, now, do you?" Ben ground his teeth, but managed to hold his tongue. Just get this over with. It was a mantra he was reciting to himself over and over again, if only to cut off the smug bastard's innane babbling. He expected Bellock to veer him toward the Documents Room, but he instead lead them to the Great Hall, where he'd been coronated only a few scant weeks before. "Wait, where are you...?" Ben interrupted. "Just follow me and keep your mouth shut," Bellock said, casting a glance over his shoulder. "Why are we going to the Grand Hall?" he demanded. Bellock came to a halt, just outside the doors, and grabbed the gaudy brooch holding Ben's cape on, dragging the taller man down to the level of the shorter. "You listen to me, you greasy little shit," Bellock hissed, his eyes narrowing to dark slits. "You are going onto that dais, you are going to sit in your father's throne, you are going to mug to the cameras, and you are going to put your name to the documents there. And if you even imagine defying me, I'm going to take out my disappointment on that pretty lady you've kept chained to your bed the last two weeks." "You leave Maeve out of this," Ben growled. "She's property of the House, my Lord," Bellock's inflection on the last two words was one of utter scorn. "I can do with her what I bloody well please. If I wanted to, I could have the Palace Guards take turns breaking her fingers to see which one can get her to scream the loudest. Make no mistake, Triari, I'm not going to brook any little displays of independance or defiance out there. You will do exactly as I say, not one whit more or less. Do I make myself perfectly clear?" Ben just stared at the little man. He was right. Ben had no choice. "Do I make myself clear? Or should I call for the Guard...?" Bellock leaned away. Ben nodded, not trusting his voice to bear the weight of the admission. Bellock's viper grin returned, stretching across his face, and he released Ben and smoothed the cape where he'd mussed it. "Now, the adoring masses are waiting to see their King." Ben strode through the doors as they opened, his gaze locked on the dais, raised above the level of the floor. He didn't need to look to know Bellock was a step behind. Feeling an odd, crushing weight on his shoulders, Ben lowered himself into the high-backed throne, from which the Triari's had ruled since Koster usurped Dexter the Goat during the Georgetown Rebellions. He could practically feel his father and grandfather shaking their heads in disgust as Ben stared at the cameras which were locked on him. Ben took a deep breath, then looked down at the documents. His blood went cold. The Union was now officially at war with the Confederation of Independant Planets, which meant this could only be a Londinum Wartimes Act. Utter suspension of Habeus Corpus. That meant Gyr would have authority to do pretty much anything it wanted to. Bellock controlled Gyr. "Sign it, Triari," Bellock whispered. Benjamin stared at the documents. Dozens of rights revoked, hundreds of freedoms curtailed. He knew exactly what happened when Dexter declared Martial Law, what he'd put forth. He wouldn't wager a bent penny to the riches in the palace vaults that this document would match it, practically word for word. "If you don't sign it, you'll have to live with the consequences for the rest of your miserable existence," Bellock threatened, his face no doubt blank, and his voice so quiet that even in this silent room it wouldn't reach the recording devices at the far side. Ben closed his eyes, and drew in a deep breath, and did what he needed to do to survive.
The Sorceror glanced up from his table as the door swung open, and barely managed to hide a scowl as the three Archadmirals entered as though it were their room, rather than his. He slid his work to one side, steepling his fingers and waiting for them to address him. When it became obvious that they would not, he rolled his eyes behind his glasses. "And what," he asked in an even tone, "do I owe the occasion of this visit?" "You are aware of the recent death of Archadmiral Trent?" Stevens asked. Harris gave her a momentary glance. "A crushing loss to the admiralty, I'm sure," Harris muttered. The others, Mu and Grannin, gave him even stares, but didn't speak. That was Stevens' job. "There are rumors of collusion between elements in the Eighth Battle Fleet and the Confederate Navy," Stevens said, seating herself and pulling off her gloves. She gauged him for a long moment. "But I'm sure you wouldn't have any knowledge of a series of communications between the Burning Dawn and the CNF New Shadow, would you?" Harris stared at her a moment, flattening his hands onto his desk. "If such a communication occured, rest assured I'll find the source of it." "Some," Stevens shot Grannin a look, "have said you were trafficking with the Wolf." Harris simply stared. "Ridiculous, no?" Stevens continued. Harris remained silent. "But be that as it may; you said you were going to deal with the concern, so it is considered dealt with. Besides that, there's a position that's become open recently." Harris regarded each of them in turn. "So," he began, slowly. "You're telling me that the admiralty shifted off their lazy asses... to come to tell me, in person mind... that you're considering me for Archadmiralty?" Stevens gave her two companions a glance, then shrugged. "That's the gist of what we were authorized to offer you," she leaned forward, as though conspiratorially. "Between the two of us, the rest of the admiralty isn't very happy with our decision. They consider you... what was it they called him?" "An unacceptable risk," Mu said, his voice practically rattling the glasswork in the room. "Indeed," Stevens agreed with a smirk. "However, I'm a big enough person to admit when we need help. The fact that Trent is spread over Hera's atmosphere only punctuates the point we should have learned a long time ago. You've served in three wars, and given us victory in all of them. So, the Parliament and Empress Fei have made a majority decree that you be raised to the acting rank of Archadmiral." "Acting rank?" Harris asked. "Indeed. This is war, Zhao," Stevens explained. "We can't afford to have jurisdictional snafus right now, so while you'll have overriding authority to check Kell's advances, your area of operation will be considered, for purposes I'm sure you're aware of, unlimited." "You're basically asking me to win this war for you," Harris commented. Pulling off his glasses, he shook his head. "You do realize I have grandchildren on the way? And as well as I can outfox a fleet, I'm not one of your brains in G&T." "We're not asking you to be," she replied. "But you've come closer than anybody to beating Logan Kell." Harris laughed out loud. "You really are that afraid of him, aren't you?" he waited for the response, but three stoney faces greeted him. He shrugged. "Fine. I'll take the post." "And what ship will you be taking?" Grannin asked. Harris raised his eyebrows. "Surely you don't intend to remain in this fei wu bucket." Harris rose to his feet. "This... fei wu bucket... has seen me through two wars, and has survived hits from what might be the most powerful non-nuclear ordnance ever developed. Given the choice between the Dawn and one of your glass cannons, I'd rather stick with the Dawn." "I told you he wouldn't accept a new posting," Stevens mocked. She turned back to Harris. "Still, I think we should move quickly to counterattack before Kell consolidates his fleet." "He's not going to consolidate his fleet, Beatrix," Harris corrected, rounding his desk. "He's going to attack." Stevens' brows rose almost into her hair. "Excuse me?" "You see," Harris explained, pulling down the translucent maps of the 'Verse and laying them on the underlit table next to the stoic Mu, "you have a severe problem when dealing with Kell, and that problem is that you're thinking like a bunch of admirals." "That's a problem?" Mu rumbled. "In this case it is," Harris nodded, sliding his glasses back on. "Kell isn't an admiral. He never tried to be an admiral, he never claims to be an admiral, and most importantly, he doesn't think like an admiral. He thinks like a pirate." "And you think like a pirate?" "A lot more than you do, appearantly," Zhao chuckled. "No, he's not going to consolidate, because for all his skill and talent, he's impatient. He knows that he needs to take a shipyard, and there's only one close enough that can't be torn down." "Iskellian." Grannin grunted. "Exactly." Stevens nodded. "I can have the keel of Labyrinth moved to Glasgow Station within the week." "The what?" the Sorceror asked. "Labyrinth. It's going to be the new flagship for the First Battle Fleet," Stevens waved the question away. "It's not a problem for now. We can have the Eighth at Iskellian in a few days." "The Eighth won't be enough," Harris countered. "It's broken and won't hold. We need the Second, and we need them with the new refits you've been promising for the last five years or so." "The upgrades we've installed a few weeks ago?" Stevens gave a cat-like smile. She shrugged. "Very well. We'll mobilize the Second and you can rendezvous with them over Osiris," Stevens rose to her feet, ushering the other Archadmirals out the door. She had almost reached the threshold when she stopped short, turning back to him with a smirk. "Oh, and tell your wife that her sister says hello."
Logan took a deep breath, drawing in the smell of soot and gunpowder that still lingered in the city of Serenity. Buildings around him were in shambles, and people were scuttling around like ants from a disturbed mound. It was war, again. He'd promised himself he wouldn't get dragged into another war, yet here he bloody was. He took a stem, and was greeted by the scrape of metal against concrete. "Kell!" Burgg shouted, hobbling toward him. Kell didn't acknowledge him, instead stooping down to the ground and moving the rubble where he'd heard the sound. "What is it, Burgg?" Kell muttered. "Why aren't you on the New Shadow? I got word that you were planet side..." the old man trailed off in a paroxysm of coughing, having to lean on the structure of the shattered tavern until he regained his wind. "I had something to attend to," Kell grunted, moving a particularly resistant chunk of concrete. He scowled at it a moment before tossing it aside. "What could be important enough to abandon your post?" Burgg asked, his tone more gravelly than usual. "Jimmy said his first words," Logan explained, still not bothering to look Burgg in the eye. "He called the old man Lo-gah," Kell's son finished, coming to a halt not far from the elders. He shrugged with a smirk. "I guess it's close enough. He's only two." "So, you abandoned your post because your grandkid started talking?" Burgg countered. With a grunt, Kell managed to fit his hand into the gap, and it rested on a metal barrel. He scowled a moment. "It's not my post, you realize?" Kell muttered. "I ain't an admiral, I'm a pirate. That means I ain't any part of your military and you ain't got any sort of authority over me. I don't need your say-so for anything." "That's a dangerous attitude to hold," Burgg grumbled. "The Waps that made it planetside are either routing or dead," Will pointed out. "There's not much need for him to stay up there." "Quite," Kell grunted. He grunted as he pulled the metal up from its concrete prison. A large, ugly handgun came out of the scree. "I'm doing as I'm doing because I don't want this 'Confederation' of yours to fall to the Onions before I'm in a secure position to get back to some nice, profitable pirating." "And the last time you did that was?" Will chuckled. "What is that?" Burgg asked. Kell turned about, and was a bit surprised to find McDonald had been joined by his son. "Whole clan's here, ain't it?" Kell growled. "It's a gun. My son-in-law's, if memory serves." "Since when do you have a son-in-law?" Gannon asked. "Since when do you have a daughter?" William ammended. Kell shook his head with a scowl. "Since fifteen years ago." "You've got a fifteen year old daughter who's married?" Gannon asked, his face twisted in disgust. Kell just scowled, staring at each of the assembled men in turn. Each took a step back, including his own son, and all fell silent. People had a tendancy of doing that sort of thing when Logan stared at them. "What did you want to talk about. I know it wasn't just to chastize me about my dereliction of non-duty," Kell asked. "You should be aware of the worrisome condition of our fleets?" Burgg asked. "There's a lot of conditions in the fleet that are worrying," Kell pointed out. "You'll have to be specific." "We have no drydock facilities in the Border or Rim worlds," Gannon began. "Since the Iskellian Shipyards over Boros are still squarely in Alliance hands, we have no means to maintain, let alone repair or increase the size of our fleet. This leaves us with two options," Gannon held up his first finger, "we either miraculously rediscover the Ashes of Gahaan," he raised his second, "or we take Iskellian and Boros with it." "We don't have the manpower to wage an invasion," William retorted. "Not true," Logan countered. "La Via Wendigo is extremely active on Boros, and we know they'll fight to the last." "Wendigo?" Gannon asked. "You'd rest the land-war on those crazy fuckers in Via Wendigo?" "Hey!" Kell snapped. "They may be crazy fuckers, but they're our crazy fuckers. And it ain't like the rest of those priests and pontiffs are gonna stand up for themselves," Kell took a deep breath, then pointed out his son. "You have that broadcaster on you?" "Yeah, why?" William asked. "Hand it over. Fortunately," he began to explain, "the Ashes of Gahaan aren't lost, as is commonly believed. They're just hidden. When it became impossible to defend them from Alliance predation, the Admiralty of the day got together and hid it." "And you know where it is?" Burgg finished. Kell gave the old man a scowl of derision. "Hell no. Didn't I just say I wasn't an admiral?" he snorted. "No, the location was given out to the Admiralty, and they alone. So it wouldn't be compromised, you understand? Well, seein's as I shot the only admiral left alive from the War, all I have to operate on is my best guess." "Your best guess?" Gannon asked. "You're going to send the fleet on a wild goose chase for the Ashes of Gahaan based on a guess?" "No," he corrected as he turned on the broadcaster. "I'm sending Pat Barclay on a wild goose chase for the Ashes of Gahaan based on a guess." William chuckled lightly, drawing scowls from the Burggs. "And the rest of the fleet," Kell continued, "will make the assault on Boros. Let the Waps play on the defensive for once. Maybe this time, we'll be lucky and we won't need to deal with the Sorceror." "And what about that?" William pointed to the empty pistol slung through Logan's belt. "I've got to get this back to Greyson," Kell said, just as the Wave got through to Barclay.
Sonia gave a nod to the guards by the door as she rapped her gloved knuckles on the dark, ancient wood. The guards, as always, remained still. These were only ceremonial, she knew. The real guards were the constantly moving about under the guise of scullions and maids, a deception which almost prevented Dexter's assassination. Her knock went unheeded, so she sighed, and pushed open the doors. The King's Chambers were as opulant as she ever remembered. She could still recall having pillow fights with her older sister on the enormous bed while her father worked at the table, shaking his head every time one of the pillows exploded into a shower of feathers. As she closed the door behind her, it struck her that he would never shake his head like that again. He'd never sweep her up into that rib-creaking bearhug he reserved for her when the doors were closed and prying eyes were out of sight. Silently, she slid her back down the door, letting her brow fall into her hands. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a head peeking out from the bathroom, and she turned to face it, quickly returning to her feet. "Who's there?" she asked, and the figure pulled momentarily back, out of sight. Then, Sonia heard a chuckle. Maeve, dressed as grungily as Ben in his dirtiest days, leaned out from the doorframe, a wide grin on her face. "For a second," the consort confided, "I thought you were Bellock." "Horrible troll," Sonia grunted. Maeve let out a laugh, and sauntered into the room, taking a seat on the edge of the massive bed. "I didn't think you'd come back." "Truth be told," Maeve said with a shrug, "neither did I. But Ben wasn't as much of an ass as Gaius was, so I thought I could give him a shot." "A shot?" Maeve shrugged. Sonia shook her head. "You do realize you changed his diapers?" "I was three!" Maeve protested. "That I was extremely capable is beside the point." Sonia smiled at the memories, of Maeve and Gaius and all the rest. They'd all grown up together, like a big, odd family where one of them was destined to sleep with the others. She took another breath, then turned back to the older woman. "How's Benji been treating you?" she asked quietly. "Surprisingly well," Maeve laughed, almost sounding surprised. "He hasn't even once tried anything." "Nothing?" Maeve shrugged. "I know. I must be losing my undefinable allure." Sonia rolled her eyes. "I'm sure, if you weren't the King's private consort, any man New London would have you on their arm in a minute." "And in their bed ten seconds later," Maeve finished. She shook her head. "I really didn't expect this of him. He's making it very hard to lie to him." "About what? That escape plan?" she whispered the last. Maeve shrugged guiltily. "Did you really think you were going to need it?" "I don't know. I... I guess I was just afraid that when he became King, he'd go all... Gaius on me." "He had no right..." Sonia began, her voice grating, but Maeve cut her off with a shaking of her beautiful ebon locks. Again, Sonia felt like a dung beatle in the presence of a butterfly. Maeve had that effect on her. She wasn't pretty like her older sister, or smart like Gaius, or even strong and tough like Benji. She was just weak, stupid, ugly little Sonia. "He had every right, Soso," Maeve muttered flatly. "I'm property. Still, I'm not sad that he's gone." "Horrible as it is... I'm not either." Maeve smiled, although as if painfully, then turned to Sonia. "Tell me, Soso, where've you been?" "Osiris. Failing another entrance exam," she muttered. Maeve was pulling her into an almost maternal hug before she even registered it, and Sonia felt no compulsion to resist. "You're too hard on yourself," Maeve cooed. "The schools Richard picked out have some of the harshest entrance requirements in the 'Verse. You shouldn't feel bad if you can't live up to an impossible expectation." "If I was..." "Don't say it," Maeve ordered sharply, cutting Sonia off. "You have a good heart, Soso. Don't let anybody ever tell you different, dohn luh mah? Ni chou lien, yo mei yo! "Did I ever tell you I wish you were my mother?" Sonia whispered. "On a weekly basis," Maeve replied. The door opened again, drawing Sonia's attention away from Maeve's t-shirted busom and to the entrance, where Benjamin, in all his kingly finery, leaned against the door until it clunked shut. Sonia pulled herself up and away from Maeve, straightening her dress as quickly as she could, but she realized he likely hadn't even registered that she was in the room. He stared at the floor between his legs, his eyes wide and sightless. One broad hand reached into his recently lengthened hair and grasped the iron circlet contained within. With a yank which made both women in attendance wince, he ripped the thing off his brow, along with a not insubstantial amount of hair. He grasped the iron ring in both hands, and with a mighty wrench, he twisted it into an unrecognizeable snarl of metal before heaving it away. "Ben?" Sonia began, but his gaze, which now slammed up and into hers stalled her. "You're back," he said softly, completely at odds with his eyes. Maeve moved past Sonia. "Are you alright?" Maeve asked, taking a step toward Benjamin, who twitched slightly, but didn't look at Maeve. "Tell me what happened." "Don't tell me..." Ben whispered. "Ben, I need you to," Maeve insisted. "You'd better not..." Sonia warned, taking a step forward. "...tell me what happened," Maeve completed, placing her hand on Ben's shoulder. Ben's right hook shattered the stillness, sending Maeve sprawling to the floor as his body quivered with energy straining for any convenient release "Don't you tell me what to goddamn do!" he roared, taking a long, threatening stride toward the supine concubine. Sonia felt her feet spurring into motion, and she interposed herself betwixt the two. "Ben, calm down," Sonia ordered, and Ben's advance halted. "Get out of the way," he growled. "Ben, stop this. She's been our friend for as long as you've been alive," Sonia reminded, and was rewarded by the red draining out of his face. Well, rewarded for a second, because the color continued to drain out of him until he was as white as the royal sheets, and fell back onto his royal rump onto the royal carpet. "My god..." he muttered. "What have I done...?" "Maeve, are you alright?" Sonia asked, pulling the woman to her unsteady feet. "I was right," Maeve snarled, wiping a trickle of blood away from her lips. "He's just as bad as his brother. I should have never come back." "Maeve, don't say that," Sonia whispered. "I can't do this," Ben whispered into the bedlam. "I'm getting the hell out of here," Maeve declared, pulling free of Sonia's grasp. "Maeve..." "NO! There's no way in hell I'm going to be your brother's punching bag, Soso. I deserve better than that." "Only one thing I can do..." Ben muttered, slowly pulling himself back to his feet. "I could have just stayed away," Maeve muttered, likely to herself. "Everything would have been just shiny if I'd stayed the hell away..." "Can't do shit to me, then..." Ben muttered. Sonia glanced over to him, and let out a clipped shout when she saw him throwing open the doors to the balcony. "Ben, stop!" "No..." he responded emptily. "Let him," Maeve spat. "You shut up!" Sonia retorted. She ran to her brother's side, grasping his arm and bracing with what little weight she had against the doorframe. "Benji, don't do this!" Ben turned to her, his eyes so tormented that she almost let go just to free herself from having to look at them. "I killed them..." he whispered. "I... They'll be tortured to death..." "What? No, Ben, come in here!" Sonia yelped, tugging ferociously on his sleeve and not slowing him very much. She looked back to Maeve, who was crossing the room. "A little help?" Benjamin had gotten one foot on the marble railing when Maeve's hands joined Sonia's, restraining him against further motion, even if they couldn't draw him back. The stricken king turned back to Maeve, eyes sad and dark. "I didn't expect you'd give a damn..." he whispered into the gathering dark of the Londinum winter. Maeve actually looked taken aback. "I'm not going to watch you die, Ben..." "Touching," Sonia grunted as she braced her feet and heaved, pulling the three of them into a heap on the hard stone of the balcony. She shook her head to clear the stars from her sight, then quickly scrambled up and sat herself on her brother's chest. "Sonia, what in the hell are you doing?" Ben asked, his tone approaching normalcy. "I'm not moving until I'm sure you're not going to make man's latest attempt at unpowered flight," she responded, staring down at him, her arms crossed over her chest. Maeve shook her head, wiping her mouth again with the back of her hand. "You're both insane," she whispered, a smirk pulling the undamaged corner of her mouth upward. "I can't do this, sis..." Ben whispered, letting his head loll onto the stone. "I can't do it..." "Ben..." "No..." he whispered. Sonia let out a rather embarrassing squeek as Ben sat up, dumping her arse-over-kettle onto the balcony. "If I have to do that again... I'm going to lose my mind, sis," he continued, hoisting her back to her feet. Maeve rolled her eyes, and let out a huff. "Fine... Fine!" she exclaimed. "I have a way out." "I thought you said...?" Ben cast a glance over his shoulder. "I lied. I do that. A lot." "You can get away?" Sonia prodded. "Any time I want. I can walk out of this palace, and disappear. I can be on a ship headed for the Rim in an hour, and square-dancing with some rube on Jiangyin inside a week," she said, smirking again. One eyebrow raised. "What? You didn't think I could arrange something like this?" "It never crossed my mind that you couldn't," Ben admitted. "I just thought that you wouldn't." "My, don't we have a bloated opinion of ourselves?" she turned to Sonia. "I'm going to need a distraction, though." "No," Ben uttered, a cutting gesture with his hand slicing through the air. "This isn't your decision," Sonia cut her brother off. She turned back to Maeve. "I don't want to lose any more family. And besides, what's the worst that eunich can do to me? Kill me? Hah!" "I don't want you in danger," Ben whispered, eyes on his shoes. Sonia felt a smile pulling at her cheeks, and she clapped her hand onto his neck. "I won't be. Just do what Maeve tells you," she ordered. He nodded and moved into his room, ransacking his drawers for some possessions he couldn't part with. She moved to Maeve's side. "I'm only doing this for you, Soso," Maeve muttered, delicately fingering her jaw. "This thing's gonna swell up like a melon, mark my words." "Thank you, mah-mah," she whispered. Maeve smiled, but sadly. "Your mother hated it when you called me that," she replied, her voice strained. Ben's ransacking ended, though, and he moved in front of the consort, holding a ball of clothing no larger than his own head. Somehow, he'd also managed to get redressed in the short span they'd taken. Probably a product of his clothes being so crude and easy to don, she considered. Ben just stared at Sonia for a long moment, before reaching down and pulling her up and into him, a bear hug that left her feet dangling above the carpet. "I'm gonna miss you, sis," he whispered into her ear. "I love you, Benji," she responded, her voice trembling. She felt her feet settle back onto the carpet. "I love you too, sis..." he looked up, and gave her a quick hug before moving off after Maeve as she exited out onto the balcony again. Sonia moved to the nearest chair just before her knees gave out, and she sat there, struck dumb by the horrible things which had struck her family in the last fortnight. Her brother and sister dead, then her mother, then her father. It felt like she was losing Ben, now. Everything he'd just done was like saying goodbye. Now, she was all alone.
"Did you see it?" the grey-haired man asked, looking around the circle to a chorus of shook heads. "I saw it," an olive-skinned woman answered. "As did I," Lex offered. He took a deep breath. "It's true. La Tiempo de Congelación is coming." The woman next to him scoffed loudly, her beaded hair clattering even out the window from Monday's distant vantage point. "I need no visión de la carne to know it. I come from the north, Alexi; I've seen the terrible winter which never departed when spring was due. He holds the north still, and it should be well into summer. Crops will fail." "Starvation," another agreed. "On a scale not seen in a dozen generations," the bead-haired woman finished. "I've come from the south," a fine-suited man on the far side of the circle intoned. "The winter there is more terrible than any I've seen in my lifetime. Families found frozen to death inside their homes. Ice storms blanketing everything under crushing weights..." he held up his hands in a futile gesture. "If this is not the beginning of la Tiempo de Congelación, then I am a Christian." "La Tiempo de Congelación?" Monday whispered to herself. "It means the Freezing Time," a voice behind her answered. She spun to face the voice, and barely managed to get herself out of the way of a blade which swept in toward where her neck was hovering. Still, the blade dug a burning rent just above her collar-bone. Her clipped cry of pain was followed by a stampeding of feet from the room to her back, as she held up her hands to try and ward the darting blade. "You should have stayed in your room," the dark man said, with surprisingly genuine remorse. He darted his blade out first one way, then the other, but she managed to keep his movements away from her, reading his body like a book. He was a fighter, but she was trained to read people's muscles in a way he would never master. "Who are you?" she asked, the dull throbbing of her lacerated chest setting her teeth to a steady grind. "Does it matter?" he asked, his concentration so acute he'd almost eschewed blinking. "I'm a dead woman, can I not know?" she spat, finding herself holding back a mirthless laugh in the process. "We walk La Via Wendigo," he said, testing her as he backed her down the alley. People from the room began to spill into the confined space well behind the knife weilding man. Lex burst to the fore out of the group. "Monday?" he asked. She regretted letting her attention drift to him for that split second as the knife lept toward her once more, this time directly toward her heart. Out of instinct more than anything else, she blocked the blade with her hand, and once again, searing pain rang out. Blinded by it, she lashed out with a leg, and felt it connect soundly, halting during its upswing. She jerked away, opening her eyes to a knife impaled through her left hand, and the former weilder leaning against a building grasping his groin. "Don't hurt her!" Lex shouted, running toward her. She turned away, her legs beginning to pound along the cold stones even as she grasped the blade and yanked it out of her hand with an undisguised cry of pain. Even then, the pain was distant, as though it belonged to another body. She ran, erupting from the alley and sprinting down the street. She wanted to scream for help, but the words caught in her throat. What if the people here were complicit in... whatever the hell it was these people were doing? She just kept running, as the swirling clouds above decided to finally increase from the sparse drizzle to their anticipated deluge with a crack of thunder. The next street was much more crowded than it was when she came out before, a steady stream of cloaked people huddled under a shifting canopy of umbrellas. She slowed, forcing herself to walk with a calm pace, if not a calm mind, under the canopy. She cast a glance back, seeing Lex stumble to a stop at the causeway she had, glancing to and fro. He let out what had to be a curse, tearing his fingers through his hair, then the crowd cut him off from sight. She looked up at the grey, tortured sky, letting out a breath that would have to suffice in lieu of a scream of agony. She continued to walk, grateful for the rain that hid the tears of hopeless frustration that flowed freely down her face.
Long, false nails clacked against the fine porcelain cup as she scooped up the drink, staring at the city below the Imperial Palace. The city spread out beneath her, a sea of lights as the stories often portrayed it, white and blue against the red of the approaching night. She took a sip from the cup, swirling the lukewarm mixture in her mouth before swallowing it. Behind her, she heard the click of her spy-door opening, but she kept her vision on the city below. "Mistress?" Tobin whispered with a touch of reverence. "I hear you, Tobin," she responded coolly, her tilted eyes still surveying the incredible expance of Luo Yang below. The city was named for the seat of the ancient Emperor of China, in the near-forgotten history of Earth-that-was. Fitting. "I have interrogated the target," he stated. "Her knowledge was... lacking." "I have faith that you spared her no indignity in your attempts, so the failing is not yours," she said, allowing her boredom to seep into her voice. "Rise and be redeemed. She was auxiliary to the Greysons to begin with." "I have learned something of the son, though," Tobin offered. She frowned out the window. "He lives on a ship. That is why he was so difficult to track down." "A ship?" she asked. "Despite...?" "Yes, mistress," Tobin interrupted. She knew that he was blanching when he realized what he'd done, but he was too valuable to dispose of for so minor an infraction, so she waved her hand to the side for him to continue. "What ship is this?" "Legacy, mistress. I have more comming from another agent in the morning, and I shall be able to tell you more." "Then return to me in the morning, Tobin," she clucked her tongue, taking another sip of the tepid, viscous fluid. "I shall, mistress," Tobin intoned. "Long live the Empress." She smiled, then, a vicious smile. "I intend to."

COMMENTS

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 9:35 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Aww shit...if it doesn't rain, it pours! Between Harris getting control of unlimited resources, Ben's forced actions, and now the Empress' desire to find those aboard Legacay...things have just gotten to the Washburne defintion of "interesting" :(

Still...can't wait to see what you will have happen next, JtD!

;D

BEB


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